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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.
One of our local guides - Gaspar - was a Gotcha-man. He would select a small Gotcha over anything else in almost any situation, and emptied my box of small Gotchas within a day.
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.
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.
|Hook||I use my favorite, the Kamasan B175, but any salt water resistant hook can be used. Sizes from 4-8 will work well.|
|Thread||To match materials|
|Tail||A small bunch of deer hair or bucktail, rubber legs to match colour|
|Eyes||Bead chain, not too large|
|Head||Hot melt glue, clear (coloured may be used for denser coloration)|
|I had most success with brown, neutral and white variations, less so with a red one.|
- Attach the thread to the rear of the hook shank just in front of the bend
- Prepare a small bunch of deer hair or bucktail. 10-20 hairs are enough
- Tie in the hairs. Have them protrude a shank length behind the hook bend
- Allowing the tips to spread out - although not too much
- Leave the butts as long as half the hook shank
- Tie in 6-8 rubber legs a bit longer than the deer hair
- Tie down all butts and cover with tying thread
- Tie in bead chain eyes on the top of the shank midway between the tail materials and the hook eye
- Whip finish and cut the thread
- Use a hot melt glue gun to cover the eyes and the thread covered butts with glue
- Aim for a rough drop shape - largest around the eyes of the fly
- Tip the vice slightly downwards and rotate it while holding a lighter or candle flame under the glue
- Be careful not to scorch the glue, but have it melt slightly and become smooth and perfectly rounded
- Rotate for a bit while the glue sets
- Drop the still warm and soft fly into a glass of cold water and leave there for half a minute
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