As mentioned in my last post this fly has become a staple in my Smallmouth arsenal. It is a rare, very rare occasion that you will see me on a float with out this rigged on one of my three rods. My buddy Ed started using this pattern several years ago after talking to William Heresniak of Eastern Trophy Fly Fishing. This pattern comes form the mind of Chuck Craft, arguably one of the most accomplished Smallmouth fly anglers in the country. Crayfish patterns are kind of like Stonefly patterns in that it is hard to get the look you are going for without getting too detailed. This typically adds tying steps and time to the fly. When tying bottom crawling type flies you already know going in you are going to loose some. It is a tough pill to swallow when you take 30 / 45 minutes to tie a fly and than hang it on a rock and break it off 5 minutes after you tied it on.
The Clawdad hits on all of the key features of an impressionistic Crayfish pattern, is relatively fast to tie, and just plain catches BIG smallmouth! Could this be the perfect Smallmouth fly?
Check out the Step By Step below, tie up a few on your own and see for yourself.
Hook; Mustad R749672 2X heavy 4 XL signature hook (this is a size #4)
Thread; Tyer's choice, color to match body (I am using Veevus 6/0)
Eyes; Medium lead dumbbell eyes
Body; Medium Chenille, color to match tail
Claws; Eastern Trophy Fly Fishing Clawdad tail size to match hook, color to match fly
Legs; Medium round rubber legs
To purchase everything you need to tie click HERE
I am using the Norvise Large Inline jaw and Norvise Magnum Hubs to tie this pattern.
Disclaimer; I vary a little from the original dressing. This is a matter of personal preference in some of the things I like to see in the pattern and is not as any form of dis-respect to Chuck or William. I believe confidence in a fly is very important, while I dont think I have deviated much from the original, I do know if I like the way a fly looks I will fish it more effectively. In capable hands, both flies will produce equally as well.
Next tie in a set of medium dumbbell eyes in the same fashion you would if you were tying a Clouser Minnow. Couple of tips; 1) you can use the black coated eyes or paint the eyes afterward to match the color of the body. 2) I will use the length of the dumbell to measure back from the hook eye to know where to tie them in. 3) ABSOLUTELY glue, epoxy or light cure the eyes after tying in.
Strip the fuzzy part of the chenille off of the core and tie the core in right behind the eyes. Here I have "folded in the core". Folding in is where you tie the core down with several tight wraps, fold the tag end back over the thread wraps and wrap back over top of the core. Doing it this way makes it virtually impossible to pull out.
Here is the first tweak from the original. first lay down a little Flex Cement on the hook shank. Next wrap (or spin if using the Norvise) the chenille around the hook shank from the back of the eyes to just under the barb of the hook moving front to back. Next, wrap the chenille up on top of itself, making the body double thick, for 3 wraps moving back to front. Stop here.
Wrap your thread back to the point where the chenille is hanging and secure it with several tight turns of thread. Carefully remove the fly from the jaws and put the tail on. The tails are pre punched with a hole and will easily slide over the hook point. Return the fly back to the vise. Position the tail so it is straight and on top of the chenille on the inside of the hook bend. secure the tag end of the tail with several thread wraps advancing the thread up to the eye of the hook. A Dab of Flex cement will do you well right where the tail meets the chenille.
Now wrap the remaining chenille over the tag end of the tail and forward to the eye of the hook. Figure "8" around the dumbbell eyes to make sure they are covered. Tie off the chenille, clip and build a nice thread head. Clip your thread from the hook. You can see this double wrap technique gives a little fuller body, it also acts as a support for the tail and will keep it from sliding around the bend of the hook. I believe the fly swims better this way.
To fish the fly I like to throw it on an intermediate or a sink tip line on a short (4' max) 12# leader. Use a non slip mono loop to connect the fly, this will allow the fly to move and the action won't be effected by the heavy tippet. Cast out, let it sink and crawl or hop it back. 2016 was the best year I can remember in 30+ years of fishing our Smallmouth rivers. Myself and Ed landed well over 2 dozen fish that year over 18", several were over 20 and my personal best ever on a fly a true "blackjack" pictured below. ALL of these were landed on the Clawdad!
Till next time...
Tight lines - Tim