Fly Of The Week
Henry's Crawfish
Henry's Crawfish
Deke Meyer
Photos by the Author

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Henry's Crawfish

I was introduced to this fly by Chip Hall at Gillionville Plantation, Albany, Georgia. Chip's version was a take-off of a bonefish fly by Tim Borski of Islamorada, Florida, but this final crawfish is a simplified rendition by Henry Williamson. Henry is a fly fishing instructor from northern Georgia with an eye towards designing flies that are easy to tie and catch fish.

This crayfish pattern is simple, but deadly for largemouth and smallmouth bass, and for any fish that eat crayfish. The mottled effect of natural deer hair mimics the broken camouflage of natural crawfish; when crawfish swim, their claws are swept straight back behind them, as suggested by the deer hair tail. Also, when bass bite this fly, the deer hair is kind of crunchy, just as the natural crayfish must be, so bass tend to hold onto the fly long enough for you to set the hook.

Tying Tips

Don't try to make a work of art when tying this fly; it's designed to be a rough approximation of a baby crayfish, and as such, don't sweat the artistic dignity of this fly. You can enjoy the skill of fly tying when you're extricating the fly from the mouth of a husky bass. Henry's Crawfish is meant to be fished, and is most effective in the smaller sizes.


You can add a palmered body hackle to this fly, but it's really not necessary. The lead eyes are tied on top of the hook, so when fished, the fly swims upside down, keeping the hook point up away from snags, making a weedguard unnecessary. Because the underwater take to this fly is often light, and because the fly is so easy and inexpensive to tie, it makes sense to just tie up a bunch of the, without worrying about a weedguard. A weedguard is often a fishguard that makes hooking fish more difficult.


Hook:  2X or 3X-long shank, heavy wire, sizes 4-10.

Thread:  To match hair, 3/0.

Tail:  Natural deer hair.

Hackle:  Optional, brown.

Body:  Natural deer hair.

Eyes:  Lead barbell, or other weighted eyes.

Weedguard:  Optional.

Tying Steps:

1. Debarb hook, insert in vise and attach thread. Tie in deer hair tail, length equals hook shank. (Don't worry about making the hairs ends even since crawfish claws are unruly, we are merely suggesting them.) Trim excess hair where tied down.

2. Wrap two loose turns around a pencil-thick bunch of deer hair and hook shank (while holding hair).

3. Release hair while pulling straight down on thread. As hair flares around hook, wrap one tight turn of thread around hair. Stroke hair back to the rear, bring thread forward through hair, wrap one turn around hook shank in front of hair. Push hair back with hair pusher tool or ends of fingers. Make an overhand or granny knot (called half hitch) with thread around hook shank, push tight up against hair and tighten knot. (A half hitch tool is helpful.) Wrap thread 1/4 inch ahead of hair.

4. Repeat Step 3 until hook shank covered, but leave room for the eyes and whip finished head.

5. Tie down barbell eyes on top of hook securely, whip finish and cement head.

6. Trim hair flat on top and bottom and as wide as the eyes. (Don't worry about it too much. Fly is in the vise for the photo; it's easier to trim the fly out of the vise.)

Fishing Henry's Crawfish:

A floating line is fine for fishing this fly. You ease it back to you in short, smooth strips on the retrieve. You are mimicking the swim-and-pause progress of a baby crawfish that is just foolish enough to dare a bass to strike. With weighted eyes you can get down five feet in still water, but if you need to get deeper you can add micro-shot or go with a sinktip or full sinking line.

The average lifespan for crayfish is two years, so they surive by being prolific. Crayfish bear young in the spring, summer and fall months, so baby crayfish are prey to bass all year. Studies by biologists have proven that crayfish are a favorite largemouth and smallmouth bass food. Since crayfish are common throughout the U.S., this fly is effective wherever bass swim. When bass won't move to the top to take your popper, try going down to them, presenting the bass with a menu item they can't refuse - a baby crayfish.

I have to agree with Chip Hall's assessment of Henry's Crawfish: "This fly is the greatest thing since grits." ~ Deke Meyer

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

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