Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Top 5 Bonefish Flies: #2 The Tan Crab

OK, so here is a cold hard truth... a truth that produces an interesting dilemma for the bone fisherman:
A good time to see what this fellow was eating.

Every time I hook a bonefish that subsequently gets eaten by a shark or a 'cuda, I examine the contents of its stomach. I rarely,... let me re-phrase that, I never find anything but crabs in the stomach of a bonefish. They are usually nickel to dime-sized crabs that are a pale tan in color. Now this doesn't mean bonefish only eat crabs, but it sure as hell means they eat crabs... and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that they probably eat quite a few of them.

There are 2 billion crab patterns available! I have tied or bought no more than half that number.

Yet, most bonefishermen use SHRIMP pattetns to catch bonefish. But, we do not use shrimp because they are the main food source of a bonefish. I think we use shrimp patterns because bonefish do sometimes eat shrimp but more importantly, we use shrimp patterns because they are lighter and shrimp flies enter the water more quietly than crab flies. If what I say is true, what other species do you use flies that do not represent the predominant food source of their quarry because they are offer a better presentation?
So the logical conclusion would be: Use a crab fly! 
But if I suggest this, the majority of experienced bone fishermen would say "NO WAY!"
"Too heavy, too bulky and they make too much noise when they hit the water." 
... and I would wholeheartedly agree!

Eazy-body, rug yarn, epoxy, velcro, wool hair, spun deer hair, leather etc. ...all these traditional crab flies work great, sink quickly and catch fish. Unfortunately, that fish is a permit and for the bonefisherman, these same crabs land with a plop and spook even the dumbest of bonefish.
As such, I have very little confidence in them as a bonefish fly. Most commercially available crab flies are simply too big, too rigid and too heavily weighted... so  here is that conundrum again, if crabs represent the most prevalent prey species for bonefish, yet a rug yarn merkin, velcro, epoxy or spun deer hair crab fly simply does not work on bonefish... what the hell is the answer?
Well, here are a couple solutions:

Enrico Puglisi Micro-Crab #8 tan

Flies like the Enrico Puglisi Micro-Crab is a viable option. Durabile and easy to throw, Puglisi's crabs are made from synthetic materials that are durable, shed water and are dry after the first false cast. Enrico Puglisi Micro-Crabs avoid most of the problems inherent with traditional "permit" crab flies. Their ability to shed water also helps these flies make a silent entry, which is all important when targeting bonefish.
Now add these qualities and a couple others to the next fly and you've got my #2 favorite bonefish fly: That fly is the S.S. Flies permit crab fly. Don't let the name scare you off. I wish they would rename the fly. I'll get them to work on that!

This simple, easy to cast fly has fooled hundreds of bonefish for me over the years. In fact, I spent one trip in the Bahamas using only this crab fly. It worked so well, I saw no need to change it!  When one got too threadbare, I put on another!

Notice the fly!

The technique I prefer when fishing this fly is somewhat unique, especially for a bonefish fly.  There is no strip, pause, strip, pause, strip etc. etc.! Instead, I prefer to practically knock a bonefish on the nose with the fly then not move it... AT ALL! If the bonefish ignores it, I make one LONG, SLOW strip. I rarely have to make a second LONG, SLOW strip! 

One of the keys to this fly is in the claws. S.S. Flies uses cree and barred olive feathers mounted so they spread wide like a crab in a defensive posture. The body is synthetic like the EP flies, so it too is light and dries very easily. Notice the eyes in the samples below run the gamut from small bead chain to small silver lead eyes. The legs are tan silli-legs, but there is a lot of room for experimentation here!

Although S. S. Flies only stock the fly in size #1 for permit,  I special order smaller sizes like # 2 and sometimes # 4.

If you are interested in buying these flies, give me a call (800-211-8530) or e-mail me at 
I'll give you a code for a discount and make appropriate color and size suggestions depending on the island you are fishing. 


  1. hey nice post mehn. I love your style of blogging here. The way you writes reminds me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog: How Does Being A Good Man Affects Your Level Of Success .
    keep up the good work.


  2. Nice post Scott. I'll have to try a couple of these patterns, I've stayed away from crab patterns for bones for the reasons you give but these look good. Next step is booking an airline ticket!

  3. Scott, Your blog about bonefish makes a lot of sense! Your top five flies are also mine but I'd bump the Crazy Charlie for your S.S Permit fly. I'd like to tie them but I had some questions: I didn't see any barred olive feathers unless you didn't show an olive variant. Also cree is hard to find so I'll use prismatic colors on regular grizzly feathers. How do you tie the body and legs in? I'd love to see an instructional video of this fly. I could buy some and dissect the technique but I'll give you the option. I'm new to crab tying. Thanks.

  4. Scott, I'm sorry I got you mixed up with another tier who gives instructional videos. I'll pop for a few of your flies.