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    Fly Fishing Bonefish

    Bonefish (Albula vulpes) are the most recreationally fished-for saltwater fly fishing species in the world. They are distributed throughout the warm, shallow waters of the tropics that circle near to the Equator, with the most common places being the Florida Keys, Bahamas, Mauritius, Caribbean and the Seychelles islands. Fish weighing as much as 22 lbs and measuring up to 93 inches have been recorded! Bonefish are exceptionally silvery in colour, with a long, deeply forked tail and a single dorsal fin. It has a pointed head covered by a thick layer of transparent cartilage with a mouth situated on the underside of its head. Depending on the environment that it mostly inhabits, the fish will either develop light or dark complexion. This means that for a fish that regularly feeds and lives on predominantly white sand flats, the skin or appearance will be very silver to white-looking; whereas a fish that lives and feeds on a darker flat bottom made up of coral or seaweed, will develop a darker complexion. Adapting to fit in with their surrounding environment makes for great camouflage against would-be predators and prey. No wonder they are described as being the ghosts of the flats!

    Bonefish are Benthic feeders; bottom-dwellers. This means they pretty much only feed on creatures that live on the bottom of the flats. It is because of this that their mouth is situated underneath as opposed to in front of their heads, like most other fish. Their pointed head or nose is shaped to dig into and dislodge food from sand or coral, although they also pump sand away via their gills to get to their prey. They do not really possess any teeth, but rather a hard calcified tongue and pallet. They use these to crush their often hard-shelled food items by pushing the tongue hard up against the pallet.


    • Bonefish largest catch 78 cm
    • Bonefish type Schooling
    • Bonefish max speed 64 km/h
    • Bonefish time to maturity 3-4 years
    • Bonefish average weight 1.3 - 4 kg
    • Bonefish diet Predator

    The search for bonefish

    Like with all fishing, there are no guarantees. ‘Bones’ can be very difficult to find at times, but for the most part, they are very predictable as to where they hang out. Keeping in mind that they are themselves high on the menu for other predators such as GTs, barracuda and sharks, they tend to like to stay in the shallows, making it hard for their enemies to catch them. Therefore, the most obvious place to look for bones will be in the shallow flats; however, they can’t always have the safety of the shallows.

    The reason why bonefish are so commonly targeted in the world of fly fishing is because they are almost always in the mood to feed and ready to take a fly. If you present the fly well enough, the chances of a bonefish eating it are good; however knowing what stage of the tidal cycle you are on when you are targeting bones will help to determine where you would fish for them.

    Bonefish also share a symbiotic relationship with Stingrays. As the ray moves along and disturbs the bottom, it scares up potential prey like crabs and shrimps, making them very easy and vulnerable to pick off. Therefore fishing close to feeding rays could also produce some great catches!

    Best flies to catch bonefish

    The beauty of bones is that they aren’t really too fussy when it comes to fly selection; generally, if the fly that is on the end of our line is classed as a bonefish fly, the chances are that they will eat it.

    There are however some must-haves…

    • Pillow Talk (bonefish fly)

      This fly will, without any shadow of a doubt, be in every guide’s box. The water conditions e.g. shallow, deep, fast-flowing etc. will determine what type of eye to use. To finish, either a red cotton or red flash. Hint: the sparser it’s tied, the better! The proof is in the pudding: by far the largest majority of bonefish caught around Alphonse Island, are caught on a PT.

      available On Island
    • Spawning Shrimp (bonefish fly)

      This is a fly that has a realistic look. As the name states, it imitates a shrimp carrying a belly full of eggs, making a scrumptious potential meal for a bonefish! The reason it works so well is because it’s one of the biggest bonefish flies we use. The bigger the fly, the bigger the reward will be for the fish. Usually, there is a very positive and aggressive reaction when presenting this to a fish.

      available On Island
    • Fleeing Crab (bonefish fly)

      Again, this fly imitates what its name suggests i.e. a crab that is on the move. It is a simple pattern, but highly effective.

      It can be tied in various colours and sizes, however, the most common colour is barred tan and white with orange rubber legs.

      available On Island
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    Best fly rods to target bonefish

    When targeting bonefish, you will need to have an accurate – and more importantly, subtle! – presentation.
    The use of an 8 or 9 weight rod will allow you to do this. An 8 or 9 weight rod will also have enough backbone to pull these extremely hard fighters when needed.

    Best tides to fly fish bonefish


    As the tide rises and drops on a daily basis, it will force bonefish to either hug the shallow edges of sand-beached islands or congregate in large shoals in deeper water.

    As the tide drops and the water starts to vanish off the flats they are forced into the deeper waters of the lagoon or into the surf. Again, bonefish usually stay in large schools during this time as there is safety in numbers.

    Classically, the best time to fly fish for bones is when the tide is dropping and the water is falling off the flats, forcing the fish into deeper waters, known as a “bonefish drop”. Bones typically stay on the flats for as long as possible to feed in comfort, knowing that bigger predators will not be able to prey on them. It’s during this time, when they are particularly hungry and stay together in large numbers, that it’s a great time to capitalize on the tide.

    Making the catch

    As a guide, there are three basic steps that need to be taken into account before approaching flats that you want to fly fish for bonefish. Firstly, the position of the sun, as walking towards the sun and into the glare will make spotting fish almost impossible. Secondly, the wind direction, as it’s never easy casting into or having the wind blow perpendicular to your casting. Thirdly, tidal movements will determine which direction the fish will most likely move in. Once you have incorporated all of these factors, it’s time to go fishing.

    Seeing a bonefish is half the battle, but once spotted and when you’ve got yourself into a good position, an accurate cast is needed. It is far more productive to lead the fish by three to four feet, rather than trying to get too close. Presenting the fly too close will increase the chances of the fish spooking off greatly.

    A small, short strip is needed to get the fish reacting to your fly. Once this has happened, stripping the fly slowly should entice an eat. Like all flats fishing, it is very visual. Seeing the fish, making the cast and seeing the fish react and eat the fly makes it very exciting. With all this heart-thumping adrenaline, it is easy to make silly mistakes such as landing the fly on the head of the fish, stripping too fast, or the ultimate mistake: a rod-lift upon setting the hook. Setting the hook with a strip-strike and keeping the rod tip down, will almost always ensure a good hook-set. Once you are comfortable with the hook-set, you need to anticipate that the fish will dart off with incredible power and speed. Holding onto the line with definitely result in the leader popping.

    Getting the loose loops onto the reel as the fish screams off is probably where the most concentration is needed during the fight. Loose loops that jump up are notorious for catching and hooking on pliers, cameras etc., resulting in lost fish. Once the line is on the reel, it’s crucial to have a reel with a smooth drag as these fish are immensely powerful. If you are not an experienced bonefish angler, I can guarantee that you’ll be surprised by how hard and long bones fight for.

    Photos of bonefish caught on a fly

    Some of the big ones that did not get away.
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    Past bonefish catches with Alphonse Fishing Co™

    "Hardest fighting fish pound-for-pound’’

    Top saltwater fly fishing species with Alphonse Fishing Co™ Read More


    We choose destinations that meet our anglers’ needs and desires. You can focus on one atoll or combine several for a richer and more varied experience.
    • Alphonse Atoll

      Alphonse Atoll

      A dream destination for any fly fisherman, Alphonse Atoll in Seychelles is renowned for its expansive sea flats, which provide easy wading and world-class fly fishing.  The atolls are regarded as some of the most pristine, untouched islands in the world yet Alphonse Atoll is just a 60-minute flight from Mahé.

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    • Cosmoledo Atoll

      Cosmoledo Atoll

      Cosmoledo Atoll is just a stone’s throw away from the world heritage site of Aldabra, often referred to as the Galapagos of the Indian Ocean.

      Its ecosystem is pristine with saltwater flats and a huge variety of fish species, attracting fly fishermen from around the world. It is home to an eco-camp, dedicated to the atoll’s conservation.

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    • Astove Atoll

      Astove Atoll

      The home of the biggest giant trevallies in the Indian Ocean, this island in the Seychelles offers superb fly fishing in a shallow lagoon surrounded by sheer drop-offs. Just over a thousand kilometres from Mahe, this atoll forms part of the remote Aldabra group of atolls. Uninhabited since 1969, this atoll has seen very little human presence which makes for a wild and unique experience.

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    • Farquhar Atoll

      Farquhar Atoll

      Farquhar Atoll is the most southerly atoll in the Seychelles chain of islands lying just over 700km to the southwest of the main island Mahe. This remote atoll has a total area, including the large lagoon, of 170.5 km² which is 18 km north to south and 9 km east to west.

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    Turn your fly into a fish’s ultimate temptation. The Seychelles, with its 115 islands and deserted atolls, ideal weather and warm Indian Ocean waters, is renowned for being home to some of the world’s richest fishing grounds. You don’t even have to venture too far to break fishing records!



    • Home of the world's best fly fishing
    • Unique, bespoke trips to suit your needs
    • Located in the pristine remote outer islands of the Seychelles
    • Luxury accommodation and exquisite food
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    • Some of the richest fishing grounds in the world
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