Fly fishing for predatory fish, whether you’re chasing pike in freshwater, tarpon in the Atlantic, or GTs in the Indian Ocean is one of the most exciting forms of fly fishing in my opinion.
Watching a tarpon sip your fly, a GT come and crash your fly, or a pike hit your fly out of nowhere with a ginormous thump is an adrenaline rush of note. But, in order to convince these kinds of predators to come and eat, you have to be using the right flies.
In this article, I am going to take you through all the best flies to use when fly fishing for predators whether it’s bass, pike, barracuda, tarpon, GTs, or even billfish.
The brush fly is the number one type of fly to use when targeting giant trevally on the flats but it also works well when targeting other species like golden dorado, mahi-mahi, tuna, and more.
Brush flies are usually tied on a 4/0 or 6/0 hook and it’s best to have them tied on Gamakatsu SL12S hooks as these handle the salt well and don’t bend under a ton of drag pressure.
The reason why brush flies work so well is that they provide an excellent baitfish profile that predatory fish love. They can be quite heavy to cast depending on how much material is on them and the hook size so they are best used with a 10 or 12-weight fly rod.
Brush flies come in a huge range of color combinations from tan and white to black and purple. These two color combinations are some of the most deadly when fishing for GTs on the flats.
The magnetic minnow is one of the most effective brush flies on the planet and many a 100+cm GT has been caught on one of these. They come in a good range of colors and some of the best are white and chartreuse or white and tan.
The flaming Lamborghini is another brush fly that has fooled many a GT. This brush fly is bright red with a touch of orange mixed in and seems to get the fish very mad and willing to attack the fly. This is one fly you need to have at least four of in your tackle box when going fly fishing for GTs.
Semper flies are big flies and they are made for the biggest of predators, mainly GTs. They are longer and wider than brush flies therefore creating a larger profile that imitates larger baitfish.
When tied they have a large hackle at the head and then a long tail running out of the hackles. This makes this fly very heavy to cast so you had better know how to cast a 12-weight well if you want to fish this fly properly.
You can find semper flies in a ton of different color options and they usually work best in dark colors like olive, black, purple, and mixtures of these colors too.
The NYAP, which stands for Not Your Average Popper, was designed by a fly fishing guide on Alphonse Island called James Christmas. It is incredibly effective at catching GTs, bohar snappers, and cubera snappers.
It has a different shape from a normal popper as the foam head has a rectangular front that tapers off to the end of the hook shank to create a good baitfish profile. A tail of buck hair is also tied into the back of the foam to make the fly look realistic.
When fished properly, an NYAP makes a lot of noise and attracts predators to eat it from the depths and long distances.
You can get NYAPs in two different colors, white and black, and it pays to have both in your fly box. I personally prefer black NYAPs as they are much easier for fish to see. I have never thrown one of these for largemouth bass but I bet it would be incredibly effective.
Double Barrel Popper
The double-barrel popper has its origins in fly fishing for bass and you can find these in a load of different sizes. The bigger double barrel poppers are great for GTs, tuna, mahi-mahi, and more while the smaller ones are awesome for barracuda and bass too.
These are tied similarly to an NYAP except the popping head is round with two barrels that catch a ton of water and make a load of noise. The noise it makes is excellent at attracting fish from a long distance.
Like NYAPs, these flies also come with a tail tied in, and in black or white colors. To change the color, simply paint over the white popping heads to make them whatever color you prefer.
Clousers are a very effective fly to use when fly fishing for predators as they come with dumbbell eyes with a nice baitfish profile behind them. The dumbbell eyes get this fly to sink quickly meaning you can fish it deeper than other flies like brush flies or sempers.
These flies come in a vast range of colors and some of the best are two-tone options with blue and white, chartreuse and white, and tan and white.
The one difficulty with clousers is casting them since they are rather heavy flies due to the dumbbell eyes. When casting a clouser, make sure the wind isn’t coming over your casting shoulder as it really hurts when the dumbbell eyes hit you in the back or even worse your head.
The tarpon toad is one of the most effective flies you can use to catch good size tarpon.
They come with a large flat profile around the shank of the hook which gives them a great profile for fish looking upwards, like tarpon. They also have a short tail tied behind the body of the fly that gives them great action.
You can find these flies in a range of colors and two-tone options are often best. Black and purple are one of the most effective options you can use as well as black and red plus tan and white too.
Minnow flies are excellent for catching predators like snook, striped bass, albacore, bonito, and lots more. These flies are made with a special material called Sili Skin which is a reflective plastic/rubbery type material that is usually silver and even feels like a baitfish.
These flies are extremely effective when predators are feeding on newly hatched baitfish, aka minnows. They provide a load of flash and their action is also excellent to fool feeding predators every time on a good cast.
Minnow flies usually come in silver color but can have a tint to them and the options include pearl, green, blue, and more. They are all pretty effective but it is always worth having a range of options in your fly box.
Articulated streamers are big streamer patterns tied with articulation built-in. This is done by extending the length of the fly and tying profile sections down the length. When you strip this fly through the water, it articulates or naturally pulsates like a swimming baitfish.
These flies are usually used to catch the biggest brown or rainbow trout in the river, as these fish generally start eating fish when they grow so big instead of insects. You can also use them for other species like bass, pike, and muskie too.
Again, you will have quite a few different color options to choose from and in this case, going for some natural colors is best, such as olive.
Bunny flies are tied with a huge hackle at the front and a broad, long-tail out the back. The large hackle sections pulsate and push water as you strip the fly and the long tail has excellent action which makes it very appealing to fish.
There are lots of different types of bunny flies on the market and you can find them tied for different species including pike, tarpon, GTs, and more. The main difference between the types tied comes down to the hooks used and the size of the flies.
The merkin crab is a big crab fly that is great for catching predators that spend their time patrolling rocky ledges. Species like GTs love this kind of fly when they are hunting on the flats and it will work for a load of different species too, as what fish doesn’t eat crabs? Not many, that’s for sure.
It’s tied with a large body and legs too which gives it a very realistic profile. You will also find that species like permit and bonefish will also love these flies.
The Flexo Crab was designed by Alec Gerbec who was the head guide on Alphonse Island, Seychelles. This fly single-handedly changed the permit and triggerfish fishing in Seychelles as it is the most realistic-looking crab fly you might ever see.
It is tied using flexo material which is usually used to coat electrical wires. This material creates the body which has dumbbell eyes tied inside it and the legs of the grab and eyes are made by pulling some chenille through the body and setting it with UV glue.
These flies are deadly when fishing for permit and triggerfish but everything will eat them. They are best usually tied to a small size, so you don’t want to cast these at big predators.
Thanks very much for reading my article. I hope you enjoyed it and you now have a great proven choice of the best flies for fly fishing for predators, so be sure to fill up your fly box with a range of different colors of each type.
Growing up fly fishing on trout streams in Kenya and the UK, Jamie has traveled the world in search of fly fishing nirvana. From his time managing bonefish lodges in the Bahamas and running fishing safaris in East Africa, all the way to guiding on the flats of Seychelles, there aren't many species or environments he hasn't experienced firsthand.