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fly tying hawaii:

the yarn crab.


the yarn crab (at least what i call a yarn crab) is more of a style of tying a ďcrabĒ fly rather than a specific pattern.  this style of fly was made popular by del brownís merkin fly.  over the years this style of fly has been tied using countless different materials and in a variety of shapes and colors.  it is not a hard fly to tie but it is a little tedious and time consuming compared to others.  lots of crab flies these days are more glued together than actually tied making it more like lure making than fly tying to me.  the yarn crab is one where all the materials are actually tied on the hook.  the version here is just one of many that can be tied using this style so donít try to tie it exactly like this.  i tied four of these this past week three to fish with and one for this blog and they were all different.  so use your imagination and make one with whatever materials you want to use that looks good to you.  remember this america you can do anything.  so letís tie one up.

note about materials:  it is almost pointless to list materials for these kinds of crab flies.  these flies can be tied (and have been tied) with a multitude of different materials.  so what i have listed here are just a few examples as well as some notes on what i like to use.


the shtuff...


hook: i prefer a shorter shanked hook like the tiemco 800s, mustad c47sd, or mustad c68sd, but standard saltwater hooks will work as well.

eyes: i would go lead or tungsten dumbell eyes here.  this is a bulky fly and needs more weight to make it sink the way you want it to compared to clouser or charlie type flies.  if you use brass eyes better tie that baby sparse.  bead chain is a no go on this kind of fly at least for me. (the brown one in the blog with the bead chain has a lead dumbbell eye underneath the body you just can't see it.)

thread: any fly tying thread will work but you may want to choose one that you can crank down on a bit.  the thread color can either match the body material or contrast it.  i always prefer contrast.  youíll see many crab flies tied with a chartreuse thread out there but any contrasting color will do.

tail: the classic merkin has a split hackle tail.  i like just using a clump of marabou or mallard flank.  i also used to use a version with a long craft fur tail.  you can also put some flash in the tail if that sort of thing floats your boat.

body: sparkle yarn or rug yarn is the standard here (thus the name yarn crab) but again you can use just about anything.  super hair, fuzzy fiber, puglisi fibers, ice wing fiber, krystal flash, etc.  you name it, you can probably use it.  i have tied them with all of these materials and more.  iím using sculpin wool in this example. yarn is probably the easiest and quickest to use as it stays together in one piece until you pick it apart.  that makes it very easy to tie in.

legs: rubber legs or silicone legs.

so here we go...


step1:  tie on your dumbell eyes with cross (figure 8) wraps, like you would any other bonefish fly.  many tiers chose to tie the eye on last (after the rest of the fly is tied), but i can never tie it in as securely as i want to when i tie them in last.  loose or crooked eyes are one of my pet peeves when it comes to bonefish flies so i always tie mine in first.  i tie the eyes in anywhere on the shank from the front to the back by the bend depending on how i want the fly to sink.  most people tie it close to the eye of the hook causing the fly to dive hook eye side first.  tying the eyes in front also makes it easier to tie in the body as you wonít need to tie body materials directly over the eyes.


step 2: tie in your tail slightly past the bend of the hook.  here it is marabou.  other tail materials should be tied in at the same point.


step3: this step is all me and you probably wonít see it in other tying instructions.  in fact i just started doing it this week.  dub a small amount of dubbing and wrap the dubbing into a ball at the base of the tail.  i think i did that to emphasize the contrast between the thread color and the body color even more.  do it if you want, if not skip step 3 and go to step 4.


step 4: cut your body material (yarn or whatever) into pieces about an inch or so long.  keep in mind that the longer the pieces you use the easier it will be to tie in but the more you will have to trim off in the end.  i usually like the pieces a little shorter than an inch but it really depends on the material i am using.  if you find that you are having a hard time tying the pieces in place, use pieces that are a little longer.


step 5: tie in a piece of body material perpendicular to the hook shank using cross wraps similar to the way you tie in the eye.  on most crab flies the body is tied on the same side of the hook as the lead eye.  i prefer to tie it on the opposite side or the side with the hook point.  i donít know if it makes a difference or not.  i just like the idea of keeping more buoyant materials on top and the weight underneath.


step 6: tie in a piece of rubber legs exactly as you did the body material.  make sure that it is tied right in front of the body materials with as little space between them as possible.

repeat step five...

repeat step six...

view from the top...

step 7: repeat both steps five and six tying in another piece of body material then another silicone leg.

step 8: tie in one more piece of body material, another leg and a last piece of body material.  the last piece should be right behind the eye and you should end up with a total of three legs and four body pieces tied in.  if there is still space between the last tied in body material and the point where the lead eye is tied in you can add another piece of body material to fill the gap.  if you are using a thinner body material like super hair or krystal flash, you may need to tie in two or more clumps of body material for every leg you tie in.

if you are tying the dumbell in last you can just tie it in front of the last tied in piece of body material.  this is the upside of tying the eye in last.  if you tie it in last you don't really need to gauge where the body will end.  you just tie it in after the last piece of body material wherever that may end up.  if you tie enough of these, though, i have found that it comes out pretty consistent even if you tie in the eye first which i prefer to do.

step 9: tie in a mono weed guard if you like, whip finish, and youíre done... almost.  just gotta trim it.


ready for a body trim.

step 9:  using a scissors (a curved scissors works well for me) trim the body to shape. what shape?  i have seen these trimmed round, square, and even triangular.  whatever looks more crabby to you.  much more importantly than the shape you cut, make sure you donít cut one of the silicone legs while trimming the body.  sure fish will eat crab flies that are missing a leg here or there.  iíll tell you this though, there is little that sucks more in the world of fly tying than having completed a crab fly then chopping off one (or more) of itís legs while trimming the body.  i wonít even fish a crab fly that i tied that has one of its legs lopped off.  not because i donít think the fish will eat it but because it will be an all day reminder of my human stupidity.  i will relive that moment when i realized that i just cut the leg off every time i see that four or five legged fly.

use hackle pliers to avoid late fly tying disaster.

so to avoid such a tragic ending to such a pleasant fly creating experience, before starting to go all edward scissorhands on the fly, gather the silicone legs together and clip them with a hackle plier.  i like the tear drop style hackle plier as it holds the legs securely without crushing them which can be just as bad as chopping one off.  now you can easily trim the the body while holding all appendages away from impending disaster.

trimmed body.

the finished fly, bones eye view.

now you too can proudly shout for all the world to hear, "i've got crabs!"


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