Thursday, January 5, 2017

Frank's Crab Hatch Fly

just getting it out there... spring moon's will be here before you know it!

Crab Hatch Fly
by Frank Abbate, Jr.
About three years ago, I started receiving many requests for crab patterns. A good crab pattern, especially one that sinks, is always a productive and popular pattern to use for bass and weakfish. These are usually made with deer hair or wool, or even Granny's knitting yarn. They continue to catch fish and make saltwater fly fishermen very happy. As you know, we all want to be very, very happy when we're fishing, so the "ISF" Crab Hatch Fly came about to do just that, or at least help you on your way to bliss.

Most of the requests I received were for very tiny crab imitations that didn't sink too fast. The reason was that anglers were noticing swarms of infant crabs, acting very much like cinderworms, floating during the new and full moon currents. The larger crab pattern versions just weren't cutting the mustard, so I came up with a much smaller version, with a "point-to-point" length of only about one-half inch.

The crab hatch fly is tied with a length of Corsair tubing tied over the shank of the hook. This allows the tier greater flexibility in determining the size of the crab carapace. It also traps tiny bits of air, allowing the fly to remain suspended a bit longer in a current.

Try this pattern when a crab hatch is evident, but don't be afraid to just drift them along in a current, much like drifting a dry fly in a searching mode, when you want those finicky fish to come topside.

  • Hook -- Mustad 34007 or Gamakatsu SP 11 Size 4.6, or 8
  • Thread -- Fine Monofilament Tying Thread
  • Carapace -- 1/3-inch diameter Corsair tubing, White or Chartreuse
  • Eyes -- 100-pound monofilament leader material with ends melted to form bulging eyes
  • Legs -- Silly Leg material
  • Shell -- EZ-Shape Olive and Yellow
  • Marking Pen -- (Optional) Olive, Brown, and Red to create a mottled appearance on the EZ-Shape "shell"
  • Zap-A-Gap or any thin, waterproof CA glue, or epoxy
Steps 1 -- Place hook in vice. Tie in thread behind hook eye, and build a light foundation, ending at the bend of the hook.

2 -- Cut a piece of Corsair tubing approx. 1/4- to 1/2- inch in length. Squeeze and compress one end and secure it at the bend. Lift the front end of tubing out of the way, and wrap the up the shank, ending at the hook eye. Squeeze and compress tubing at the other end, and tie it off at the head. Compressing and tying down the ends of the tubing causes a slight air pocket. Remember that this is not a floating fly, per se, but is more of a "suspending fly," that sinks ever so slowly.

3 -- Burn the ends of a piece of 100-pound-test monofilament for the eyes. Color the eyes black, either by dipping them in a paint or with a marker. Cut the eyes off, leaving stems that are about one-quarter of an inch long. Slip the stems into openings in the Corsair mesh.

4 -- Cut four lengths of Silly Legs material. Thread each length through the tubing, diagonally, so you end up with four "legs" on each side of the pattern for a total of eight. Put a tiny drop of the CA glue at each junction and on eye stems.

5 -- Built-up some EZ-Shape Olive on the top to create a small dome shape, and fill in the bottom of the pattern with EZ-Shape Sparkling Yellow. Let the pattern dry. When the EZ-Shape is firm, put a small orange mark in the center of the bottom to imitate an egg sack ("sponge").

Editor's Note -- To strengthen the EZ-Shape and give it a bright appearance, coat with a clear nail polish or thin epoxy.

6 -- If you like, use the marking pens to stipple the shell and legs to create a mottled appearance.

Tip -- Try fishing two crab patterns at the same time with a dropper loop.
Frank Abbate ties professionally under the Island Saltwater Flies label and is the current president of the Salty Flyrodders of New York. You can contact him via e-mail to  

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