Further information ...


bonefishing hawaii:

i've got crabs!


one of the questions we get frequently from people looking for flies to use for bonefish here is, “do they eat crab flies?”  i always found that question a little bit odd.  for one thing why wouldn’t bones eat crab flies?  everyone knows they eat crabs.  are there are places in the world where bonefish don’t eat crabs?  i’ve fished around the pacific for bones but haven’t fished the atlantic (or even seen the atlantic for that matter).  maybe there are bonefish somewhere that don’t like to munch on a little crabby snack now and then, i don’t know.

the other thing that baffles me about the question is why crab flies?  nobody that i have run into has ever asked me if bonefish eat shrimp flies, or goby flies, or squid flies.  it’s always crab flies.  i think the gravitation to the lowly crab has to do with people’s fascination with the crab fly itself.  charlies, clousers, gotchas and most other bonefish flies don’t particularly look like anything specific (which i like), but you look at a crab fly and you immediately think, “hey that’s a crab”.

my guess is this recognition gives anglers some kind of comfort or confidence that what they are using will work to catch fish.  they are under the belief that if a fly looks like something to them, it will look like that same thing to the fish.  i think this is one of the greatest anthropomorphic errors of the fishing world.

the way i see it, i have absolutely no idea what fish see or think and don’t ever even try to assume that i know anything about why a fish eats a particular fly or what it is thinking when it eats it.  how do we know a fish eats a crab fly because it thinks it is a crab?  by the same token, how do we know it doesn’t?  the point is that i like to stick to things i know rather than try to find answers to things that we will never really know.  most kids that i have shown crab flies to come up with “spider” more often than “crab” as an answer to what the fly represents.  who would fish for bonefish with a fly that imitates a spider?  what i do know for sure, from actual experience, is what flies a bonefish will eat.  i can say for certain that they will eat flies that most human beings think look like crabs.

wednesday's creations.  the ugly child is on top and the "floater" is on the bottom right.

this week i kind of got it in my head that i would fish these so called “crab” flies.  i have fished crab flies a lot in the past but haven’t fished them in quite a while (years actually). so on wednesday morning i spun up a few on the ole norvise.  the flies i tied were of what i call the yarn crab fly variety.

click here for more on the yarn crab.

i decided to use my single hand steelhead set up, a sage 790-4 z axis and abel classic reel loaded with a 7wt. scientific anglers gpx.  though the flies i tied were on the small side of crab flies, i went with the seven instead of the six weights i’ve been using to make casting the bulkier flies more pleasant.  the seven weight z was perfect.  we got out on the water around noon.  late as usual, but better late than never right.  i tied on one of the crab flies i tied earlier and was immediately reminded of one important aspect of tying crab flies... make sure you weight them enough.  the first fly i tied on floated.  i kept it submerged and got it to sink a little but couldn’t get bit with it hovering so high in the water column.  fortunately i tied a couple of others with more substantial weight and after about a half dozen fish gave the big thumbs down to the “hovering” crab fly, i switched to one that actually sank.

i cast that fly at the next fish that roamed into view.  the fish bolted over and stopped over my fly.  i don’t like to move crab flies too much when i fish them so i often have to just “know” when the fish has picked it up without feeling it.  how do i know when the fish picked it up?  i have developed a secret method, and this is the honest truth.  i wait until this voice goes off in my head that says “it’s gotta have it”.  i heard the voice and strip set the hook.  the bone gave the classic “what the f’s going on” wiggle and took off for the horizon.  this same scenario played out on a few more with that fly.

the ugly child gets bit.

i then switched to the third crab fly i tied.  this was the ugly child.  this fly had a sparse short mallard flank “tail” which on a crab fly are supposed to be the mouth parts of a crab.  the fly had no “eyes” as i had covered the dumbbell lead eyes with, i think it was puglisi fibers.  then for no particular reason i tied on a marabou wing before finishing it.  i didn’t really like the looks of it but i’m the one that always says they’ll eat anything so i manned up.  i spotted a fish off to my right and made a cast at it.  the fly landed and may have spooked it as the fish sped up and went right past my fly.  i quickly picked up the line and cast again this time well ahead of the fish about fifteen feet.  the fish sped up again and i thought it was spooked for sure but this time it sped up to annihilate my fly.  “hmmm”,  i thought as the fish took off making my abel classic scream.  just goes to show what i know about about bonefish and all this bonefishing stuff... i would have never guessed that bonefish like to eat spiders.  i’ll see you on the water.

"crab" flies come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.

some of clay's from the past and present.

don't have any clue what bonefish are thinking but i know they'll eat'em.

what can i say, i've got crabs... good times.


Top of page

"Nervous Water Fly Fishers- your guide to fly fishing in Hawaii"