Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Cray-minal Minds

"Why" you ask would I devote an entire blog post to the gnarly, lobsteresque little crustaceans that roam our streams? Well read on...

These are fascinating creatures on their own, but to an angler they are especially of interest. Here are a few quick points and facts that you may have not known--and may want to know!

  • There are more than 500 species worldwide, about 350 of them are in North America
  • Crawfish mate October-November, a rare time when two can be in the same small area (i.e. attached!). All other times of the year, they keep to themselves.
  • Large crayfish are active from dusk till dawn or on heavily clouded days. Smaller crayfish are active during the day.
  • Crayfish are born, grow to size and die all within about 2 years
  • They molt their shells multiple times as a part of growth, and are "soft" for a few days following a molt
  • Crayfish have been found in the stomachs of trout as small as 5"
  • The largest crayfish can reach 8 pounds
  • All legs and claws can be regenerated if lost
  • "Walk" slowly forward in normal feeding but shoot rapidly backwards if escaping
  • Are a favorite food of everything from Bass to Browns
Now that you're a little more familiar with these bottom-dwellers, here are some great examples of how to imitate them on the end of your fly line:

Chain Gang Crayfish
(Recipe Here)

Fighting Cray

Hunt's Hybrid

Galloup's Craw

Ritt's Crayfish

Something to notice about all these flies are the massive leadeye and, in some cases, lead wraps on the hooks. Crayfish live, feed, breed, and die on the BOTTOM. They crawl around on the BOTTOM. That's where their food is and that's where their safety is. A crayfish in the middle of the water column is one of two things: 1) dead or 2) fake. Let's think about this....

Fish aren't stupid. If someone walked into your dining room and rigged a system of string and pulleys to make your steak levitate mid-air, would your first thought be to bite into it? Hell no! Same with fish and their dinner...put their food where they see have seen it every other time they've eaten it. They know what crayfish are, how they act, what they look like and where they are normally found.

So that awesome crayfish pattern that you are expertly swinging downstream with quick rips back up...get it on the BOTTOM. Fast current? More weight! Slow current? Crawl it! I am definitely going to be fishing more craw streamers in the next few weeks, and I think they will definitely be a good producer for me. Time to get tying I suppose!!


  1. Great post. I believe in Dave Whitlock's philosophy on crayfish patterns- in his book Trout and Their Food he writes, "don't make the pincers more than one quarter of the total fly length." I've had pretty much no luck with patterns that have exaggerated claws, but the ones with small claws or none consistently produce. That drawing there is Dave Whitlock's... the man knows about crayfish and trout.

  2. Will
    The crawfish to me is one of the most prodcutive flies I have ever used with the fly rod and also with the spinning reel. Great Post.

  3. Jay, that is helpful to know about the claw size; that has been partly the most intimidating part of tying these flies--you just made it easier!

    Bill, that is good to hear, and it sure makes me want to get out and fish more of them. I'm anxious to see what they'll do, especially at night!

  4. So, what's the difference between a crawfish and a crayfish?

  5. Chris, what I want to know is why "Craydad" isn't one of the names. It is now...!