Crawfish flies have been around for years, but their popularity has seen a rise in recent years. This means fly anglers have more options available to them when choosing flies. Crawfish patterns can be found in a variety of styles, and may include hackle, rabbit skin and fur, deer hair, closed-cell foam, artificial or real leather, and synthetic fur. Perhaps one of the most popular crawfish patterns is the Clouser, which features a thick fur underbody with feather claws, wound hackle for legs, and a dark feather section for the back, ribbed with monofilament. You can also use various Sculpin patterns, or even a Wooly Bugger, in a pinch if you don’t have specific crawfish flies in your box.
Keep your leaders short with crawfish flies—4 to 6 feet should be fine—so they don’t lift it off the bottom. Your tippet strength will vary, depending on the size of the fly you’re using, the fish you’re after, and how much cover is available. You’ll probably want something between 4 and 12-pound test, and be sure not to go too light, as this can cause twists in the leader when you cast.
When it comes to fishing crawfish flies, keep in mind that crawfish are somewhat nocturnal creatures, so fly action will be good early and late in the day, and when cloud cover is heavy. Also, keep in mind that crawfish are bottom-dwellers, so keep your flies within a few feet of the bottom. Many crawfish patterns that you’ll find tend to be weighted, in order to take them deep quickly. Some anglers also add a split shot, a sinking tip, or full sinking line for fishing deep lakes and rivers.
Crawfish move backwards in erratic motions, which is smart to keep in mind when you’re fishing crawfish flies. Try darting spurts, followed by pauses to mimic this. You can also use a steady crawling presentation, accompanied by a hand-twist retrieve. Work them around rocks, logs, ledges, and bottom debris in rivers. I’d also probe the tail-outs of pools, shoreline edges, and backwater eddies. In lakes, seek fish near points, weed beds, feeder creeks, coves, and shoals.
It’s no coincidence that there are so many crawfish lures on the market; these mini lobsters are great fish attractors. Fly anglers will do well to capitalize on this by casting few crawfish flies the next time they hit the water.