Choosing a Crayfish – Part 2

Guest Blogger: Mary S. Kuss, Life-long avid angler, licensed PA fishing guide, founder of the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association

In Part 1 of this post, I talked about choosing a crayfish pattern. In this post, I show you how to tie one of my favorites.

MK Baby Crayfish
Hook: #6 Mustad 3366 or equivalent
Thread: Danville 3/0 Monocord, Brown
Wire: 0.025” lead or lead-free
Weight: XS nickel-plated dumbbell eyes
Tail: Grizzly Marabou, Brown or Sculpin Olive
Glue (Optional): Brush-On Super Glue
Body: Micro Polar Chenille, Brown or Brown-Olive
Legs: Silicone leg material of your choice
Dubbing: Coarse rusty brown

1. De-barb hook and mount in vise. Lay a thread base from the head position back to the hook point and forward again to about a hook eye width back from the back edge of the hook eye.

Catch in the wire on top of the hook and wrap thread back to the hook point and forward again. Break off the wire at the back of the thread base. Align wire on top of the shank.

2. Tie in the dumbbell eyes on top of the lead wire, just slightly back from the front edge of the wire. Be sure to leave enough room ahead of the dumbbells for a turn or two of dubbing and a thread head. Secure dumbbell eyes well with figure-8 thread wraps and a couple of circling wraps between the eyes and the wire.

3. Tie in a Grizzly Marabou feather at the tail position. Tail should be about the length of the hook shank. Wrap thread forward over the marabou butt, binding it to the hook shank as you go, up to the back edge of the dumbbells. Take two turns of thread ahead of the marabou butts. Wrap thread rearward slightly back into the hook bend, cocking the marabou tail slightly downward. Trim excess marabou butt closely.

4. Tie in a length of Micro Polar Chenille about three inches long. Wind the working thread forward to a point about a dumbbell-width from the back edge of the dumbbells.

(Optional) Touch the thread base around the dumbbells with a bit of Super Glue or head cement. This increases durability, but go lightly with the glue. Too much will make a mess.

5. Wrap the Micro Polar Chenille forward in touching turns, sweeping the fibers back as you go. Tie off and remove excess.

6. Select two strands of silicone leg material, align the ends, and fold in half around working thread. Bind down at the front edge of the Micro Polar Chenille body on the far side of the hook. Repeat with two more strands on the near side of the hook. Pull the strands down slightly below the hook shank, and take a few thread wraps over the tie-down to keep them there.

7. Form a dubbing loop about 3-1/2 inches in length. Advance working thread to head position. Load the loop with sparse tufts of dubbing. Twist up enough to secure the dubbing in the loop, but not too tightly. You want a loose, shaggy look.

8, Make two or three wraps of dubbing behind the eyes, sweeping the fibers to the rear with each turn. Make one figure-8 wrap of dubbing around the dumbbells and one or two turns ahead of them. Tie off and remove excess. Form a neat thread head and whip off.

9. Touch the thread head with a drop of cement. Brush out the dubbing with a Velcro teaser or similar implement of your choice.

10. Trim the silicone legs to length, about ¼-inch beyond the end of the marabou tail. Groom up as desired.

15 thoughts on “Choosing a Crayfish – Part 2

  1. Kurt L Nelson

    Looks like a good carp fly, as well as others, but I know carp will move 3-4 feet for a nice tasty crawfish. Will tie up some in different colors like olive, light blue and rusty since the rusty crawfish are invasive in NY and are abundant. The rusty crawfish are typically smaller than the others. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Mary S. Kuss

      Good luck with the pattern Kurt. We have lots of Rusty Crayfish here in the Philadelphia area as well. Valley Forge National Historical Park has regular Crayfish Round-Ups where trained volunteers selectively remove them from Valley Creek, a Class A wild trout stream that flows through the park. One big problem with the Rusties is that the mature ones have such hard exoskeletons that many predators have trouble eating them. I designed my pattern to be small enough to suggest an immature crayfish, which also conveniently makes it easier to cast.

      Reply
  2. Judy Wilson

    Mary,

    I will have to tie up some of these! They look like they will be awesome for some smallies.

    Judy

    Reply
    1. Mary S. Kuss

      Hey Judy, I’ve done very well with this pattern for Smallmouth in the Brandywine. Hope to fish with you soon!

      Reply
  3. Michael Vorhis

    A question for you crawdad fly users…and this looks like a pretty good place to pose it:

    Do you think crawdads appeal to fish mostly because of the quantity of meat they represent, or more because of their taste? It’s a guess of course and it doesn’t matter except for this: If it’s entirely for the hunk of meat, then the biggest crawdad imitation we can reasonably toss would be the way to go. If it’s because they’re so tasty then a little fly would draw more strikes because it’d be easier for a fish to catch and crunch.

    Basically, the question is really: Big imitation or tiny imitation? What do we find draws more strikes? I don’t fish crawdad patterns nearly enough, so I want to know what y’all opt for. Might depend on the fish species too I guess. Opinions?

    – Mike

    Reply
    1. Kurt L Nelson

      In upset NY, we have an invasive rusty crawfish, they are abundant in some places and tend to be smaller thane the native crawfish, when the Susquehanna River gets low enough to wade I go after carp on the fly, carp push rocks with their nose and the devour what’s underneath, crawfish scoot away and many times the carp attack quickly, if they don’t small mouth who follow a feeding carp will pick off crawfish that escape, fishing for carp is also fishing for small mouth. If there are native crawfish I would use a olive or blueish crawfish in a larger pattern, if there are rusty crawfish I would use a rusty yet smaller size. It’s always best to match the hatch. If it moves right I don’t think they care really, if a carp is feeding he will eat, smallies may be a little more selective yet in the river when water gets lower if the fly is presented right they take it. They need to eat to survive in the river, with large muskies present it’s good to be big.

      Reply
      1. Michael Vorhis

        Thanks for weighing in Kurt. So you tend to match the fly to the adult of the critter species. Makes sense, just like bugs. I guess if one doesn’t know for sure, a smaller fly could imitate an immature, so start by tying that one on. I have had a bit of action with dark brown smallish crawdad ties, but I really didn’t check what the normal size ‘dad in the stream was (except to spot a couple of really big black ones), so I may have gotten lucky.

        I never knew carp could do that–move stones and pounce on what comes out. We expect this kind of intelligence from bears & raccoons & foxes, but for fish that’s a new on on me. But come to think of it I saw two carp doing exactly that once and I just now realize what they were up to. So…very good lore. Stands to reason a lot of fish species can probably do it if they want to.

        Did you use speech-to-text software to write that reply, or did you type “Upset NY” on purpose? : )

        I yahoo’d the phrase and came up with a ton of sports images. Sadly no carp or crawdads.

        – Mike

        Reply
    2. Mary S. Kuss

      I’ve never subscribed to the “big fly, big fish” theory. After all, elephants eat peanuts. Generally, IMO, opportunistic predators are not going to hold out for a big bite. They exploit opportunities to feed equally. Unless, of course, a particular food item is abundant enough to trigger selective feeding, as happens with trout during heavy insect hatches. Why chuck a huge fly if you don’t have to? Of course everyone has his or her pet theory. The author of an article I once read opined that large claws on a crayfish pattern were a turn-off to fish because it suggested an aggressive posture and would lead the would-be predator to seek easier prey. Who can say for sure?

      Reply
      1. Michael Vorhis

        > large claws on a crayfish pattern were a turn-off to fish

        I once saw a video posted by someone showing that even smallmouth bass would swim away from a large crawdad with its claws raised. And I’ve read comments that a clawless crawdad imitation, or one with one missing claw, draws more strikes than a lure with two big claws. As you say, Mary, opinions are opinions, but one has to guess there’s some merit to these particular claw beliefs–crawdad claws have to be effective enough to give fish pause, else there would be no crawdads left.

        Many anglers claim a crawdad that’s newly moulted is more tempting to fish than a gnarly old hard-shelled thing. On that basis I think I’ll tie up some lighter-colored crawdad flies and see how they fare. Considering that overly visible individuals in any species don’t tend to last too long in the deadly wild, something that looks a bit soft and albino-ish might be the ticket. The American Signal Crawdad is the most dominant species across the USA and is well camoflaged, but that tends to imply that if you’re not camoflaged you’re a goner. So I’ll tie up some lighter smaller (but still a nice gulp) versions, and try them (as soon as the rivers go down here…waiting…waiting…).

        – Mike

        Reply
        1. Mary S. Kuss

          You know, Mike, after our last exchange about “chewiness,” it occurred to me that the effectiveness of a dead-drifted Clouser Crayfish might be due at least in part to its resemblance to a “soft shell” crawdad. The most commonly used color of Furry Foam for the carapace is a medium-llight olive, and the dubbing used for the underside of the fly is a very pale green. It all fits.

          Reply
          1. Michael Vorhis

            Bingo. We have finally figured out exactly what fish think! Let’s write this day down, humanity, as the day it all came together. : )

            Seriously, that makes total sense Mary. I’m really excited to fish a crawdad pattern a lot more now. They can be “worked” like a wet fly (which is the style of fishing I prefer). I’ll see what a one-claw light-colored “Upright ‘Dad” can do…again as soon as the water levels go down (there was so much snow oad last winter that all the tailwaters are still in high release mode where I live).

  4. Mary S. Kuss

    We all seem to spend a lot of time these days waiting for high-water to recede. I remember when everyone around here was worried about constant low water and drought. Somewhere in the middle would be nice!

    Reply
  5. Michael Vorhis

    Mary, just thought I’d follow up. Water was still 2x the highest semi-safe wading level yesterday, but I got out anyway, stepping in along the edges here and there and trying to flip streamers and wet flies downstream into little pockets between trees. I tried a light tan/cream version of my “Upright ‘Dad,” which due to its color I imagine might represent a crawdad that has just molted, and quickly got a number of very aggressive strikes. Unfortunately I lost those fish and then the fly, and I only had one on me. But it was still a successful test. (The dark brown version didn’t draw interest on this outing.)

    The water was up but very clear, so the fish could easily see what they were striking. They would dart out from cover to nail it, in full view such that I could see them flash out to it, in the mid-morning bright sun. The pattern is intended to keep its belly-to-bottom orientation, and it fought to return to that orientation even in swirling water, which to my eyes made it look all the more real. Anyway the rainbows went after it.

    It all seems to bode well for the theory about using crawdad imitations with coloration suggesting having just molted. I went home and tied up a few more. (I also decided that shorter claws are much better for that pattern–no more than an inch, so they keep looking like claws even when flagging downstream in current.)

    Reply

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