Bahamas and Carribean “What To Bring” List

The #1 Guide on the Internet for Bonefishing in the Bahamas and Carribean

We refer to the information you’re now reading as our “What to Bring” list. Actually, it is more than a list because a list, in and of itself, is not analytical. We have expanded our list with suggestions and tips to help you understand not only what to bring, but why to bring it. This information has been tested over 28 years and dozens of fishing trips and we stand behind it.

This information will serve you well whether you’re fishing the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Mexico, Belize, Venezuela, Seychelles, Christmas Island, or Mauritius. Every location or guide will have its own “hot flies”, and those will be listed in your Angler Adventures itinerary, but most are variations of the flies listed here.

Bahamian and Caribbean fishing lodges that provide tackle are clearly in the minority. Some lodges have a minimal amount of “back-up” rods and reels for use in case of rod loss or breakage. However, even this equipment is often in poor condition or has been poorly maintained. Some lodges carry a smattering of flies and lures, but always seem to be “out of” the best patterns. Unless your Angler Adventures itinerary letter clearly states that the lodge you are going to provides a full inventory of rod and reel rentals, leaders and flies, we recommend you bring all your own tackle and flies, including a minimum of two rods per angler.


Some people recommend light rods (6 or 7 weight) for bonefish, but we’ve not found these light rods to be versatile enough. They are practical under extremely calm conditions, but 8 and 9 weight rods are preferable under normal/windy conditions and you can still make a delicate presentation with an 8 weight rod and a long leader with an unweighted fly. You may want to bring a 10 weight rod for permit, barracuda, or sharks. If the destination you’re visiting offers large Tarpon, an 11-weight or 12-weight is standard.

We highly recommend 3, 4 and 5 piece “travel rods” that you can usually take with you on an airplane. “Usually” refers to the fact that your rod should fit in the overhead compartment, which varies depending on the size of the aircraft. 3 piece rods fit in the overhead compartments of all large capacity aircraft. 4 – 5 piece rods may be necessary for small commuter aircraft or “island hoppers”.

Carry-on Bag

In addition to rods that you can carry aboard an airplane, we strongly recommend that you also pack a carry-on bag with your reels, lines, fishing accessories, (except sharp metal objects which must go in your checked luggage) a change of clothes and all necessary medications.
Click here for more information on “Carry-on” versus checked luggage and TSA regulations regarding “fishing rods” and “tackle equipment”.


We recommend anodized direct drive reels for salt water use, preferably with adjustable brake, cork disc drag, and a capacity of at least 150 yards of 20 pound test backing plus fly line.


The most popular line for bonefishing is a weight forward floating line. Cleaning your fly line will greatly enhance its ability to shoot through the rod guides. If your line is old, cracked or beyond cleaning, buy a new line. The investment of $70 – $80 on a new fly line is one of the most important tackle purchases you can make before taking an important fishing trip.

The Rio Monofilament Core Bonefish Line, Scientific Angler Mastery Series bonefish taper or the Cortland 444 Precision Tropic Plus are all good choices. The Scientific Angler Mastery Series lines have relatively short heads, making them suitable for casting short to medium range. The Rio Bonefish Line has a longer head, which makes it a better distance casting line.


Many freshwater anglers make the mistake of using too thin or too light a tippet, which results in breaking off fish, particularly bigger bonefish. In saltwater, we recommend the strongest tippet practical for your fishing situation. If the bonefish aren’t leader shy, we recommend tippets of 12 – 15 pound clear, traditional monofilament leader material such as Mason, Maxima Clear (not “Maxima Chameleon” or “Ultra Green”) Ande, Rio Saltwater IGFA or other brands designed for use in salt water. Mason is a stiff, thick leader material that offers good abrasion resistance, as well as breaking strength. The stiffness of Mason makes a good transition between fly line and leader, improving the ability of the leader to turn over the fly. Maxima, Ande and Rio are thinner than Mason, if you prefer a softer material. Bring spools of 30-lb., 20-lb., 15-lb., and 12-lb. Mono and spools of 20 lb, 16 lb and 12 lb fluorocarbon so that you can tie leaders using the formula in the “What to Bring” section below.

If the fish are spooky, or if you’re using small flies for tailing fish or fishing skinny water in general, we recommend fluorocarbon tippets added to conventional monofilament leaders. Seaguar & Rio Fluoroflex are the two best on the market, and both have sufficient stiffness and abrasion resistance for saltwater use. Either a double surgeon’s knot or simple blood knot (see Kreh/Sosin) is more secure than a conventional blood knot (a.k.a. barrel knot) when tying fluorocarbon to conventional mono. Even more secure is a triple surgeon’s knot, making that the best choice. When adding fluorocarbon tippets to regular mono, it is important that you do not tie obviously dissimilar diameters together. You need to gradually taper down the diameter of your tippet for conventional knots to hold. That’s why the leader described below goes from 15 lb mono to 20 lb fluorocarbon. Every saltwater angler should be familiar with the knots described seven paragraphs below, even if he or she doesn’t tie his own leaders.

We recommend not going lighter than 15 lb. when using fluorocarbon tippets. Fluorocarbon is much thinner than mono of equal breaking strength.

If using straight mono leaders, instead of fluorocarbon tippets, we recommend using a 12-lb., 10-lb., or 8-lb. tippet, depending on conditions. For example, when fishing in very shallow water (8-12 inches), in bright sunlight over spooky fish, you will need to lengthen and taper down your leader whether your tippet is mono or fluorocarbon.

Standard leader length is 9 – 12 feet. On a windy day, shorten your leader to 7 – 9 feet. On a calm day, lengthen your leader to 12 – 14 feet (or more). In either case, test how your leader turns over the fly under the conditions that day and make any necessary adjustments.


Remember, we recommend the strongest tippet possible for your fishing situation. The following are only examples.

Mono to Fluorocarbon Leader: A 4′ butt of 30-lb, 2′ section of 20-lb, 18″ of 15-lb. Then add 2 sections of fluorocarbon, as follows: 18″ of 20 lb; 2′ of 15 lb makes an 11 footer.

All Monofilament Leader: 5′ of 30 lb, 2 1/2 ‘ of 20 lb, 15″ of 15 lb, plus 27″ tippet of 12 lb gives an 11 footer.

Permit leaders should be between 9 – 14 feet long (depending on conditions), have heavier and longer butt sections (to help turn over the heavier flies) and the tippet should be between 15 – 20 lb (Permit aren’t typically leader shy). Having a well constructed permit leader will help deliver the fly within 2 feet of the fish’s nose, the best place to get the permit to see the fly, without giving him a chance to look at it! Permit aficionado Del Brown preferred simple leaders. Del’s leaders were about ten feet in length: six feet of 50 lb test, two feet of 30 lb test, and two feet of tippet material, 15 lb or 20 lb. He used a Blood knot or a Surgeon’s knot to join the sections and a no-slip mono loop to attach the fly. Having landed 513 Permit in his lifetime – it’s hard to find a better source for advice on Permit than Del Brown.

For juvenile tarpon in the 10 – 50 lb. class, there’s no need for a complex IGFA sanctioned leader. We like simple, clear mono leaders: 4 feet of 40 lb., 3 feet of 30 lb, 2 feet of 20 lb., and a shock tippet 40 lb. For larger tarpon, we recommend shock tippets of 60 lb or 80 lb. Use a Stu Apte Improved Blod Knot to attach the shock tippet. For barracuda use at least 6” of wire. For sharks use 24” of wire, or more.

Check Your Leader

Check your leader regularly for wind knots or abrasion and replace if worn or weakened.


For connecting the leader butt to the fly line, the nail knot is fine with conventional fly lines. However, when using the newer mono core (or braided mono core) lines, you MUST use an Albright Knot. Conventional nail knots can slip off mono core fly lines. Use a triple surgeon’s knot when tying leader to leader and the improved clinch knot or better yet the non-slip mono loop knot when tying the tippet to the fly. Many experts have abandoned the blood or barrel knot in favor of the surgeon’s knot for connecting leader to leader and likewise have abandoned the clinch knot in favor of the non-slip mono loop. Your guides may continue to use barrel knots and clinch knots, so we recommend you learn to tie the knots we recommend for yourself.

Test Your Knots

Every time you or the guide ties a section of leader to leader, or you tie the tippet to the fly, you should test the knot strength by affixing the fly to something stationary and pulling firmly. More fish are lost due to leader or knot failure than any other reason.


Polarized sunglasses are so indispensable when fishing the flats; we recommend you bring 2 pair (one for back up). Yellow lenses are good for flat, low-light conditions such as early or late in the day, cloudy or rainy days. Grey lenses are good under extremely bright, high-contrast conditions. However, the best all-around lens is brown or amber. Brown or amber is our number one choice by far. Glasses with side shading are desirable. A strap is helpful for taking glasses on and off. A lens cleaning cloth (which must be kept dry) and a solution to clean your lenses is also recommended.

A long billed hat with dark underside also protects your face and improves your vision.
Click here for more information on vision and spotting fish.


Dull or muted colors like olive or khaki are less visible to fish. Light colors absorb less heat. We recommend supplex or other quick drying materials for shorts or long pants when wading. If traveling to areas where you’ll do a lot of wading, you may want to have more than one pair of each. When it’s buggy or if the sun is intense, most anglers wear long pants and long sleeved shirts every day and tuck the pants into their wading shoes to reduce the drag of the pant leg when wading. A Buff to cover your neck, ears and face, as well as sun gloves for both hands are also important items for sun protection.


Windy days can cause rough weather and boat spray. Rain can occur at any time. We recommend you bring a set of rain gear (jacket and pants) to carry with you in the boat each day. A good rain jacket also doubles as a windbreaker.

Splash Proof Bag

Bring a waterproof or splash-proof bag for your camera and extra clothing (flats skiffs never seem to stay dry). Carry two hats and two pair of polarized glasses. Use a hat clip to connect your hat to your shirt so it won’t blow completely off. Carry a pair of pliers and a hook-sharpening file with you at all times. Always carry extra clothing on the boat to protect you from sun, wind, rain or a sudden drop in temperature. Specifically, we recommend you carry lightweight long pants, light weight long sleeved shirt, a light sweatshirt and a rain jacket and pants (as described above).

Fishing Towel(s)

Carrying two fishing towels is a good idea. A washcloth size towel is perfect for cleaning your hands of “bonefish slime”. A larger, medium-sized towel is good for drying off items, including yourself, plus, it doubles as a “rod protector”. Frequently, flats skiffs in far off places have less than ideal storage for fly rods and a towel can come in handy protecting your rods from chaffing and banging. Use the towel to wrap around your rods at the location where they come in contact with the rod holding hole, tube or device.


There are different types of wading. There’s casual wading, where you choose to jump out of the flats skiff to cover a specific flat, or chase down a sighted fish. In these situations, you can generally see the terrain you’ll cover, you cover it, then get back in the boat. Casual wading is available pretty much anywhere you bonefish. For casual wading, a pair of neoprene flats wading booties or sneakers may be sufficient.

The other type of wading is to park the boat and go on foot. Wading the whole day can take you far from the boat. Chances are you will not be able to anticipate the terrain you might cover. All day wading requires a wading boot designed for the task. The wading boot must be comfortable to walk in for long distances (8 miles a day is not unusual). It must provide support and protection from sharp objects like shells, urchins and nasty dead coral. Inevitably, you’ll encounter soft sand, which will swallow up your entire wading boot and more. Destinations where you can enjoy all day wading include specific locations in the Bahamas or the Yucatan of Mexico, Los Roques, South Caicos, the Turneffe Islands, Belize, Seychelles, St. Brandon’s, Mauritius, Christmas Island and other atolls.

There are wading boots designed to stand up to all day wading sold by Simms, Patagonia and Orvis. It may take trail and error to determine the best wading boot for you. My favorite was the Bite Primal Flats Wading boot. Unfortunately, it is no longer in production. Our next favorite is the Simms Flats Sneaker. Combine that with the Simms Guide Model Gravel Guard and a pair of Gator 1.5 mm neoprene wading socks and you’re doing your feet a favor. If you prefer traditional socks to Neoprene, Simms makes a couple of “Wet Wading Socks” made of either polypropylene or polyester, spandex and nylon.

Whichever you choose, the idea is for the boot to withstand rugged terrain, as well as provide traction on slippery sand. The neoprene sock must fit comfortably. We like the Gator “Basic Neoprene Sock ( because it’s thin (1.5 mm neoprene), doesn’t get bent out of shape in saltwater, is easily cleaned with fresh water and dries quickly. The gravel guard keeps the sand from getting into your boot even when you sink in over your ankles. Very important, otherwise you will get blisters or be spending more time washing the sand out of your boots than fishing! We like the Simms Guide Model Gravel Guard because of its wrap around design and Velcro closure.

For people with foot issues, adding athletic insoles or orthotics to your wading boots may be necessary. Keep in mind that you may need to size your shoe accordingly.

If you’re purchasing a new pair of wading boots and you’re traveling to a destination that offers all day wading, you’ll need to “break in” your wading boots way ahead of time. We’ve heard complaints of wicked blisters and sore feet from anglers who either didn’t have properly fitted boots or didn’t break in their wading boots prior to their trip. The best way to prevent this is to assemble the various wading gear, try it all on and walk around the house. You can quickly tell if your boots are sized properly. You don’t want to feel any pressure points during this trial. And, by not wearing the boots outside, you can return or exchange them, if they aren’t comfortable. Once you’ve made the decision that they are comfortable, then comes the break in period. For that, you need to spend a lot of time in the boots. We suggest taking long walks in the boots and socks. You own the boots now, but you may be able to make adjustments to make them more comfortable. If you develop a serious objection to the boot, find another one that’s more comfortable. We know people who didn’t fuss with this “break in” process and couldn’t walk without pain on the second day of their trip. We don’t want that person to be you!

Ideally, you want to pack light when traveling. It’s kind of a pain to bring two pairs of wading boots/shoes. An angler who weighs 160 pounds can probably move around the bow of a flats skiff in Simms Flats Sneakers without making much noise. Such a person can fish effectively from a boat or in the water with the same footwear. With heavier boots or heavier anglers, it might be impossible to move or shift your weight on the bow of the skiff without spooking bonefish. If that’s the case, fish from the boat with regular sneakers, bare feet or stocking feet and put on the wading boots when it’s time for wading.

Some bonefishing locations offer more wading opportunities than others. Where wading opportunities exist, it’s usually a good idea to wear or carry wading shoes with you everyday. There may be times you’ll need to get your feet wet, even if you don’t end up wading, and carrying wading shoes on the boat allows you to take advantage of wading opportunities whenever they exist.

Essentials for Wading

You’ll need a belt pack, chest pack, lightweight vest, or at least some pockets to carry your essential tackle in. Essential tackle when wading includes: clippers, pliers, hook sharpening file, box of flies, extra leader material, bug spray, sun cream, and a water bottle. You’ll want a good pair of polarized sunglasses, glasses cleaning solution and wipes. Asprin or Advil can come in handy. For sun protection, a Buff or a lightweight hoodie, long sleeved shirt and pants. A small family band radio allows you to communicate with your guide and fishing partner if you separate.
Click here for a photo of a wading angler.


The flies listed in the “What to Bring” section are tried and true bonefish patterns whether you fish in the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Mexico, Belize, Venezuela, Seychelles or Christmas Island. You can certainly carry other patterns, but these are our favorites. This fly selection represents the most important colors and more importantly will allow you to fish a variety of water depths. You will lose bonefish flies for a variety of reasons. Break-offs can occur when a bonefish makes it’s initial run. Sometimes flies are damaged while removing the hook. Some flies may be lost to mangroves, coral or to barracuda. The durability of individual flies also varies greatly. Depending on your fly selection and your hooking success, you may go through 6 or more bonefish flies a day. To be safe, we recommend bringing at least 50 flies for 6 days of fishing.

Many anglers are fishing barbless hooks now, so you may want to crimp your barbs in advance. If you’ve never fished barbless before, let us assure you that it is extremely effective and it is unlikely that you will lose fish because of this.


There are 2 major hook types: “stainless steel” or high-carbon, plated hooks. “Stainless” hooks are more resistant to rusting and can be sharpened when the hook point dulls (and should be sharpened regularly). The high carbon, plated hooks are chemically sharpened, and should never be sharpened with a file or hone. The tin plating is also more susceptible to rust, and can break, particularly where salt gets trapped between the material and the hook (such as at the bend of the hook or under bead-chain or lead eyes). There are many high quality salt water hooks, such as Tiemco, Gamakatsu, Daiichi, and the newer Mustad Signature Series. But, we recommend that anglers do not use the older Mustad 34007 or 34011 series hooks, which bend easily, and avoid using the Gamakatsu SC-15 wide gap in smaller sizes (#6 and smaller), which are not strong enough for bonefish.

Keep Your Hook Sharp

Be sure to check your hook point periodically, especially after landing a fish, or if you think you might have ticked it on the side of the boat while casting or on a piece of coral during the retrieve. If it’s a high carbon, plated hook and the point is bent, tie on a different fly. If it’s a “stainless steel” hook and the point is bent, sharpen it. There are several hook sharpening methods, which are too detailed to explain here. The most popular method of sharpening is to triangulate the point using a hook file. Click here for a quick video by Tom Richardson illustrating this method.


One of the biggest mistakes a bonefisherman can make is not to adjust his fly to changing water depth. Your fly should be weighted such that it sinks quickly to the bottom and then stays near the bottom within view of the fish after you begin stripping. If you strip the fly above a bonefish, it will never see it.

Typical Depth

The average flat depth, whether you’re wading or poling, ranges from 1-2½ ft. In this depth, a Gotcha or Amber Shrimp with medium sized bead chain eyes should provide close to the perfect sink rate, without overweighing the fly (and potentially spooking the fish). A good rule of thumb is your fly should reach the bottom in about 3 seconds. If you find your fly is not getting to the bottom, you should switch to a heavier fly.

Deeper Flats

The angler who is willing to fish deeper flats will often be rewarded with the largest bonefish. Big bonefish prefer the protection of deeper flats or shallow flats close to deep water. When you’re fishing water 3-4 feet deep, you’ll need a fly with lead eyes to get to the bottom quickly. A proven deep-water fly is the Clouser minnow and the two best color combinations for bonefish are tan and white and chartreuse and white. Another killer, deep-water fly is the Simram, which is a fuzzy (rabbit fur) version of the Gotcha fly with lead eyes. Another outstanding lead eye fly is Henry Cowen’s Bonefish Scampi. Lead eyes come in a variety of weights and for joy of casting, you’ll want to carry flies with the smaller lead eyes, as well as the heavier lead eyes.

Shallow Flats & Tailing Fish

One of the prettiest sights in fishing is a happily feeding bonefish with his tail waving in the air. The last thing a bonefisherman wants to do is scare the daylights out of an actively feeding fish by casting too heavy a fly too close to the fish. Therefore, you must go light in skinny water. By light we mean no weight other than the weight of the hook. For this we recommend mono (or plastic) eyes and a body that lands softly. A well designed fly for this situation is a pattern called the bunny bone.

The bunny bone is made with rabbit fur, rug yarn and mono eyes. Good color combinations would be the same as the other productive flies we’ve already described; tan, chocolate and tan, the Gotcha colors and, pink and gold. Tie this fly in sizes 4, 6, and 8. You can throw this unweighted fly quite close to a tailing fish. Its entry into the water is soft, but it sinks well. The rabbit fur makes it look alive even before it’s stripped. All you need do is give it the tiniest of strips. Don’t strip the fly too far or too fast when working a tailing fish.

Weedless Flies

Wading anglers will encounter bonefish in shallow water, sometimes less than a foot deep. Some of the best tailing fish habitat is a weedy bottom. When fishing over these skinny, turtle grass flats, you’ll need a weedless fly. We recommend using a small (size 6 or 8) light wire hook, like a Daiichi x452 or Gamakatsu SL24 Bonefish hook (black finish). A highly effective fly is a bunny bone with mono or plastic eyes and a 10-lb test V-shaped weed-guard. When casting from the boat, you’re apt to find bonefish on weedy bottoms at all depths, so it’s wise to carry weedless flies in all weights and sizes.


Crab patterns have come a long way since George Anderson introduced us to the McCrab. Actually the Mc Crab has a design flaw. It’s all deer hair. To get deer hair to sink it must be loaded with lead. To cast it you need a hard hat. Del Brown corrected this flaw by forming the body of his Del Brown permit fly with Aunt Lydia’s rug yarn. This fly sinks quickly with a lot less lead. Jan Isley used ram’s wool and epoxy in creating the Rag Head. Enrico Puglasi uses EP Fibers. Bonefish like these crabs just as much as permit. When tied in smaller sizes (size #2, #4, and #6), crab flies are much more enjoyable to cast and perform well on medium to deep flats for bonefish and permit. Tie one of these on when you’re fishing one of those flats where you’re not sure whether the next fish you spot is apt to be a bonefish, a permit or possibly a mutton snapper.

Handy Selection

Before you begin fishing it is also advisable to have a handy selection of the flies you’re most likely to use that day. Have a selection that covers all water depths, so you are prepared when a quick change is required. For even quicker adjustments to changes in water depths, have a spool of lead wire handy and wrap a small piece around the eye of the fly, as needed.
Click here for photos and more information on flies.

Before You Cast

All fly lines, especially monocore lines, are subject to “twists” and “coils” (memory). Twist is caused by not casting the entire length of fly line, and each time you reel in a portion of the line, some twist will develop. The best way to remove twist is to strip the entire line off the reel (to the backing), cut the fly off and trail the entire line behind the boat. Then reel up to your comfortable casting length and tie the fly back on. Coil is caused by “memory”, when a line has been tightly coiled on the reel for extended lengths of time. Until someone develops a fly line with no memory, the most important thing you can do before you step onto the foredeck to cast is to gently stretch your fly line! It also helps to clean the line and apply a silicone based lubricant the night before. The quickest and easiest way to stretch your line is to strip out as much line as you can cast, then hold a 10 foot section in both hands, step on the middle and stretch the line against your foot. Keep stretching 10 foot sections until the entire line is stretched. Apply about 4-lbs of pressure, hold the light pressure for a few seconds, and the coils will vanish. DO NOT “jerk” or “stretch the hell out of it”! This can damage the coating as well as the core and greatly shorten the life of your fly line.

Once You’re On Deck

Strip out as much line as you can comfortably cast, cast the line, then strip it back onto the casting deck so that the line closest to the reel is at the bottom of the loosely coiled line you have now accumulated on the deck. Next, get about 10 or more feet of fly line (plus your leader) out of the rod tip. Hold the fly in one hand and the rod in the other. When a fish is spotted, toss the fly into the water and begin to cast.


Here’s a tip that will help you and your guide, compliments of Joe Clear, one of the Bahamas all-time great guides. Once you’re onboard, but before you start looking for bonefish, go through this drill with your guide:

Strip out a comfortable amount of line for you to cast. Ask the guide to act as if he has spotted an imaginary bonefish and to give you his command…”bonefish 10 o’clock – 50 feet”. You then make the cast as you heard it described. Now, compare notes. Ask the guide if that is the direction and distance he called for. Frequently the guide’s view of the clock from the back of the boat is different from the angler’s. Even more frequently, 50 feet means something entirely different to the guide and the angler. Coming closer to understanding the finer points of direction and distance before you see fish should drastically improve your communication with the guide throughout the rest of the day. It’s also helpful if the guide knows your maximum, “comfortable” casting distance.


Cast very close to a tailing fish, as he is focusing on a small area. With cruising fish, try to lead them by 6-12 feet (depending on depth and current) and allow your fly to sink to their eye level (or the bottom) before beginning your retrieve. It is better to cast short, hoping the fish will come to the fly, than to cast too far and risk having the line spook him. When casting from a boat, take your shoes off; it will help you avoid stepping on the fly line.

The most common mistake anglers make when fishing the flats is taking too many false casts. Try to take no more than 4 false casts to reach a fish, hopefully fewer. When a guide positions the boat and sets up on a fish, the amount of time the boat stays in prime position is about 6 seconds. That’s generally enough time for 3 or 4 false casts.
Click here for the “clock” diagram and tips on preparing to cast and casting.

Retrieve and Setting the Hook

The idea is to get the fly to the bottom as quickly as possible before the fish reaches the fly. When the fish comes within view of the fly (generally 3-4 feet away), you move the fly to get the fish’s attention.

The most common retrieve is a strip / pause retrieve, where after each strip, you pause, so that the fly begins to settle to the bottom, imitating the motion of a shrimp. A dropping fly will invariably result in a take from a feeding fish. If the fish goes nose-down, tail-up in the vicinity of your fly, he’s taking the fly.

When a bonefish takes the fly, you will feel resistance with your line hand as you begin the “strip” part of the retrieve. Normally this gradual pulling against the resistance is all you need to set the hook. Avoid setting the hook with your rod tip.

If the fish did not take the fly, you do the same thing again, perhaps with a more active strip to start, then let it sink to the bottom. The majority of hookups and the best hook sets come when the bonefish goes down on the fly not when he’s chasing the fly straight on.

However, if dropping the fly doesn’t work, try quickening the retrieve, giving the fly the appearance that it is escaping.

Many bonefishermen can spot a crusing bonefish under good conditions, but they can’t make out the subtle movements of the fish when it’s behind or near the fly. Most guides can see exactly what the bonefish is doing. Therefore, they know when the bonefish has picked up the fly or when it has spit it out. That’s why you should encourage your guide to talk you through the stripping process. It goes something like this:

Guide: “Okay, leave the fly there. Let it sink. Okay, now short strip. Another short. Long strip. Let it sink. Short strip. He’s on.”

What makes the stripping process more complicated is the action of wind and current on the movement of the boat. If the boat is drifting towards the fish, you’ll need to make long strips to pick up the slack. If you’re drifting fast and the guide says the fish has taken the fly, you may actually have to strike with both your hand and the rod to take all the slack out of the line. Striking with the rod is generally something you only do after you’ve felt the fish with your strip strike. However, if you can’t possibly take up the slack with your hand, you may have to go for broke and use the rod too.
Click here for a photo and description of retrieve and hook set.

Releasing Bonefish

The best way to release a bonefish is to handle the fish as little as possible. Instead of grabbing the fish, grab the fly with your pliers and twist the fly loose. If you’re using 8-10-lb. Mason, Ande, Maxima or Rio tippet you can hold onto the leader at the fly (with normal 3-5 lb. bonefish) in one hand and get the pliers on the hook with the other. If you bent your barb down, the hook will remove itself with a simple twist of the pliers. You should avoid touching the bonefish, because once you touch it, it releases a mucous-like slime that emits a scent that sharks can track.

Catch and release fishing is a valuable conservation tool that can lead to more and bigger fish in the fishery. However, just because a fish swims away doesn’t mean that it lives to be caught another day. The Bonefish Tarpon Trust has assembled some tips for increasing the chances that a released bonefish survives. Click here for more information on the best practices for fighting, handling and releasing Bonefish.

What to Bring
Fly Fishing in The Bahamas


  • #7 to #9 Rod
  • Saltwater reel which holds at least 150 yds. of 20 lb. backing
  • WF floating line
  • 7-14 foot leader with 12 – 15 pound test tippet


Remember, we recommend the strongest tippet possible for your fishing situation. The following are only examples.

Mono to Fluorocarbon Leader: A 4′ butt of 30-lb, 2′ section of 20-lb, 18″ of 15-lb. Then add 2 sections of fluorocarbon, as follows: 18″ of 20 lb; 2′ of 15 lb makes an 11 footer.

All Monofilament Leader: 5′ of 30 lb, 2 1/2 ‘ of 20 lb, 15″ of 15 lb, plus 27″ tippet of 12 lb gives an 11 footer.


  • #10 to #12 Rod
  • Saltwater reel holding a minimum of 250 yds. of 30-lb. backing
  • WF floating and intermediate are the most commonly used lines.
  • Leader with 15-20 lb. class tippet & 40 – 80 lb. shock tippet


  • #10 Rod
  • Saltwater reel holding a minimum of 200 yds. of 30 lb. backing
  • WF floating line
  • Leader with 15 lb. tippet


  • #8 to #10 Rod
  • WF floating line
  • Saltwater reel holding a minimum of 200 yds. of 30 lb. backing
  • Leader with 6″ shock tippet of 30 lb. wire or nylon-covered braided wire for barracuda. 24″ of wire for sharks.

Bonefish Flies:

  • Gotcha fly
  • Clouser Deep Minnow -tan & white, green&white
  • Simram or Shrimp Scampi
  • Crab flies
  • Mantis & Spawning Shrimp Patterns
  • Brewer’s Amber Shrimp
  • Mini Puffs
  • Bunny Bones
  • Bonefish Bitters

See below for more detailed information on bonefish flies.

Tarpon Flies:

  • Shallow water tarpon flies like the Stu Apte, Black Death, Cockroach, or EP Black & Purple #1/0 to #3/0
  • Deep-water tarpon flies #2/0 to #4/0, like the whistler series in red and white, yellow and red and orange and grizzly.
  • Tarpon Toads or Bunnies #1/0 to #3/0; Char & Yellow, Black & Purple, purple, rusty orange, red & black
  • Deceivers #1/0 to #3/0; blue & white, green & white.

Permit Flies:

  • Del Brown Permit Fly
  • Rag Head
  • EP Crab; olive / tan
  • Mantis Shrimp patterns like Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp, Squimp, or Crimp.
  • Also Clouser Minnows and various other Crab flies

Barracuda Flies:

  • A sparse needlefish Fly (chartreuse)

Shark Flies:

  • Yellow / Red Deceivers size 3/0 or bigger

Spin-Fishing in The Bahamas


Rod: 6½’ – 7 ‘ light (for bonefish); Medium (for permit).
Reel: Open faced (skirted spool) reel with 200-yard capacity.
Line: 8-10 lb. test. Extra spool of 10-12 lb. test.
Lures: 1/8-1/4 oz. Up-riding Flat Willie jigs, Millies jigs #155 or Bills jig worms. Also 1/0 – 3/0 bare hooks for bait.
Colors: Pink, yellow, white, brown.


Rod: 6½ ‘- 7½’ light medium weight
Reel: Open faced reel with at least 200-yd capacity.
Line: 15-20 lb. test. Extra spool of 10-15 lb. test.
Lures: Silverspoons, red & yellow spoons; 3″ long silver-sided, dark back diving lures, like Rat-L-Trap, Jumpin’ Minnow Plug, Chrome Bombers; Mirro-Lures (52M and 65M). Also an assortment of ¼ – ¾ ounce bucktails in white and yellow and 3/0 bare hooks for bait.

Colors: Red/white, red/yellow, yellow/orange, green/silver.
Leaders: 80-100 lb. test shock tippets.


Tackle: Same as above.
Leader: 30-60 lb. wire
Lures: Green, red and orange tube lures (8″-12″ surgical tubing).

REEF OR BAIT CASTING – For Larger Species

Rod: 6″ medium to stiff action (for deep jigging, use a stiff rod).
Reel: With smooth drag and capacity for 200-yds 12-20 lb. test.
Jigs: 1½-4 oz. white jigs. Add a 7″-9″ curlytail worm in yellow, orange or green.

Bear in mind that many Bahamian guides prefer fishing bait rather than lures for bonefish and permit and locally available bait will be provided by your guide.

BAHAMAS: Equipment & Clothing Checklist

Daytime temperatures during the season range from 70°-95° and can drop into the 60’s (or less) at night. The sun is strong and you need to protect yourself from sunburn. We suggest you bring a couple of light-weight long-sleeved shirts and some light long pants. There is no need for formal clothing. Patagonia, Simms, Columbia and Ex-Offico all make state of the art outdoor clothing designed for the tropics.

  • Light weight, quick-drying long pants (2)
  • Light weight, quick-drying long-sleeved shirts (2)
  • Wading Shoes like Patagonia Marlwalkers or Simms Flats Sneakers and Simms Wading Socks.
  • Second pair of “boat” shoes
  • Light weight wind-breaker jacket
  • Wide brimmed hat (like upper/downer) to protect neck and ears. 2nd hat for back-up and two hat clips.
  • Rain jacket (like Simms Paclight Jacket) and pants for rain showers/boat spray – doubles as wind breaker
  • Shorts (quick-drying)
  • Short-sleeved shirts (quick-drying)
  • “Wicking” underwear
  • Bathing suit
  • Fishing towel
  • Two pair of Polaroid sunglasses, with straps and side shields. Wrap around style also offers lateral eye protection.
  • Bandanas or Buffs
  • Thin gloves for sun protection


Sun creams: SPF#15 – 45 strength waterproof sunscreen as well as lip balm with sunscreen
Insect Repellent: Spray for mosquitoes, sand flies and horseflies.
Zip-Loc Bags: Large and small to keep items dry. Fill one with a lens cleaning cloth or paper napkins to clean glasses, etc.
Toiletry Kit: For cosmetics, medications (such as Transderm II or Dramamine for seasickness, aspirin, Advil, antihistamines, antibiotics, ear plugs, etc.). Also talc or some form of powder.
First Aid Kit: With band aids, antibacterial ointment, adhesive tape, etc.
Camera Gear: Waterproof bag, memory cards, polarizing filter, lens tissue, cleaner, flash, extra camera batteries and accessory batteries.
Gear Bag: Small pack, belt attached bag or mesh vest for carrying tackle/camera while wading.
Travel Documents: Passport, birth certificate with photo ID or proper documents for your destination (refer to your Angler Adventures itinerary letter for details); Travel Insurance documents (recommended for every trip)
Other: Cash (small bills) for tips, Traveler’s Checks, travel alarm clock, flashlight, Kleenex, Band aids, duct tape.
Carry On Bag: To carry valuable fishing gear, change of clothing, prescription medications and necessities aboard the airplane.
Reading Material: Bring books (particularly ones you don’t mind leaving at the lodge) and perhaps DVDs if you are bringing your own laptop.


  • Clippers with sharp point to clear eye of fly
  • Hook sharpener
  • Fly line dressing (for keeping lines slick and clean)
  • Chatillion Scales or Boga-Grip
  • Reel oil, Sentry Tuf-Cloth or WD-40 to apply after washing.
  • Spare fly lines and backing
  • Ferrule wax; use only if your rod sections have a slippage problem
  • Reel mitts to protect reels
  • #2 lead wire to weight flies.
  • Stripping basket, only neccessary when wading the surf.
  • Fishermen’s pliers, needlenose pliers, forceps.
  • Pair of Rubbermaid jar openers (to disjoint stuck rod sections)
  • Water bottle
  • Oversize tip tops and stick of Ferrule cement

Suggested Reference Books

“Fly Fishing in Salt Water” – Kreh
Fishing the Flats” – Sosin and Kreh **** “Fly Fishing for Bonefish” – Brown


Anyone possessing the fly tying fundamentals required to tie a bucktail streamer can tie effective bonefish flies. All that is needed are the basic tools: vice, bobbin, scissors & whip finisher; a supply of salt water hooks; and an assortment of materials.

HOOKS: Tiemco #811S, Gamakatsu SC15, SC12 & SC11-2H, Daiichi x452, and the Mustad Signature Series.

THREAD: Pre-waxed Flat Nylon (210 Denier), 3/0 (115 Denier) or 6/0 (80 Denier) are good choices depending on the size of the fly. Most important colors are white, black, tan, yellow and pink.

TAILS: Tails aren’t used on all patterns, but where called for, a variety of natural materials, i.e. calf tail, hackle fibers, wood duck flank, rabbit fur, or marabou, are used, as are synthetic flash materials such as Flashabou or Krystal Flash.

BODIES: Braided Mylar, Body Braid, Aunt Lydia’s Sparkle Yarn, Clear V-Rib, Chenilles, Krystal Flash, etc.

WINGS: Calf tail, saddle hackle tips, rabbit fur, marabou, synthetic fish hair or craft fur are useful. White, brown, tan, pink and yellow are the most common colors. Krystal Flash or Flashabou is often added. Some patterns call for grizzly or cree saddle hackle tips tied in as sides along a hair wing.

EYES: Vary the weights of your flies by the weight and size of the eyes; medium bead chain is the most common. For shallow water use small bead chain eyes, no bead chain eyes, plastic or mono eyes. For deeper water, lead / dumbbell eyes in a variety of sizes are effective. For example, while we recommend 1/50th and 1/36th lead eyes on the Clouser Minnows described below, you may want to experiment with 1/100th lead eyes as well. For tailing fish or skinny water use an unweighted fly (tied without any bead chain eyes) like a Bunny Bone. It is also important when you assemble your fly collection to have the primary colors represented: pink, silver/white, brown / tan / amber, gold / yellow and green. Note: A simplistic approach to fly selection is to match the fly color to the bottom color. If the bottom is light in color, try a Gotcha. If the bottom is tan or dark in color, try an Amber Shrimp. You can do well bonefishing with just these two patterns.

The flies listed here, and the materials to tie them, can be purchased through the Compleat Angler – 203-655-9400.

Gotcha Fly (a Charlie Variation)

Hook Size: #2 – #8
Thread: Pink
Eyes: Medium Silver Bead Chain
Tail: Pearl Medium Mylar Tubing, core removed
Body: Pearl Poly-Flash Braided Mylar
Wing: Beige Craft Fur topped with 12 strands of Pearl Krystal Flash.

Peterson Spawning Shrimp:

Hook Size: #2 – #6
Thread: Fl. Pink 140 Denier (3/0)
Eyes: Medium Nickel, Lead or Bead Chain Eyes
Tail1: Orange McFlylon / Egg Yarn
Tail2: White, Tan or Cream Antron Yarn
Tail2 (opt.): 4 strands of Pearl Krystal Flash
Antenna: Black Krystal Flash
Eyes: Black Mono Epoxy Eyes
Legs: Tan Barred Crazy Legs
Body: Pearl Flat Diamond Braid / Bill’s Body Braid
Collar: Tan Zonker Rabbit Strip

BONUS TIP: If you find you need a faster sink rate while fishing, wrap a few turns of lead wire on the eyes of your fly.

Clouser’s Minnow (good, deep water, big fish fly): tan & white

Hook Size: #2 – #8
Thread: Tan
Eyes: 1/50th or 1/36th ounce dumbbell eyes with red iris
Body: None
Underwing: (Tied on top of hook shank, before turning over). Very sparse white bucktail 1½ inches long
Overwing: (Tied after hook is inverted). A few strands of gold Krystal Flash topped with very sparse tan or light brown bucktail, same length as underwing. Another effective Clouser pattern is green and white.


Hook Size: #2 – #8, upright in vice
Thread: Pink
Eyes: Medium (5/32″) to small chrome dumbbell eyes
Tail: 4 strands yellow Krystal Flash followed by golden tan Kraft Fur.
Body: Pearl glitter body (body braid).
Shell Back: 1-inch piece medium pearl Mylar piping, core removed.
Wing: 1½ inch piece of tan, crosscut rabbit fur strip.

Brewer’s Amber Shrimp:

Hook Size: #4 – #8
Thread: Yellow
Tail: Lemon Wood Duck
Body: Yellow Floss, overwrapped with Amber V-Rib
Eyes: Medium Silver Bead Chain
Wing: Light brown buck or calftail, sided with Cree saddle hackle tips.

Bonefish Bitters (Brown or Olive):

Hook Size: #4, #6 or #8
Thread: Color to match wing
Eyes: Bead chain
Body: Colored epoxy or hot glue
Legs: Silli legs to match wing color
Wing: Deer hair over Z-Lon or Antron underwing

Bunny Bone Tan (good pattern for tailers; skinny water):

Hook Size: #6 & #8
Thread: Beige
Eyes: White or black plastic or mono eyes, tied in near bend
Fan Tail: Natural Tan Rabbit Fur (or dark brown rabbit fur)
Antennae: 2 strands Copper Krystal Flash, 2½ X shank length
Body: Tan Aunt Lydia’s Rug Yarn (built up slightly around eyes and tapering to the hook eye).

Mini Puffs (Pink; Tan or Rusty Orange)

Hook Size: #6 & #8
Thread: White
Eyes: Small silver bead chain
Tail (wing): White calf tail tied in at bend, appx. length of hook shank, topped with 4 strands of Pearl crystal flash and sided with grizzly saddle tips (splayed).
Body: Medium pink chenille, figured eighted around bead chain eyes to produce a “ball”.

Del Brown’s Permit Fly

Hook Size: Standard or long sharked sizes #1/ 0 – #6
Thread: Chartreuse
Weight: 1/24th , 1/36th or 1/50th oz. Dumbbell eyes.
Tail: 4 strands pearl Flashabou, and 4 ginger variant or cree neck hackles, tied splayed to imitate claws.
Body: Aunt Lydia’s Rug Yarn, 8 – 10 strips, approximately 2″ long, trimmed to round shape.
Legs: Four 1-1 ½ ” pieces of white rubber hackle, tipped red with a Sharpie Pen.

Bonefishing Preparations by Rick Bannerot: Click Here.