Cowen's Bonefish Scampi

Cast this Charlie fly and watch the bonefish eat it up.


A very good Charlie type bonefish fly, tied by Henry Cowen. Henry is responsible for some great patterns in a number of fisheries and this one is one of his best. The secret of this fly is the pink in the wing.
In sizes: 6, 8.
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Cowen's Bonefish Scampi

Attract more bonefish naturally

"Since I tie my own flies with breathable materials, I thought, why not tie bonefish patterns with materials that breathe and fool those finicky bonefish?! And Cowen’s Bonefish Scampi was born!"
-Henry Cowen

Three years ago, I took my annual jaunt to Andros Island to fish for bonefish at Rupert Leadon’s place, Andros Island Bonefish Club. Every trip to Andros is especially thrilling.

The year before, no one in our group had done too well. The guides had said the fish were “finicky”. All winter long, I’d thought about how to get those “finicky” bones to take my fly with reckless abandon. I remembered what guide, Chris Leadon, had told me: “The most productive bonefish flies are tied with an extended wing. Tie a Crazy Charlie or Gotcha pattern with an extended wing and it’s even better than usual.”

I got to thinking about the old “match the hatch” adage used for “finicky” trout. The dictum holds that we replicate a trout’s food as closely as possible to better entice them. The same goes for salt water fly fishing.

In the fall, when False Albacore are crashing small Bay Anchovies, anything longer than a 2” fly can lead to frustrating days of fishing. We’ve all been there with one species or another! So, I took the “match the hatch” concept one step farther: The “breathing” fly! Flies that “breathe” are more realistic because they look like the forage fish that game fish eat. The Bonefish Scampi is tied like a Gotcha only with rabbit under craft fur or, preferably, polarfibre. Rabbit strip is great because it’s durable, sinks quickly and, most importantly, it breathes! The dressing consists of mylar around hook and tail, Gotcha style. Impale the rabbit through the hook point and polarfibre over rabbit with two pieces of pearl crystal flash.

That first year using the Cowen’s Bonefish Scampi, our group put twice as many fish on the rod than the other boats out there! The best technique I found was to alternate three short strips with one long slow strip as the bonefish approaches. At times, we had 2-3 fish fighting over the fly! By the third day, Cowen’s Bonefish Scampi were given to the less successful fisherman. It got rave reviews! We fished an all-tan with an orange head, and a soft pink over tan rabbit with a pink head. That year, the pink and tan was the winner! But the all-tan Scampi has proved equally effective. Scott Bennett, manager of The Complete Angler Fly Shop in Darien, CT, took both colors to Grand Bahama last year. “The Bonefish Scampi was by far my most productive fly on the flats,” he said. Now the Complete Angler carries both color variations!

Bob Merriman, manager of The Fish Hawk in Atlanta, GA, took a group in 2002 to Abaco for some Bahamas bonefishing. He’s been bonefishing for 18 years. When his usual “Baited Breath” failed, the Cowen’s Scampi all but saved the trip. This is a fly that you need to fish. It should be in every fly fisherman’s flatsfishing arsenal. The Cowen’s Bonefish Scampi is now supplied by The Orvis Company in retail stores, on the web, and in the catalogue. Fish it! You won’t be disappointed! I recommend a half dozen flies of varying sizes in each color variation. Works great for redfish and stripers, too!

-by Henry Cowen

Henry Cowen is a fly fisherman, fly tier and outdoor writer. His flies have appeared in many respected fly fishing magazines

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