4 Creatures That Saltwater Flies Imitate

A tried and tested way to catch fish is to lure them with bait. For the bait to be effective, it has to mimic actual prey. Over the years, saltwater flies have evolved in complexity and variety, becoming a more authentic reflection of the prey they imitate. 

Saltwater flies imitate various prey, including worms, shrimp, crabs, and several baitfish. As an angler, you can vary the makeup and structure of your flies to target a specific fish by mimicking its favorite prey. 

In this article, I’ll review the different creatures that saltwater flies imitate. I’ll also correlate the most common flies with the animals they mimic. Read on to learn how to maximize your success when using saltwater flies. For a detailed review of specific specie flies, check out Fly Sizes and Materials Handbook: A Complete Guide for Popular Species.

1. Crab Saltwater Flies

The crab is a popular food in saltwater that many fish find difficult to resist. Many flies imitate the crab. They come in a variety of colors and structures. 

While the type of crab fly you choose is vital to success, how you use the fly is just as essential. 

Crabs are a favorite prey for the following fish: 

  • Tarpon
  • Permit
  • Bonefish
  • Redfish

The fish you target should determine how you deploy the crab fly. For example, when targeting Tarpon, the crab fly patterns should be prominent and floating. Also, it would be best if you tied the flies on heavy-duty hooks. 

Your crab fly pattern should mimic particular behavior depending on the target fish. For example, your routine can mimic a crab swimming downwards to avoid predators. Crabs can’t swim straight downwards because they swim sideways. 

Building a pattern that accurately depicts the sideways swimming behavior and sink rate can determine success and failure when catching fish like Permit, which are difficult to lure. 

Multiple flies imitate the crab. The following are some examples: 

  • Strong Arm Crab fly pattern
  • Borski’s Critter fly pattern
  • Velcro Crab fly pattern
  • Floating Crab fly pattern

2. Shrimp 

Shrimp are an important source of food for a range of saltwater fish, including: 

  • Permit
  • Bonefish
  • Redfish
  • Snook
  • Tarpon
  • Sea Trout

It’s essential to have shrimp flies in your arsenal as an angler. They can help you catch two of the most elusive gamefish: bonefish and permit. You should choose the correct patterns—they can make all the difference. 

Most shrimp flies imitate the following types of shrimp: 

  • Peppermint shrimp 
  • Mantis shrimp
  • Camelback shrimp 
  • Harlequin shrimp
  • Banded coral shrimp
  • Cleaner shrimp

If you change the colors of some modern saltwater flies, you can use them to catch fish that prey on shrimp effectively. The Seaducer is one such saltwater fly. If you build it with materials that have shrimpy colors, you’ll be good to go. 

Even so, there are saltwater flies specifically meant to imitate shrimp, including: 

  • Snapping Shrimp fly pattern
  • Borski’s Fur Shrimp fly pattern
  • Mike’s Bendback Shrimp fly pattern
  • Snook Shrimp fly pattern

You can make flies that imitate shrimp. When doing so, one of the most important steps is choosing colors that match those of the shrimp in your area, which makes the flies more successful. 

choosing the right color is important

3. Baitfish 

Baitfish is a word used to collectively refer to a variety of small fish caught by anglers and used as bait when trying to catch bigger fish. The majority of saltwater game species typically feed on such fish. 

Baitfish include: 

  • Menhaden
  • Mullet
  • Pigfish
  • Sardines
  • Pilchards
  • Mud minnows
  • Herring
  • Eels
  • Pinfish

Baitfish flies are typically big and bright. They are also made from durable synthetic material to tolerate the sharp teeth of predator fish. 

The Clouser Deep Minnow is one of the most popular saltwater flies that mimic baitfish. Minnows are a great source of protein for game fish like redfish. You are therefore likely to be successful when you use flies that mimic them. 

Other flies include: 

  • Glades Minnow
  • Peanut Butter
  • Marabou Muddler 
  • Woolhead Mullet
  • Lefty’s Deceiver
  • Seaducer

For a baitfish fly to be successful, you must customize it to the fish you are trying to catch. With a generic fly, your fishing trip may be unfruitful. 

When customizing a baitfish fly, you first consider the fish you are trying to catch. You then use a fly that closely matches the qualities of the favorite baitfish of your target. The better your fly matches the favorite baitfish in terms of profile, length, and shape, the higher your probability of success. 

In addition to the profile of the baitfish fly, it’s essential to properly mimic the behavior of the baitfish when stripping the fly. 

The most critical part is when stripping the fly. Certain species such as redfish and jack crevalle like fast moving baits, whereas tarpon may require you to strip a fly extremely slow. Recognizing the behavior of the fish will help you decide what is the best method of stripping. If a fish is swimming slowly, a slower retrieve may be necessary. For blitzing or busting fish, fast strips typically work best.

4. Worms

During a hatch, the sight of numerous worms attracts game fish and results in a feeding frenzy. 

Worms are a favorite meal for some game fish. The most popular worms include: 

  • Palolo worms
  • Cinder worms
  • Bloodworms
  • Sandworms
  • Clam worms

Game fish like tarpon and stripers are opportunistic feeders. They likely won’t pass up the chance to feed on a worm, even outside hatching season. 

As a result, worms are effective as bait all year round. 

In light of this, the use of flies that mimic worms has been on the rise. 

In addition to tapon and stripers, worm flies are perfect for catching bonefish and redfish. 

Some effective fly patterns that mimic worms include: 

  • Peterson’s Palolo Worm
  • Dredge worm is great for redfish 

As with other saltwater flies, one way to increase success when using worms as flies is to customize the bait for your target. To do this, you need information about what type of worms your target game fish finds most attractive. 

For example, stripers love the cinder worm. With this in mind, if you want to catch stripers, you should go for flies that resemble the cinder worm in shape and color.