Most commercial crab fly patterns for bonefish are big and heavy – great to cast off a boat into 2-6’s water. And yet, when you are walking on the flats in shadow water, when the fish are spooky, you need something that is small, light, still sink and will lay down softly.
From left to right, we have
- Wilson’s micro-crab – size 8 hook – 0.21grams
- Commercial Blue Yarn Crab – size 6 – 0.80grams
- Commercial Veverka’s Corsair Crabby – size 4 -1.44g
- Commercial Borski’s Crab – size 2 – 1.79grams
So what is important?
- Small hook – Size 6 or 8
- Body material that will shed water and not imped sinking – EP Brush
- Trimmed wide body shape.
- Small to medium bead chain eyes
As this is for shallow water, with the expectation the fly is being pulled away from the bonefish, one needs to consider the view will be low and from the back. If necessary, you can trim the top flat, but as I saw many crabs position themselves up, I did not believe this was a critical feature.
So what is the recipe:
- Size 8 Hook
- Pink Thread
- Krystal Flash – Optional – think hybrid shrimp-crab pattern
- Grizzly Hackle Stripped – Optional – length of body
- Hen Hackle splayed open – natural – similar to fly
- Small-Medium Bead Chain Eyes – Consider Black – mounted at back of fly and such that the hook rides up
- Small Hen hackle – Yellow , Orange, Pink or Chartreuse – Wrapped around shank.
- Prepare shank with a tapered body of pink thread.
- EP (Shrimp Dub) Brush tightly wound from back to eye.
- Trim body to shape
- Trim base flat
I would like to have a lighter colour Hen Hackle.
I have great affinity for the Nautilus Reels, but before Nautilus – nearly 20 years ago – I start with Loop-Danielsson “Traditional” Reels. 20 years ago these were the first large arbour reels, reels that were made for fish that ran long distances – such as Steelhead.
- Loop and Danielsson split their business partnership (under unkind terms).
- Sealed drags has become common place – great for saltwater.
- Danielsson sells direct – in effect a great reel at a great price.
So this is my new Danielsson HD 9-13.
Below the reel is spooled to handle a spey rod or the salt (bonefish), with 50m of 30lb 3M orange dacron, 150+m 20lb 3M green Dacron backing and a 10m of 30lb transition. The 10m marks the transition from fly line into backing and I use a large loop (perfection loop knot) to allow for quick change of fly lines – whether it is scandi heads on my spey rods or lines for saltwater (bonefish).
I have played with the reel and I am first to admit a real positive review can only come after a year of hard use, but given the love shown by others I respect and my good history with Danielsson, I am happy to say this is my reel of choice.
So I have been doing some experiments, since our return from the Bahamas. A couple of lessons learnt was:
- The common and promoted synthetic “Craft Fur” is lifeless in water.
- I need, as DYI fisherman walking the flats, a greater selection of light flies.
So I wanted to know how light can I got, so some experiments were under-taken. My conclusions:
- Stay with the traditional size saltwater hook – size 8, such as a Daiichi 2546.
- I tried tubeless and found it is possible to tie a fly too light (it floated). Eventually, I got to a sinking fly, but I saw no advantage gain with a tube fly, so I reverted back to a traditional saltwater hook with the small bead chain eye. (no picture)
- If using anything more than a few hairs, use a bead chain weights. The final target dry weight for a spare fly should be 0.28grams.
- If you want to use no weight, stay with feathers!
- In experimenting with eyes, I will continue with my homemade eyes – lower cost and better looking. (See picture, and you judge for yourself).
- Rabbit will have more life sitting in the water, but it will float on a lightly weighted fly, until it is soaked. So, if you are holding a fly in your hand, as you scan and hunt for bonefish, you maybe casting a fly that will not get to the sea floor.
So what will I tie for small and light spawning shrimp, other than using Rudy’s:
- Daiichi 2546
- Small bead-chain weight
- Black Pupil Eyes – splayed
- fine crystal flash – 4 strands
- tailing feathers – 3 pairs stagger in length
- hair casing, such as deer tail
A fly in construction in my vise, showing the splayed tailing feathers. Two changes in the final build is smaller bead-chain and use my own black pupil eyes.
More pictures and some weights.
Dry – from top left:
- Shrimp – Craft Hair casing – 0.47g
- Deer Hair casing with medium bead-chain eyes – 0.30g
- Rabbit Fur casing with small bead-chain eyes – 0.25g
Same flies, but in water and looking into the fly, as would a chasing bonefish would look.
Some other flies – dry and reference dry weights – from left to right
- Pop’s Bitters with medium bead-chain and epoxy head – 0.45g
- Gorel’s (?) Feather Hackle with large bead-chain – 0.47g
- Rudy’s Spawning Shrimp with small bead-chain – 0.37g
- Small Antron Crab with small barbell weight – 0.76g
and a Daiichi 2546 Size 8 hook weighs 0.10g.
Oh yes, use fluorocarbon tippet and wonder if a intermediate airflow leader would assist.