Mars Bay Bonefish Lodge

Bahamas Bonefish Flies - Mantis Shrimp puglisi crab
Click for a better look

2019 - Half of the fly content has been deleted, let's keep it simple. If I were going to go fishing today I would drop a few of any of the flies pictured on this page in my front pocket along with some tippet, an extra leader, and some clippers. I'd throw any one of them with confidence. If I had to pick just two I'd go with the Mantis Shrimp, sometimes called Ververka's Mantis Shrimp, and the Gotcha in size 4. Get some size 6 or 8 if you're fishing during the winter and the water is unusually cold or a cold front has just passed. Don't tie flies? Go here.....   Sort by bestselling, they are the first two flies to pop up and dirt cheap. I was not surprised and affirmed to learn the Mantis Shrimp is their best seller. Also on the same website; if you wanted to go crazy get some Gotchas with a gold tail, bones love gold....and some Mantis Shrimp flies with an orange egg sack. Sometime they like the orange sometimes they like it plain tan. The plain tan is best.

There is no "best" fly.  One reason bone fish are so popular is that most days they are agreeable to hitting almost any fly. They can get picky. In general, after a couple three refusals change your fly. What didn't work on one flat might on the next. What didn't work today will work tomorrow.

You could ask any guide on Andros what the single best fly is and each one will tell you something different.  There are hundreds of variations that work.  Bonefish are not particular like trout where matching the hatch is critical. The flies pictured here are just suggestions to give you idea of what to bring. 



Pictured above right.... Excellent producers for the past few years. The Puglisi spawning shrimp (left), Google it for more images. The Peterson's spawning shrimp is just as good, page down to see the original pattern. The Veverkas's mantis shrimp pattern (top) is just another version I tied up. The guides tell me that the orange accent on the Ververka's Mantis Shrimp can sometimes cause a fish to refuse the fly, plain tan is best. And the crab fly (right) I tied with EP Brush 1" Wooly Critter Brush - tan.


This version of the bonefish junk fly worked well in February on a day when the fish were a bit picky. Just another version of another version of a shrimp, crab, glorified Gotcha thing'um. You'll notice the hooks are broken at the bend, cheap Mustad 34007 hooks....bonefish snapped them. The TMC 811 is easily the stongest saltwater fly hook. Dairiki and Gamakatsu work good enough but a bit springy, not as heavy gauge as the TMC 811. It's also a good idea to toss any flies you used last year. Or at least grab it at the eye and point and give it a good pull before tying it on. After a year of sitting in your box odds are good the saltwater weakened them.
South Andros Flies - Mantis Shrimp
Mantis Shrimp Fly

Bring the usual suspects; gotchas, charlies, puffs, shrimp and crab patterns, etc, in white, pink, pearl, brown, and tan in sizes #2 and #4. Be sure to bring a few crab patterns tied in size #6. Also bring a few weighted flies for fishing the deeper edges and high tides. If you do get a couple refusals change the fly. You might have to change the pearl gotcha that worked all morning to a pink one in the afternoon. One school of fish will hit a certain pattern aggressively and next school might refuse it. On another day the only fly that works is a natural buggy looking fly like a mantis shrimp or tan crab pattern. The next day it might be a fly with some sparkle like a pearl Gotcha. Not often but sometimes the bones can be selective, particulary during the cooler months or after a front. Throwing a smaller #6 might work.

The standard Gotcha or Bunny Gotcha in #4 (pictured left) has proven to be an excellent all-around fly. There are several versions of these flies. Don't worry about having an exact match.

Gotcha Bonefish Fly south andros bahamas mars bay
Standard Gotcha
Bahamas Bonefish Flies - Gotcha
Gotcha Variations
The Fitz fly pictured here is a great good and sets down softly. You'll have to tie this one yourself, stupid easy. A gold flash tail works just as well. 
Bahamas Bonefish Flies - Petersons Spawning Shrimp

The Peterson's Spawning Shrimp pictured left has also been tied in dozens of different versions. This particular fly was tied by Eric Peterson case you were wondering what the original looks like. Click on the pic for another look.

Tan Puff
#6 Tan Puff. Good cold water fly, January, February.
More Cold water flies......butt ugly and deadly.
South Andros Bonefish Flies - Mantis Shrimp

If you dig around on the web you can find endless resources on tying any of these bonefish flies.


Here are a couple helpful hints for tying an effective South Andros bonefish fly. There are basically two color groups. The pinks/pearls and the naturals like brown, tan, or blonde. The bones seem to really like rubber  legs an anything. On the natural colored flies be sure to tie on a few strands of copper/gold flash.


As a safety precaution be sure to bend your barbs and always wear your glasses! It's all fun and games until someone gets an eye poked out.


The flies pictured below are just more of the same.

Pictured above left to right 
1) Mars Bay Special. Thought I finally tied a no refusal fly until one day it was refused. 
2) Pink Gotcha
3)Batman Gotcha, tied from a local dogs ass named Batman.
4) Wingless Puff
5) Lefty's Craft Fur Shrimp-The only fly one group will throw.

What's up the orange accent? Shrimp, crabs, mantis shrimp, and other bottom dwelling critters carry their eggs under the tail until maturity. The eggs are colored in various shades of pink, orange, yellow, brown, and light grey to black. Picture right are lobster eggs. Caught in the open I've seen fish harassing female lobsters carrying eggs. There's a particular crab called a decorator crab that does a great job of camouflaging themselves by laying whatever they find in their surroundings on their backs. I once caught a small dime sized crab covered in shell pink eggs. I doubt he made it through the day.
South Andrso, Bahamas Bonefish Flies
Rods, Reels, Tackle, Gear, etc

Fly Rods

If you can throw a tight loop and have a good double haul an 8 weight is fine up to a 15 mph wind but...if the wind picks up to 20 mph you'll wish you had a 9 weight. Bring an 8 weight and a 9 weight. Better yet, just make it a couple 9 weights, one for back up. Odds are very good that you'll be casting in 10 to 20 mph winds. Some fishermen like to overline their rods by one weight. Whether you are experienced or a beginner a 9wt rod loaded with a 10wt line is a deadly tool on a windy day. Think of it as the difference between throwing a baseball or a whiffle ball against the wind.

 Some fishermen show up carrying nothing but an 8 weight. That's fine, it will work but why make it harder than it is. You've come a long way and spent a chunk of change. The wind doesn't always blow but it might when you're here.

Let's beat this dead horse one more time.....COME EXPECTING 10 to 20 MPH WINDS!

Fly Line

Weight forward floating line.

Leaders & Tippets

Some store bought leaders have weak butts that collapse onto your fly line when pushed against a strong wind. Add a couple feet of 30lb or 40lb hard mono to your fly line then tie your leader to that. You can also build your own leaders with hard mono or fluorocarbon. There are formulas regarding the proper length for each section. It's all overkill. Equal parts or lengths works just fine. A good high wind leader is 3ft of 40lb, 3ft of 30lb, then 3ft of 20lb. A good all-around leader can be built using 3ft of 30lb, 3ft of 20, then 3ft of 16lb.

Generally a 9ft leader with a couple three feet of 16lb to 20lb fluorocarbon tippet works well.  Seems like every week a fisherman will come in at the end of the day and say they lost the biggest bone of their life. I ask what tippet they were using. It's always 10-12 lb. Ten-twelve pound tippet is too, no, no! 

I have a guests who has been coming every year since I opened. He consistently outfishes everyone in the lodge. He has been on the front page of my website three times. Twice with the biggest fish of the year and another time with most fish ever caught is a day, 50 fish. He uses 25lb flouro tippet.  Do not be concerned about the tippet size spooking fish, they don’t mind. Pound for pound bonefish are the strongest fish you will ever hook. Every time I go fishing I'm hoping I'll catch the fish of a lifetime. I don't want to be messing around with 10lb tippet. If you're fishing the mangrove edges you're not going to stop even a small fish from ripping through the mangroves. Even worse, most released fish end up dead because it was overplayed. That splashing you hear a quarter mile out is the fish you just released getting chewed up by a shark.

You can buy a lifetime supply of fluorocarbon on a 300 yard spool from Wal-Mart for less than you'll pay for a single 10 yard spool of fluorocarbon that says "tippet" on the spool. 

Fly Reels

Large arbor with 200 yards of 20-30 lb backing. Nearly every fish you hook will be into you backing.

Wading boots

.......and socks. A little sand in you boot without the socks will rub your feet raw. Sand guards can prove helpful. 

Most fishermen wear lace up wade boots. The provide good ankle support if you find yourself wading through a hill and hole bottom. But they do feel like boots. The manager prefers a neophrene zip-up boot with hard rubber soles, very comfortable.

Doctor Fly - Yellow
Wading Pants/shants

You can wear shorts January through February but come March the Doctor (Yellow) flies appear. They are like giant deer or horse flies and only the females bite....Hard! The bites cause large and persistent local numbness, itching swellings. Pants are strongly recommended March through November. Even then where your pants are wet and sticking to your calf the doctors will still bite through. Wearing knee high socks will keep the flies from biting through. Avoid dark colors; they are especially attracted to black due to the heat it generates. They are much slower than the common house fly and easily killed. Hit them hard. Even wounded they'll fly back and hit you again.
Drummer Bee
There is a green Sand Wasp that feeds on them and is two to three times the size of a Doctor. (From Wikipedia - The type of prey captured tends to be rather consistent within each genus, with flies being the most common type of prey taken. Nests are typically short, simple burrows, with a single enlarged chamber at the bottom which is stocked with freshly-killed prey items for the developing wasp larva; the egg may sometimes be laid before the chamber is completely stocked.) Yellow flies have evolved to make themselves scarce when the wasp is around.  If there is a Sand Wasp in the boat leave him bee, he is not aggressive. He hovers like a Hummingbird around you searching for Doctor flies. Bahamians call them the Drummer bee; because you can hear it when they hit a Doctor fly. He's your buddy, he's your pal. You'll see the wasp attack a Doctor fly on your pant leg and fly away making a crunching sound. 

I've yanked the wing off a fly or two and tossed them on the bow and watched the wasp snatch them up. I actually had a wasp take one from my finger tips once. Yes, I'm sick and easily entertained. 

Chest, Back, or Fanny Pack

You may be wading for hours and the boat will be just a spec on the horizon. Be sure to bring a wading pack to carry your flies, leaders, tippet, clippers, a water bottle, camera, etc.


Pliers, hemostats, knot tying tool, snips, hook sharpener.

Rain Gear

Light and breathable. Bring your rain gear with you on the boat everyday no matter how clear it looks. Squalls pop up quickly and the boat ride can be wet.


Polarized with amber or copper lenses.


Black under the brim.

Spin rods, reels, tube lures and lures for Cuda

All Barracuda get a complementary boat ride back to the dock. Bahamians love to eat them. 

Although it can be done, a fly rod really isn't the tool for Baricuda. It's difficult to strip fast enough. If you insist......Barracuda always hit the tail of a fly, almost never the head. They have evolved to hit the tail first to take out the motor of the baitfish. Be sure to have a trailing hook on your fly.

Most fly fishermen bring a spin rod for Barracuda that frequent the flats. Ask the guide to carry it for you while wading. A Green tube lure is the best lure.  Be sure to buy the tube lure with a treble hook near the rear of the tube, not all do. Topwater floating plugs work well i.e.: Mirror lure, Yozuri, etc. Don't bring anything with a big diving lip, the water is much too shallow. Throw it to either side and past the Bari and reel as fast as you can. They'll hit it so hard and fast you'll wet your britches.

You’ll need a six to seven foot rod with a 10-30lb line rating, medium to stiff action. A Shimano 2000 to 4000 series or 4500SS Penn reel or equivalent. Use 20 lb test, make sure the spool is full. Bring some wire leader.