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Crayfish Pattern

As kids, my cousin and I would to go to nearby creeks in Southwestern Ohio with a seine to scoop minnows and crawdads to be used on our fishing expeditions for bass in Indian Creek and Four-mile Creek.


Fast-forward 30 years to 1980…by then I was fly-fishing for trout exclusively. In the spring of that year I read a magazine article written by Ron Moser who developed a crayfish pattern. It immediately brought back those wonderful memories of fishing with my cousin Terry. By the time I finished reading the article I could hardly wait to take on the task of tying this pattern and then trying it in the Rio Grande box canyon where large German brown trout reside.


The pattern was not that difficult to tie after constructing a few. However, to make the process go smoother you need to do some preparation for the pincers, the legs and the eyes.


Pincers: The feathers from the shoulder of a cock ringneck pheasant will be used for the pincers. Pull two feathers from the cape and hold about a half inch of the tip of the feather between your thumb and finger then strip the feather down to the end of the stem on both sides. Apply head cement between your thumb and forefinger and preen each feather. After each feather has dried, using your scissor points cut the stem of each feather near the center and remove the inside to form the pincer.


Legs: Pull a small saddle feather from the base of the neck from a hen or cock ringneck pheasant. Hold about three-quarters of an inch of the tip between you thumb and finger then strip the feather down to the end of the stem on both sides. The legs need no head cement.


Eyes: Hold the tip of a piece of 50 lb. monofilament at a 45 degree angle down and ignite the tip with a flame for 3 seconds and gently blow out the flame. Allow to cool forming the eye. Cut the monofilament about a quarter of an inch back from the eye and flatten the sides of the stalks with pliers.

I took this new pattern to the Rio Grande and during my first cast, in my mind; I went back to my youth remembering that crayfish like slow-moving clear water with a sandy bottom structure to burrow.


I was using a natural drift in the faster water allowing the crayfish to travel to the slower water then retrieved this crustacean an inch at a time at the end of the drift before casting again. I got a nibble during one retrieve and instinctively set the hook. I realized immediately there was life at the other end. After about 15 minutes I brought to hand a 5 pound German brown. I had tried many crayfish patterns before with disappointing results but you could say this one made an impression.


This pattern does take some practice but will be well worth it because properly fished this pattern will catch big trout. I tie this pattern turned 45 degrees toward me in my vise ensuring all the ingredients are properly aligned.




Hook: Mustad 79580 or Tiemco 9395 (4XL) Sizes 4-14

Thread: Brown 6/0

Underbody: 0.75 mm lead wire

Head/Thorax: Moose Mane tied over tan chenille.

Eyes: Monofilament (50 lb Test)

Pincers and Legs: Pheasant feathers.

Abdomen: Transparent amber or light brown Swannundaze or Larva Lace tied over moose mane.



Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Tie the thread at the eye of the hook and wrap it back to the bend. Wrap lead wire from 1/8” ahead of the bend to the eye and then back to the center of the hook. Flatten lead the wire with pliers and make several wraps of thread crisscrossing the entire length. Tie off the thread and cut. Cover the entire hook with head cement.

Cut a tuft of moose mane about 1/8 inch in diameter. Holding the hair at the butt end place it on the top of the hook about 1/4 inch beyond the bend. Carefully tie several wraps of thread to hold the hair to the hook. Pull two hairs, one on each side pointing toward the bend and tie in to represent antennae. Tie a couple more wraps of thread under the hair above the bend. Cover the thread wraps with head cement and allow them to dry. Move the moose mane slightly down the hook bend and attach one eye stalk to the far side of the hook and then the other to the tier side of the hook. Add several wraps of thread to the eye stalks and apply head cement to the wraps.

Tie on the tip of the leg feather with the dark side against the hook between the eyes. Attach the chenille at the mid-point of the hook and wrap the thread back to the eyes. Attach the left pincer at the 3/4 mark from the hook eye with the concave side of the pincer facing the tier and extended about 3/4 inch beyond hook bend. Repeat to attach the right pincer. Use a crisscross thread tie to hold pincers. Apply head cement to the wraps and trim the stems. Wrap the thread back to the mid-point of the hook.

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

Wrap the chenille toward the mid point of the hook and tie off while gently lifting the pincers up for the first two wraps. Pull the legs feather tight over the chenille and tie off.

At the mid point of the hook, tie on the Larva Lace with the flat side against the hook. Grab the moose mane tuft of hair and pull forward between the eyes and tie off at the mid point of the hook. Wrap thread over the remainder of the hook toward the eye covering the moose mane and lead wire. Tightly wrap the Larva Lace toward the eye of the hook and make several thread wraps under the moose mane at the eye of the hook and whip finish.

Trim off the moose mane hairs and apply a heavy coat of head cement. Preen the tail flat, pointing up and spread out to form the desired shape before the cement dries. Trim off the antennae 1/2 inch beyond the pincers. Finally, go fishing.

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