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Adventures in Fly Tying... April 2008

The Kreel Craw-Dad
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard


The Kreel Craw-Dad is one of those flies that just grew on me.  I really didn't think much of it the first time I saw it.  I actually saw the Kreel Tackle Company Craw Tails in a fly shop and thought that they were ridiculous.  Yet another product to imitate the giant pincers on a crawfish, something you really don't want to imitate accurately if you're actually fishing for a trophy smallmouth bass.  Will Ryan, in his book Smallmouth Strategies for the Fly Rod (The Lyons Press, ISBN 1-59228-373-X) provides excellent documentation and explanation of this.  In short, smallmouth bass tend to be very selective and prefer crayfish between 1.5 and 3-inches long with small chelae (claws)).  My own experiences have reinforced this view.

Unfortunately, I didn't know what I was looking at at the time.  The Kreel Craw tails really aren't designed to be used two-at-a-time, as I'd assumed.  I finally found a few of the actual Kreel Craw-Dad flies at a different shop. I still wasn't impressed.  That is until I went fishing on rainy April day with Dave Votaw, our Science Editor.  The smallmouth bass were there; we kept seeing them.  But we couldn't interest them in our regular smallmouth tidbits in the 50-degree water.  Thinking it through, I had a hunch that maybe the fish weren't feeding on crayfish in the cold flows, but something else. Madtoms came to mind and, in desperation, I tied on a black-and-blue Kreel Craw-Dad that I'd purchased.  Holy Moses!!!  That outing made me a believer!

The Kreel Craw-Dad is now a regular part of my smallmouth bass stream selection.  It's proven to be a versatile "fly rod jig" for rock bass, sauger and saugeye, carp and largemouth bass too!  I carry this in largish sizes, my favorite being a number 4.  This is one fly you should definitely try.  And if you live in or are visiting an area where you might try for redfish on a fly - give this one a shot. I'll bet it just kills 'em!


Hook: Daiichi 1750 or similar 4XL ring-eye streamer hook, size 4
Thread: 210 Denier 3/0 black or color to match body

Tail: Kreel Tackle Company Kreel Craw tail or Leech Tail

Body: Black chenille or color to match local crayfish or forage items

Legs: Round rubber hackle, Sili-legs or strands from a spinner bait skirt

Eyes: Lead dumb-bell in a size appropriate to the hook

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



The Kreel Craw in black, with blue-flaked legs from a spinner bait skirt is my "hands down" favorite color in the earliest part of the season.  I think the Kreel Leech Tail is also a great alternative and fish the two interchangeably.  You can purchase the Kreel Craw and Kreel Leech tails at most well-stocked fly shops. 
You can also cut the same pattern out of suede or chamois material and color it with a permanent marker, but the Kreel products are reasonably priced and readily available in most larger shops.  Either way, this is a pattern that is built upon the material. 
You can put the Kreel Craw tail on after you start the fly.   Undoubtedly that's easier, but I don't like taking the hook out of the vise once I've started the tie.  As you'll see in the video this is a 5-minute fly.  Why add an extra step?  Put the hook point through the hole in the Kreel Craw tail and then put the hook in the vise.  You'll soon get used to working around it.
With the Kreel Craw Tail in place, start your thread behind the hook eye and lay down a solid base of tying thread all the way to the bend of the hook.  You'll actually tie materials a bit down the bend, so make sure you go all the way back.

Tie on a length of chenille. Here I'm using olive sculpin-colored sparkle chenille.  You can also dub a body with mixed furs if you want to experiment.

Make several wraps of chenille to form the "nose" of the crayfish.  This fills the hook shank between the Kreel Craw Tail and the tie-in point.  Tie off the chenille and tie in the Kreel Craw Tail.
Add a set of lead dumb-bell eyes.  These should be tied on about 1/3 of the hook shank's length back from the hook eye.
Wrap a chenille body to a point just behind where you tied in the eyes.  Give yourself a bit of room there, you'll be tying in the legs behinds the lead eyes.
Add two to four strips of spinner bait skirt material or rubber hackle to each side of the fly, providing four to eight legs per side depending on fly size and the sink rate you'd like to achieve.
Continue wrapping the chenille over the tie-in point for the legs. Wrap the chenille over and between the lead eyes and tie off at the hook eye.
This is a simple tie, fast and effective.  Try it in a few different colors and fish it on a high-stick, tight-line drift.  It's devastating on rock bass and smallmouth all year round.  For me, this is the fly that saved an April outing and made it something to remember.

Till next time, tight lines and springtime flows…

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