My Dad and the Irrational Joy of Creating Stuff

Guest Blogger: Mike Vorhis, Fly Fisher & Author, FreeFlight Publishing

Image 1__Top_ViewWith apologies to my father and hero, still hale and hearty at 92, sharp as a #24 Signature Mustad, and headed well past the century mark, this article is not about him.

Here’s a ‘dad pattern I dreamed up. I looked at photos of many other crawdad imitations, applied my primary requirements to the project, imagined what stuff I had to tie on & in what order, and then stuck a hook in the vise.

Basic convoluted procedure is:

  • Load hook into vise jaws upside down or into a rotating vise.
  • Move progressively hook-bend-down-to-hook-eye as these steps are performed.
  • Tie in antennae (crazy legs – pick a color you’d like if you were a fish).
  • Tie bucktail (of color like a crawdad) into two bundles with thread, to limit flare, then tie them onto hook as claws.
  • Tie in two longish kick-stands (made of appropriate length, appropriate stiffness mono, with ends melted into a rounded blob) on the underside (the non-hook-bend side) of the hook.
  • Tie in a long thin piece of thin skin or a sliver of plastic sandwich bag, which will later stretch down the top of the back and resemble a “shell.”
  • Tie in eyes (made of short stalks of mono with ends melted into blobs).
  • Tie in soft leg hackle for layer palmering.
  • Tie in crazy legs midway down body area (~4 per side, choose a fish-jazzing color).
  • Start body dubbing, your choice of color; dub only to start of tail section.
  • Palmer soft hackle only to start of tail section.
  • Tie in a bit of thin copper wire.
  • Tie town body thin skin/plastic where body section becomes tail section.
  • Dub and then hackle-palmer the tail section.
  • Tie in a very soft, wedge-shaped feather for tail flap, facing down.
  • Overlay tail section with thin skin/plastic.
  • “Rib” the copper wire over the tail section.
  • Tie off everything at hook eye.
  • Trim antennae, crazy legs and palmered hackle until you’ve coaxed a crawdad out of the frizz.
  • Optional: Smear fingernail polish, your choice of latest fashion color (I use “el cheapo black,” very lovely), down top of back on thin skin/plastic. “shell.”
  • After it dries, wind a little weight-wire onto the lowest point of each kick-stand, & epoxy or UV-resin it there.

Image 2__Upside_DownPositives

1.  I designed it so that the hook point rides up and the crawdad settles to the bottom with claws to the sky. The key to this is not quantity of weight, which is a good thing because I hate to toss things that weigh more than a few feathers with a fly rod. The keys to up-point posture are:

      a. A tiny bit of weight tied as low as possible…which means below the hook shank…which means a bare couple of turns of weight-wire on the very bottom end of the monofilament kick-stands.

       b. As important as the down-low weight is this: Up high, above the hook shank as high as it can be angled, is stuff that floats: Bucktail–the claws are made of it. (Note that only bucktail hair from the very base of a deer’s tail is hollow. Even if not hollow the tail hair is a bit more buoyant than synthetics…but hollow is better, and if it flares when tied, it’s hollow…I take it from the tail base and it’s usually hollow enough to be buoyant to some extent.) Nothing else used in the body floats, so the claws, which should ride skyward, well…should end up riding skyward.

The combination of a little weight well below the shank and some “float force” above it helps the crawdad settle properly. Up to now I’ve fished it only on relatively light tippet, for fear that a coarse tippet could defeat the ‘dad’s ability to right itself as it descends. I don’t know how relentlessly it would fight to land on its kick-stands against torque applied by twisted leader, so I’ve played it safe so far. Not 100% sure it always lands upright but the principle is sound, and I’ve fished it some with a sink tip line and haven’t snagged one yet…knock on river rock.

2.  Requires no exotic materials, and substitution (and probably simplification) options are plenty. Everything is easily (and, as always, economically) obtainable from the folks at J.Stockard.

3.  Smallmouth bass do hit it. Probably other fish too, where crawdads might live.

4.  Probably could also use it as a salt water shrimp imitation since it’s so skinny.

Negatives

1.  It takes me 2 hours to tie one.

2.  I can never remember the recipe and sequence, so have to stare at photos of my previous ties each time.

3.  Tying with the hook point up is a major aggravation…although I manage to get through the experience by holding in my mind the greater aggravation of losing a 2-hour fly to a bottom snag.

4.  There are probably durability enhancements begging to be made as far as keeping the “shell” intact…maybe UV-cure resin instead of thin skin/plastic.

5.   I don’t know how the thing works yet across seasons and current strengths and fish species, or in varying hues or sizes. (I share it because its upright posture feature is worth sharing.) But I’m optimistic enough that I’ll tie up a few more this winter. I want crawdads in my fly box whose hook points ride up. With determination I imagine I can get about eight of them made over the course of the winter.

Image 3__Side_ViewThere are few joys more irrational, or greater for that matter, than to fool a wild, highly particular fish…on a stalking and presentation of one’s own execution…with a rod built by one’s own hands…on a fly tied on one’s own bench…of a pattern dreamed up personally.

As for my ‘dad:  Order yours today; $180.00 each and I can fill small orders in less than a decade.

(And as for my Dad, sorry Pop, next article will be about you.)

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