“I’m Down To Seven Patterns Fuckit”

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John Byron’s Mr g. Photo by Louis Cahill

By John Byron

My fishing friend Ron Winn says this: “I love to tie flies. I love to fly fish. If I had to pick one… I’d probably tie flies.” 

I’m kinda there too.

John Byron’s Mr G. Photo by Louis Cahill

So when I started chasing bonefish a few years ago, I sopped up patterns like a sponge and tied a gazillion flies. Lots from Lefty’s book on saltwater flies. Many/most of Dick Brown’s bonefish patterns. ‘Five essential flies for the Bahamas.’ Drew Chicone. Aaron Adams. Tied them all. Took them on trips. 

And came home each time realizing that about 98-percent of what I’d tied stayed in the fly box. So, as a matter of self-discipline (weak) and determination (getting stronger), I’ve started to cut back on what I tie and what I carry. 

I’m down to seven patterns: 

  • Hot Legs Gotcha
  • Gotcha with tan arctic-fox wing
  • Classic Gotcha
  • West Side 
  • Mr G
  • EP Shrimp
  • Big Ugly

Tied in both lead-eye version and bead-chain. Size two barbless Grip hooks. And an eighth row of smaller light-weight versions of these for deadly calm days. 

The first three patterns, the Gotchas, are classics, they work, it’s what the guide picks from your fly box when he says it’s time to change flies. 

Mr G and the EP Shrimp are shrimpy/crabby patterns, no flash, in the direction of ‘naturals’ and highly effective. Except, of course, when they ain’t.

The West Side just seems to fit in between the Gotcha world and the shrimp. It catches fish. And the Big Ugly, invented and touted by Aaron Adams, looks an awful lot like a fat, juicy mantis shrimp, of the size big fish like. 

Surely there are substitutions one might offer. But at the end of the day, the differences between most bonefish flies tend to fade in the water in front of a fish. These seven patterns work, are easy and fun to tie, and cover the spread from the Hot Leg’s ‘hey look at me’ to the grubby bottom-dwelling shrimp. 

The key things with bonefish: you don’t have to match the hatch, size and sink rate matter more than pattern, and the gigantic range of potential patterns seems mostly designed to attract fishers, not fish.

Seven patterns. Fuck it. 

Tying the Mr G

Catching a bonefish on a fly is good. Catching one on a fly you’ve tied yourself is better. Catching one on a fly you designed — that’s best. Here’s mine, evolved over a few seasons. Try it. You’ll like it.

The fly is named for Ganger Lockhart, stalwart air-boat jockey and guide extraordinaire at Beyond The Blue based on South Caicos in the Turks & Caicos Islands. 

In four trips fished under Ganger’s tutelage, this fly has proven utterly reliable across the vast flats west of South, East, and Middle Caicos. It’s easy to tie and super-durable. You can decide what you think it imitates, but to the bonefish it just looks good to eat. Fluffy when it’s dry, but it slims right down in the water. 

Mister G

Hook: size 2 Grip 21711NSL-BL barbless (substitute: Tiemco TMC 811S, but mash the barb flat)

Thread: tan Danville’s 210 denier flat waxed nylon

Tail: tan Syn-Yak (or real yak, if you can find it)

Body: tan ½ inch EP Wooly Critter Brush 

Butt: orange marabou

Legs: silver/barred Sili Legs, 3 each side from middle of body and trailing back

Eyes: medium silver beadchain

Wing: tan arctic fox

I use Loon UV Thin Clear Fly Finish to anchor the eyes and a tiny drop where the legs are tied down. Sally Hansen Hard As Nails for head cement.

Also tie a heavier version with lead eyes for wind and deeper water. And a lighter version size 4 hook and smaller beadchain eyes for calm waters. Can go even smaller and leave the eyes off for really spooky conditions, the wire in the body brush giving some sink rate to the fly. 

These even catch fish after a couple days of getting chewed on (needed lead eyes for winds to 25 kts):

John Byron

John Byron lives in Cocoa Beach FL. He’s been fly fishing since he was ten. 

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2 thoughts on ““I’m Down To Seven Patterns Fuckit”

  1. Too funny. Conventional wisdom holds that Leslie Johnson @ Bair’s Lodge is the undisputed Dean of Bahamas bonefish guides with 35 years on Andros waters and still going strong — and none of these 7 flies is his singular, must-have, go-to-every-day-regardless-of-conditions pattern! Just sayin’ ……

  2. Update January 2021: Now down to two patterns that I carry and fish — Hot Legs Gotcha and the Mr G. Also carry a few Big Uglies (Aaron Adam’s great pattern) with big lead eyes for really gnarly winds but haven’t had to use one of them.

    This is the application of Ockham’s Razor to bonefish chasing. Now if I could just get my casting under control…

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