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Adventures in Fly Tying... August 2006

Skip's Dad
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Videography and Production by Jim Stuard

Skip Morris is an incredibly talented and prolific fly fisherman, fly tier and writer.  He has authored nine books.  This fly was detailed in his sixth book; The Art of Tying the Bass Fly.  For me, finding this pattern in that book was a marvelous gift of fate.  The Skip's Dad is a great clear-water imitation of a crayfish and it counters, almost perfectly, the impressionistic Foxee Red Clouser that is my other "go to" crayfish imitation.  Between the two patterns I'm almost never in need of a third choice when fishing Midwestern creeks for smallmouth bass and rock bass. 

I call Skip's Dad a clear water fly because it works best in the slow, clear flows of late summer.  It was, in fact, designed specifically for sight fishing to smallmouth bass in clear flows.   More than this, the Skip's Dad is just the right size, shape and color to effectively imitate young-of-the-year crayfish so abundant in late July, August and September.  Unlike so many crayfish imitations that over-emphasize fat claws and square tails, the Skip's Dad offers up a well proportioned profile, properly sized claws and an easy tying sequence that makes for much less pain when ubiquitous rocks and snags claim a half-dozen flies in a day's fishing.

The Skip's Dad is a fly that effectively imitates a fully-formed hard-shell crayfish of one-half to one-and-one-half inches in length, a magical size for smallmouth bass.  A study on the streams and rivers of central Ohio demonstrated that smallmouth bass consistently preferred crayfish 1Ό  inches long to those 1½ inches long.  Bigger is not always better...

The Skip's Dad is not a fly designed to be fished with an active retrieve in high, stained flows.  It doesn't displace enough water to have a strong sonic signature and it isn't made of soft, flowing materials with lot's of inherent motion. Instead, this is a fly that works its best in gin-clear water where the fly can be retrieved with a very slow crawling motion along the bottom in the rocky, shaded areas where crayfish naturally congregate.  It's a very effective and realistic visual imitation that's at it's best under conditions where the suggestive, soft, moving, translucent Foxee Red is most compromised.  Fishing the Skip's Dad under an indicator so it just barely bounces along the gravel and stone of the stream's bed can be a super-productive technique!

Windows Media     QuickTime


Hook – 2xl to 3xl regular or heavy wire.  Mustad CS53 size 8 shown.

Thread – Brown 6/0, 140 denier

Tail – The butts of the pheasant tail fibers that form the shell back
Body – Thickly dubbed brown or brownish-olive rabbit, squirrel or blended dubbing
Shellback – Pheasant tail fibers

Claws – Pheasant tail fibers

Weight – Lead eyes, unpainted.






1.  Place the hook in the vice and begin thread wraps at the half-way point of the shank.  Wrap back to a point above the bard and dub a "ball" of dubbing to form the nose/mouth of the crayfish imitation. 

2.  Attach lead eyes using criss-cross and frapping wraps.  You can add a drop of cement to firm up the eyes if needed. 

3. Select a well marked pheasant tail feather and stroke about 1" of barbs to a right angle from the feather's stem.  Clip the pheasant tail barbs and tie on under the eyes and splayed to one side.  I make a wrap or two around just the pt fibers to hold them together and better imitate the claw of the crayfish.

4.  Prepare a second bunch of pheasant tail fibers and tie on the near side to make up the second claw.

5.  Invert the hook in the vice or rotate the jaws if you're using a rotary vice.  Tie on a third bunch of pheasant tail fibers by the tips. This bunch will form the back of the carapace of the crayfish.  Tie on a length of copper wire for ribbing.

6.  Carefully dub around the lead eyes.  Dub a thick, tubular body to the hook eye.  Leave enough room to tie off the pheasant tail fibers and copper wire.  Don't crowd the hook eye!

7.  Bring the pheasant tail fibers over the dubbed body and tie down with a few tight wraps of thread.  Rib the body and pt shellback with the copper wire.  Four or five wraps is about right.  Tie off wire and clip excess

8.  Draw the shellback fibers down and under the hook eye and clip off square to form a tail for the crayfish.  Wrap a neat thread "head" and whip finish.  Apply head cement and go fishing!

Till next time, tight lines and cool water…