Bonefish Camp

Here's the spot if you are looking for that salty piece of land. Fly lists, trip reports and tidbits of good travel information can be found here in Bonefish Camp.

Come, Mister tally man, tally me Bananas

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It has been long held that boats and bananas are not a very good combination when it comes to luck. Anglers have especially picked up on this superstition and many skippers prohibit even sunscreen named for this tropical fruit aboard their vessels. Legend has it that banana boats plying the waters of the Caribbean and other waters around the world would be plagued by many maladies caused by the presence of bananas in the ship’s hold. Venomous creatures having stowed away amongst the fruit  wandered the decks once the ship was at sea causing crew and passengers to swear off these seemingly harmless snacks.

I’ve been blessed to lead a mostly banana free life. Having declared myself allergic to this silly looking creation at a young age, and in doing so I have avoided any of the bad luck issues caused by bananas. A banana allergy is not as popular or trendy as the gluten variety, it nevertheless serves me well.

While in Mexico chasing Tarpon last year it was brought to my attention that someone had been hiding bananas in the gear bag of a fellow angler, and the culprit was relentless in his efforts to unhinge his target. A formal inquiry was avoided as the trip came to a close without the identity of the protagonist being revealed, yet the scars remained on the psyche of the banana victim.

Fast forward one year and I had gathered another crew to head off on an adventure to South Andros Island, Bahamas. Three members of this group had been with me in Mexico, one being the hapless victim while another being under suspicion of being the Mad Banana Tagger.

Now it should be told that Erv is not your average victim. A retired lawyer, angler, semi-pro Mexican wrestler and part-time animal impersonator, he can hold his own in a battle of wits. He is comfortable in his own skin and firm in his beliefs that luck has little to do with the path we walk on this earth. Yet even he is not one to tempt fate by sailing off with a banana.

To avoid scandal and the chance that Erv would once again fall afoul of the insidious banana bandit I had him teamed with me to share a boat in an effort to keep an eye on him. It did help that the supply boat was long overdue and there were no bananas on the island.

The trip started well as Erv and I managed some good results on the flats even under poor conditions. The Bonefish were plentiful and the weather, although miserably wet, did not dampen our spirits. We enjoyed our time on the water without any concerns of bananas or bad luck. Two days into the trip the weather turned beautiful and sunshine blessed us as the winds dropped to a gentle breeze. Life was good.

Back at the lodge Erv had struck up a friendship with the kitchen staff and treated them to an original poem after the evening meal. The gals seem truly touched by his efforts and young Jasmine asked if he would honor them by wearing a Bahamian good luck charm if they brought it to him in the morning. He promised to do so and went off to bed in anticipation of what the morning would bring.

As daylight filtered across the flat in front of the lodge we gathered for our morning meal before heading off to fish. Erv sat with his breakfast of pancakes and eggs untouched, awaiting the charm that would bring him untold success on the water. What would it be?

Like an angel appearing from nowhere, Jasmine stood next to Erv at the table with his new good luck charm. Erv turned to see what she held. In a instant his face lost it’s expression of wonder replacing it with one of shear terror. In her arms she cradled a full size Chiquita Banana suit. One size fits all. Dutifully, Erv put it on.

With Bonefish guide Burnt Ferguson on the poling platform, the giant banana took his place on the bow as the boat pointed into the sun. Only seconds passed before Burnt called out a school of fish at the 1 o’clock position. A single cast and the Banana Man was fast into a screaming hot Bonefish. I bailed out of the boat with my camera to record this historic moment and watched as Erv and Burnt brought the fish to hand then released it. Erv popped back on the bow and soon found himself attached to another fish. I continued to photograph the action, then slid back into the boat to congratulate him on his busting of the banana curse.

It was my turn on the bow now as Erv sat and relived the Bonefish battles pondering the silliness of his Bananaphobia. He could hardly wait to tell Jasmine and Kathy of his accomplishment with their banana talisman. Burnt commented as he pushed the boat that CNN would love this story or maybe the BBC. Erv wondered out loud where the girls could have possibly found a banana suit on an island in the Bahamas. The guide and giant banana started singing Harry Belafonte’s "Day O," calling for the tally man to tally their bananas.

I scanned the water ahead and prepared to cast at a fish moving to the left from the mangroves. Speaking to no one in particular, but loud enough for all to hear I smiled and said, “Best 35 bucks I’ve ever spent.”

Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Work all night on a drink of rum
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Stack banana till de morning come
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Daylight come and me wan' go home

A beautiful bunch o' ripe banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Hide the deadly black tarantula
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Lift six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day...
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Come, Mister tally man, tally me banana
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day-o, day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home
Day, me say day, me say day, me say day
Me say day, me say day-o
Daylight come and me wan' go home

Day O from David Gilchrist - 4G Productions on Vimeo.

Mars Bay-South Andros Island-Hosted Trip

Joel La Follette - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I try to break up the year by planning a Bonefishing trip in the spring, just before things get cranking on the Deschutes with the Salmonfly hatch. This year I'm revisiting South Andros Island in the Bahamas. My last trip to South Andros was fantastic, but the boat ride to the southern tip of the island was a bit brutal when the wind blew. I broke a rib when the boat driver launched us off a big wave. That's why I've settled on Mars Bay Lodge right at the end of the road. No open water runs and just minutes from the flats. In fact, there's a flat right in front of the lodge if you don't get enough fishing during the day. 

I'm taking seven anglers on this adventure. Maybe you'd care to join me. Here's more information on the trip...

Mars Bay Lodge
Mars Bay is situated on the southeastern tip of Andros and affords anglers a short and easy skiff ride to pristine flats teeming with unpressured bonefish. The lodge itself is located on a flat large enough for a dozen fishermen. Mars Bay is the end of the road. To go any further south you will have to hop in a boat. That puts you ten miles closer to the best fishing grounds on the south end of Andros than the nearest lodge. What does that mean to you? No less than a ten mile shorter run over rough open water and an extra hour fishing each day. By the end of the week you've fished an entire extra day.

Mars Bay Lodge is located on the southeast side of South Andros Island in the Bahamas. The time in the Bahamas is the same as Eastern Standard Time. Google Earth coordinates: 23°51'54.78"N, 77°30'52.48"W.
Accommodations and Meals
There is absolutely nothing pretentious about Mars Bay. The lodge is not a high-end fancy resort. The napkins are paper. They will not crack the pepper for you, you'll not find a mint on your pillow, and you will not be greeted at the dock with a hot steaming towel to wipe your brow. You can grab your own beer and mix your own drink the way you like it. Mars Bay is a fly fishing lodge for sportsmen. Think of it as the difference between a stuffy dinner party and a casual gathering with good friends. The lodge has a laid back vibe to but don't let that fool you. Everything goes off on time and as scheduled. One review said the lodge runs like a Swiss watch.

Bill Howard is your host and attends to the details. He is an American owner/operator and has been managing the lodge since it opened in 2002. He catches the fish and lobster for dinner. He maintains all the boats and equipment. He makes all the repairs around the lodge. He orders the supplies, fuels the boat, and carries the coolers. He is hands on and has the reputation as being the hardest working lodge manager in the Bahamas. None of it would be possible without having an excellent staff of cooks, maids, and guides doing their jobs.
Fishing Program
Mars Bay fishes primarily for bonefish with occasional tarpon and permit. Other species encountered include barracuda, jacks and several types of snapper. Ideally located to access the Southern Cays and flats of Andros, the lodge enjoys easy access some of the least pressured flats on the island.

Hosted Trip Itinerary: May 2nd – 9th, 2015
Saturday / May 2nd:
Sunday – Friday:
Arrive Congo Town, Bahamas:
Once you arrive in Congo Town, you will be met by a representative of the lodge who will transfer you (60 minutes) to the lodge by taxi.
Get settled in and prepare gear for the following days of fishing. Six full days of guided fishing on the waters of South Andros Island
Typical Daily Schedule:
5:00AM: Coffee is on
6:30AM: Wake up (if not awake already) 7:00AM: Breakfast is served
7:30AM: Load up and head out to the boats 7:45AM: Fishing
5:00PM: Return to the lodge
6:00PM: Hors d’oeuvres are served 
7:00PM: Dinner
Depart Mars Bay Lodge to return home.
Saturday / May 9th:
7 night / 6 day package
Angler Rate: $3,950.00 per person based on double occupancy
Included: Accommodations and meals at the lodge, beer & alcohol, transfers between Congo Town airport and the lodge, all ground transportation on South Andros, wireless Internet, guided fishing.
Not Included: Airfare to/from Congo Town (South Andros Airport), staff and guide gratuities.
Confirming your space:
A 50% deposit is required to confirm the trip and the final 50% is due 60 days prior to the trip start date. The trip is limited to 8 anglers and will be booked on a first come first serve basis. To confirm your space please contact:
Dylan Rose – Fly Water Travel  800-552-2729
Joel La Follette – Royal Treatment  503-850-4397
Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns at any time!

Los Roques Bonefish Fly List

Joel La Follette - Friday, August 22, 2014

The best flies for Los Roques are smaller and usually light in color. Patterns in size 6 and 8 work very well, with size 6 being probably the most common and productive. Make sure a few of your flies are tied with weed guards. Start with your Bonefish Basics and add a few of the following patterns...

Bonefish Bitters                        size 6                Olive and Brown

Pink Puff                                  size 6-8            Bead-chain eyes and also 'blind'

Tan Raghead Crab                   size 6

Gummy Minnow                       size 6                Silver, Blue and Green  (bring plenty)

Clouser Minnow                       size 6                Grey/white, Tan/white w/bead chain eyes

Gotcha bead chain eyes            size 6-8

Exuma Mini Puff 'Cree'            size 6-8

Tan Puff                                   size 6-8

Mihieves Flats Fly                     size 6-8

Snapping shrimp                       size 8

Crazy Charlie                           size 6-8            Amber or Crystal Brown

Spawning Shrimp                      size 6-8 

La Follette’s Louie Louie Crab size 4-8

SMALL crab patterns can be deadly, the Raghead works well, but there are many others out there that do just fine. My Louie Louie was designed for Los Roques and it works very well. The important part is that they're on size 6 or 8 hooks and don't have large lead eyes. The smaller, the better. Some weedless patterns are a good idea.

For Cuda, Needlefish or a chartreuse and white Tarpon streamer with plenty of flashabou will work well.

Tarpon anglers should be prepared with a few smaller Cockroaches, Lefty's Deceivers and Flash-tail Whistler in sizes 1, 1/0 and 2/0. Most of the time Tarpon are in shallow water, often rolling or gulping air. Intermediate sinking lines can be handy, although a floater will get it the job done (requires shock tippet leaders 60-80 lb.). The Gummy Minnow is also very productive for goofy as it is. You’ll want size 2 or larger.

It's important that anglers show up with a good supply of flies as they are not available on Los Roques. If there is a rule for Los Roques Bonefish flies, it’s keep is light! Make sure your Bonefish Basics are stocked with plenty of bead chain or blind flies in size 6 and 8.

Bonefish Travel Tips

Joel La Follette - Friday, July 04, 2014

1. When traveling, always wear clothes you can fish in. You never know when the rest of you gear will show up.

2. Always carry your rods, reels with lines, leaders and tippets, wading boots, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, medicine, camera, rain jacket and an extra change of clothes on the airplane. You should try to carry on anything that you can’t live without that is allowed by the airlines.

3. Since some flies and tools cannot be carried on the plane they must be checked. If checking two pieces of luggage put a box of flies in each or have a companion check one in theirs.

4. Carry along some favorite snack foods like beef jerky, trail mix, dried fruit or granola bars. Stash more in your checked bags. When leaving the country make sure the packages are unopened. Customs is funny about that sort of thing.

5. Drinking plenty of water is the best way to stay healthy when traveling. If bottled water is not available, bring along a backpacking type filter and use it! Water bottles with built in filters work too.

6. A small portable cooler is a great place to keep your snacks, drinks, camera, extra flies and sunscreen while out on the water. Make sure your camera is in a zip lock bag in case the cooler gets wet. Take plenty of zip locks!

7. Your cash, passport and wallet should be locked up at the lodge or, if that is not an option, on your person. I keep mine in a zip lock bag in my hip pack. Carry plenty of $5.00 and $10.00 for tipping your guides. Also plan on leaving shirts, tackle and other goodies for your guides after trip is over. A new pair of sunglasses make a great gift at the beginning of the week and might help your guide spot that big fish!

8 . Handi-wipes. The best things to carry for cleaning the sunscreen, sweat, and salt off your face. Great for cleaning up before lunch on the flats or on an airplane. Can also be used for…. well, you’ll figure it out. Get the soft packs and carry them in all of your bags. I use three or four packages on a weeklong trip.

9. Make up a small “fix anything kit” to make repairs to glasses, rods, reels, lines, etc. (see my list posted elsewhere on the web site)

10. Chill. Remember you’re on island time and things don’t always go as planned. A good attitude will make even the largest set-back seem like part of the adventure. Don’t be an “Ugly American”, respect the people, their country and culture. Ask questions, share stories, have fun. Leave a little bit of yourself and take home a little of the adventure in your heart. 


Bahamas Bonefish Fly List

Joel La Follette - Monday, August 10, 2009

With many islands to fish in the Bahamas, you will need to have a very good basic selection. Take plenty of the standards in fairly large sizes, 2-6, but don’t forget the skinny water stuff. Places like Long Island have lots of skinny water flats that require light flies. You will even find places that require flies with weed guards. The more the island gets fished, the spookier the fish will be. Heavy flies can send Mr. Bone off the flat in a hurry. Bead chain eyes will be fine for most flats. Some of the larger patterns like the Bahama Special have heavy lead eyes to help them sink the bulky materials. Big fish eat big flies!

As Bahamas Bones tend to be bigger than the fish you’ll find in Mexico or Belize, take strong tippet or you’re going to need more flies. Here are a few special flies to add to your collection…

Kwan                                                            size 4           Tan

Fur Shrimp                                                   size 4

Swimming Shrimp                                         size 6

Super Swimming Shrimp                                sizes 4, 6     

Slider                                                           size 4

Exuma Mini Puff                                            size 4           Tan or Pink

Marabou Shrimp                                            sizes 2, 6      Tan, Pink, or White

Ragin’ Cravin                                                 sizes 4, 6     

Bahama Special                                             size 4           Tan or Olive Tan

Squimp                                                        size 6

Golden Mantis Shrimp                                    size 4

Bonefish Scampi                                            size 6

Beck’s Sili Legs                                              size 4-6        Pearl

Crazy Charlie                                                size 4-6        Pearl, Tan, or Pink

Gotcha                                                         size 2-6

Gold Gotcha                                                  size 2-6 (my favorite Bahamas fly)

Permit can be found on some islands during certain times of the year. Always carry a few crab patterns and have a rod at the ready. Del’s Merkin or Raghead crab in sizes 4-1/0 will work as well as any. Tarpon, Jacks, Snapper and Cuda are also fair game. Although Tarpon are not found everywhere in the Bahamas, they can show up and it never hurts to have a few Deceivers or Sea Habits in your box. Those will work for the Jacks too. Snapper will take bonefish flies, Clouser Minnows being a good choice. Cuda will eat the baitfish patterns or a Needlefish fly. Remember the wire tippet.

Christmas Island Fly List

Joel La Follette - Sunday, August 09, 2009

This one’s easy.

Christmas Island Special                                 size 6           Orange

Christmas Island Special                                 size 6           Orange

Christmas Island Special                                 size 6           Orange

Christmas Island Special                                 size 6           Orange                           

Christmas Island Special                                 size 6           Orange

Moana’s Banana Peel                                      size 6

Moana’s Chili Pepper                                      size 6

Christmas Island Special                                 sizes 4, 6, 8  Orange, Pearlescent, Pink

Beck's Sili Legs                                              size 6  Pearlescent

As you can see there has been a real “go to” fly for Christmas Island. Take lots. Your other Basic Bonefish flies will also work well, but it’s hard to beat the CIS in orange. For the Korean Wreck you might want some lighter flies as you will hang up on the coral with the heavy stuff.

Besides Bonefish, Travalley provide the action for the big fish lover. Big poppers, Sea Habits and Deceivers will get their attention. GTs and Bluefin will grab those patterns as long as they’re moving fast. Golden Travalley will eat bonefish flies or crab patterns.

There is also a good bluewater fishery on Christmas, but that’s a whole other story…


Belize Bonefish Fly List

Joel La Follette - Sunday, August 09, 2009

Belize has much the same type of flats that you find in Mexico’s Yucatan. Most of the following patterns work well in both places. A few are special to Belize and the Turneffe Island area. Add these to your Bonefish Basics.

Tan Mini Shrimp                                            size 8

Green Mini Shrimp                                         size 8

Baited Breath                                                 size 8

JT Special                                                     size 8

Turd                                                            size 8          Tan

Cuzan Special                                                size 6        

Mathew’s Bonefish Bitters                                size 8          Hermit or Olive

Mathew’s Bonefish Bitters                                size 8          Amber or Chartreuse

Exuma Mini Puff                                            size 4           Tan or Pink

Grassy Wonder                                              size 8

Turneffe Crab                                               size 6 

Bonefish Basics Fly List

Joel La Follette - Wednesday, August 05, 2009

There are as many bonefish fly patterns used today as there are anglers using them. With that many options it’s hard to choose what you need for your trip unless you’ve been there before or know someone that has. If this is your first time bonefishing or twentieth, here’s a list of the flies that should be in your box no matter where you’re heading. Start with this selection and add specialty patterns as needed. Remember you need to have a good selection of sizes and sink rates. This is what I call…


Mini-Puff                                                       size 4, 6       Old standby, still works

Tan Puff                                                       sizes 6, 8      My personal favorite

Marabou Shrimp                                            sizes 2, 6      Tan

Crazy Charlie                                                 sizes 6, 8      Pearl, pink, tan, root-beer

George Bush                                                 size 6, 8       Stupid name, CIS without Dazl Eyes 

Clouser Minnow                                             size 2-6        Tan/White, Gray/White

Clouser Minnow w/bead chain eyes                  size 4-6        Same colors, add a weed guard  

Gotcha                                                         sizes 2, 4, 6  Lead and bead chain eyes

Gold Gotcha                                                  sizes 2, 4, 6  My killer Abaco fly

Christmas Island Special                                 sizes 4, 6, 8  Orange, Pearlescent, Pink

These are the basics. You could travel anywhere and catch fish with these patterns. You’ll want a good selection of sizes and sink rates. Make sure you have plenty for your fishing partner too! Now take a look at suggestions for specific destinations.

A Return to Los Roques

Joel La Follette - Sunday, May 24, 2009

I have been blessed enough to have been able to sample some of the best bonefishing destinations in the world and have come to this conclusion. Los Roques is my favorite. Like I’ve said here before Los Roques offers a sampling of every bonefish location I’ve been to. You see Mexico without the swine flu, the Bahamas without flying through Miami and Christmas Island without the peanut butter sandwiches. Now I do like peanut butter sandwiches, just not everyday.

Los Roques has something that makes you want to return the minute to step on the plane headed home. Perhaps it is a sense of having spent the week at the home of a good friend. You feel a part of the island and very much at home. The island’s quaint shops and Posadas line the sandy streets, painted to reflect the owner’s personality. Each is a canvas that comes to life under the Caribbean sun. A walk through town is like a stroll in an art gallery.

The flavors of Los Roques are has varied as the nations represented by its inhabitants. Europeans make up most of the guests on the island and many of the Posadas are owned by foreigners. Our home for the week was the Posada Acuarela which is owned by an Italian who fancies himself an artist. His bright and cheery work hangs throughout the inn decorating the rooms and common areas. It adds to the feeling of staying in a friend’s home.

Another of the benefits of European ownership is the food. We dined on Italian dishes with a Caribbean flavor the entire week. Four course meals of traditional dishes served with tuna, Cuda and other local pescado tempted our taste buds each evening. Topped off with a “to die for” desert of flan, lemon pie or moose. The only thing that kept me from adding ten pounds to my frame was the fishing.

Fishing is all done by wading and Los Roques has miles of wadable flats. Whether small pancake flats are your favorite or flats that stretch for miles, you’ll find them here. The bottom for the most part is hard sand and coral but there are those softer flats that remind you of the Yucatan and will suck your boots right off your feet. Great way to burn off an extra helping of pasta but should be avoided in the heat of the day.

I found the fishing this trip to be technically challenging and most enjoyable. Two flats come to mind as some of the most fun I’ve had chasing bonefish. They went on for miles and the bonefish came in singles and doubles all morning. Big fish in the 5-8 pound range that were cautious but hungry. It required stealth and accurate casting to fool this silver ghosts and I had my “A game” going for once. Fishing alone on the last day I covered over a mile of flat landing 18 nice big Los Roques bonefish and burning off at least one helping of flan. I plan to return soon for seconds.

Yucatan Fly List

Joel La Follette - Monday, November 10, 2008

If you’ve stocked your box with the Bonefish Basics, just add a few of the following flies for your trip to the Yucatan. This destination requires smaller patterns in sizes 6 and 8, mostly 8s. I like the Tan Puff as a go to fly, but also find small Tan or Olive Clousers tyed with bead chain eyes to be handy. 

Swimming Shrimp                                         size 6           Good for deeper, darker flats

Super Swimming Shrimp                                sizes 8          

Tan Mini Shrimp                                            size 8           Must have

Tan Mini Shrimp w/o bead chain                     size 8            

JT Special                                                     size 8           A marabou mess, but it works

Turd                                                               size 8           Cool Name

Cuzan Special                                                size 6           Very good on mud flats

Bonefish Bitters                                size 8           Hermit or Olive

Exuma Mini Puff                                            size 4           Tan or Pink

Marabou Shrimp                           sizes 6         Tan

Golden Mantis Shrimp                                    size 4-8         Another “go to” fly

Grassy Wonder                                              size 8           Odd looking fly for the turtle grass

You’ll also want to have a few Permit flies handy as this is a fantastic location for a shot at the Holy Grail of fly angling. Here are a few good patterns that should do the trick.

Rag Head Crab, Tan                                        size 2-6

Blue Crab                                                      size 2

Fleeing Crab                                                  size 6

Del Brown’s Merkin                                          sizes 1/0, 2

This last pattern has caught more Permit than any fly tyed for them. If you tye your own, have a few tyed very small on good hooks.

Take along a few Tarpon and streamer flies for Tarpon, Snook, Jacks and Cuda. Here’s a short list.  Hook sizes should be from 1 to 3/0

Keys style Tarpon flies in the following colors:   



Black Death


Lefty’s Deceiver                          Red/Yellow, Red/White, Black

Cuda Needlefish fly

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