Tying and fishing the Crackleback in Missouri

This is truly a remarkable fly that can be fished either dry or wet. I prefer to fish it dry and almost always do so, but I remember one morning in particular when I was having exceptional success while fishing it as a dry fly.

I was tired and ready for breakfast so I began retrieving my line quickly, making the fly dip beneath the surface and while doing so a trout grabbed the fly and hooked itself.

I like to experience the dry fly action myself but Ed Story, the inventor of the fly, always said it could by fished dry and as a subsurface emerger all in one cast.

By making the initial cast as you would a dry fly and if no luck, retrieve it in an intermittent jerking motion in order to goad a trout into taking it while it is beneath the surface. So you get a lot of bang for your buck with the Crackleback.

oder-crackleback-pic The body itself can be made with a variety of materials. Ed Story tied his with turkey “rounds” but I’m more comfortable using yarn or dubbing in various colors or some kind of flashy or holographic tinsel.

I can safely say that it is a fly for all occasions since I have caught fish on it all season long. It is relatively easy to tie since it consists of only three pieces of material. It gets its name from the 2-3 strands of peacock herl that are tied down on the top of the body.

The body itself can be made with a variety of materials. Ed Story tied his with turkey “rounds” but I’m more comfortable using yarn or dubbing in various colors or some kind of flashy or holographic tinsel.

The hackle that is tied palmer-style over the body can vary also. I prefer grizzly but practically any color will do. Any dry fly hook will work fine and as far as hook size I wouldn’t go larger than a 12 or smaller than a 20. My preference is in the middle of that range somewhere; usually a 16.

So you can see that just like there are many ways to cook a pot of chili, there are many ways to tie this fly.

What it represents to the trout as food is a hotly debated subject. Some say mayflies; some say caddisflies and some say it is just an attractor fly which is one that doesn’t necessarily imitate any living insect at all but just its appearance on the water is enough to trigger the predator instinct in the trout causing it to ravenously attack the fly with reckless abandon.

It can be used during mayfly or caddisfly hatches simply by matching the color and the size of the natural insect. That’s why it’s wise to keep several different colors and sizes in your fly box.

For example, one can use an olive one for Blue-Winged Olive hatches or a light colored one for the Light Cahills or Pale Evening Duns or even some size 18 or 20 dark colored ones for those Trico hatches.

These flies are available in all the fly tackle shops but I would recommend considering tying your own. Catching a trout is no doubt a thrilling experience, but catching one on a fly that you have tied yourself only amplifies the enjoyment.

Imagine this if you will. You see a trout rise across the stream from where you are wading and you cast a Crackleback upstream from the rise with plenty of slack in your line to give it a perfect drag-free drift right over the spot where you just saw that rise.

As your fly arrives at that very spot you are witness to an explosive, goose bump-producing splash and instantly you set the hook into a good fish. At once there are more violent splashes as the fish is frantically trying to free itself from the hook in its mouth and after an exhilarating, but arm-tiring, struggle, you bring to net a beautiful, robust trout and if all this excitement resulted from a fly that you tied yourself, you could probably without a doubt whatsoever multiply everything that you just felt by two or maybe even three.

Remember that taking up fly tying is a natural progression after one takes up fly fishing. So if you’re not there yet, the odds are great you will be soon.

Fly tying is a great way to spend your time while you are away from the stream, especially on those cold winter days.

Good luck with your fly fishing and fly tying and be sure to think about practicing catch and release if you’re not already doing so.

List of Captions for Tying a Crackleback
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Step One: After bending down the barb of the hook to make releasing the fish easier, I place it in my vise. Attach the thread to the hook at the front of the hook and lay down a base back to the bend of the hook.

Step Two: Tie in a hackle, in this case Grizzly, by the stem. Remove the fuzz at the base of the feather before tying it down. Also make sure the length of the fibers on the feather correspond to the size of the hook you are using. The fibers should be just a tad longer than the gap of the hook.

Step Three: Tie in Peacock herls. This is a size 16 hook so I’m using two. A smaller hook would only need one and a larger hook might need three. Note that I’ve not trimmed the butt ends of the material yet.

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