Update: All things change with time. Click here to see this fly in it's latest evolution - with a tying video. The basic construction remains the same with a few slight variations.
I've had a request from Jonn Streamstalker Graham for a recipe to tie Clif's Crawdad, and much to my surprise I've recently had a reader who navigated to my blog by Googling "Clifs Crawdad." One can only imagine how someone arrived at the point in their life that they were Googling that particular arrangement of letters, and their ensuing surprise to find a useful link here at Lunker Hunt. Anyway....
To appease the masses I tied another tonight, this time taking pictures along the way and including some improvements I thought of while tying the first. It took me about an hour to whip this one out, but I was taking notes and snapping pictures so you can do it faster I'm sure. I also came up with some new ideas for the next that I've included below. So as I relax in my living room with a frosty adult beverage and soothed by the sweet rhythmic sounds of Camera Obscura's album Underachievers Please Try Harder we'll dive together into a step-by-step instruction of how to tie Clif's Crawdad bass fly. This bass fly is an attempt by me to imitate a crawdad (or crayfish). Don't tell anyone, but it is weighted to sink so I suppose you could probably cast this on regular spinning gear.
1) Put a rattle on a 3/0 offset worm hook as shown below, a straight shank is required but don't use a bait holder. This style hook is readily available because it is often used with soft plastics. Start your thread behind the rattle. I like a 210 denier thread for this particular fly, but that can be up to you. You'll definitely need to pick a thread color to match the color you plan for the fly's body, in my case black.
2) Tie in a length (2-3") of monofilament line to act as the weed guard. Wrap it down the curve of the hook as shown below. In my case, I happen to have some 20lb test laying around; I wouldn't any lighter than this, but anything heavier should work fine.
3) Tie in some chenille near the start of the bend and wrap it 3 times tightly to make a ball. You'll use this ball later to make the antennae stand up. Again, I planned a black body so I've used black chenille.
Protip: I discovered the first time that you'll end up using a lot of chenille so I suggest you leave it on the spool to avoid having to tie in another piece. Tying in another piece later is going to be tough because of the rattle.
4) Flip the hook over or rotate your vise, this will put the fly in the position that replicates how it should sit on the lake/river bottom. This is important because you want the antennae to stick up into the water and not down into the mud. Fold a rubber feeler in half and tie it on the hook. Make it snug against the chenille ball and wrap the thread up to the ball to make the feelers stand up. You'll want to position the feelers so they stick out on either side of the hook, but still point upward. I used a orange/black striped feeler to go with this particular color scheme.
5) Using a figure eight pattern, tie on lead barbell eyes (like the Clouser Minnow) behind the rattle then wrap your thread forward to the position shown below, securing the rattle to the hook along the way. The first time I tied this, I positioned the weight closer to the hook eyelet and used the small size barbell eyes. This time I've moved the weight toward the bend to try and get a better weight distribution.
Protip: In this fly I upped the eyes to the medium size but I think this was a mistake because they are so large it's difficult to wrap the chenille over them. So stick with the weight position I show below, but use a small set of barbell eyes.
6) Take a rabbit strip and remove the hair from about 6 inches of the center of it. I used scissors to cut off the hair, then rubbed the scissors' edge against the skin like a razor to pull off the fine stuff. I'm using orange and black rabbit strip. An alternative would be to cut the strip in half and shave ~3 inches from each. This would allow you to make sure the two strips lay in the fly with the same "grain direction" so the hair lays in the same direction on both strips.
7) Fold the strip in half and tie to the hook just in front of the rattle. Or, if you opted to cut your strip in half, tye both strips side by side in the position shown.
8) Run the strips down the sides of the fly and wrap with thread. Make sure to do a couple extra loops on each side of the barbell eyes to help secure them. Wrap the thread back to the eyelet side. You want the strips to be positioned on opposite sides of the hook.
9) Flip your hook back over and start wrapping the chenille forward toward the thread. Make sure to wrap the chenille tightly to secure the antennae and rabbit strips against the chenille ball you made previously. Also you'll find yourself making a few extra wraps in front of the weight as shown below. This helps keep the body of the fly straight and uniform.
10) Continue wrapping the chenille forward to the thread, when you get to the end of the rattle you need to transition it back to the hook. I find it helps to do a couple loops over the chenille (like you're tying it off). Otherwise the chenille will keep slipping off the rattle.
11) Tie off the chenille at the point where the first bend is near the hook eyelet.
12) Cut out a piece of Thin Skin that is about the size of the fly body. I don't think Thin Skin is too commonly used so I also included a picture of the packaging to help you find it at the store. It's a thin plastic material you cut to size, then peel off a backing material and use in the fly.
13) Flip your hook back over and tie the Thin Skin to the side that will end up being the top. Tie in such as way that it looks "articulated" (has humps), then trim off the excess.
14) Remember that mono that you tied in and have been fighting with this whole time? Well it's time to bring that up and through the hook eyelet. Put a couple loose thread loops over the mono as I've demonstrated so well in the picture below. Then slide the mono around so that it is inline with the hook point and you think it will provide some snag resistance.
15) Tie the mono down tightly and cut off the excess. Tie your favorite knot to finish a fly and cut the thread.
16) Now it's time to take the fly dad out of the vise, but you're not done yet. None the less, it's starting to look good, isn't it?
17) Cut the antennae and rabbit strips to length.
Protip: Bass will be reluctant to pick up a crawdad with really large pinchers.
18) Shave some more hair off the strips to make the two even.
19) Dip the whole body in head cement. This will help give it some durability. But don't get crazy because the strips will soak it up and you'll end up harding part of the pinchers, robbing the fly of some action.
20) Hang the fly in your vise with the eyelet down. This orientation will help keep the cement from running "downhill" into the rabbit strips. Let the cement dry over night.
Protip: (not pictured, but well advised): You can judiciously apply a drop or two to the base of the strips then clamp them to the vise in an orientation that will help them "stick out" from the lure once dry. But again, don't get crazy. Once there's too much cement in the strips you can't get it out.
Now get some sleep, you deserve it and your fly will be ready when you wake up. If you can't contain the excitement and don't catch a wink you can refer to your cement instructions for curing time. Now congratulations are in order, you've tied Clif's Crawdad. If you're interested in seeing how the fly behaves under water, I had a video (here) in a previous blog post.