Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Top 5 Bonefish Flies: #3 New and Improved Mini-Puff

I wrestled with this choice!
While my top two bonefish flies (that are yet to come) might surprise you, most experienced anglers will find no surprise with my #3 choice. Initially, I couldn't decide between the Bob Clouser's venerable minnow pattern, Greg Miheve's Flats Fly and a mini-puff tied with a tan, orange or pink chenille head.
The Clouser Minnow pattern is incredibly versatile especially with some of the new fibers and eyes available. Just to be clear, a Clouser tied with a tan wing, white belly, pale pink head and copper or gold flash is a no-brainer and should be in your box (along with a few other color combinations, see photo below). 

Bob Clouser's minnow in the classic  tan/maroon/copper crystal flash version
Greg’s Miheve's Flats Fly is an excellent banded pattern that lands softly due to the split calf tail claws. See Dick Brown’s book, Bonefish Fly Patterns for tying instructions. Materials include: split calf tail, crystal flash antennae, pearl flashabou underbody, tan thread bands, clear v-rib, palmered long saddle.

Miheve's Flats Fly in tan, the banded cream/maroon is also a very good pattern!
10 lb. bone eats a cream/maroon Miheve's Flats Fly at Water Cay Bonefish Lodge

BUT, the fly I chose for my #3 best bonefish fly is the mini-puff. Nearly every bonefish lodge recommends the mini puff, nearly every fly manufacturer ties them and nearly every fly angler has some. First tied by Captain Neil Bohannon in the 70's, the puff can be a deadly pattern in skinny water especially to tailing bonefish. The soft chenille head softens the impact of the fly when it hits the water creating a minimum of disturbance. The fly is well balanced and rides just right. The mini-puff also has good contrast for maximum visibility. The grizzly hackle tips against the bunny or calf tail wing help make it very visible. Colourful, lightweight, well-balanced, hits quietly... it’s a great fly for wary tailing bonefish. Having said this, I prefer some modifications to the original pattern and without these, the traditional mini-puff (see pattern below), the one we all know, would not be in my top 5. (Also, please remember, you can vary the weight of the fly with small lead barbell eyes or even no eyes for very skinny water fish.)

Shane"s Psych Puff (top) and the original puff with an orange chenille head (bottom).

From Shane Kohlbeck, the creator: 

"My original pattern consisted of standard chenille head, with puglisi sea fiber 'wing' with 4 strands of mottled rubberlegs. (spread evenly) I would usually wrap pearl flashabou around the hook shank as well. The updated version is a sparkle/angel hair type dubbing (aka UV DUB) head, picked-out, and arctic fox fur 'wing' with the same rubber legs. Bead-chain is used for the eyes."

Traditional MINI-PUFF:
Hook: Mustad 34007 or Gamakatsu SL11-3H or SS15 or TMC 811S size 4-8
Thread: Pre-waxed thread, 3/0 or 6/0 in appropriate color for fly i. e. white, tan, orange or pink
Body: Calf tail or bunny in white, pink orange or tan with grizzly hackle tips over few strips of pearl crystal flash
Head: Chenille in tan, orange or pink
Eyes: Bead chain eyes

The essential modifications:
I think the original pattern is too stark and has too much contrast. I prefer bonefish flies tied with softer, more irregular and "unkempt" materials (the opposite of chenille) that create a halo effect and therefore don't look so fake. Bunny did this for the gotcha. I believe all the truly effective new patterns use materials that accomplish this idea of a softer, less defined, profile. Lambs wool, bunny, synthetic dubbing bushes and fox all help to achieve this effect. 
By substituting a softer more spikey dubbing for the traditional chenille head, the original profile is retained, but the fly is much improved and made much more effective. The mini-puff was meant to land softly, but the traditional pattern doesn't do this well enough. By using a softer material for the head, a much softer landing is achieved. The dubbed head also has some inherent movement, buggy "ummmph" and with dubbing, you can blend subtle color combinations that make the fly much more attractive to bonefish. If you haven't had good luck with the chenille and calf tail puff, try a dubbed head with bunny, fox fur or dubbing brush body and I think you'll see an amazing difference.
Tan and pink puff tied with dubbed head.
Tan puff showing proper dubbed head.
S. S. Flies have blended some great dubbing combinations. When bonefish are searching the flats for small crustaceans, their mini-puff colors mimic prey species, land softly and are lifelike when retrieved. 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. Isn't it funny how the first snowstorm of the season always gets you thinking of warm tropical flats and bonefish.

    Oh, and cold Kalik!

  2. Amen!
    I'm going fishing for trout on Thursday, but today, my mind is headed to tropical waters!