Project Description

McFly Crab, Chicone’s

Pattern Description:

From FlyFisherman Magazine-

I’ve said before that the saltwater fly tying arena could use a shot in the creative arm. I’m not saying there aren’t a lot of great saltwater fly patterns out there, but it has seemed to me that we, as anglers and tyers, often settle for “good enough” in saltwater applications where we’d all immediately go straight to the vise to do “better” in freshwater. While I do believe in presentation, I also believe that having a solid pattern that more accurately mimics the prey, casts and sinks well and maybe even breaks from the norm a bit can be a deciding factor in salty success.
More recently, a slew of great tyers have been doing just this and 35 year old Drew Chicone is quickly making his way to the forefront of the fight. Originally from upstate New York, and now Arizona, via Florida, Chicone grew up with two fly tying parents who took classes to combat the long winters. Starting his tying career at the ripe old age of six, Drew took to the vise with a fervor and is today creating some of the most incredibly simple to tie and creatively designed patterns I’ve seen. As a longtime commercial tyer, certified casting instructor and photographer, Chicone was in prime position to launch his ideas with the 2013 release of his book, Feather Brain, a compendium of his tips and tricks to develop, test and improve fly patterns. His approach is tying and teaching is compellingly well thought out and his level of attention to detail borders on fanatical. My kind of tyer…
The fly we’ll talk about here, Chicone’s McFly Crab pattern is, at first glance, “just” an incredibly realistic copy of the fodder you might find a bonefish, permit or redfish chasing down. Upon closer inspection, you’d also find that it has a compelling design that is both well thought out and easily replicated. When I asked Drew about his thoughts on this pattern, the first thing he mentioned was how easy it was for kids to tie. I like that. It’s not just simple…it’s darn right easy and to kick it up a notch, even an inexperienced tyer can knock out great looking copies with basic tying skills.
Contrary to most conventional crab patterns, Chicone starts his pattern with lengths of non-lead wire lashed to the shank in place of the ubiquitous lead eyes. I asked him about this and his reasoning was that the fly sinks more evenly rather than plunging sidelong to the bottom as well as the option to tailor the amount of weight to fly. Instead of being bound to two or three different sizes of lead eyes that may be slightly too much or too little weight, the weighted wire foundation can be tweaked for varying applications and water depths.
The next step in the design process came at the legs and claws. While rubber-leg strands do indeed create tons of movement, the inherent fragility made them a no-go. Chicone opted for micro ultra-chenille for the appendages commenting that they hold markered color extremely well and create both a more realistic profile and a surprising amount of movement on their own. I can’t argue with him there…this fly looks like it’s about to crawl off my desk! Drew mentioned that he likes to carry a few of this pattern in a basic tan blank canvas color along with several permanent markers to customize their coloration and create more accurate matches. Pretty crafty.
As the final piece of the puzzle, Drew imaginatively used McFlyFoam, a spongy yarn type product typically used to tie egg patterns as the carapace for his crabby creation. After watching a video on tying egg patterns, the light went on in his head and he made the (perfect) association that both the material and the technique would make a textbook crab body. As it turns out, it does, and his use of two mixed colors to mottle the shell is near genius. Finishing off the fly with remarkably well planned eye mounting technique and a light coat of fabric paint across the belly, Drew ended up with a pattern that is not only super simple to tie but is also a dead ringer for the real deal. Easily modified in weight and coloration, the McFly Crab is easily transposed to smaller sizes, something that can’t be said for many more complicated patterns.
The McFly Crab is but one of several of Drew’s unusual patterns, many more of which are detailed in his book. I found his methods for spinning peacock herl and even foam strips like deer hair to be fascinating and inventive and the book is loaded with lots of subtle tips, details and tricks only a Feather Brain could come up with. The good old days of saltwater tying are back again.

Materials Needed:

Hook: Gamakatsu SC-15 #1/0
Thread: Tan 140 Denier UTC
Weight: .025 Non Lead Wire
Legs and Claws: Micro Ultra Chenille, Tan
Eyes: Melted Mono or EP Crab and Shrimp Eyes, Large
Body: Tan and Brown McFlyFoam
Extras: UV Resin and Tan or Off White Fabric Paint

Step 1

Begin by laying a thread base from the eye of the hook to the bend and back again. Double over a length of non-lead wire and lash it to the top of the hook shank. Additional lengths may be applied to increase weight and sink rate as desired. Be sure to cover the wire with a smooth thread base.

Step 2

Cut six one and a half inch sections of micro ultra-chenille and tie an overhand knot in the center of each piece. Group three of the pieces together with the knots even and tie them in starting at the center of the shank. Wrap over them to just short of the hook eye leaving only about a quarter inch of the material exposed between the knots and the shank.

Step 3

Tie three more pieces of ultra-chenille in on the back end of the shank in the same manner. I like to leave just a tiny gap between the butt ends on the shank. You may want to make a few turns of thread around the legs to help separate them.

Step 4

Double over a four inch length of ultra-chenille and tie an overhand knot in both strands resulting in the knotted loop seen here. Clip the end of the loop short to form a claw. Do this step twice, creating two identical claws.

Step 5

Tie the claws in on the front side of the hook shank on either end, again, leaving only about a quarter inch of material between the knot and the hook shank.

Step 6

Tie the eyes in by their stalks with figure eight wraps, making sure they are spaced evenly and equidistant from each end of the hook. Leave the thread hanging squarely between the eyes.

Step 7

Invert the hook in the vise. Peel several smaller strands of tan and brown McFlyFoam apart from the main clump and mix them to create a mottled rope as seen here.

Step 8

Tie the McFlyFoam clump down at the center of the hook with six or seven tightly stacked wraps of thread. Once the McFlyFoam is anchored, move the thread forward to the hook eye and whip finish and clip.

Step 9

Lift the McFlyFoam up and stretch it just slightly. With your sharpest scissors, make one clean cut parallel to the hook shank across the top of the clump.

Step 10

What magically appears is a perfectly domed and mottled crab shell. In this photo, you can see the stems of the eyes protruding on the back of the fly. Use forceps or pliers to adjust the eyes themselves so they just peak out of the front of the body, then clip the stubs of the mono so they are hidden under the shell.

Step 11

Apply a thin coat of thick UV Resin to the tie down and base of the eyes under the body. Cure the resin with the UV Light to lock everything in place. Put a thin coat of tan fabric paint over the tie down area across the bottom of the fly.

Step 12

Use markers to mottle the legs to match your local crabs. Drew uses a combination of light blue and tan for the leg mottling and colors the tips of the claws with a red marker. I used a cigarette lighter to taper the ends of the legs and claws because…well…why not?!