These cold winter months have me longing for an afternoon of sitting in my boat, catching a bad tan and some smallmouth bass. A few weeks ago had I posted a step-by-step for The Smallmouth Sparkle Grub and today I’d like to share with you one more great smallmouth fly.
Crayfish change color throughout the year, and there is no shortage of reasoning behind this. For example: During a molt a crayfish will change colors, you can find them anywhere from the olive/brown camouflage with blue to a red/orange. Depending on your location the colors may vary again, on top of that it also depends on their vitamin intake, and what microscopic organisms they are ingesting. Darker color/muddy waters will also change this color as well, so tying them in assorted colors is a good choice.
This is why this pattern is so versatile, because all you need to do is change the colors and size to match them throughout the year. I will get into more detail on the life-cycle and habits of crayfish in a later post, but for now just know that this pattern is a must have for the summer months!
Starry Eyed Crawdad
Hook:Daiichi 1260 size 08-04 but that may vary depending on the size of the naturals where you live, so adjust it to meet your needs (In this tutorial I am using a size 04)
Thread: Black Uni thread or black UTC
Lacquer: Glitter Nail Art/Polish (Found in the 1$ store)
Eyes: Black Nickle Barbell Eyes to match hook size
Body: Cohen’s Carp Dubbing Blaze Orange
“Claws”: Barred Crazy Legs Golden Yellow/Pearl Flake
Hairwing: Orange/Brown/Black Bucktail Stacked and slightly blended
Beginning your fly
Lash your dumbell eyes to the top of the hook shank. This fly will ride hook point up when finished, but be sure to leave ample room in the front to attach the hairwing later. Advance your thread 1/3 of the way down the shank and use the slide loop technique to add one folded over rubber leg to either side of where you have stopped the thread. With the legs attached, pull them tight towards the bend and take wraps down the hook shank to cover the waste ends.
*Here’s a quick tip if you find your material to be sliding around the hook shank*
Dubbing the body
When dubbing the body on this fly I recommend using the dubbing loop method. For smaller sizes use the split thread dubbing loop technique, but here we will use the regular loop. You will also need to create more than one dubbing loop, so dont worry if you don’t think you have enough as you wrap, because when I tie this fly in a larger size; I actually aim to get halfway down the hook shank before tying it off and creating one more dubbing loop.
When you take a closer look at Cohen’s Carp Dubbing you can see that not only is it made of a great buggy material that can be brushed out, it also has rubber strands mixed in, to give a little extra movement under the water. I find that this dubbing works best in a loop as opposed to touch dubbing.
After laying your dubbing in-between the two strands of thread, give it a spin. Then use your piece of velcro to brush it out a bit. (Leave any stray fibers on the velcro! We will be using these in a minute)
Once you have reached the halfway point, use your best judgement to decide of you have enough dubbing on the loop to make it all the way to just behind the eyes. If not, then tie your loop off at the halfway point, cut the excess and create one more. Continue with the next loop in the same manner to finish your dubbed body.
If you are finding that you have a small gap of space behind the dumbell eyes,
simply take the stray fibers of excess dubbing off of your piece of velcro, apply it to your thread with a dubbing noodle and wrap it to fill the gap. The dubbing that is in your velcro should dub easily now since its only small fibers.
Brush your fly out one more time, rotating your vise so that you can see the underside as well to be sure you have covered all the bases.
Now its time to grab your bucktails!
The way in which this material is being tied in, is done so that the finished placement will allow it to sit on an angle. Tying it down in this manner is done so that it wont be in the way of the hook gap itself. If you have never secured a “hairwing” to a hook shank before, feel free to scroll down before continuing; so that you will have a better understanding before we begin. Sometimes what happens if you have to adjust and readjust it too many times, is that the batch of bucktail in your fingers may fall apart.
Once you are ready, grab your two bucktails and lets begin!
After snipping off a little bit of orange/brown mixed bucktail, Stack a few strands of black bucktail on top of it and bring it over to your vise.
Make sure that your thread is advanced to the FRONT of the dumbell eyes, then hold the stack of bucktail over the hook. What you are looking for, is for those bucktail tips to extend about half a hook shank in length over the hook POINT. If you need a reference photo, take a look at the finished flies at the end of this page.
Securing the hairwing
This part may take a little practice or readjustment to get it just right, but dont give up, you’ll get it! If you are having trouble with slipping material, try using a “dry” thread such as a 6/0 UNI thread which is un-waxed. But before you try to secure it to the hook, be aware of the space behind the hook eye itself. You DON’T want this crowded!
Here’s where you can simplify this pattern, if you are tying this is a small size simply cut off the excess bucktail right behind the hook eye, create a neat head over the waste ends and be done with it. Same goes for tying them in the baitfish patterns I have added at the end of this post, as they wont need a craw tail.
On the other hand if you are looking to create a “tail-like” silhouette on this crawdad pattern and wish to figure 8 the ‘tail’ over the eye, then you can continue with the step by step below.
Creating the “tail”
By doing this you will push the bucktail up over the hook eye and you will be able to separate it easier into the two sections.With the waste ends lifted you can now split them in two sections.
A quick note on the starry “head cement”.
I dont always use head cement or a UV resin, usually a few whip finishes are sufficient enough. Every once in a while though I like to add a little something else, and when I do, I reach for the glitter nail art! The reason I use this as opposed to regular nail polish is that its more concentrated and the applicator brush is minuscule.
Is this necessary? Not that I am aware of. Do I find it effective? Yes, but what particular reason its effective; is a mystery only the trout will know. I have never had a problem fishing this fly without it, it just became something I liked to add from time to time.
However you tie this, be sure you keep some on hand in many sizes and fish them with confidence.
Lake Fishing Tips:
In a lake for smallmouth I will cast out and let them sink near the bank. I then strip them slowly – strip-pause-strip-pause- bouncing them down rock slopes… then every so often I move them quicker, as if they were trying to escape, grab the fishes attention – then stop. Do nothing, let it sink again and twitch. More often than not those smallmouth will slam that fly on the twitch. But if i could give you one piece of advice, be aware that if you feel a bump and there’s no take when you strip the line, wait. Let it sink again. Smallmouth have a tendency to stun their prey by picking them up and spitting them back out, before actually taking it.
I have included a YouTube video that’s pretty interesting if you haven’t been able to witness this first hand. Studying the way different species eat their prey will also help you know when to set that hook a second time.
River Fishing Tips:
In rivers I honestly can say, that I cast this fly out and start to day dream. This is such a simple fly to fish in a river that its ok to do that!
Depending on the water depth I will fish this on a floating line with a sinking Versa Leader or just a floating line. In skinny water It will move on its own as its drifting in the current, then you can once again strip-pause-strip. Deeper pockets I will either add tungsten barbells or pinch weights on the line to bring it down and repeat the same retrieve, strip-pause-strip.Add a mend, strip the line quicker, but honestly there’s not too many bad ways to fish this fly.
Just keep it moving, then pause it.
I hope these flies make their way to your fly box, and if so, let me know how they do!