Where do I start….there are thousands of salt water patterns and on DIY fishing trips the only flies available are the flies you bring.
I have tied bonefish flies for 20 years and have 1,000’s of saltwater flies for every conceivable situation. When I fish out of guide boats I take my Simms boat bag which is packed with flies. But when I am wading the flats on my own with nothing but shirt pockets and a hip pack, space is at a premium. For DIY flats wading I have my selection of flies narrowed down to one box holding 58 flies. In a small sandwich bag I carry a wire leader, two barracuda flies/poppers plus two permit flies.
For each of the DIY Fishing Locations I provide a list of my favourite flies for that spot. It is much easier to recommend bonefish flies for an area I have fished than to recommend flies in a general sense.
But let me help you get started to organize your fly boxes. Without naming any patterns yet, you need flies that cover the general sizes for the area, colours and food for the region you are fishing with a variety of weights for each fly and then add weed guards for those areas where turtle grass is an issue. If you do the math using the variables of color, size, weight and weed guards it adds up to a lot of flies in a hurry.
As a general rule you will do fine for bonefish by having fly patterns that imitate shrimp (Charlies, Gotchas, etc.) and small crabs (Pops Bitter, Turneffe Crab, Raghead Crabs, etc). The patterns need to match the color of the bottom, the size of the food source and be weedless or not depending on the make up of the bottom.
The patterns then need to be sized according to the geographic region (Mexico, Cuba, Belize, Bahamas, Florida, etc.) and weighted to match both the stealth (tailers at twilight) and depth of water (six inches to six feet). Keep in mind that virtually everything you have read about the size of flies is written for fishermen casting from the front of a guides boat. When wading the back of a creek system in the Bahamas it is a much more intimate experience. The flies are small and lighter.
Flies for Belize and Mexico tend to be on the smaller size ranging from size #4 – #12, with a majority of flies in the #6 – #8 range.
Flies for Cuba and the Bahamas are larger than Mexico and range from #2 – #8 with most flies in the #4 – #6 range.
Flies for bonefish in Florida tend to be large ranging from #1 – #6 with the bulk of the flies in the #2- #4 range.
There are thousands of saltwater fly patterns so it is difficult to pick them without knowing exactly where you are going to fish but for bonefish you need a selection of classic Charlie’s and Gothcha’s in sizes #4 – #8 covering the general colors (tan, cream, green and brown), some with weed guards and half with rubber legs. I would not go without a supply of Greg’s Flats Fly sized #4 – #8, tan in color.
For bonefish you need to carry crab flies, I always have Pops Bitters in amber and green and Raghead Crabs in a couple of sizes.
Carry a selection of clousers in a variety of colors and sizes for bonefish and other species. I know several guides whose favourite bonefish fly is the tan/white Clouser Minnow.
Orange has become a favorite color for bonefish flies for myself and many other experienced fisherman. The Bonefish Junk is a must and I also tie an “Oranged Butt Bunny ” fly