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First published December 9th 2003 - More than 11 years ago
Craig Mathews' fly was originally named Pops Bonefish Bitters, and gets molested with hot melt glue in this version.
My latest trip was to Punta Allen north of Ascencion Bay about a year ago, and there I got my skills honed with two weeks of bonefishing.
I owe the originator, Craig Matthews, an apology for molesting his pattern as I have done here. My variation of this fly differs so much from the original in tying method, that it's almost a new pattern. I have chosen to keep the name, but refer you to his fly shop Blue Ribbon Flies (Where the original Bitters isn't on the tab any more for some reason!) as an attempt to undo it.Matching the hatch for picky chalk stream trout was kids' play compared. Bonefish seemed not only extremely spooky, but also very choosy with what kinds, colours and sizes of flies they would take.
Read the complete story from Punta Allen in the article "Bumpy Mexico".
This would prove to be all wrong later during the trip, but since it was the first couple of days and we were with a skilled local guide, I chose to follow his advice, and observed many a bonefish swim by within casting range while he was clipping off my fly, only to exchange it with something of almost similar size, colour and appearance.
Seen in retrospect I guess that he was just earning his salary by convincing us poor tourists that it was the wrong fly that caused the fish to spook - not our poor eyesight or lousy casting skills.
HistoryLuckily I got the chance to fish without a guide for the last few days of the trip, and during these days I learned a lot. First of all I learned that my trusty 7 weight Loomis IMX was no good at this game. I must have overlined it, because casting it was a curse, even with a 7 weight line - and casting is a very important aspect of bonefishing.
The Bonefish Bitters was invented by Craig Mathews sometime back in the 80's. It was originally named Pops Bonefish Bitters after a Belizian guide nicknamed Pops. My flies are probably not quite true to the original (which I have never seen).
I tend to tie them more elongated, slender and rounded than most Bitters I have seen, which are flat and with the "tail" more spread out to look like the legs on a small crab.
The original was most likely tied with epoxy. For this fly I dearly recommend glue. So much easier to handle and more than adequate for the purpose.
I replaced it with a Hardy Ad Swier Pike Teaser (yes, a pike rod!), which was the perfect rod for the purpose. It cast my 9 weight Rio line like a dream and increased my reach and my precision by an order of magnitude!
That rod and the Bonefish Bitters changed me from an insecure bonefish angler to a much more self confident bonefish catcher. I started attracting bonefish to my flies in stead of scaring them off. I started being able to target single fish or pairs and even have more than one fish going for my flies. I started catching fish that I saw myself on long distances.
The fly sank readily on my first cast to a fish, the fish turned - and towards my fly! I slowly retrieved the fly a bit, increasing speed slightly and the fish picked it up delicately from the bottom. Anyone who has fished for bonefish knows that what happened after that was not done delicately. As most hooked bonefish, it took off in a 30 yard rush, faster than imaginable.
I continued using my Bitters and caught many more fish on them the following days and after two weeks of fishing I felt like a champion and was very satisfied with myself.