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Fly Tying the Crayfish

Updated on December 25, 2015

The Concept

Most crayfish are brown or dark green. I read where they all molt and that several are bright orange for a brief time after this transition. They are most vulnerable to fish predation at this stage due to their bright color and softer shell. I once caught a bass with body parts of a crayfish still in its mouth. I noticed that this crayfish was in a transition phase with dark green and orange coloration. This crayfish became the design model for this fly.

The Fly Design

I had two objectives with this fly. First, to replicate the dark green and orange coloration. This was accomplished by tying with an orange thread, an orange wire, and dark green wool yarn and olive hackle feather. The second was to keep it light. This resulted in using plastic eyes instead of lead dumbbell eyes as is common with many crayfish patterns. I like to fish with a 5wt fly rod or smaller, so fly weight is always a factor. The wire gives the fly enough weight to sink it.

Tying the Fly

To tie the fly, you will need the following materials:

  1. A size 4 or 6 long shank hook.
  2. Hen back furnace feathers for the claws.
  3. Krystal flash for color around the claws.
  4. Dark green wool yarn (fingerling weight) for the body.
  5. Orange wire for accent for the body.
  6. Black plastic beads for eyes (3mm)
  7. Olive hackle feather for legs and tail.
  8. Turkey tail feather for the back.
  9. Orange thread, 6/0.
  10. Clear nail polish.

The accompanying video pretty much shows how to tie the fly in detail. A few things to note is that all of the materials originate/are tied near the bend of the hook. This results in a lot of build-up on the hook and by default forms the crayfish's head. Also, because there is so much build-up, you will need to apply a lot of tension with thread wraps. I therefore use Uni-Thread. It seems to be more resistant to breaking than other brands.

You will also notice that I tied the olive hackle feather from the tip of the feather near the hook bend and palmered it so that the base of the feather ended at the hook eyelet. This results in feather barbs getting larger toward the tail of the crayfish, which initially does not make sense as it suggests longer legs near the tail. However, I try to simulate the crayfish's tail being tucked up by tying the hackle barbs back on the body from the eyelet. Having the largest feather barbs at the hook eyelet and tying them back towards the body results in a better mimicked tail.

I use red wire in the video simply because I have so much of it and I did not have orange on hand.


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