Bonefish 101: On and Off the Water

By Lefty Kreh 

I have been fortunate to fish throughout much of the planet, and have caught more than 100 species on a fly rod. And my favorite remains the bonefish.

There is much to like about bone fishing. You use rather lightweight tackle, small flies and once hooked if you are lucky you land one in minutes unlike many of the more glamour species. When wading or being polled across the shallows, you see an ever-changing landscape. A barracuda lay motionless ready to swiftly grasp its prey. Different types of rays swim by and the bottom slowly reveals some mysteries as you move over it.

I think one of the things that fascinates me about bone fishing is the angler can do nearly everything right, only make one small miscue and the game is over.

In freshwater, brown trout are considered one of the most difficult species to fool and are quickly alerted to the presence of an angler. But, the eyes on a bonefish are twice as sharp and can spot something unfamiliar from great distances.

I caught my first bonefish in 1969 and have learned much along the way.

If limited to one rod a nine foot, 8-weight rod will be sufficient.

A large arbor reel that will hold 150-yards of backing will also be more than enough for skinny water fish. The claim that you need more than 200 yards of backing is an overstatement. On rare occasions a bonefish may run 60 to-100-yards, but, having caught hundreds of bonefish in various regions, I have never had one run that far.

Fly selection should correspond to the color of the flat.

For example, in the Bahamas most flats are a light-tan coral and so most patterns should be pale brown, pale pink or an off-white color.

Variations of olive colors usually produce best when ocean bottom has turtle grass, or other similarly colored vegetation.

Hook size is governed by the average size of fish encountered.

Keeping a low profile while fishing from a skiff, or wading can help keep from alerting fish to your presence.
©Brandon Powers, Temple Fork Outfitters.

Where most bones are one to five pounds, a size-four hook is best. Many anglers dress patterns on smaller size-six hooks, but big bones are more likely to take patterns dressed on larger flies. A size 2 is the smallest and often a size 1 or even 1/0 is more effective.

Bonefish flats often have sharp coral, so flats wading boots are recommended. Black colored ones are to be avoided as they can absorb sunlight and cause feet to get too hot.

All boots worn while wading will gather grit, sand and abrasive material. To avoid this wearing gaiters (designed to be used with stocking foot waders), can prevent these coarse materials from getting in boots. Socks and long pants should be worn at all times while on the flats.

DO NOT put the pant legs in the boots. Allow the boots to be inside the legs. Now place the wading gaiters over the pant legs and secure them. Any grit that enters the gaiters will flow down along the legs and out the bottom.

A common mistake made when fishing for all flats species, is to look at the fish when casting the fly. The human mind wants the fly to be cast where the angler is looking, which all too often causes the fly to fall too close to the fish. It’s important to concentrate on the target area. The fish is visible in the peripheral vision, but the fly lands well in front of the fish.

There is no ready-made formula, but there are loose guidelines.

When the water is rippled by the wind, a fly cast just a few feet in front of a fish will usually be taken. But, on a calm day the fly may have to be presented anywhere from eight to 15-feet ahead of a cruising fish. Where bonefish are pressured by angler, and the surface is calm it is sometimes better to cast 20 or more feet ahead allowing the fly to sink completely to the bottom.

Leader length is important too.

On windy days a 9 or ten-foot leader should be used. On a flat calm surface, a leader of 12 to-16 feet is advised. Most bone fishermen start with a leader of 11 to-12-feet and adjust according to circumstances.

The butt section of the leader should be heavy and flexible and half the length of the leader, so the fly can turn over. For a 7 through 9-weight line, a 50-pound butt section is recommended.

The final key to a successful bonefish trip is to study the tides.

Some traditionally productive sites produce poorly on the wrong tides. Local guides and the lodge usually are honest about this. Or, poll a list of people who have fished the area and query them about the tidal phases.

Dally’s Streamer Love Fest On Again in Feb.


If you like big meaty flies, big rods and big trout than come out to the inaugural Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher Streamer LoveFest.

According to the The Ozark Fly Fisher Journal:

IT’S BACK , Bigger, Badder and more Awesome than Sharks with Lasers,” said Dally’s.

Dally’s Ozark Fly Fisher’s 2014 Streamer Lovefest is on again on February 1, 2014.

Master of Musky, The Duke of Gnarly Flies, The Earl of Kicking Ass and Taking Names, Blane Chocklett (TFO Advisory Staff) will be headlining the 'Streamer Lover Fest'.  Photo courtesy Blane Chocklett.

Master of Musky, The Duke of Gnarly Flies, The Earl of Kicking Ass and Taking Names, Blane Chocklett (TFO Advisory Staff) will be headlining the ‘Streamer Lover Fest’.
Photo courtesy Blane Chocklett.

“It you haven’t experienced the ‘Lovefest’ its like the Oscar’s for the streamer crowd without the ballgowns, bolt-ons and beautiful people.

If your addicted to big flies, bigger rods and the biggest brown trout, the Streamer Lovefest is a celebration of all you love.” 

TFO Advisory Staffer and creator of the “Game Changer” fly, Blane Chocklett will headline the event.

Blane has been behind several highly innovative fly patterns, including the Gummy Minnow and other Gummy flies.

Umpqua tier and guide Chad “Mississippi” Johnson, and fellow White River streamer guru Alex Lafkas will be showing off their custom White River patterns plus inaugural Lovefest tyers Brad Bohen, Rainy’s tier Nick Granato, Brian Wise and Chris Willen.

Put it in your calendar.

For more information, check out:

Think you know all there is to know about streamers? Well after you attend the Lovefest, tie up a bunch of streamers and check out this sweet post by the guys at Gink & Gasoline, on how to retrieve big streamers, enjoy.

How to Match a Spey Line to your Deer Creek Rod

TFO oval logoBy Temple Fork Outfitters

The Deer Creek Series of rods have casting properties that marry perfectly with modern Spey lines. They have a unique progressive, traditional action making them ideal for executing all types of Spey and Skagit casts.

However, finding an appropriate line for a two-handed rod can be an area of struggle. With varying tapers and head lengths, line terminology can be confusing. Add in the fact that purchasing lines is expensive, than it is easy to see how frustrations can arise when attempting to match your rod with the perfect line.


Image by Temple Fork Outfitters.

All TFO two-handed rods have a grain window listed on the butt/handle of the rod.

A grain window defines the engineered grain carrying capability of a fly rod blank under load from the line.

The primary purpose of posting the grain window on our two handed fly rods is to aid the caster in achieving a correct and balanced rod/line marriage.

Before discussing grain windows and matching lines to rods, it is important to mention the physical make up of spey lines and which lines are appropriate for your fishing situation.

Skagit Heads

Some of the most popular lines used on Spey rods today are Skagit style heads. Skagit heads tend to be thicker, with a short often times indiscernible from taper. They offer more water resistance to get a better load on the two-handed fly rod with the sustained anchor style of Skagit casting. These lines are shorter, typically two-and-a-half times the length of the rod. They are ideal for throwing heavy flies, heavy sink-tips and fishing deep, fast moving water.

Scandinavian (Scandi) Lines

Scandi Lines, on the other hand, are designed to throw smaller flies. They are designed for “airborne anchor” casts – casts such as the single spey and snake roll. Scandi lines are thinner in diameter (particularly at the front end) and have a long front taper that allows the energy to unroll easily while presenting a fly.

Traditional or Long Belly Spey Lines

Traditional or long belly Spey lines are often twice the length of Scandi lines. They are designed for long, delicate presentations on traditional, (slow) action Spey rods. Unlike Skagit heads, these lines always have integrated running lines.

How to use a Grain Window

For example, the 13’6, 8/9 Deer Creek Spey rod has a grain window of 550 to 800 grains. If you were to be fishing large water in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes Region or in British Columbia, an ideal line choice would be a Skagit head.

When choosing a Skagit head line, it is often best to pick a line towards the high end of the grain window. The heavier the line, the easier it will be for the road to load, and make an effective cast.

Skagit heads in the 600-660, with tips to 200 grains are ideal for this rod. A Rio Skagit in 600/650 grains, Airflo Skagit 8/9 and a Rio IFlight Intermediate line in the 600/700 grain range.

Scandi lines in the lower end of the grain window, 500-575. Examples include: Scientific Anglers Scandi Extreme Head, in a 520/560 grain.

Traditional lines in the 8/9 to 9/10 designation. Line recommendations include the Airflo Delta Long 8/9, CND GP 8/9 or 9/10 for deep loading, Rio Power Spey for 8/9 or 9/10 for deep loading.

Lefty’s Line Marking System

tfo_logo_ovalBy TFO

It can be difficult to keep track of fly lines.

They get taken off of reels, placed on other reels and in some cases thrown in the bottom of the boat and tackle bags while in the water.

So how do you keep track of those lines when a grain weight is not labeled on them?

Many years ago, TFO advisory staff member and fly fishing icon Lefty Kreh developed a system of simple line identification.

A simple marking system near the end of the fly line can save the hassle of attempting to match up loose lines.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.

Using a permanent black marker, on either end of the line. A simple block and line value system can be made.

Large blocks are meant to represent a value of five.

So, one large block, (a few centimeters in thickness) can stand for a five weight line.

For heavier lines, use the large block to symbolize five, than mark other thin lines to add up to the desired weight. For example, one thick block and three thin lines could be marked to label an 8 weight line.

Be sure to mark both ends so you can quickly identify a line whether it’s on the spool or on the reel.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.

©Temple Fork Outfitters.