Fly Fishing

Because of the great variety of fish species at Boca Paila, fly fishers will need several different fly rod outfits and a good mix of fly patterns to effectively target the bonefish, permit, tarpon and snook on the flats.

Here is an overview but be sure to download and review our complete gear suggestion list that you’ll find in our Travel and Information packet.


Fly Fishing: The fly fisherman has an advantage over the spin fisherman due to the delicacy of the fly presentation and a more diverse selection of patterns.

General Fly Selection Guidelines: It is important to match the fly’s overall color with that of the bottom. The food items that bones prefer are also experts in camouflage and will match to their surroundings perfectly. There are also days when bright pink is the only color that will work. When in doubt, ask your guide for recommendations.

Recommended Bonefish Flies: You should consider taking two to four dozen of the assorted flies listed below for a week’s fishing. You needn’t include all of these. Most should have standard bead-chain eyes and should be in size #4 to #6. Add some size #8 for finicky or spooky fish. Include a handful each of eyeless and lead-eye flies.

• Crazy Charlies (tan, light brown, pink)

• Gotchas

• Shrimp imitations (light brown, light pink), both with rubber legs and lightly weighted such as the Peterson’s Spawning Shrimp or Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp.

• Small Clouser Minnows (chartreuse and white, tan and white, foxee bonefish)

• Bonefish Scampi

• Crab patterns, including Barry and Cathy Beck’s “silly leg” version and yarn crabs in light brown and light green, work well for both bonefish and permit.

Rods: The ideal rod for Boca Paila bones is a stiff, fast-action 9-foot, 6-, 7- or 8-weight. The 6-weight is perfect for calm days. The 8-weight will effectively handle most conditions and have the power to punch out a line in a fairly stiff breeze.

Reels: Should be anodized saltwater models that will hold a full fly line with 100-plus yards of 20-pound backing. Reels with a high quality, smooth disc drag are essential to prevent break-offs from the blistering runs of hooked fish.

Fly Line: Tropical saltwater weight-forward floating fly lines are all that is necessary. Carry at least one extra spool/line in case a fish frays your line on a mangrove root or coral.

Leader/Tippet: Tapered leaders 9- to 10-feet long in the 8- to 12-pound range are recommended. It’s always a good idea to start the day with a fresh leader so take enough to cover your days of fishing along with spools of 8- to 15 pound tippet for rebuilding or lengthening leaders.


Permit are by far the most difficult, picky, frustrating fish you’ll encounter on the flats and are considered by many as the ultimate flats species. They have superb eyesight and a well developed sense of smell. Unlike bonefish, permit are excessively finicky about what they eat. They will often charge your offering with reckless abandon, only to stop at the last moment and snobbishly refuse it. Don’t become discouraged.

Recommended Permit Flies: Permit have a particular weakness for small crabs so the majority of productive patterns are crab imitators. The most productive at Boca Paila are the Rag Head Crab, Merkin Crab and Cathy Beck Fleeing Crab in muted colors like tan, cream and olive in sizes #6 or #4. Other patterns include Clouser Minnows in various colors and Veverka’s Mantis Shrimp.

Rods: The ideal permit rod is a fast-action 9- or 10-weight.

Reels: Those listed for bonefish should fare well against permit; make sure to have at least 150 to 200 yards of 20-pound backing.

Lines: Tropical saltwater weight-forward floating lines are all that is necessary.

Tippet/Leader: Nine- to 12-foot tapered leaders in the 16- to 20-pound range. Fluorocarbon tippet is recommended.

Tarpon (May and June Peak)

Tarpon are the largest, strongest and most acrobatic of the Boca Paila fish. Even juvenile fish will put your angling skills to the test and strain your tackle. This tarpon fishery is not as significant as those found in Belize and Florida. Primarily known for small to mid-sized specimens (5 to 50 pounds), Boca Paila’s tarpon should be considered as an added bonus, since the numbers found in these waters are fairly limited. A few, especially the juveniles, remain in the area year-round. Migratory fish begin to show up at the beginning of May and increase significantly from May through June.

Tarpon Flies: A selection of the following in various colors should cover all conditions (sizes 1/0, 2/0 and 3/0): Cockroach, Laid-Up Tarpon, Tarpon Toads, Tarpon Bunny, Sea Habit Bucktail, Black Death, Big Eye Tarpon, Dave’s Bead-Belly and Lefty’s Deceiver (red / yellow, chartreuse / white).

Rod: The ideal rod for Boca Paila-sized tarpon is a 10-weight. You can get away with a stiff 9-weight, but if you hook a 60-plus pound fish or your guide asks you to cast a 3/0 fly in a 20-knot breeze, you’ll wish you had the backbone of a heavier rod.

Reel: Tough, no-nonsense reels are a must when you are playing tarpon. A strong, reliable drag is vital. Capacity: 200 yards with 30-pound backing.

Lines: Tropical saltwater floating lines are recommended, and you may want to take a sink tip fly line to fish the deeper channels.

Leaders and Tippets: For most anglers, pre-made tarpon leaders (offered by Rio and Umpqua) will simplify things considerably. In any case, you need a 12- to 15-inch shock tippet of 60-pound or heavier monofilament. We recommend buying these pre-made leaders with 16- or 20-pound class tippet sections.


Snook are found in the waters around Boca Paila year round, although their numbers fluctuate somewhat. They are generally not considered a primary target.

Flies: Snook prefer bright-colored flies dressed with a moderate amount of flash. Favorite colors include white, red and yellow. They can also be caught on surface poppers. A combination of the following are recommended: Seaducer (yellow/red and red/white) 2/0; Lefty’s Deceiver (red/yellow and green/white) 2/0; Sea Habit Bucktail (green/white); and Clouser Minnows (shiner and chartreuse/white).

If the fish seem interested in your fly but are “short striking,” don’t be afraid to give your fly a little “haircut” to help shorten its overall length.

Rods/Reels: Your fast-action 9- or 10-weight permit rod / reel setup will also work well for snook.

Lines: In addition to a saltwater floating line, you may want to have a sinking line on hand for blind casting at the mouth of the boca (the opening between the lagoon and the sea).

Leaders/Tippets: Snook will typically blast out of a nightmarish mangrove tangle to take your fly and then try to race back in a frantic attempt to wrap your line around every root they can find. With this in mind, a straight shot of 40-pound tippet material or Mason hard nylon tippet material connected to twelve inches of 50- to 60-pound shock tippet will allow you to keep them out of the “bushes.” A shock tippet is needed because of the snook’s razor-sharp gill plates.

Other Game Fish

Barracuda, Jacks and Sharks: Lurking at the top of the food chain, these tough flats predators offer some outstanding action on a fly or lure. They will strike anything that darts away from them in an injured manner. When hooked, they are some of the fastest and most powerful fish to be taken on light tackle. For barracuda and jacks, an extra-fast retrieve will usually provoke more strikes than a slow retrieve.

Flies: Barracuda — Needlefish patterns (green/white, chartreuse, blue/white), Braided Barracuda Fly (chartreuse), Rabbit Barracuda (2/0).

Jacks and Sharks — Lefty’s Deceiver (red/white and blue/white), Bob’s Banger Poppers, Lefty’s Cuda / Shark Fly; 2/0 to 3/0 hook.

Rod/Reel: Follow tarpon guidelines; a 10-weight rod is ideal.

Line: Saltwater taper, floating line.

Leader: A wire shock tippet is mandatory for barracuda and sharks. Rio’s Toothy Critter Leader or Rio’s Knottable Wire are perfect.