The Meko Special is a hot bonefish pattern developed by a veteran guide and sold exclusively by Orvis.
The bonefish are always out there, nosing through currents and turtle grass. Somewhere. But when the wind is blowing 20 knots across Deep Water Cay, and the clouds are turning the lights out over the flats, when a falling barometer and cruising barracudas as long as your leg are making the few bones you see as jittery as cats in a kennel, its not easy to get the skunk out of the boat. Even with a gifted Bahamian guide and fishermen as wondrous as we.
Wondrous meaning “full of wonder”. As in: "Wonder what they’re eating? Wonder where they’re hiding? Wonder when the hell we’re going to catch a fish?" My fishing partner, Bob Spotswood of Birmingham, Alabama, assured me my presentations were sweet as pecan pie. It was my luck that was sour mash. A dead ringer for The Skipper on “Gilligan’s Island”, he began referring to me as “little buddy” in an effort to take over the casting deck.
“Nice cast, little buddy. Dadgummit, ah thought that bone was comin’ home.” There was a dollop of sarcasm in his syrupy drawl. The fish had been scared witless by the splash of my fly.
It had been that kind of morning. We’d had a couple of follows, tantalizing moments when two or even three bonefish veered from their chosen paths to inspect our flies, only to dart nervously away. We’d tried the usual assortment of dependable patterns - Gotchas, Crazy Charlies, Ruoff fleas, even a small crab—without any takers. “Who can fathom the ways of the ghost of the flats?” Bob asked rhetorically.
It turned out our guide, Meko, could. A young man with osprey eyes who’d been guiding at the Deep Water Cay Club since his teens, Meko opened his flybox.
“Maybe try one of these,” he suggested.
It was a simple enough pattern. A pale pink body wound with brown hackle, so it looked a little like a wooly worm; bead-eyed; a medium-long whitish, yellowish tinsely tail. I’m no fly-tyer. It looked like some sort of substantive shrimp, a mouthful, and I sure didn’t have anything like it in my box.
I tied it on. Meko soon spotted a bonefish, and in a rare act of competence, I managed to lead it appropriately. It hooked up on the second strip and weighed in about four pounds. One cast, one bone for the fly.
Spotswood had hopped onto the platform before the fish was released. He’d tied on some spawning creation he’d found in the Orvis catalog, believing, as I did, that a feeding bonefish will tackle just about anything that looks like a shrimp. We found some, soon enough, tailing. He cast once, twice, three times without a take. They followed it, too. “New fly,” Meko said.
I offered him my rod, which still had Meko’s fly attached. The bones had moved a short way off, but it was easy enough to track them. “Now,” Meko said when we were in range.
First cast, and bang. This fish was even bigger, close to five. “What is that doggone fly?” Bob asked, looking at it more closely. Meko shrugged. “Something I tied. I don’t know why they like it so much. Last fall I won a fishing contest with it.”
It was my turn again. The next fish I caught swam ten feet out of its way to eat Meko’s fly. It actually doubled back on itself. That’s how it went the rest of the day. I don’t know how many bonefish we caught, but it was by far the most productive day of the week. All on Meko’s fly. Back at the dock we opened our billfolds and cleaned him out. Meko smiled. “I’ll tie some more tonight.”
We told the story back at the lodge, and Perk Perkins, president of Orvis, asked to inspect the fly. He’d never seen one quite like it. “What’s it called?” he asked.
“The Skipper’s Little Buddy?” I suggested.
“Lovey’s Shrimp?” said Bob.
Perk went fishing with Meko the next day. When they got back to the dock I thought he was going to adopt the lad and take him back to Vermont. The fly had worked its magic again, and Perk was plying Meko with logoed shirts, hats, prototype reels, tippet, and anything else he could lay his hands on from his goody bag. All he wanted in return was the exclusive to that bonefish fly.
The Meko Special, they named it. Not as snappy as “The Gilligan”, but it gives credit where credit is due. Do yourself a favor and order a dozen to take on your next bonefishing trip. Thurston Howell, III certainly would.
-Regards, E.M. Swift. E.M. Swift is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated, and used to date a movie star named Ginger. In his dreams.