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Bucktail Craw Variant
Text and photos by Scott Lux (fishlux)

This variation of the bucktail craw was created out my frugality and almost complete lack of training. I saw a bucktail craw pattern in a magazine, and wanted to tie it. While I did not have bucktail I did have deer body hair. I made the substitution and a variant was born. The body hair is more buoyant than the bucktail. As a result, the variant sinks claws up, much like a craw in a defensive posture.

I've listed the materials and colors I used for these pictures only as a reference. Craws come in many colors, as do materials. Creative use of markers can help too. I am a big fan of using what I call ABM, Available Bench Materials. If you don't have the material specified, use something similar. I've listed a few options in parentheses.

Materials for the Bucktail Craw Variant

    Hook: Dai-Riki 710, size 4 (#2-#12). Any streamer hook, 1x long or longer will work.

    Weight: Lead-free wire (rattle) I've tried this fly with a brass dumbbell, but I didn't like the look or the action.

    Thread: 3/0 Medium brown.

    Rib (Optional): Copper wire (gold, black, or red wire, tinsel, etc).

    Body: Leech Yarn, Sand (dubbing, chenille, yarn, etc.) Leech Yarn isn't great for sizes smaller than #10.

    Shellback (Optional): ThinSkin (Raffia, Bugskin, etc.).

    Eyes: Mono Eyes, Large (plastic dumbbell eyes, melted monofilament).

    Claws: Deer body hair.

    Antennae: Horse hair (peacock herl, Krystal Flash, stripped quills, rubber legs, etc.)

Instructions for the Bucktail Craw Variant:

    1. Thread base: Tie a solid thread base. This will help hold the weight/rattle in place.

    2. Eyes: Tie in mono eyes at the bend. Use a figure eight wrap to secure them; a drop of glue too if you want.

    3. Weight: Coat thread base with super glue or flexament. If using lead-free wire, cut a piece 2x shank length. Fold it, forming a "stack" of three rods. If less weight is desired, make it 1.5x shank length and fold it in half. Tie folded weight or rattle in while glue is still wet. Glue threads. Allow glue to dry somewhat before continuing.

    4. Antennae: Cut one piece of horse hair (my preference) or peacock herl about 3x shank length and fold it in half. Tie it in so that the ends extend about a shank length beyond and below the eyes. Tying around the weight will make it more secure.

    5. Claws: Cut a small clump of deer body hair (about a small pinch) and remove the more obvious fuzz. It is not necessary (or desirable) to stack the hair. The clump will form a nice claw shape if not stacked. Tie in the hair on top of the shank, to one side. Wrap the hair a few times to minimize the flare. Trim excess from butts; this will allow the fly to sink better. Repeat for other claw. There is some evidence that smallmouth bass prefer smaller claws on their lunch. Also, symmetry doesn't matter to the fish, but it may help keep the fly from spinning in the air.

    6. Shellback (optional): The shellback should be just under one shank length, about inch wide, and tapered at one end. Attach the tapered end below the claws, just behind the eyes. It is probably easier to pierce the shellback and slide it over the hook point and up to the body. It will angle out to the front or back - that's OK, we'll move it later when we pull it down. I like to use a drop of super glue to help secure it.

    7. Tie in the rib. Tie in the body material or a dubbing loop. Wind the thread forward to one eye width behind the eye.

    Wind the body material in a figure eight around the claws. Try to separate and angle them down. Wind the body toward the hook eye, tapering it back. Secure with a couple wraps. I usually put a half hitch here. Trim excess. Pull the shellback over the body, lining it up along the shank. It is secured with the rib.

    8. Rib: Counterwind the rib forward and secure. Whip finish & cement.


As I previously noted, using deer body hair instead of bucktail causes the fly to sink tail first, much the same way a craw in a defensive posture does. I use this as a slow sinking fly. To make it sink faster, use more weight (4 or 5 rods instead of 2 or 3) and/or use less hair for the claws. Cast it upstream of and slightly to the side of a rock or current break. Let it drift around and behind, and hold on! Long fast strips will cause it to jump up and back then sink, claws up, to the bottom again. If this doesn't get a take, let it settle, wait a bit, then twitch it. Wait again, then repeat the jump.

Good luck and watch that tree behind you, ~ Scott

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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