Crab flies [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Crab flies

07-06-2000, 07:56 AM
Obviously striped bass love crab flies. I remember three seasons ago going out to Monomoy and having absolute heydays with the green, tan, or brown felt crab flies. The shore guys (even some of the hardcores) seldom used them back then, although a few of the guides on the flats boats used them increasingly. I often heard in flyshops... "I hate when the stripers are crabbing. Drives me crazy to see them and not get them to bite". Hmmm... that was my favorite time!

<b> The reality is that they have only very recently really become popular among the general Monomoy shore crowd</b>

What's my point? There's plenty of room for discovery and innovation. Although I've been working on them for a while, felt crab patterns are still realtively under-developed. My observation is that they were much more effective a couple years back - sometimes stopping fish in their tracks to take them. It seemed too easy. I'd see a shifting shadow, cast, let it sink, and often as soon as I'd give a tiny crawl to it the shadow would scurry over and nail it.

This year on three occasions cow bass have followed my crab or my son's crab (ask him about the monster he had coming for the fly yesterday!) without committing to eat. We're talking follow so close you could almost hit the fish with the rod, but no vaccuum inhale. There is something missing from the signals being sent out by the pattern, or the fish are just plain getting used to seeing the flies and getting burned by them.

Another theory - I have been using crab flies in areas with many other crabs (by sheer coincidence) this year. In fact I've caught my share of cannibal crabs on felt crabs. This would make my crab less unique, in fact I wondered why the cow bass chased our crab flies among the plentiful real crabs on the same flat... other than perhaps size and disoriented behavior?

The word on the street is "crab flies are hot" on North Monomoy right now. I assume that this is particularly true for flats areas west of the washout and south, also southwest... because this is where most people fish. Based on the fact that most commercially available crab flies are fairly poor imitations, I have to assume that the zone where you fish contributes to the degree of success you would have with a particular pattern. In other words, fish grubbing over barren flats may be more likely to take any old crab fly than those picking from a garden spot covered with small crabs. I don't know, but that's high on my list of things to decipher about Monomoy.

Since hardly anybody fishes here, I don't mind divulging a crab hotspot of mine... the humps just south of the washout (pickup location). When the tide is moving moderately over these sandy rises and dips, I have great luck "walking" crab flies up one hump and down into the next "hole". Once day a clam digger was watching me scratching his head at the fish I was hooking. When I reached him we talked... he told me no one ever fishes there. I gotta believe this is a case of fly presentation making the fish very willing to grab something coming into, or leaving his lair.

To better understand the crab phenomena <b> I plan to spend more time in less crab-fertile areas where big fish cruise the flats over the next few visits to Monomoy.</b> This will help me determine whether the fish's willingness is relative to abundance.

Meanwhile, I will be working on <b>more realistic / otherwise strike invoking crab pattern improvements.</b> Never hurts!

As I am already confident of the "attraction to follow" potential of my current patterns, and previous years' great success, some effort to refine the final retrieve to solicit the take will be made. It's very frustrating to get some of the biggest bass on the flat to follow without <b>closing the deal</b>. I've tried the desperation act of aggresive strips in fear of the fish seeing me at (being so damn close!) but that just send the fish scurrying for deep water. I have a couple of other last ditch things to try based on observations, but this saga continues.

In any case, the crab fly presents yet another interesting mystery to untangle in the angler's repertoire of fish trickery.

07-06-2000, 08:26 AM

So when are we going to do this testing and are we invited ??!!


07-06-2000, 06:46 PM
<font size="1"><font color="0000ff">Hope testing continues forever! Everybody's invited, in fact we should consider a research team on the topic?</font><!--1--></font><!--color-->

Just had a thought... crabs often dig vertically into the sand when threatened. Many crab shells are molted empty husks drifting around. I wonder if a striper's thought pattern is to determine whether a crab is "good" (alive, real) or whether it is "bad" (a husk, or that stinging pulling thing attached to the ugly tall mammal) based on certain triggering behaviors?

I am 100% certain that they get into trigger response modes based on past experiences. The most isolated and blatant case was the rocks at Wacky. They were hard to hook despite being everywhere unless you pulled their hairline trigger, in which case they were pathetically easy to hook. The cows that have been virtually kissing my crab flies lately seem to be looking very intently at the fly as if seriously attracted yet not ready to commit for some reason. I think there is a trigger to be discovered in this.

Simulating the burial of the crab into the sand may be it; or perhaps it's a rising escape 'swim'; or perhaps it's a defensive claw raising - who knows.

Perhaps these 5-15 year old fish have learned that some crabs are good, and some are nasty hard shelled throat grabbers. Understanding what these tendencies are is the key to the successful crab pattern and presentation. The search continues...

07-08-2000, 08:02 AM
Juro I think the answer to an effective crab fly is to tie an impressionistic pattern. I use to take photos for the United Fly Tyers RoundTable magazine. One submission was of a realistic nymph pattern that was so realistic it looked too good. The gold ribbed Hares ear comes to mind which would out fish that imitation. My feeling is that the large claws and legs are the problem. If we can figure that out we have the pattern.

07-08-2000, 09:01 PM
Good point, I think impressionistic flies are effective across many fisheries. When I mentioned 'triggers', retrieve, size, color, and certainly impression are all key variables. This is an area where we can do a lot of experimentation and discovery.

They hit 'realistic' sand eel patterns consistently in the skinny water during the flood on Monomoy today, never even needed to go to a crab fly because every time I would think about it I'd see the shadows and they'd chase my fly. Didn't always hit it but they hit it a lot. It was hard to leave to meet the shuttle.

Should've put the crab on for the heck of it... but sometimes when a fly is working it's hard to change it. In retrospect I wish I had!