Fly Tying · On the Vise

On My Vise: “The Starry Eyed Crawdad”

These cold months once again have me dreaming of sitting in my boat in the sun, doing a little smallmouth bass fishing. A few weeks ago 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!

A riverside crawdad boneyard

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Starry Eyed Crawdad

Hook:Daiichi 1260 size 08-04 but that may vary depending on the size 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

 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 Buckail 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.

Once you have used the slide loop method to attach the rubber legs to either side of the hook shank, pull the legs 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*

If your material is sliding towards the opposite side of the hook shank as you wrap, you can fix the problem by pulling the material towards you.
Pull the rubber legs at a downward angle towards you while you take thread wraps away from you. Keeping tension like this will help keep everything aligned.

Dubbing the body

When dubbing the body on this fly I recommend using the normal dubbing loop method. For smaller sizes I will use the split thread dubbing loop technique. You may 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 loop.

Grab a pinch of Cohen’s Carp Dub

When you take a closer look at Cohen’s Carb 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 that extra movement under 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)

Advance your thread up behind the eyes and start wrapping your dubbing loop forward, be sure to brush back the fibers with each wrap so that the rubber strands in the dubbing don’t become matted down.

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 to finish your dubbed body.

Dub the body forward, stopping right behind the dumbell eyes. Tie off your dubbing rope and cut the excess.

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 loop 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 .

Now its time to grab your bucktails!

The way in which this material is being tied in, is done so to have it sit on an angle so 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 can have an idea on how we will do it first. Sometimes what happens if you have to adjust and readjust 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!

You will need one black and one Orange/Brown bucktail for this pattern
You will want to clip the orange with some brown mixed into it.

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.

Stack your bucktail and mix it a little bit so the colors can mingle.

Make sure your thread is advanced to the front of the dumbell eyes,  and hold the small stack of bucktail over the hook. What you are looking for, is for the bucktail tips to extend about a half a hook shank in length over the hook point. If you need a reference photo, take a look at some 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!

Pay attention to how much room you have in the gap between the dumbell eyes and the hook eye.

There are two ways to finish this fly in which I will show you, but not crowding the eye is the most important part.

Take one loose wrap and then one secure wrap, never letting go of the bucktail until you are sure it’s in place.
Once you have it in place, you can wiggle it a little bit to realign it, you can then begin to take slow, tight wraps over it. Take those wraps BACK towards the dumbell eyes first. This will give you enough room behind the hook eye, and be sure not to crowd the hook eye.
Smaller version with no ‘tail’

Here’s where you can simplify this pattern, if you are tying this is a small size like above simply cut off the excess bucktail right behind the hook eye, create a neat head over the waste ends and be done.If you are tying these in a bait fish color like I have pictured at the end of this post you can do this as well.

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”

Pull the bucktail back over the eye and take touching turns infront of it.

By doing this you will push the bucktail up over the hook eye and will be able to separate it easier into the two sections.

Bring your thread up between the bucktail waste ends, separate it into two
Continue with your figure 8’s to secure the bucktail, every so often be sure to pull it back a little so you can get the thread snug underneath it. Doing so will keep the hook eye clear.
Once you have completed securing the bucktail you can whip finish right in-front of the barbell eyes and cut your thread
You dont have to add anything else to this fly, it will fish just fine without any extra flash to it but for those of you who had messaged me about a photo on how I added the glitter, I will show you what I use.

A quick note on the starry “head cement”.

I dont always use head cement or a UV resin, usually a few whip finished are sufficient enough. Sometimes 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.

Glitter Head

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 to the trout. I have never had a problem fishing this fly without it, it just became something I liked to add from time to time.

I find these in the 1$ store and this is a lifetime supply! Its basically a glittery concentrated bottle of lacquer that I have dabbed a little onto wing cases and dumbell eyes ect.
Crawdad with no starry eyes.

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 tie them in the 04 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 small mouth will slam that fly on thr twitch. But 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 the “meal”.

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, honestly there’s not too man 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!

As well as let me know what you think about the new photo layouts, I’m testing them out! 🙂


3 thoughts on “On My Vise: “The Starry Eyed Crawdad”

  1. I’m new to flyfishing and came upon your site via Instagram. Even though you do not use a video to show how the flys are tied, the photos are clear and crisp on my tablet, I almost prefer this to the videos. My question is with this size fly, what weight rod are you using?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much Larry! I do enjoy watching video sometimes, there are plenty of things that would not work for step-by-step photographs but are great for video. I find as well sometimes it becomes a little difficult when I want to learn something because then I have to keep pausing the screen instead of just scrolling with the step-by-step. I fish this fly a lot in lakes so normally I’m using a 6 or 8 weight, but that is not needed for this fly it is just because that’s my standard Lake Rod. I have cast these very easily on a four weight as well. They aren’t too heavy!


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