The Crustacean Variation


It’s been harder to find and a lot more expensive to use genetic hackle lately. Just like gas may never dip below $4 again, I fear the days of affordable grizzly necks and saddles are over. As a result I’ve found myself buying and using inexpensive variant hackle in more of my flies recently. It’s a bit more trouble to pick through the feathers to find nice matching ones, but the results can still be rewarding. This little fly is my take on Lenny Moffo’s Crustacean pattern.

Even an inexpensive saddle should yield at least several pairs of matching feathers with decent shape and coloring. Years of evolution have changed the wild jungle fowl to a domestic bird with near endless feather variations. Even without specialized breeding, every chicken has the potential to express all sorts of sought after characters. Think about that the next time you’re at Popeye’s.


Hook: TMC 800S #6, Mustad C68SNP #4, or similar

Thread: Uni-Thread 3/0, brown

Eyes: 5/32" Lead dumbbells, painted white

Tail: Tan grizzly marabou, grizzly/ brown variant hackle tips

Body: Tan and rusty brown Crawdub mixed

Wing: Black Krystal Flash, fox squirrel tail

Legs: Perfectly barred sand silicone legs

Step One:

Start thread base and tie in dumbbell eyes in the usual figure 8 fashion.

Step Two:

Tie in a tuft of grizzly marabou at bend of hook. Remember to create a flat, even base of thread while tying in the marabou. This will help with the next step.

Step Three:

Pick two feathers with tips that have the same color and shape. Trim the tips to the general length you plan to use and strip the barbs from about 1/8" of the base of the stem.

Step Four:

Tie one hackle tip on each side of tail. Begin wrapping the thread closer to the tip of the feathers, covering just the first bottom barbs. Slowly add more thread wraps moving back along the bare stems. Start off with light tension, getting tighter as you go. If you did it right, the hackles should splay evenly and not twist. This is harder to do with the cheaper feathers, so go slow.

Step Five:

Tie in the sili legs near the middle of the hook. Trim them to even lengths. The barring on the legs will help you find an even length. Count the same number of spots on each of the legs before cutting, and they’ll all end up the same length. Little trick: tuck the rear legs into the eye of the hook to keep them out of the way while you tie in the body material at the rear of the fly.

Step Six:

Mix the two colors of dubbing together. No real science to this, just clump them together and shred them apart to muddy up the colors. I like the uneven nature of dubbing, both in color and texture.

Step Seven:

Twist the dubbing onto the thread and wrap it forward from the hook bend. Some people wonder about the need for dubbing wax at this point. You don’t need it. The thick 3/0 thread already has all the wax you’ll need. If the dubbing doesn’t stick, you’re probably trying to use too much dubbing. Try using as little as will stick to the thread at first, adding more as you get more comfortable using the dubbing. Remember to only twist in one direction.

Step Eight:

Tie in a few strands of black Krystal Flash near the eye of the hook.

Step Nine:

Tie in a clump of fox squirrel tail hair over the Krystal Flash. Try to match the darker portion of the hair to the brown thread with just the lighter tips reaching the bend of the hook. When using thin, dense hair like squirrel tail, bleeding a little extra head cement into the fur helps to keep it from coming loose.

Step Ten:

Whip finish and cement the thread wraps in front and around the dumbbell eyes.

All pau and we’re ready to fish! You can also scale down this pattern and use lighter eyes if you’re fishing skinny water, but this size and weight are what I use the most. Aloha




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