Dead Drift Crayfish- by GSF fly tying

featured, Fly Patterns, Step-by-Step Tutorials — By on November 20, 2012 10:20 pm

Truckee River Crayfish

A few years back during a random time-wasting YouTube session, I stumbled on Andy Burk’s page. After checking out a few tying videos I came across one about a dead drift crayfish pattern tied by Tim Haddon. At the time, I had never tried fishing a crayfish pattern dead drifted so I thought I’d give it a whirl and tied up a few. Last September on the Truckee this pattern proved itself to be a good one for me. After using it on other rivers, such as the East Walker, it has found a home in my box. I typically fish this pattern as the top fly on an indicator set up with a smaller bug such as a baetis trailing. It serves as a great attractor and even if the fish aren’t enticed to take the cray it’ll get their attention. Anyway, I’m headed back to the Truckee next week and tied up a small arsenal of these and thought I’d do a tying segment on it. Here it goes!

A barely hooked EW brown that fell for a dead drifted crayfish

Hook: Tiemco 5263 #8
Thread: Danville black 6/0
Eyes: Small bead-chain
Weight: Lead wire .025
Antennae: Crawfish orange rabbit fur and turkey tail
Flash: Root beer krystal flash
Claws: Black-barred crawfish orange rabbit strips
Shell-back: Mottled thin skin
Rib: Black wire, size medium
Body: Blend of burnt orange and olive dubbing
Hackle: Saddle hackle, ginger color
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Wrap the thread back to the point where the barb starts to flare up.

Tie in the bead chain eyes on the top of the hook by cross wrapping them. Make sure to lay down enough thread wraps to firms lock those eyes into place.

Wrap in about 20 or so turns of lead wire and push it back as close to the eyes as possible.

Coat the thread wraps with some glue (such as Fleximent or Loon Hard Head) and wrap thread over the lead to secure it in place.

Tie in a clump of rabbit fur out the back of the hook.

Next, cut 3 or 4 fibers from a turkey tail off and tie them on one side of the hook shank. Repeat this for the other side as well.

Then tie in 4 or 5 strands of krystal flash.

Cut out a piece of think skin that is just a little bit wider than the eyes and just a little bit longer than the hook shank. Taper this piece down and trim it so that it looks like the shape of a coffin.

Tie in the wider end of the piece of thin skin behind the eyes.

Hand blend up a bit of burnt orange and a bit of olive dubbing. This is a good color scheme for the Truckee River crayfish.

Dub the head of the crayfish by cross wrapping it through the eyes.

Cut 2 rabbit strips that are about an inch long. I like to cut points on the ends of the strips going out the back, but that is just purely aesthetic. Then tie in a strip on each side of the hook shank. Make sure to tie them as close to the eyes as possible. This helps flare the claws out as it drifts in the water.

Wrap the thin skin over the head of the fly and secure it with a few turns of thread. Then pull it back out of the way.

Tie in about 4 inches of wire for the rib on the side of the hook shank.

Prepare a ginger hackle feather and tie it in at the base of the stem.

Dub a body of the same orange/olive blend. Gradually taper down the body as you move forward.

Palmer the hackle forward and tie off.

Cut the top fibers of the hackle off so the thin skin has a flat place to lay down.

Pull the thin skin over and tie off.

Counter wrap the wire to secure the thin skin and the hackle

Whip finish and done!
(Top view)

(Side view)

This fly isn’t a 1-minute tie but if you tie it right, it is very durable and should last through many fish. Play with the color combos too. The original pattern uses more olive colors than the one I tie, but customization is one of the beauties of fly tying. Tie up a few and add them to your box!

Stay fly,
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  1. Frank Reid says:

    Very similar to a “Joe’s Crawdad” used to great effect in So. Mo. Great fly.

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  2. John Ross says:

    Always interesting to find new ways of tying the crayfish pattern. I think using the rabbit for the pincers makes the fly more durable. I was using hackle & I think I will experiment with your rabbit.

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  3. John Hanzl says:

    I tie one very similar to this one except where you have the lead weight,I install a glass rattle+tie it in as would the lead;and then glue it in and proceed this makes a lot of noise upon hitting bottom+ entices a strike.

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  4. DAFLYTYER says:

    Love the use of using rabbit for the pincers. Should be a great fly!

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  5. Gabriel says:

    We’ve used a similar pattern in streams of Patagonia and Los Andes for years, with a few exceptions: claws of squirrell tail and eyes of burned nylon. Folks call it “pancora”, derived from the Quechua word “apankura” wich means crayfish. It’s an excellent streamer in fast clear waters with rocky beds.

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  6. John Worobel says:

    When fishing this pattern with the weight of the body and bead chain eyes does it make it ride hook point up and when drifting the pattern does the rabbit fur claws make it twist in the water making for a nasty tangled leader

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  7. David Bell says:

    I use a fly very similar to this, tied by a gent in Arkansas. I use squirrel instead of rabbit strip. It is a deadly fly for streams with crayfish. I fish the ELEVEN POINT RIVER in Southern MO and it is a great fly for Trout and Small mouth bass, using both the bead chain or burned mono eyes. I prefer the latter and use a split shot when I need to get it down(12 inches above the fly or a bit less). But some fast water, the bead is needed, or the weight wire or both). — David

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  8. Don Peterson says:

    Interesting. Has anyone used a “keel” hook for this pattern. Dick Pobst, original owner of he Thornapple Orvis Shop in Ada, MI developed the “keel” hook and a crayfish pattern for this style hook. I still have some of these hooks and will attempt a tie using the “keel” hook. Dick wrote a book called “Fishing the Impossible Places” as I recall. I have a copy in my library which is still packed from my last house move. I have big plans for more tying once I retire next June. Hopefully I’ll have a chance ti try this pattern on the Muskegon River next summer. The keel hook might be a good choice as if tied properly the pont rides up and is somewhat protected by the claws which were deer hair on Dick’s pattern. The keel hook was a good choice for crawling big hairy bugs over Lilly pads also. Once again, I have plans to see if i can make Dick’s hooks and patterns work on some of the local lakes for boh bluegills and bass,

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  9. David Castlen says:

    Anyone using flying like this in South Florida? I have a great crayfish pattern I have tied but have had next to zero luck…… I am in far SE Florida ( Boynton Beach) using the fly in fresh water….. maybe I don’t use it enough. Now that it is getting cool perhaps I’ll start going down more and use it. But again, has anyone out there used crayfish pattern here in South Florida with any luck in fresh water???

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  10. David Castlen says:

    I ment to write, “Anyone using flies…” not “flying”

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  11. Andrei says:

    Great pattern. I use it succesfully in Romania for perch and chub.
    Just a little note : in this tie the upper shell ( the thin skin) stays downwards because of the dumbell eyes. Maybe it wold be more reallistic if you placed the thin skin on the inner side of the hook :) .
    Another very useful ideea is to place the lead in right strips on the outer side of the hook ( just as the dumbells)in order to keep the hook pointing upwards on the bottom of the water evoiding the snags :)

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