Tying a Realistic Crab Fly

Crafty tying methods produce realistic crab patterns for all seasons.

Crabs can make up as much as 70 percent of a redfish’s diet in many areas along the Florida coast. Shallow grass flats and mangrove prop roots offer ideal habitat for a variety of crabs. Redfish and many other species love to root around for these delicacies.

Fly fishers have an array of crab fly patterns, from simple puff patterns to epoxy skimmer bodies and a whole mess of flies that attempt at taxonomic correctness.

I enjoy building flies with simple, available, inexpensive stuff. I’ll bet you can go out in your garage and find a hot glue gun, some old heavy mono, a Bic lighter or fat emergency candle and that’s a good start towards making up a batch of mother of glue flies, MOG flies. I found cheap spinnerbait rubber skirt material at Bass Pro that works the same as the fly shop rubber legs for about half the price.

To build up the body, or carapace, I like to use the little felt disks which are sold at hardware stores for the tips on the legs of furniture; they cost a buck for six or eight, come in tan, brown or white. I like the tan.

Dig through your wife and kid’s art supplies for some old acrylic paint; off-white house paint will do in a jam. The squeeze bottles the gals use to decorate tee shirts are great fly-decorating tools, lots of cool colors! The tee shirt paints are heavy bodied and will make for some nice texture. I like bumps, spines and knobs on my crab flies. Maybe some clear fingernail polish to perk up the big eyeballs and don’t overlook a few magic markers for making crabby carapace patterns.

Last, but not least, snarf-up an old hair dryer to accelerate paint-drying time, and be sure to get some hemostats or tweezers to hold your mono when cookin’ up your big eyeballs. Keep a shallow saucer handy to cool your hot glue when you’ve fashioned elements to your satisfaction.

To improve castability of your MOG fly, use the lead wire sparingly and use the glue only for eyes, claw and legs tips. The carapace should also be coated sparingly, just enough to make a convincing shell.

A note about casting these weighty patterns: Try a sidearm stroke, about 60 degrees rather than vertical. This will reduce the tendency to develop an open loop. The sidearm approach allows the caster to punch a fly under the canopy when the margin between the mangroves and water surface is a tight fit.

Fish the crab very slowly. Make tiny strips with frequent stops and delicate hops to generate enticing mud puffs. FS

MOG Crab Recipe 1.0:

1. 3407 DT 1/0 hook or facsimile.

2. Underwrap with flat waxed thread, any color from hook eye to just before gap.

3. Tie in thin lead wire on the underside of the hook shank facing the gap.

4. Tie in a few strands of crystal flash on the top side of the hook.

5. Tie on homemade eyes (make these by burning ends of monofilament).

6. Tie on the homemade glue claws.

7. Tie on a small bundle of the thin wiggly legs on the underside facing the gap. Dab with super glue to secure.

8. Add felt pad upper body, carapace, by cutting two notches close to one end of the pad. Tie it to the top of the hook shank.

8a. You can trim and shape the pad if you like to imitate your choice of crabs.

9. Dab hot glue on the underside to secure the wiggly legs, eyes and claws.

10. Dab a generous glob of hot glue on the upper body pad, dampening your fingertips to form the upper carapace.

11. The Fun Part: Decorate the crab to match the hatch or just be creative.

First published Florida Sportsman May 2014