Fly Fishing Crawfish Patterns

Category Fly Fishing

Crayfish, crawdad, mud bug, crawfish: Names that describe one of the most under-utilized flies for both bass and trout. This staple food source in many rivers and lakes rarely gets any room in a fly box for some unknown reason. People have caught countless bass and mega trout on this common crustacean. I am specifically going to talk about tying and fishing this fly for smallies, but just about everything can be applied to trout.

A crayfish is a forage feeder that mainly eats small fish, nymphs, and decomposing flesh (fish, crayfish, dead animals, waste). They are nocturnal and sometimes move around during the day. They like to hide in cover like a bass in places like rocks, rock piles, erosion control areas, bridge pilings, algae, root systems and undercut banks. A crayfish, because it is a crustacean, has to molt to grow so for a time they are extremely vulnerable.

Tying the fly isn’t hard and you have a number of options for imitating the crayfish.


The first and the easiest is an impressionistic way of tying. Even though you might not even include a hackle, legs, claws, or color you give the right profile and movement that gets the fish to strike. Patterns to look for are the mixed media and foxy red clouser.


The other way you can go is a dead drift or fighting style. This looks like the natural that is drifting through the current confused, but alert. I works great when fishing deep holes. It tends to work better for larger fish because they aren’t as intimidated by claws as small fish are. Some flies to tie: clouser cray and some kind of fighting craw.


Lastly, you can go complex. With crab eyes, articulations, stinger hooks, and a multitude of other features that make the fly catch fish and fishermen. The ad-ons aren’t necessary, but they do look cool.

The final note to tying and fishing crayfish:

  • Fish them at dawn and dusk.
  • Fish them close to cover, mainly rock structures.
  • Dead drifts sometimes works better than stripping them.
  • Use them for trout also!
  • Tie them in local colors (red, orange, grey, blue, olive, sand, etc.).
  • Use materials like fox and rabbit for great movement.
  • It doesn’t need to be perfect rarely do you see naturals in perfect proportions (i.e. missing claws, molted, tail/ body broken).
  • Have fun fishing and tying them.

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