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Baby Crayfish
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Baby Crayfish
By Jay "Fishy" Fullum

Over the years, I've designed dozens of flies that looked great clamped in the jaws of my fly-tying vise. However, soon after I tied these creations onto a tippet and presented them to fish, it was obvious that many of them were terrible.

I now attempt to think "wet," when creating a new wet-fly pattern. I try to envision how the fly will look after it is submerged and how it will move when it is retrieved. After I complete a new wet-fly design, I tie it onto a length of monofilament and take it for a swim in a test tank. If the new pattern doesn't look good in the tank, it won't be presented to the fish or to my fellow fly fishers.

A fair number of my creations have passed this test, but few have shown more promise than the Baby Crawfish. I tried several materials when attempting to imitate the claws on this small crayfish, and all failed. Finally I made the claws out of a length of soft fur and a little color. Still unimpressed with this newest design when it came off the vise, I attached a length of leader material and took it for a swim. I was thrilled. Seconds after the pattern hit the water, it turned into the real thing. It looked wonderful wet, and the action was superb. This pattern has become one of my favorites, particularly when I'm fishing for stream smallmouths.

Compared with most crayfish patterns, the Baby Crayfish is quick and easy to tie. The only tricky part is the fur claws. The claws extend from the top of the crayfish, just behind the eyes, but it is nearly impossible to position and tie the fur inside the gap of a #8 hook. I found that it is much easier to tie the fur onto the front portion of the body, then wrap the thread back toward the back of the hook, inching the fur into position. Wetting the fur before dividing and X-ing the claws also makes it easier to complete them.

Materials List:

    Hook:   Mustad 9671, #8 wet nymph hook.

    Thread:   Black or dark brown 6/0 waxed.

    Lead Wire:   #30, tied onto both sides of the hook shank.

    Small Legs:   Brown grizzly hackle.

    Body:  Any long-fiber, dark brown fur.

    Antennae:   Any long, coarse, dark brown hair.

    Mouth:   Fine, dark brown deer tail and orange hackle.

    Eyes:   #3 black bead chain (available at craft store).

    Claws:   Any soft, cream-colored wool or wool-like fur. Dyed sheep, racoon, coyote and arctic fox work well. Remove the guard hairs tying in the claws.

    Waterproof Marker:   Any reddish brown color.

    Superglue:   Used to secure the lead wire.

Tying Instructions:

1. Attach the thread, then tie in a length of lead wire onto the front side of the hook shank. Tie another piece of lead wire to the other side of the hook shank, then apply a couple drops of superglue to secure the lead.

2. Tie in six to eight strands of hair to form the antennae, extending the material a full hook length beyond the rear of the hook.

3. Attach a small amount of fine, dark brown deer tail on top of the antennae. The hair should extend about half the length of the antennae.

4. Tie six to eight bright orange hackle barbs over the top of the deer hair.

5. Attach a pair of black bead-chain eyes. Use metal eyes. Do not use plastic.

6. Rotate the fly (hook point up), and tie the fur claws onto the top of the hook shank. Make the first few wraps, then wrap the thread back toward the eyes. Continue to inch the thread back until the fur is secured at the base of the eyes.

7. Divide the fur, then X the base with a few wraps of thread to separate the claws. Wetting the fur with a little water makes this step much easier.

8. Attach a brown grizzly hackle, then dub about two-thirds of the body with any long-fiber, dark brown fur.

9. Palmer-tie the hackle forward (three turns), and tie it off. Remove the excess hackle, dub the remaining portion of the body, and tie off the head.

10. After trimming the grizzly hackle from the top and bottom of the crayfish, color the ends of the claws with a reddish brown marker.

11. While the ends of the claws are still wet, trim to shape with scissors.

12. The completed crayfish is shown from the top.

~ Jay "Fishy" Fullum

Credits: This is just one fly from a terrific new book, Fishy's Flies by Jay "Fishy" Fullum, published by Stackpole Books. In this book you will also find unique material uses for tying terrestrials, dry flies, bass flies, nymphs, poppers and some very neat saltwater flies. We've shown the front and the back of the book to give you a little better idea of what it contains. At $9.95 this is a real bargain! ~ DLB

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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