Characteristics of a Great Bonefish Fly

Characteristics of a Great Bonefish Fly

Many will argue that it doesn’t matter what you throw at a bonefish in the Bahamas, they’ll usually eat.  The study and creation of an effective bonefish fly is not aimed at schoolies in the Bahamas but more the large, selective fish that novice anglers eventually seek.  In locations like Turks & Caicos, Hawaii, Southeastern Florida, and the South Pacific there are large fish that are very precise in choosing the fly they will eat.  Even if they were not overly selective, why travel and take a chance on a missing a fish because of an inferior or poorly chosen fly.  There are many things that constitute a good bonefish fly, we’ll just briefly mention a few major ones:

1. Durability

Nothing is worse than a fly that falls apart completely, especially if it is on the first bonefish.
Without totally slamming the flies that are made in remote reaches of the world by people who don’t even fly fish, they stink!
They are typically tied on cheap hooks with cheap materials and they fall apart usually after 1 or 2 bonefish.
Existing the US are companies and individuals that manufacture quality flies tied on good hooks, you just have to do your homework.
We like to use quality materials with a few extra wraps to make the flies durable and when we can, add some adhesive in between steps. Lately we’ve been using some thin epoxy to add strength to the thread, and also hold in the wing & leg materials.
Take the time to tie a quality fly and in the long run, you won’t have to tie as many because quality ties stand up to the test.

bonefish - fly fishing magazine bonefish - fly fishing magazine2. Movement

Nothing gets a bonefish or any fish to eat like movement. If the fly is moving with the tidal flow, you are in great shape.
We like to use materials like fox fur, rabbit and various types of sili legs for our bonefish files because the material has an inherent natural movement in the water.  Even if the fly is stationary, the materials and moving with the current and almost breathing, giving life to the fly.
While the furs look amazing in the water, the can get heavy and noisy once it is wet.  This can and usually does problems in skinny water, especially if you make a “plop” noise when you cast it.  Try tying the same pattern in different materials or different situations so you have multiple options in your box.

bonefish - fly fishing magazine

bonefish - fly fishing magazine

3. Proportion

If the fly is not proportioned properly the bonefish and all other fish will likely reject it.
This has nothing to do with the quality of the imitation but more to do with the movement of the fly and its similarity to the prey species it imitates.  Sometimes a poor imitation just happens to match the profile or size of a prey and gets eaten because it happens to look right.  This is the goal, but rather than by luck, a more systematic approach is best.
If the head or tail are too long, the fly could foul but that is an easy fix if you have the ability to trim it on the skiff.  A long wing could cause the fly to spin while being stripped aggressively.If the weight of the fly is too far forward or too far back, this could make the fly look un-natural to a bonefish causing rejection of the fly.
Take you time to get it right and test your new patterns in the water like all good anglers do.  Try some long, try some short and see how they perform.

bonefish - fly fishing magazine

4. Productivity

Local food in the waters, time of year and weather conditions will all play an important part of fly selection.  Depending on where you are fly fishing for bonefish will dictate the productivity of your pattern.  Most Bahamian locations use the gotcha fly and some guides will tell you they will eat a bare hook if it moves and they are hungry enough.  When selecting a pattern, it is ok to go with you own fly or a friends.  Remember, productive patterns that are well known and commonly used are popular because they have been productive for years.  This means the creator intentionally or not, tapped into something that mimics something they commonly see and eat.  It is ok to use a gotcha and if you want to you can make your own.  Just be sure to use a good hook, good materials, and watch your proportions.

 

We always encourage anglers to tie their own flies as the is a nostalgic and very relevant aspect of one being a complete angler.  There are some really great patterns out there and you can find a lot of them on  Flyfishbonehead, In the Riffle, and Global Flyfisher.  There are also some of the more productive Caribbean bonefish flies in our shop that might inspire you to tie.  An upcoming issue in Tail will be discussing the history of fly tying and how it is emerging once again among fly fishing purists.  Stay tuned.

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Palolo Worm Hatch

Palolo Worm Hatch

tarpon worm hatch - tarpon worms, fly fishing for tarponThe Palolo Worm hatches from coral rock & sponges that cover the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean side of the Florida Keys. These little worms look like a red and white earth worm. As they hatch, they race for the surface of the water and move in unison. Their travel is very predictable and every year they head in the same direction, running the gauntlet of tarpon as they head for the Florida reef offshore. Meanwhile the tarpon have gathered together for this annual event. The worms seem to have an intoxicating effect on tarpon they begin to do uncharacteristic things. Many believe that the worm is an aphrodisiac & the catalyst for the kick off of the breeding season. The few that catch the worm hatch perfectly can see tarpon moving aggressively with large numbers rolling as far as the eye could see. We wait for this event every summer as this is one of the best times for tarpon in Florida. Late May or early June is tarpon time in the Florida Keys. It’s the season when large migrating fish from the South pause for here in anticipation the palolo worm hatch.

 paolo-worm-hatch-in-the-florida-keys---tarpon-on-the-fly

There’s not just one, though. There are actually several of them, the more major ones include the legendary Bahia Honda Bridge, the Seven-Mile Bridge, and some of the other smaller bridges around Summerland & Big Pine Keys.  For us fly anglers, the best thing you can do during this hatch is set up on the oceanside flats and wait for the fish to come by. Another option is to have your guide bring you down the edges of the flats to hunt for fish. You can also hit some of the deeper channels and set up shop there but that is usually where the bait chunkers are tossing pinfish and other baitfish which usually freak some tarpon out. Again you can’t go wrong setting up in known tarpon holes like the like the bridges previously mentioned & Channel 2 and Channel 5. Remember, Bahia Honda became well known for a reason. The hatch usually occurs around the lowest tide of the full moon in May or June. A late outgoing tide (afternoon), around 6 pm, in conjunction with the full moon is the ideal time to be on the water during this exciting time of year. That, of course,depends on when the moon is full. The moon phase calendar for 2013 has the full moon on a weekend Saturday, May 25, so this year it is expected to be early.  In years past where conditions have been sub- optimal, despite the full moon in late May, the  worms held out until the first week of June. The full moon is May 9, there is a good chance the worms will wait until around June 7 when the moon is full again. Maybe, there are never any guarantees. Ambient air temperature, water temperature and humidity levels all play a part in the initiation & timing of the hatch

 

In other words, the timing of the hatch is a moving target about as dynamic as casting a tasty toad to rolling tarpon….You just never know. If you focus on the places you tend to have the biggest concentrations of fish and you try to time you stay for when the expected hatch is, you will be successful.No one has ever been able to pinpoint the exact time of the hatch, but many are within days. The key is to be on the water when the worms make their run which usually means booking 2-3 days on the flats.Can one suffer through a few days of fishing on the flats while monitoring for a most magnificent natural event?

We’ll find the strength to endure it.

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They Blinded Me With Science – Orvis Helios 3 Review

They Blinded Me With Science – Orvis Helios 3 Review

The Orvis Helios 3
They Blinded Me With Science

Orvis has advertised their new Helios 3 rod as “the most accurate rod on the planet.”

This is a very, very bold statement.  The entire planet, but we don’t even know what China or the Japanese might have.  Can they actually say that?  They could if it was true but before making this claim they would have to prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt.  And not just anecdotal reports or opinions from experts.  A statement like this requires real science in a structured and controlled study that eliminates variables.  They knew this when they designed this rod and they did just that.

A fascinating concept to design a rod for improved accuracy, but for me, even more fascinating is the way they will go about proving it.

My fascination is not with the Orvis company, but rather with what they did.  The research behind the technology is intriguing, possibly more so than the technology itself.  It could even change the way manufacturers look at the way they approach new products.   After reading this, it might even change the way you shop for a fly rod.
It’s cliche but fly fishing is a game of inches so having pinpoint accuracy is key. But how can you actually test for accuracy when every individual is different.  Obviously there are human variables like height & weight, arm fatigue, etc; gear variables like line weight, line condition, fly selection, etc.  Let’s not forget intangibles like wind, the sky color and planetary alignment.  

Being a doctor, I’ve read my share of scientific studies and still do.  I am able to determine the value of data, and grasp the concept of controls and variation within a study.  In order to do this particular one correctly, they need to eliminate all of the variables otherwise their claim would be rendered impotent and disregarded.
The most important variable to eliminate is the actual human variation during the cast.  You can do this by assembling a large sample population (thousands of individuals) to cast the same rod(s), a set number of times and collect a minimum of three samplings for each person. You would then pool the data and request analysis from a statistician who will calculate the mean, standard deviation and variance.  Once complete the scientists can extrapolate data based these calculations to use for the study.
This way would certainly be the dumbest way to do this study and explains why I read the studies and don’t design them.
They just built a robot.
More accurately, not a real robot but just a rod mounted in a stable fixture where they could release the tip at the same distance with no bias. It accomplished the task creating a mechanical angler.  

A mechanical angler, casting indoors in the same conditions has a standard deviation of .055.  For the non-scientists, standard deviation is a mathematical calculation which indicates the extent of variation within the group.  Robots and mechanical devices fluctuate but they do not have big fluctuations and the reliability of the robotic casting being the same each time is approximately 99.945%  With the project now managed with this independent mechanical casting device, brand bias and human variance are eliminated.   First major obstacle – removed.

They then tackled the problem of accurately measuring the oscillation of the rod both forward and backward but also left to right.  This left to right movement is what is referred to as tracking.  Some cast a rod and say, “it tracks well” which is fly speak for “it doesn’t move side to side much” which can make a cast inaccurate.  How can a 6mm (1/4 inch) of sideways movement make me miss my shot you ask?  Keep in mind that 6mm or a 1/4 inch horizontal shift to the left or right at the tip of the rod when the forward cast is stopped can become a 24-48 inches of horizontal shift at the end of your 40-80 foot cast.  My math might be a little off but that means you just missed your shot by up to 4 feet or even worse if the wind is working against you.  

Obtaining this information was made possible as the use of high speed cameras in a three axes to capture and trace the exact path of the rod tip.  With such fast movement and sometimes minimal motion the tip needed to be much more prominent.   The team accomplished this by creating a light source on the tips of all of the rods for the cameras to track.  It was not described well but conventional lighting systems were cumbersome and did not work so what they used was the equivalent of a glow stick.  They used a specific color and painted the tips of the rods.  By adjusted the camera to highlight this color and exclude others they were able to track the rod tips movement at very high speed.

This entire process was tested on the Helios 1, 2, & 3 rods as well a long list of other manufacturers comparable rod models.  A direct comparison of horizontal movement was made and charted.  While I have been not granted permission to reveal all of their data, the results were really not that unexpected.  The resulting bell curve has a few companies at the top, many at the bottom and the others scattered through the middle.  As expected, the Helios 3 easily bested all the other rods, otherwise they wouldn’t have made this claim.  There are two non-Orvis rods that were stand outs among the rest of the pool but they took a distant second and third place.  This is not opinion but fact that was systematically proven by an independent study. Orvis set out to design the H3 to be more accurate than it’s predecessor and they succeeded.  They made the most accurate rod currently available, but I can’t vouch for the entire planet.

Orvis H3 review - Helios 3 reviewUltimately one’s decision to buy a rod is not going to be solely based on a scientific study in a lab with a robotic device that casts more consistently than Lefty himself, but it definitely helps.  The decision is probably going to be way more personal than that for many.   Newcomers, however might benefit the most from “data proven” claims since they don’t know as much initially and can use information like this to make sound decisions.   Buying a scientifically proven “better” rod is much less scary than buying another.  I remember my own confusion and doubt when buying my first few pieces of saltwater gear.  I tip my hat to Orvis for their passionate pursuit of understanding and improving the sport that we all love. This work will raise the bar for other manufacturers which means even better gear and more interesting products for consumers.

I’ve been criticized for not offering a opinion and staying neutral about products but here’s what I will say about the Helios 3.  Every so often a rod comes along that is special.  To offer some points of reference; the G. Loomis Asquith, despite the very unfortunate name is special, the Sage VXP  and the Winston Boron II are special.  The Helios 3, will join the ranks as a special rod.   It comes in a “D” for distance and and “F” for finesse.  Honestly, after casting both in various weights, I struggle to notice much difference but I qualify that by admitting that I am not a distance caster.  Based in southeast Florida, permit are my primary target so accuracy is alway priority over distance .  The test rod sent by Orvis was a H3 909D so that’s what I fished.

 From the very first cast, you will notice the technology that Orvis built into this rod.  It’s lightweight but don’t be deceived, despite it’s delicate feel the H3 is has some fight.  It has a solid backbone and provides more than adequate lifting power which you won’t initially notice because of how balanced the rod feels in your hand.  It effortlessly brought in line when hooked up with hard fighting fish.  My first two hook ups on the H3 were a jack and a snook, both to hand quickly and without issue.  Since the first part of the review focused so much on tracking and accuracy I won’t go into detail here but, the Helios 3 tracks extremely well and has improved my accuracy and consistency.  The reel seat looks a little flimsy at first but is sufficient, comfortable and ergonomically pleasing.  The design and material reduce the weight of the rod and easy to find the slot for the reel seat.  This makes changing reels on a skiff easy and fast as you no longer have to find the slot in the cork by pointing your rod to look down the shaft.

Another really interesting thing that Orvis did was in the redesign of the logo on the butt segment.  It is probably the first thing you will notice about the rod. The logo is a sort of retro style white label which at first glance looks like the label you might see on a demo rod.  It is not a demo rod label, but a bold white new logo which stands out and makes sure that this rod won’t be mistaken for any others when photographed.  I’m quite sure some permit photos will be showing up in upcoming issues of Tail with a very visible H3 logo in the background as I’ll be fishing the H3 909D in my rotation this spring.  Despite the flood of commercially available rods, the Helios 3 is solid from tip to butt and one to consider if you are in the market for a new stick.


Comments are always welcome: ballarini@tailflyfishing.com

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Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Symposium 2017

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Symposium 2017

BONEFISH AND TARPON TRUST SYMPOSIUM 2017

The 6th annual Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Symposium took place a few days ago in Weston Florida.
The symposium is a gathering of people who like to fish and an opportunity for the BTT to explain their research and current projects, while inviting the industry to do the same.  It is a relaxed, fun environment and an excellent time to hobnob with like minded people and professionals in the field of fly fishing.  It was our first visit to the symposium and we were impressed with the amount of information available and the low cost of admission.  We sat in on the permit panel of 12 notable anglers and guides considered to be experts in the field.  There were talks about fishing for bonefish, current bonefish research, relevant legislation and of course lots of tarpon talk.

fly fishing magazine - saltwater fly fishing magazine - tail fly fishing magazine

There was a long list of notable anglers, industry professionals, guides and manufactures in a relaxed social setting and accessible to all attendees.  Andy Mill was hanging out telling some of the great stories he is known for just before he did his talk in the auditorium.  Andy Mill is a legend both on and off the skiff and it was a real treat to spend some time with him.

fly fishing magazine - saltwater fly fishing magazine - tail fly fishing magazineDrew Chicone was tying flies and had a preview of his new three part book called Top Saltwater Flies.  Three books in the series, one for permit, one for bonefish and one for tarpon.  We got to check them out and were impressed by the quality of the publication and thoughtfulness.  It’s actually a ring bound book that can lay flat or sit on a stand while tying….definitely designed by a true fly tyer.  Strong work Drew!

fly fishing magazine - saltwater fly fishing magazine - tail fly fishing magazineEnrico Puglisi has still got it.  He was tying flies and impressing attendees as he has for decades, aside from his salt and pepper hair becoming a little more salt than pepper, he is as creative and talented as ever.

fly fishing magazine - saltwater fly fishing magazine - tail fly fishing magazineTom Rosenbauer & Shawn Combs of Orvis were there with demo models of the new Helios 3 for everyone to try out.  This was a big hit as so many anglers wanted to try the most accurate rod on the planet (their words, not ours).  They presented their research and development process for the new rod during the first day and packed in the day one participants.

We highly recommend getting involved next year.

 

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Fly fishing the gulf states – Broke and Fly

Fly fishing the gulf states – Broke and Fly

Broke and Fly – Gulf adventure
Fly Fishing From Texas to Florida and everywhere in between

Jesse and Peter are currently traveling through the southern United States hugging the gulf coast filming their newest project.  An upcoming feature in Tail will detail their kick ass voyage through the gulf states and the many people, flies and fish they meet along the way. Here’s a message from the guys currently in central Florida….

fly fishing magazine - saltwater fly fishing magazine - snook, redfish, tarpon

Hey everyone, Jesse and Peter here from Broke and Fly Productions.
Just giving you heads up on the fact that we are currently working on our new film project and would love to have you follow us via our social media outlets on Facebook and Instagram.
This project has taken us through some amazing fisheries along the gulf coast of Texas, in the Louisiana marsh,  and Lake Seminole at the Florida/Georgia line.  We are now taking it slow, chilling in Central Florida enjoying some of the local sites and some great food, beer.
Filming for this video has lead us into long days on the water and even longer nights of driving from spot to spot. We have fished with some epic people along the way and can’t wait to share more of the trip with everyone in the near future, so stay tuned.
fly fishing magazine - saltwater fly fishing magazine - snook, redfish, tarpon
If you like tarpon, redfish, snook, bass, and bluegill on the fly, then you will want to take a peek at some some shots from our latest project and stay up to date with our travel log.  There’s a full length feature coming in Tail Fly Fishing Magazine this spring.
Tight lines!
Over and out.
About Broke and Fly

BROKE AND FLY is the brainchild of two idiots. Peter Husted and Jesse Males. We are all about proving that you don’t need a million dollars in equipment or some fancy location just to make sweet fly fishing related content.
Sometimes all it takes is a little adventure in order for two fly fishing junkies to come together and make something happen. Other times it takes 5 bottles of whiskey, 150 crappy french beers, the worst tequila you can imagine, and 7 days stuck on a french island in the caribbean.
This whole train wreck started after we decided to meet up on a joint film trip on the french island of Guadeloupe. Having never met one another before the trip, since Peter crashes in Denmark and I spend most of my time in Costa Rica, we knew this would be an interesting trip.
The last one pretty much sums up how Broke and Fly was born. ​
SO…WHERE IS BROKE AND FLY GOING FROM HERE?
We plan on continuing to work on film projects whenever possible and invite you guys to tag along via our social media links as well as our vimeo channel.   Judging by the way things went in Guadeloupe, I would say we have some pretty kickass adventures still to come!

 

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Kayak Fly Fishing

Kayak Fly Fishing

Does an amazing day of fishing in calm waters while viewing pristine, undisturbed wildlife appeal to you?   Then kayak fishing might be for you.

saltwater fly fishing magazine - fly fishing for tarponNot only are there places that have been developed specifically as kayaking destinations, but there are also many professional groups that offer training to the kayak fishing. Before learning about the various aspects of kayak fishing it is important to understand what a kayak is. A kayak defined as a small boat with a covered terrace and skirt. These ships carry 1-4 people and their styles vary depending on the type but most of the modern angler kayaks are made for one passenger only. The unique thing about kayak fishing is that it can literally go “where no boat has gone before” – no power boat that is. Kayak anglers can access very shallow water, as little as 6 inches. This water cannot typically float a skiff or Jon boat at low tide. With no engine noise, the is no disruption of wildlife and no carbon footprint. For those who want a close look at nature, the kayak is king.

Each kayak angler should do their homework and definitely consider some basic questions before making a purchase, here are a few main points:

What’s your budget? This can get expensive very quickly. Plan your budget and decide whether to opt for a new or used kayak. Beginners should consider looking for a second-hand kayak because it allows beginners to try the sport without making a large investment to get started. If choosing a used kayak, ensure that all parts and accessories are inspected and in working order.

Size (Angler & vessel): Kayaks come in various sizes for when choosing one, take into account your height and weight. Look for kayaks to suit your body type. Nothing worse than having a boat that is too big or too small. Most common mistake is buying a boat that is too large and not being able to handle it yourself. Where will you fish: A small kayak, the light is perfect for fishing in small, shallow rivers & flats. There may be times when there are problems such rocks, waterfalls, shallow water, etc. In such situations, it may be forced to carry or drag the kayak around. If you have a lighter kayak, the task could be easier.

saltwater fly fishing magazine - fly fishing for tarponTransportation: How will you get the kayak to the water? If you have a small car, it will be difficult to carry a heavy kayak wherever you like. One should also consider how to get the kayak from the parking to the water? You should be able to manage your yak without assistance. Types of kayak: There are two main types of recreational  kayaks, sit inside and sit at the top. A sit-inside kayak is just that, you sit inside the ship. A sit on top kayak is a vessel kayak fishing sealing the paddler sits on top, nothing that covers the legs, and usually less expensive. The sit on top vessels are most popular with anglers.

Stability: Kayak involves two types of stability: initial and secondary. Initial stability is the swing from side to side as one feels when sitting in a kayak. Secondary stability is when the kayak is nearing its point of flipping and the amount of forgiveness that is before the fisherman flips. Initial stability is more important for beginners and secondary stability is more important for experienced kayakers. The wider the kayak, the more stable.

Speed: Speed is important only if needed. If you are fishing in small, protected area, the speed is not essential. As a rule of thumb, the longer the kayak the faster you can go. Also, the more narrow kayaks cut through water with less resistance and are faster. Easy to handle: Being able to maneuver the kayak is as important as knowing what kind of gear to use. When fishing in small streams or narrow estuaries, mobility is important. Shorter kayaks do this very well. We’ve used the Hobie Pro Angler and other SUP and kayaks from Jackson Kayak & Bote. The stability of the pro Angler is great but it might not be a fair trade since it is so heavy and difficult to transport without a trailer.  It does allow us to stand & sight cast while maneuvering with a 12 foot pole to prowl the flats in southeast Florida. This wide body kayak allows us to stand confidently when fishing for tarpon in the everglades. You really don’t want to fall off with so many gators everywhere.

from Tail issue #5 - July 2012 - photo credit: Drew Ross

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