Techniques for Fishing Crawfish Patterns

Alright you Dirty Anglers! Let's talk Crawfish, Crayfish, Crawdads or Clawdads...Whatever you wish to call these armored, Dirty little creatures!

It's my belief that crawfish pattern flies are greatly misunderstood. So, to make a bold statement like that you'll demand I back that up. Here's my take on this and I'm going to start with shooting a bullseye right at the fly tying industry first.

I've found a lot of crawfish in nature but I've yet to find a live one colored orange. Unless you have crawfish in a pot of boiling water their color is NOT orange! But yet every fly shop fly bin has orange crawfish patterns in them.

Yes, there are red crawfish in the south regions but most of us have crawfish in the brown or olive coloration. They might have hints of orange but all orange is rarely ever found in nature. If you have orange crawfish in your fly box, take them out now and let's start over, pronto!

Colors to look for are tans, browns, chocolate browns, olives, dark olives, blacks. Highlight with hints of red, chartreuse, blue and copper. My "go to" crawfish flies are brown with copper highlights or black with blue highlights or dark brown with olive highlights.

My general rule is your pattern should closely match the the bottom of where you are fishing or go with black for an increased silhouette in stained water.

While it would seem bigger is better I prefer to keep them small and slim. Small and slim profiles sink better and since I want this fly on bottom bulky material will just slow down the sink rate or even prevent your fly from reaching bottom. I see some crawfish patterns having big bulky claws, these are not necessary. Matter of fact a crawfish pattern could not have claws at all and still be effective. Often in nature crawfish will have just one or no claws at all most likely lost in defense of predators.

Back to the fly
Crawfish patterns need to have strong hooks that are tied to ride up. These characteristics along with strong tippet will give you the ability to work around heavy structure.

Heavy Fly and Heavy Tippet
Along with a slim body a crawfish pattern will need to be heavily weighted in order to sink well when attached to heavy tippet.

Fish it like you intend to lose it
Crawfish survive by their ability to run and hide from their prey. They scurry under rocks, boulders and wood structure and will remain relatively close to hiding spots.

To make natural presentations flies need to be cast right on these structures and allowed to fall in and around them. Too many anglers spend all their efforts trying to avoid such situations when they should be aggressively going after those tough presentations.

Once you have presented the fly try to keep sight on it as long as possible on the initial drop. Many strikes occur at those first descending moments. Don't be in a rush to start stripping. Maintain a taunt line without moving your fly. Keep on the alert for any tick movement at all times.

Next action is to make 2-3 very short strips like 2-3 inch strips, short and quick! Pause....2-3 more short strips! Pause. At this point if nbo strike has accured go ahead and lift fly quickly and recast to next location.

Avoid presenting/stripping your fly all the way back to you. The longer you dredge bottom the more likely you will snag the fly. Most strikes occur on or after the initial drop and strips. No need to continue. Cast to a new spot and keep moving.

Things to cast on include, rocks, logs, root wads, quick drop offs, points and man made structures.
When sun is high fish the shady sides. Imagine there is a fish under every boulder you see, More than likely there is!

About leaders and tippet
In this type of fishing I tie my own leaders. Start with a 30" section of heavy nylon monofilament in the .024" - .026" range and nail knot that directly to your fly line. No loop to loop in this setup. You want NO possible slack in this system. Hatch Professional Med/Hard Monofilament leader material is a good choice.

Next slip on an indicator such as RIO's Kahuna LT. Slide that right up to the nail knot. This indicator is not made to float anything. It's purely for sight reference to help detect those slightest of strikes.

Next tie on 30" of 30# fluorocarbon leader, then 30" of 25#, then onward to 20# and in most cases I'll end in 16#. You got to be the judge of what your final tippet needs to be in order to avoid detection.
Personally I believe if you fish this fly correctly you won't have tippet shy problems.

All blood knots, no loop to loops. Tie fly on direct with a palomar knot. No loop knots!

The idea of the monofilament butt section is that it will somewhat float while the rest of the fluorocarbon leader will want to sink. Along with the indicator your fly line should stay on the waters surface while the rest of your leader is free to sink. The indicator is needed to detect the slightest tick of a strike.

The Strike
Strike detection is the utmost importance to succeed in this fishing. Big predators that eat crayfish typically engulf and crush the crawfish in order to kill it and avoid being pinched. Strikes are usually not an eat and run ordeal. One slight tick on your indicator my be the only sign of a strike you will get. Don't hesitate, hook set immediately.

I've watched countless many times anglers detect the initial strike and remain still waiting for something bigger to happen. I always say the next tick in the line will be him spitting it out. Hook sets are free, all day long! Take advantage of that. I'd rather find out I set on nothing than miss a possible catch of a lifetime.

Hint...the biggest bass will strike the lightest

It took me years to feel confident in fishing craw patterns on fly rods. I knew how to do it with gear rods but struggled to translate it to a fly fishing. I hope this info can help advance you along much quicker path than I did. It's become one of my favorite ways to fly fish for predators.

Video - How to Fly Fish a Balance Leech and Indicator in a Lake

Came across this. How similar this is to float and fly bass. All the way from line choice, rigging and even fly is made to fish horizontal.

Warmwater Lake Fly Fishing

Largemouth Bass on Fly

Over many years of warmwater lake fishing I can count on one hand how many other anglers I've witnessed fishing with a fly rod. I'm talking hundreds if not in the thousands of days spent on the lake warm water fishing and rarely ever see another angler with a fly rod. Why is this water so barren of fly anglers!?

Do you have a warm water lake or reservoir near you? Let me provide you some reasons you might want to fly fish this water.

Let's start with the obvious...No one else is doing it!

These warm water fish have seen every lure known to man but they have never seen a fly. That is a HUGE advantage! They've never seen streamers or natural looking crawfish patterns. No one has ever fished a beetle, dragon fly, diving hair frog or fly popper to them.

Multi Species

Lakes usually have many different species inhabiting them. This fact can make the fishing interesting when you are never sure what you have hooked. It also can provide options when some species seem are being hard to find others may be readily available.

Crappie on Fly

Room to Fish

When the local trout streams are crowded I can usually find solitude on lakes. Sure, you'll need a watercraft of some type to get there but that becomes part of the adventure. A boat or kayak, I've even ventured out in my Outcast Stealth Pro on lakes and found great fishing.

Catfish on Fly

Stable Environment

When you favorite river gets blown out by a storm the day before you were all set to fish it why cancel out the day and sit on the couch whining about it. Go to a lake instead. Most lakes can take a pretty good storm without being disrupted. Sometimes the influx of fresh rain water can even turn fish on. Make your local lake a plan B and before you know it might become your plan A.

Wild Fish

The other day I had a trout fisher friend from Colorado with me on a local lake. We were having a great time catching smallies. At some point during the day he asked in a statement way, "so these fish are hatchery I assume?"

It never ever occurred to me that this could be a question but I guess if you only grew up around stocked trout fisheries then why would one assume warmwater would be any different. New  reservoirs may have some original plantings of species but after that most warm water lakes and reservoirs are self sustaining and therefore the fish stocks are wild.

The Pursuit

Remembering back many years ago the first time I took a fly rod to a lake I felt a bit like it was a needle in a haystack kind of situation. Armed with a craw pattern fly a friend had given to me it wasn't long and I found some smallmouth bass. Pretty soon I was spotting carp to cast to and after a few failed attempts I finally got one hooked up. Today I've caught on fly about every warmwater species you'll find in the most lakes.
Throwback to 2014 - My first fly caught smallmouth

Funny Looks

I get funny looks from other anglers I encounter and many have asked if I am actually catching anything. Funny part is while they within my sight and catching nothing I was quietly releasing my catch so as to not give away any secrets.

I'm Hooked

For me a fly rod on a lake is not only a viable, fun tool but I've also come to realize that in many situations in the right hands it is a superior tool. I can deliver pinpoint accurate cast with realistic presentations and offer to multi species, natural imitating fly patterns with an end result of incredibly fun fishing.

Now, Why aren't you doing this!

Spring Bassin - GFS Throwback from march 2013

April 12  - Low and Clear

Are you waiting for summer to get here? Me too! But I’m not waiting till summer to go Bass fishing...Best time for spring Bassin’ is coming along right quick. So let’s get ready to go kick some Bass!

Spring Bassin’ for fisherman can vary greatly across the nation due to the wide range of waters where they live, and the fact that they can be found in all the continental states.  However, for the purpose of this article, I will be referencing the NW waters of the Columbia River where Micropterusdolomieu (The Wiley Smallmouth) has found a home.

The Big Question

When do I start fishing for Bass? Is May too early? How about June? Not too many years ago my answer would have been when the water temps reach 50 – 55, and oh how I got funny looks from unbelieving fisherman. What if I told you that you can be catching Bass right now! No Kidding, I have caught many fish right down to the 40 degree water temp mark. Do you believe me? I understand if you don't, because not too many years ago, I wouldn’t have believed me either.
Fact is fish need to eat and they will. The trick is to be there when they show up for dinner.
So forget about water temp and focus on conditions that will determine how we fish for Bass.

First up is water clarity; low and clear or high and stained. Chances are, early in the season, you will find low and clear and as spring progresses, the high and stained will become the norm for some time while snow melts and spring rains cascade from mountain rivers.

I like to get started fishing while the water is low and clear. It’s amazing what new structures you’ll spot in these conditions, so take note of every rock, log, drop off and any little subtle difference in the underwater landscape. This will be useful knowledge when the high and stained conditions arrive. Bass are structure oriented fish. They like to be near something and be able to retreat to deeper water if needed. In low clear water stealth must be your game. Smallmouth Bass are alert creatures so shadows and noises can turn them off or drive them away easily. Clear water calls for long casts and quiet approaches. Patience is required for this early spring fishing.

Strip, Strip, Pause!

Normally I would tell you to fish with some pretty heavy flies on bottom for these big river Smallies, but not for low and clear conditions. I look to the suspending or slow sinking bait fish patterns. Flies like Zonkers, Sea Habits, light Clousers and a couple of no name patterns I like to tie. Bass can see quite well in clear water and you need to give them some time to come look at what you're offering. If the bass come looking for dinner in clear shallow water then they will most likely be feeding’s really easy to fish underneath them in the early spring. Cast long and allow your fly to simmer in its landing location. Keep your line tight without moving your fly and be very observant to any motion in your line. Proceed with a strip, strip and pause retrieve.....Strip...Strip....Paaaaaause....Vary your pauses and watch your line for any movement. Now listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you: If you witness any twitch...even the slightest twitch, do not hesitate...set the hook and set it hard. Big Bass don’t nibble and they also don’t peck at food. A twitch in your line means he just inhaled the fly and the next twitch you see will be him spitting it out. I have witnessed angler after angler make this fatal mistake and they all say these words, “I was waiting for him to really hit it”. Sure there are days they’ll yank the rod out of your hands but more often than not the strike is very subtle especially in the early season. This might be my favorite technique but it demands calm clear water and bit of afternoon sun can go a long ways.

A few flies I like for these conditions: Sea Habit, Zonker and Lite Clousers

Let the wind blow! 

And it will and we will curse it over and over again, but I have learned to embrace the wind to some extent and realize that, while it has its challenges, it also has some benefits. If it has been windy for some time this will stir the water and start to add color, and with spring winds, usually comes the rain. Combine wind and spring runoff and now you have high and stained or even muddy water at times. I know many anglers that will refuse to fish muddy water. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, high and muddy water makes bass location predictable. So, awhile back I said to pay attention to every rock, log, drop off and any little difference in the landscape when the water is low and clear. Hopefully you remembered some of those locations. High muddy water will move bass in shallow and put them right on those structures and with some wind chop and stained or muddy water, we can move in close to these locations without fear of spooking fish away.

Now you want to fish a fly with some weight to it. Exposed lead eyes or bead head flies work great here. Cast your fly right into those structure locations and make contact with something solid...a stump, log or even just a rocky bottom. Bass are classified as site feeders but their other senses are not to be underestimated. I am quite certain that bass will move in on sounds that may resemble a crayfish working in the rocky bottom or an injured baitfish. Sounds of a fly banging against rocks can draw fish to your fly, and when he gets close enough, his vision will spot the meal. Warning...If you want to catch fish you're going to have to cast flies into places where they may not return from. Don’t spend an hour tying the best-ever bass fly because you're going to get pretty frustrated after losing a couple. In muddy/stained water a bead head black wooly bugger can be quite effective and a little chartreuse in the mix can go a long way to getting that strike. So plan on losing some flies but in time you’ll learn to dance them over the laydowns and bounce them though the rocks.

A few of my favorites for bottom-contact fishing:  Creek Crawler, Clouser, Action Crab, and an articulated steelhead pattern that we'll just call "The Calvin" named after its tyer

I have had many great days Bassin’ in early spring, some of my best days actually. The best advice I can give is to not pay attention to water temperature but instead fish the conditions that exist at the time you can get on the water. If I could pick my most favorite early season conditions it would be low and clear with light wind and sunny skies. Those days are few and far between so just go fish when you can, determine the conditions, fish accordingly and rarely will you be disappointed...

~Rambling Thoughts of the Tormented Angler

March 27th... 1 out of about 10 caught that day... Low and Clear
May 17th... 1 out of about 15 this day.  My client cancelled his trip with me on this day because he said the water was too high and muddy to catch fish... He missed out!

Gear Selection:
Sage Bass Series Smallmouth Bass Rod – This is my “go to” gun for those heavy bottom flies…It has power to spare plus the backbone needed to pull though the nastiest of snags.

Rio Outbound Short - Full Intermediate – Shoots great…I use an Airflo sinking polyleader to reach the final depth I wish to achieve.

Nautilus FWX 7/8 Fly Reel - Handles both the line and fish.

G.Loomis NRX 9’ 7wt Rod – Distance with ease for the large, light-suspending flies.

S/A Textured Titan Taper Fly Line – Carries these large flies and the high flotation of the line makes for easy pickup. The orange color also makes it easy to see.

Lamson Speedster Fly Reels - Balances this rod so perfectly that I can cast all day with total comfort.

Flies – Use your imagination when it comes to flies. You can see I use an assortment of Bass, Saltwater and Steelhead flies.


Gorge Fly Shop Internet Sales Manager | Product Specialist

"Fly Fish the World with Us"

Chile - 2019

Just back from 2nd annual trip to Chile. It would be hard not to make this an ongoing annual trip from now til ???

I apologize now for sparse details about location but it must remain so as I am under a honorary oath to do so. If interested in this experience you can contact me direct.

What I can tell you is this game is for migratory brown trout. Like steelhead, much of your success involves how many fish are in the river. This years warm weather had us concerned. Those concerns where soon laid to rest.

What I've learned about fishing for these migratory's is they are moody! Sometimes it's everything you can do just to get one to show itself and other times they are aggressively willing.

New this season, I added an approach of big top water beetle fishing. Glad I did seeing that three of my catch came to hand this way and several other fished appear for the offering. The visual is epic!

I've caught many brown trout but these fish are different. They are shouldered and strong. Fish of recent migration appear much more silver like. A couple of my catches jumped more than I've ever seen. Full body out of water type of jumps.

This fishery will test you and your gear to the max!

We're back home now and recovering. Muscles aches and sleep deprivation are on the mend but all we can think about is next year!

Fishing Philosophy Chapter 2122019

I torment myself with fishing rods

Today's vision is this 3'8" 2pc ultra lite baitcaster along with soon to be custom built 8' 4wt 4pc sage accel for the purpose of ultra lite single hand skagit. The vision is on foot small stream wade upstream while baitcasting pockets with lures then at turn-around, switch rods, which will fit in same rod tube, to swing tactics while fishing back downstream.

I can think of two sections of rio chama that this is feasible. Also possible section of Gila river and just came to mind a section of rio grande

And of course that is just in state.

You know I watch a lot of guys, industry people especially, much of the time they seem to be about impressing people with their fly fishing prowless...I only ever wanted to be the best angler I can be. Be to a point where it's more success by skill rather then luck. for this reason I cannot tie myself solely to one method.. doing so would severely restrict the use of skill. When I'm on the stream or lake the only person I need to impress is me. No one else matters. I'm not comfortable with sheer luck even tho much of this is luck.

Maximizing my skill set for every fishing situation will hopefully bring about solving the issue of finding success. If there is fish in the water I'm fishing I need the skills to catch them. There is no excuse for me

I never want to tell stories of wonderful weather and beautiful scenery...those are excuses

Over decades I've caught fish in the most unlikely scenarios. Of course perseverance plays a key role but there is still some sort of mythical lack of understanding that ones own belief in success will in-fact bring about success. To me it's the greatest phenomenon in the skill set of fishing. Believe you will catch fish and percentage of success will prevail, Doubt you will catch fish and more often then not that will be your fate.