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Crab Apple - Realistic
By John Morin

About two seasons ago down in Chatham I started fooling around with attempting to tie a realistic crab fly. I had some Ring neck Pheasant feathers and a liking of the use of epoxy. So I cut out a round piece of green foam and covered the carapace with a Pheasant neck feather. The green color and shape created the name. From that point I started fishing rarely since I was using sand eel in Chatham almost exclusively. The only guy on Monomoy who I remember using exclusively crabs was Tom Thomas. He had developed a specialty crab for the situation and had significant luck with it. Still, I stuck with sand eels until last season when the absence of sand eels made the use of other flies more necessary.

I had significant luck with this fly especially on the drift on the flats and in holes on the North Monomoy west flats and at the Crib location. This fly has gone though many variations and the first ones were hard to tie because of the numerous epoxy applications and the habit of tying legs, eyes and claws to the hook shank.

Finally, this year I came up with a much easier way to tie the fly if you follow the steps. One major step is to do everything you can to avoid the habitual shank tie. There is, in effect, very little tying as you will see and most of the fly is done before you even tackle the vise.

Materials List:

    Hook: 1/0, 2/0 short shank Varivas.

    Thread: White Danville.

    Weight: Small to medium Lead Dumbell.

    Body: Craft foam, tan or brown, Ring Neck pheasant feathers, epoxy coating.

    Eyes: 10 Pound mono, burnt, black paint, epoxy covered.

    Legs: Six Indian neck grizzly hackles, or others.

    Claws: Ring neck Pheasant feathers, different ones from the body.

    Mouth: Krystal flash and rabbit strip cut to shape.

    Misc.: Epoxy and Sally Hansen Hard As Nails.

Instructions - Crab Apple:

1. Here is a selection of the various neck feathers you can choose to use for this fly. Keep in mind that, generally, no two flies are alike. This is because you will find yourself using different patterns and combinations. I cut a piece of tan or brown foam. This will be tan foam and the one I will use most often. The idea is to capture as best you can the natural look of the mud or brown crab which are all over the Cape.

2. In step two I choose three feathers and cut away the furry base ends and have what I think are three feathers that should cover the carapace. If your carapace is bigger or smaller, the pheasant will provide you with the right size you need, or in smaller ones you can just cut it down. Be sure you use one which has a natural pattern which will imitate the irregular brown look of a Brown Crab.

3. In step three I mix a small amount of epoxy and cover the top portion of the foam with a thin layer of epoxy, just enough to suck up the feathers. I place the first one over the middle of the foam. Toward the front or mouth of the crab. Then take the two others and put them on in the angle shown. You may have to use your fingers to move it a bit, but not to much since the wet feathers will bunch up and not do what you want them to do. Be sure when you put them on that you allow a little of the feather tips to hang over where you will have the mouth of the fly. Let set up.

4. As your carapace is setting, make your eyes the old fashioned way, by burning the opposite tips of a short piece of mono. Then either dip the bulbs in black paint or color with a magic marker. After the paint dries, dip them in (lightly, so they don't drip) a small mixture of epoxy, twist around in your fingers to be sure they form nice and round if possible, set aside.

5. Now go back to the carapace with the dry set epoxy and flip over. Take six tips of Indian Neck Dark Ginger hackle or, in this case Indian Cock neck #1 Variant hackle. Cut the base fluff off. Obviously you can use tips of some other hackle - preferable a dark color or just brown. Now, take a small amount of epoxy and lay on the spots where you want to lay the legs as shown and let set.

6. After it has set, take a bodkin and push two holes in the front of the carapace where your eyes will be put in. Cut the mono eyes down to size. To make it easy cut the mono eyes to about inch so you can push then into the bodkin holes easily with a little goop on the mono.

7. Now go to the vice and prepare the hook. In this case I use a 2/0 wide gap Varivas short hook. Cover the entire shank with white thread and tie your medium dumbbell eyes. Here I have tied them at the hook eye. This will make the crab sit on the bottom with it's claws facing up. But you can, and I usually will, tie in the dumbbell at the center of the shank so that the fly sinks right down on it's stomach on the sand.

8. Tie in a small clump of crystal flash, use a dark color of your choice. Then tie in on top of that a short clump of brown or natural tan rabbit strip as shown. Trim down as shown in finished fly, but do it now.

9. Now, Invert the hook and super glue the carapace on the shank as shown. Be sure to make sure you are centered.

10. Choose two pheasant Feathers for the claws. I like these because of the natural shape depicting actual claws with that black line down the center of the feathers. Looks like closed claws. I have used other feathers as shown in step 1 and cut them to give an open claw appearance. Do not cut the fluff off. You will need some length, it is ok to trim the fluff a little but you want this fluff to give some movement in the water.

11. Now put the fly in the vise and invert. Place the claws where shown with a little goop and then cover the feather shanks with epoxy as well as the rest of the bottom where the shank meets the foam. Remember if you want your claws facing up a bit you will need to hold them somewhat into position by pulling down slightly while they set so that when you turn it over the claws will be pointing up little. Take your time with this step, you can make slight adjustments as the epoxy begins to set.

12. When the epoxy is set take a brown or black magic or permanent marker and dot in some of the spaces between the feathers and the foam, willy nilly.

13. Now place the fly back in the vise as shown and mix a portion of epoxy and carefully spread on top of the carapace...make sure it fills in any holes and poke any air bubbles with the bodkin. Let set, remove from hook and cover with a generous portion of Hard As Nails.

14. Here is the finished fly and ready to go.

How to Fish the Crab Apple:

Since you are using it for striped bass, I fish it stationary. On the Monomoy flats I would cast it well in advance of the cruising striper or several stripers, let it settle and usually it will attract a fish. If they are in the mood they will take. They swim up, look quickly and grab it especially if there is competition between them and in nature there is. A solitary striper may take or not depending. If I twitch it they run, but that is the case with most crabs on those flats. Another successful way is the dead drift on a strong current into a hole. In the dead of summer the flats fishing is hard and cruising striper may not be feeding. The look of the crab will generally induce a strike, but you had better be prepared to strike because they will spit it out if you wait to long. Usually my crabs are a bit smaller for the flats and larger for the dead drift. ~ John Morin


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


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