Chicone’s Tuscan Bunny

It has been said that some flies are tied to catch fish and others to catch fishermen. The peculiar-looking Tuscan Bunny fly is most certainly the prior of the two.

If I had to choose just one fly for top water targets that typically take prey higher in the water column then my answer would unequivocally be the Tuscan bunny.

Although the jagged and asymmetrical shaped head is not much to look at, it like the rest of the elements that make up the fly are by design.  At first glance the fly’s modest list of materials and simple construction may be mistaken for a hastily thrown together mess of fur and foam.  However the evolution of the pattern took place over several years and I continually make micro adjustment to this pattern the more I fish it. The materials from the original pattern haven’t changed too much, but Hareline does cut the foam strips now, aptly named “Chiocone’s Fettucini Foam” so no more pasta cutters. The manufacturing process makes the strips of foam much more uniform and easier to work with… not to mention more available in a wide array of colors.

When targeting over-slot snook I also change the hook that I tie this pattern on. The main reason for this substation is the hooks point. I prefer the Mustad bait hook because it does NOT have the needle sharp hook that the Owner has. A snooks mouth is much softer than a tarpons, so you don’t need the razor sharp point for penetration. Even though I put a double weed guard on this pattern, I find that a really “sticky” hook is no good for deep cover fishing. I’m able to snake flies that are tied on the Mustad through mangroves and overtop of submerged debris easier with far fewer hang-ups. This is very important when working mangrove shorelines and structure. It’s still plenty sharp to hook fish, and the Mustad’s round point is far more durable and doesn’t roll like the Owner. Aside from the hook and the precut foam strips, the more significant changes to this pattern are in the techniques used for applying the materials. 

One thing I discover after fishing this pattern for years was that the dubbing loop would loosen up or worse, pull free after a few fish. Because the tip of the loop was tied down after it was palmered it just wasn’t that durable. I was able to overcome this issue by making the loop twice as long and whip finishing with the loop itself. It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but it makes a huge impact on the flies’ durability.

The target species of the Tuscan Bunny are ambush feeders with an upward facing morphology and whose eyes are positioned closer to the tops of their heads.  The position of their eyes makes it easier for them to see their prey at eye level or overhead in the water column.  When looking up for food, darker colors that silhouette against a light sky background are easier to see and therefor increase your chances for a strike.  That is why I tie this pattern primarily in dark color combinations. For a long time my go to was purple with a black head, but far and away the most productive color combo for back bay snook  is the dark gray Chinchilla body with a black foam head. The vast majority of my big snook have been taken with this color combo. 

Typically around late April or early May the snook start their annual migration from the rivers, creeks and backwater estuaries and head to the gin clear water and sandy beaches to spawn. By October they have begun to return to the Caloosahatchee River and adjoining creeks. Here in South West Florida, May and October are my two favorite months to fish for snook because you get so many clear shots at really big fish!

This fly works great for ambushing super-skittish fish in shallow water because it doesn’t sink and you can get the fly into position well before they arrive.  Casting to hypersensitive fish in this type of situation is difficult because they tend to blow out well before the fly ever hits the water.  Large fish in shallow water key in on any kind of movement above them, and a motion of the rod or the loop in the air is usually more than enough to send them off in a hurry. 

The key is to make your cast 4 or 5 yards ahead of the fish on the move and slowly position the fly into its path.  Don’t move the fly until your target is about 2 feet away, and then only make one or two short strips until you have the fish’s attention.  If it doesn’t attack the fly immediately, a slow steady strip with a constant right-to-left tip waggle will close the deal more times than not. 

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