Greg Bethune, when asked what are the top producing flies for Cape York’s Gulf of Carpentaria, will allow that you only need one fly: a chartreuse and white Clouser in sizes from 1 to 3/0. He’s right. However, the old axiom, “Never put all your eggs in one basket”, is also good advice. And, “Variety is the spice of life!”… Well, who could argue with that. Despite the effectiveness of the Clouser in chartreuse and white, fact is, you need more than one fly style and color. The following are what I consider, based on my personal experience and that of others I know and respect, to be the top choices.
Flashtail Whisters, AKA “Pink things” in Australia, will catch just about anything that eats baitfish and swims in Gulf waters, fresh or salt. I like them in a variety of colors and sizes ranging from 1/0 to 3/0 and tied on the Eagle Claw 413 60 degree bend jig hook. Classics like the proverbial red and white still shine but I also heavily favor chartreuse and white with some light blue Crystal flash for a topping. You’ll also want a few in white and pink and in black and grizzly. I’ve found flashtails, 30 to 50 strands, in a 50/50 mix of silver and pearl or all pearl to be the best producing. Be sure the tail extends beyond the wing at least 1 to 2 inches.
Flashtail Clousers, are right there with Whistlers when it comes to productivity in Gulf waters. You’ll need them tied on hooks ranging in size from 2 to 3/0 and be from very sparse to full (striper sized). I tie them on both jig hooks and on J hooks. For tuna species you often need smaller and sparser flies tied on strong “tuna” hooks. I find the Owner, Trey Combs Big Game Hook or Gamakatsu SC15-2H to be excellent. You’ll want some with lots of flash in the tail, to those with only a few to no strands. The longtail tuna often feed on tiny baitfish much like the silversides and bay anchovies of the eastern US coastline. Best colors: white/chartreuse; white/pink; white/brown; white/blue and all white with red eyes. Half and Half patterns also work well in the same sizes and colors.
Popovic’s Surf Candies, and Dave Sellers’ SST epoxy patterns are also great styles for tuna species especially when they are keying on small to micro-bait. These can range in length from 1-1/2 to 3 inches and white/chartreuse or white/olive hues work great. All should be tied on strong hooks. Dave Sellers’ SST gets down quick and the trevally loved them.
Sar-Mul-Macs, Sea Habbits, Alfs, FPFs (Flashy Profile Flies), and Lefty’s Deceivers are all superb patterns/styles for imitating larger bait species. I tie mine on hooks ranging from 2/0 to 4/0 and from 4 to over 7 inches in length. I include lots of flash in the sides and tails and all the basic colors mentioned produce well. The big trevally and Spanish Mackerel like these larger patterns.
Crab Patterns: you’ll need plenty of them! Crab flies catch just about everything! You’ll want some floating foam crab flies in sizes from about the size of a quarter to a half dollar, again on strong hooks. Permit will take them floated like dry flies right off the surface in some of the rivers. You’ll also want to fish a floating crab on the flats just off the bottom, using an adjustable weight to hold it at the proper depth. You’ll also need a good sinking crab pattern and it’s really tough to be Del Brown’s Merkin in size 1/0 to 3/0 – quarter- to half dollar-sized. I tie mine on the EC 413 jig hook. As I mentioned in the main article, I caught just about everything on Merkins.
Gurglers and Crease Flies: Now here’s two top water patterns that are hands down, the best of the best. You just can’t go wrong using either of these when the fish want it on top. Longtail tuna love small Gurglers and Crease flies. I like them tied on hooks ranging from 1/0 to 3/0 and hooks should be strong, especially if targeting tuna and trevally. There’s nothing more exciting than to see a big LT launch itself out of the water, descending with mouth agape, inhaling one of these flies on its way down. EXPLOSIVE! Best colors: white/chartreuse; white olive.
Of course any variations of the flies I’ve suggested will work as will others of similar persuasion. Take along all your saltwater flies, something will like them! The point is, have a good variety of colors, sizes and styles.
Have a variety of styles in various sizes and colors
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