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
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
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
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
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.