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Cable Tie Craw Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Cable Tie Craw
DO-IT 785 Wacky Jig Hook, sizes 2 and 6
Black nickel bead, 5/32-inch
Lead-free wire,
Adhesive 1:
Light olive, 6/0 or 140 denier
Brown-olive Zonked Pine Squirrel Skin
Eye stem:
4-inch Cable Tie and amber Krystal Flash
Amber Krystal Flash
Fly rattle, micro
Blacken each end
Adhesive 2:
Speckled golden-olive Soft Hackle, trimmed on the bottom
Two speckled golden-olive Soft Hackle feathers
Adhesive 3:
Hard As Nails
Black Sharpie, lighter
Show / Hide Cable Tie Craw Transcript

Video Transcript:

Whether you call them crayfish, crawdads or mudbugs, these little critters inhabit just about every body of fresh water in North America. As compared to say, a mayfly nymph, they’re gigantic in size and represent a substantial and sought after meal for a myriad of both coldwater and warmwater fish species.

In terms of imitating them, I think you’ve got to have something that resembles claws, they’re just too big a feature to ignore. Their little, black, beady eyes are also pretty distinctive and worthy of inclusion as are the small, spindly back legs and the wide fringed tail. Adding antennae is easy to do and certainly can’t hurt.

So, with all that said, here’s my interpretation of a crayfish, it’s got claws, little eyes that actually rattle, antennae, a realistic multicolored body and a wide flat tail.

My inspiration for this pattern came from a friend of mine, Bill Ninke, who showed me a pattern he’d used on western ponds with a good bit of success. What really caught my attention with Bill’s pattern was its hook, made by the folks at Do-It who are probably best known for the wide variety of molds they produce. They have a large size 2 hook that works well for bass, but for trout patterns I like the smaller size 6.

Start by mashing the hook barb. For weight, I’m going to use a 5/32” black nickel bead which I thread small hole first onto the hook. Once you've got the hook firmly secured in your tying vise, make sure the bead drops all the way down to just behind the hook eye.

For a little extra weight and to stabilize the bead, I like to use .02 round lead-free wire, 8-10 wraps is about all you need. Apply a small drop of super glue to the hook shank behind the bead and then slide the wraps forward and down toward the eye. This should firmly lock the bead in place.

For thread, there’s no reason not to use something a little heavier like 140 Denier UTC in light olive. Start your thread on the hook shank immediately behind the weight and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Continue taking wraps all the way back to the hook bend.

For claws, particularly on smaller imitations, I really like Zonked Pine Squirrel. It’s nicely marked and comes in a wide range of colors. Here, I’ve chosen a brown olive which closely matches the color of most of the crayfish I see here in New Jersey. With the fur angled rearward, measure to form a segment from the front of the hook eye back to the bend. Separate the hair on the hide and then snip off the measured segment. Repeat the measurement and cutting process again to form a second segment equal in length to the first. Get hold of the two pieces so the fur is pointed rearward and the hide sides are touching. Place the two pieces on either side of the hook shank and take thread wraps to secure them there. The idea is to sandwich the shank between the two hides and secure it with wraps of tying thread all the way back to the hook barb. Once you get the pine squirrel completely secured, advance your thread up the shank to just behind the weight. In the end, the pine squirrel strips should be equal in length and the hide sides should face inward towards each other.

A 4” long thin cable tie is what gives this pattern its name. Make sure the tie you use has little ridges all the way up to the receptacle so it can really close down tight. Insert the tab end of the cable tie into the receptacle and draw the formed loop closed, but not all the way. Snip 2 full length strands of krystal flash free from the hank, here I’m using amber, and insert the strands into the cable tie loop to about their halfway point.

A micro sized pyrex fly rattle is used to form the eyes of the crayfish. Insert a single rattle into the cable tie loop along with the krystal flash and then continue to close the loop until it’s tight around the rattle. This will hold both the rattle and the krystal flash firmly in place. Use a black permanent marker to blacken both ends of the rattle so they resemble eyes.

Separate the pine squirrel claws and lay the cable tie over top of the hook shank with the receptacle and eyes hanging down, a little ways behind the bend. With your thumbnail, mark where the wire wraps begin. Using wire cutters, snip off the excess tab end of the tie. Make 2 angled cuts to form a point and then use a lighter to lightly smooth the edges. Otherwise, your tying thread is liable to fray or break. Place the assembly back on top of the hook shank so the point buts up to the back edge of the weight. Take nice tight thread wraps all the way back to the hook barb to firmly secure the cable tie to the shank. Check to make sure the eyes are at a 90 degree angle to the hook bend.

Snip one pair of antennae fairly short and the second pair about twice that length, just like on the real thing. Apply a liberal coating of super glue all around the flat part of the cable tie and then follow that with a couple of open spiral layers of tying thread.

The remainder of the fly is formed with the soft hackle feathers found on a Whiting Farms Coq de Leon Soft Hackle with Chickabou Pelt. These are available in a wide range of colors, here I’m going to go with a speckled golden olive to complement the color of the claws. Select a single soft hackle feather and pull it free from the skin. Strip off the lower fuzzy fibers and then pull the remaining lower fibers down to expose the feather’s tip. Snip the tip off square to form an ample tie-in anchor. Place the anchor on the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to firmly secure it. End with your thread about 1/4” in front of the feather. Get hold of the stem with hackle pliers and fold the fibers rearward to form a V. Once you have most of the fibers pointing back, begin wrapping the feather in an open spiral up the hook shank, preening the fibers rearward as you go. When you reach bare stem, secure it with 2 or 3 turns of tying thread and then reach in with the tips of your scissors and snip the excess stem off close. If you need to, take a few thread wraps at the base of the fibers to coax them into pointing rearward. Repeat the feather selection, preparation, tie-in, folding and wrapping sequence several more times until you reach the tip of the cable tie.

In preparation for tying in the tail, advance your thread all the way up to right behind the bead. Pull 2 neighboring and equal sized soft hackle feathers free from the skin. With the dull sides of both feathers facing you, align their tips and pull the lower fibers down to expose about 1/2” of the tips. With the dull sides still facing you, place the stems against the hook shank and take thread wraps to secure them. You can then bring the feathers up to the top of the hook shank and gently pull them under the thread wraps to lock them in a curving upward position, like so. Once you’re satisfied with their orientation, take a few more thread wraps to absolutely lock everything in place and then snip the excess stems off close.

Prep one more soft hackle feather as before, then fold and wrap it in the same manner as the previous body feathers. Stroke the fibers rearward and secure your thread with a 5 or 6 turn whip finish and snip or cut it off close.

To help the fly ride correctly and land flat on the bottom, snip out a narrow strip of fibers from over top of the cable tie. With head cement, or here Hard As Nails, coat the snipped area, the exposed thread wraps behind the bead and both sides of the tail to increase durability.

And that’s the Cable Tie Craw. You can tie them in a wide range of colors to match the naturals found in your area.