Thursday, April 2, 2015

Bonefish Fly # 3 From Jeff Rodenberg: A Better Puff… The Smoke


The Smoke
Back in 2006, I got the opportunity to visit Crooked Island for a week on a solo mission. I also got the opportunity to spend the entire time with the one and only Night-Rider, Kenny Scavella. Most times during a week, you spend a couple days with each guide, and I would have been perfectly happy to spend time with any of the Crooked Island guides. But on this trip, I got a different experience and I loved it! There is something about spending an entire week with the same guide that makes something click. You figure each other out, you develop a sense of knowing how each will react in different situations, and that allows for the development of a level of teamwork that leads to a kind of success and comraderie that goes above the normal. But I digress…

Conch Fritters, Kalik Beer and Crooked Island…. the best!

Of course, day 1 was re-orientation day – when I have to remind myself to remember to strip strike, work out some casting kinks (or as Kenny would put it – “ yeah, you a little rusty mon, do you remember how to make a haul?”), and have my annual eye exam in terms of seeing fish. So we catch a few and we’re on to day 2. Now being on deck or in the water all day long speeds the re-orientation curve substantially. On day 2 things are progressing nicely (yes, I can make a haul – see? ---thank you very little…). And by early on day 3, we’ve settled on the system for the rest of the trip – “the three-fly rotation”…

Kenny Scavella
Crooked Island Bone

We noticed early on during days one and two, one particular fly was pretty darn successful, even when I muffed a shot, fish would generally swim over and gobble. At some point, the shine on that fly would wear off and we’d go to a slightly less obnoxious fly. And on one such occasion, we went to an even smaller, more subdued fly. Fly #1 that worked most of the time was “The Smoke”, fly #2 was “The Butt” (nothing more than a gotcha with some short hot-tipped silli-legs out back and a tan arctic fox wing). And #3 was “The Ming” – it was a smaller version of a gotcha, no sili-legs, with a hide-on, very thin zonker-type strip of tan mink. Mink + wing = Ming for short….

The Smoke

Fly #1 was nicknamed “The Smoke” and was based on a Puff, with some variations I was giving a try. Instead of a bare hook, I wrapped it with 1/16” pearlescent Kreinik flat braid. I substituted tan arctic fox for the wing, and instead of hackle tips I used a couple strands of amber speckled silli-legs and a strand of hot-orange tipped white silli-legs on each side. And finally, instead of a plain pink chenille wrapped around the bead chain, I used a paler pink chenille that nevertheless had some pearlescent highlights in it. Quite fortuitously, this was about the time that a prominent US political figure admitted publically a.) that while indeed he had tried/smoked a little weed, he hadn’t “inhaled”, and b.) the pants around his ankles did not represent having had sexual relations with a busty staffer. So Kenny and I, sharing an irreverent, if not crude, sense of humor and further indulging the punchiness that results from having spent long hours together, had taken a shine to characterizing the fish as being either “inhalers” (that ate the fly resulting in capture) or “puffers” (that either outright refused the fly or nibbled at it without satisfactory resolution). After 3 or so puffers, “The Smoke” hit the bench and “The Butt” came into the game. On the odd occasion that didn’t work, “Ming” was on deck.

Now I don’t really know if it was the flies themselves that were the key to success. It may have been that it just set up a very interesting, and successful dynamic. By eliminating fly selection as a variable by virtue of the 3-fly rotation system, we could concentrate on what is ultimately more important – delivery & presentation. We worked from the most aggressive fly, to the most subtle fly, depending on my casting and the reactions of the fish. 

SO… by both virtue of sentimental value, and the fact that it has worked equally well at every island I’ve visited in the Bahamas, here is the recipe for my favorite bonefish fly:
”The Smoke”….

Hook: Gamakatsu B10S or Gamakatsu SL11-3H size 4
Thread: Pink flat waxed nylon
Eyes: standard silver bead chain
Body: 1/16” pearl Krienik ribbon
Wing: Tan arctic fox
Legs/rubbery stuff: on each side, 2 strands speckled amber flake sili-legs + 1 strand hot-tipped orange sili-legs
Melon: Pale pink pearlescent medium chenille, puff style.

I can’t wait to haul “The Smoke” back to my favorite fishing grounds in the Bahamas next week and I guarantee it will be #1 in the 3-fly rotation with #2 being Doug’s Fault and #3 being Marty
I can’t wait to step onto my favorite flat in the Bight of Acklins, called Nonya [as in none of ya business where it is… ED], with one of my favorite guides Kenny, and 11-year old daughter Marley in tow, to introduce her to the magic that can happen…

It’s not about the numbers and size man…it’s about so much more. It’s about a special if not violently disturbing eat, a perversely beautiful spot on the planet, having fun with friends who so beautifully share their way of life, and getting so wrapped up in all that gloriousness that we get, if only a brief, rest from all the “stuff” we otherwise consider so important in everyday life. Two men, an 11-year-old young lady, bonefish and all that goes with them – so very unimportant and small in the world in one sense, but at that moment, the most important things in the world in another sense. How flippin’ cool is that?


  1. I like this modification. Never was a fan of "Puffs" but this could change my mind. Speaking of modifications, I wonder if I ....

    I'm pretty sure that plate of conch fritters was sitting right in front of me and I tried to eat as many as I could before the rest of you guys got there. Yup, I admit, I'm that kind of person when it comes to conch fritters.

  2. The "I wonder if I...", is a sickness we share Amigo. As is the obsession for fritters. I was considering slipping Kay an extra $5-10 for a pre-Doug plate in October :-)

    It's time for last packing and have been shed from my feet and until a week from now, it's flip-flops, wading booties or nothing. Will check in as best I can from the island!

  3. Puffs of all sort kick Bight butt- Based on three prior trips! It's easy to find some Nonya flats out there. Good hunting and hope the youngster gets her bones.