5 Flies for the tropical salt

After fishing the ‘Socotra-islands’ I realised that some saltwater fly patterns certainly work better than others. The challenging fishing also taught me a few lessons – always experiment and try things that seem unlikely to work in the circumstances. For instance, never underestimate the effectiveness of a ‘dead’ fly pattern.

It was a tedious task to tie flies for that destination. With the knowledge I gathered through experience though, I realised after the trip that I could’ve saved a lot of tying time and money on tying materials by focusing on 5 fly patterns, i.e., Clouser minnow, Tailer’s Delight, Merkin crab, epoxy crab, and Avalon shrimp. All the flies were tied on Gamakatsu SL12 and SL11 hooks in various sizes.

Chartreuse Clouser Minnows (Gamakatsu SL12 #2-4):

Sparsely tied chartreuse and white Clousers with very little flash (no flashabou) worked extremely well

Sparsely tied chartreuse and white Clousers with very little flash (no flashabou) worked extremely well

Fish caught – bonefish, Omani bream, spotted grunter, unidentified grunter, salad fish, three-spot pompano, juvenile bluefin trevally, juvenile orange-spotted trevally, thornfish, sole, goatfish, coral bass

Tailer’s Delight (Gamakatsu SL11 #1):

A drab Taylor's Delight with a hares ear body worked well

A drab Tailer’s Delight with a hares ear body worked well

Fish caught – unidentified grunter, salad fish, three-spot pompano, thornfish, puffer fish, moray eel, juvenile orange-spotted trevally

Avalon shrimp (Gamakatsu SL12 #2 and SL11 #1):

Avalon shrimps in tan and natural hares ear worked a charm for grouper and emperors

Avalon shrimps in tan and natural hares ear worked a charm for trevally, grouper and emperors

Fish caught – orange-spotted trevally, grouper, spangled emperor, three-spot pompano, salad fish

Merkin Crab (Gamakatsu SL12 #1/0):

Although I never got a shot at a permit with this fly, it is Ray's recommended pattern for permit and looked beautiful in the water

Although I never got a shot at a permit with this fly, it is Ray’s recommended pattern for permit and looked beautiful in the water

Fish caught – Puffer fish

White epoxy crab (Gamakatsu SL12 #1/0):

Epoxy crab small 1

The most underestimated fly 'not' in the salt water fly box - TIE SOME!

The most underestimated fly ‘not’ in the salt water fly box – TIE SOME!

Fish lost – many a lost parrot fish; potential to catch many more reef fish species

(see: http://feathersandfluoro.com/2014/07/02/lessons-from-the-bone-yard/)

Interestingly, after speaking to Rob Scott from Tourette Fishing, he mentioned that the bumphead parrotfish in the Seychelles are also fond of a hard, white Velcro crab pattern – he reckons it’s the only thing that they will consistently take.

Other flies that worked included the Can Can Girl (see: http://feathersandfluoro.com/2012/05/14/dreaming-the-cancan/), Gotcha, black&red Semper, and Milky Dream.

I’ve included tips in summary from experienced fly fisherman, whom sent me the information while I was tying flies before the ‘Socotra-islands’ trip. Although I found most of the tips to be very valuable, some were contradictory to each other…

Trigger crustaceans (as tied and recommended by Jannie Visser)

Jannie’s tips are as follows:

  • Tie your flies on thick-wire hooks (hook strength is more important than hook size)
  • Add lots of movement – long silicone legs and rubber strands in the brushes that make up the body
  • Add weight by tying in two nylon keels, each loaded with a bead or two, underneath the fly – flies should not fall on their sides, they should stay upright
  • Note not to add too much weight, especially when fishing flats or shallow water, since the splash of the fly may scare fish off
  • Carry a light brown and olive permanent marker with you when fishing – tan flies can be coloured to match the natural crabs in the area.

Crabs (as tied and recommended by Fred Davis and Peter “Grills”)

Fred’s tips for tying bonefish crabs:

  • Tie crabs for bonefish, they love them, point (!)
  • Tie most bonefish patterns on Gamakatsu SL 12 #2 hooks
  • Fred prefers soft body crabs for bones, such as the Merkin

Pete’s tips for tying permit crabs:

  • Weight your crab with a dumbbell in the centre of the hook shank and cover it with epoxy to form a smooth under-body that won’t get stuck on the reef
  • Tie the crabs on big hooks – Gamakatsu SL 12 #1/0 and 2/0 (even up to #4/0!!!)
  • Fish them nearly stationary and set the hook by slowly backing off and tightening the line until the weight of the fish is felt – instead of strip-striking when a fish tails on your fly

Edward Truter’s tips:

  • Tie a variety of patterns in different weights (and sizes)
  • Do not add flash (natural is the norm)
  • Use silicone for legs and not rubber, silicone is much more durable
  • Add weight by tying in two nylon keels, each loaded with two to three beads (not hot orange), underneath the fly – flies should not fall on their sides, they should stay upright
  • Don’t waste time on flies with little movement – fish want movement!
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