Bonefish are easy to find, they swim in large groups, and are easier to catch than the other bucket list species we love to target. This means, you should always go on saltwater fishing trips with a box full of great bonefish flies.
But, which bonefish flies should be in your box?
There are literally hundreds of different bonefish flies to choose from which makes picking the best ones a challenge.
Below you will find the best flies for bonefish that have been tried and tested everywhere from the flats of the Caribbean, Pacific, and Indian Ocean.
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The Spawning Mantis Shrimp is one of the best bonefish flies to use on the flats of The Bahamas, along with any other flats in the Caribbean.
Mantis shrimp are one of a bonefish’s favorite meals, and they taste even better when they are spawning due to the addition of an egg sack.
It is quite a simple fly that imitates a small mantis shrimp well and looks very natural. It will fool trophy-sized bonefish as well as smaller ones too!
It is made with a tan body, rubber legs, eyes, and an orange egg sack. Dumbbell eyes are tied at the front to ensure the fly sinks well but they are not so heavy that they make a splash when the fly lands.
Once cast, the fly sits hook side up, helping you avoid snags and it has a very natural action in the water that bonefish love.
Sizes & Colors
The spawning mantis fly comes in one color – tan. This is perfect for sand and reef flats where you find bonefish.
You can buy it in sizes 2 through 8, and it is always wise to own a few of each size so you can match the size the bonefish prefer on any given day.
How to Fish a Spawning Mantis
You should fish a spawning mantis off the bottom. Since it lands softly and sinks quickly, you can drop it about 3 feet away from a bonefish without spooking it.
Once it has landed, let it sink. When the bonefish is about 1 foot away, give it a medium length strip, and within a few more strips, you should be hooked up!
The EP Spawning Shrimp fly is another awesome bonefish fly that works on almost every bonefish flat in the world. Bonefish love this fly as it is such a good imitation of a shrimp, and so do many other saltwater species too.
Tied with a light pink body, rubber legs, eyes, an egg sack, and EP fiber that ranges in color, it has a look and action in the water bonefish find hard to resist.
The fly can be tied with either heavier dumbbell eyes or lighter bead chain eyes. The lighter flies are great for lighter rods and shallow flats, whereas the heavier versions are great for deeper water.
The Gotcha looks like a more detailed version of Crazy Charlie and it was also designed with the bonefish of The Bahamas in mind. Jim McVay came up with it on a trip to The Bahamas and actually took some shiny parts of a taxis’ floor mat to make the first one.
The Gotcha imitates both a shrimp and small fish making it a great searching pattern to start the day with. The pearl body provides a lot of flash while the craft fur gives it a great profile and action.
The fly can come with bead chain or dumbbell eyes to match either a shallow or deep flat.
Sizes & Colors
You can buy the Gotcha in sizes 4 through to 8, in heavy or light weights, and in pink or tan colors.
I would recommend having Gotchas in every size, weight, and color combination, for every bonefish situation, they really are that good!
How to Fish the Gotcha
Like most bonefish flies, cast the fly about 6 ft in front of a bonefish. Let the fish swim close to it and then strip at a medium speed.
The Mini Puff, aka Pink Puff, is a bonefish fly that doesn’t really look like anything a bonefish might eat, but it works.
It was designed by Neil Bohannon more than 50 years ago to land softly and sink slowly. It is the fly to use when fishing for tailing bonefish feeding in just a few inches of water.
It is tied with a pink chenille head which encases the bead chain eyes. This ensures the fly lands without any noise and sinks slowly, so as not to spooky any bones. Add in the natural wind and hackles, and the Mini Puff looks just edible enough for bonefish to jump on.
The Mini Puff is a bonefish fly that works all over the world and is a must-have in your fly box!
Sizes & Colors
The Mini Puff comes in one color design and sizes 4 & 6. Make sure you have a few of each size in your box so you can match the hatch effectively!
How to Fish the Mini Puff
The Mini Puff, as I already mentioned, is for shallow water. Cast it 2-3 feet away from tailing or cruising bonefish and strip when the fish are 1 foot away. A slow to medium speed strip is ideal.
The Christmas Island Special was made for the bonefish on Christmas Island who are very fussy and have seen most bonefish flies in your box.
It looks a bit like a Crazy Charlie but comes with a larger profile, heavier eyes, and Krystal Flash. After proving itself on Christmas Island, it is now used on flats all over the world and is just as effective.
The Christmas Island Special imitates both a small fish and a shrimp, making it a great pattern that bonefish just can not resist.
You can fish it on shallow or deep flats, but on shallow flats try to make sure the landing is as subtle as possible.
Sizes & Colors
The Christmas Island Special comes in sizes 4 and 6. Have a few of both sizes and in all the colors available which include tan, white, and rootbeer.
How to Fish the Christmas Island Special
Since the Christmas Island Special fly looks like both a shrimp and a small fish, you can fish it fast or slow.
Your best bet is to lead the fish, let it sink, and strip it slowly. If the fish comes quickly, strip faster to keep it interested.
There are some days when bonefish only want to eat small shrimp and the EP Turneffe Micro Shrimp Fly is made for exactly that.
Named after Turneffe flats in Belize where small shrimp flies are the norm, this fly is effective on all the bonefish flats around the world. It imitates small shrimp perfectly!
It is tied with a small size 8 hook, EP fiber wing, Krystal Flash, and an Ice Dub body. It looks just like a small translucent shrimp in the water.
The EP Turneffe Micro Shrimp comes with small dumbbell eyes making it great for shallow to medium depth flats.
Sizes & Colors
Being a small fly, the EP Turneffe Micro Shrimp only comes in size 8 to match the small shrimp. It comes in a range of colors including olive, pink, tan, and translucent and you should own a few of each.
How to Fish the EP Turneffe Micro Shrimp Fly
Fish the EP Turneffe Micro Shrimp just like the other shrimp flies for bonefish. Lead the fish, let it sink, and use a medium strip.
The Flexo Crab is one of the must-have saltwater flies for a lot of species, including bonefish. Designed by the genius fly tyer Alec Gerbec, it looks exactly like a small crab. It is such a good fly that it changed fishing for Indo-Pacific permit in Seychelles forever.
It is tied with a flexo body (usually used for electrical wires) with a dumbbell eye inside. Chenille is then threaded through the body to make the claws and legs, and mono is added and burned at the tip to make the eyes.
It sinks well, fishes excellently on the bottom, and fools pretty much every fish that sees it.
Sizes & Colors
Flexo crabs come in sizes 6 to 2 and all the sizes work well for bonefish, so own a few of each.
Natural colors are best for flexos, so tan and white are the right ones for bonefish.
How to Fish a Flexo Crab
Since this is crab imitation and not a shrimp, it should be fished slowly on the bottom. Lead the fish, let it sink, and the slow long strips are your best bet!
Here is what you need to think about when looking for good bonefish flies.
A bonefish’s core diet is made up of crabs, small fish, and shrimps. These are the creatures you want your bonefish flies to imitate and they can either be broad imitators, looking like both shrimp and fish, or direct imitators.
Size and color are the next most important things. Bonefish are clever creatures and you will want flies in sizes 2, 4, 6, and 8 so you can match the size of the fish/crabs/shrimps the bonefish are eating.
Natural colors are always best and flies in olive, tan, white, pink, and translucent are all must-haves!
You can fish for bonefish in depths from inch deep to 4 feet deep and you will need flies weighted to match.
Make sure you have a selection of heavy flies for the deep, medium flies for shallow flats, and light flies for ankle deep tailing fish.
With all of the best flies for bonefish featured above, you are going to catch bones on all the flats they frequent in the world. Just make sure you have a good enough saltwater fly reel to handle them!
Please leave us a comment below if you have any questions or if you think we missed a fly. We would love to hear from you!
Growing up fishing on streams and lakes in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles and offshore, there are not many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.