Got Crabs?

Having filled my flats fly box to capacity with Gotcha’s, I have started looking into other flies I should be bringing along.  I  read an article by Craig Matthews (the article was on, but is only available on the cached view from Google) where he was talking about the stomach contents of those unfortunate bonefish that, while on the line of an angler, become half landed fish and half ‘cuda or shark snack.  Turns out those fish mostly have their stomachs with them when reeled in and those stomachs, almost always, have crabs in them.

Davin from and my buddy Shane Kohlbeck both had recommendations for crab patterns to tie.

Davin recommended Merkins or Rag Crab patterns.  I found a great tutorial for the Merkin from Quest Outdoors.

The lurk'n Merkin

Merkin from Quest Outdoors

Now, that’s a good looking bug, er, crustacean.

Here’s a YouTube tutorial…

My fishing buddy Shane recommended a Merkin or Velcro Crab.  Velcro?  That sounded pretty interesting.  Fly Anglers Online has a great tutorial on the Velcro Crab.

That's a good looking crab!

That’s a good looking crab!

I was looking around for tan velcro, but I see that this is actually tied with white velcro and colored.  So, I’ll be heading back to Walmart tomorrow.

UPDATE: I went to Walmart and picked up 15′ of white velcro and a set of Caribbean Color (I’m not making that part up) Sharpies.  Here is my first attempt… I think I’m going to enjoy this pattern… at least how it looks, we’ll see if the bonefish enjoy it as well.

UPDATE #2: This fly has the tendency to spin on the hook, but I’ve come up with a solution that seems to help.  I simply tied one or two sets of the plastic eyes on the back of the hook before putting the Velcro on.  Those T’ed the hook and made it pretty much impossible for the fly to spin.  You could also use a short section of cut wire (think paper clip) (That was a dumb idea… would rust quickly… don’t do that).  Superglue added just before you close the Velcro sandwich also seems to help a lot.  I’ve also switched the colors of the crabs to more of a gray.  After looking at some pictures of swimming crabs (in Dick Brown’s bonefishing book), it is seems they really aren’t brown.

UPDATE #3: I threw a couple of these into water and found two things… 1. they didn’t sink well unless totally soaked, and 2. it was 50/50 for them landing correctly (point up). I talked with Shane about this and he, of course, had the solution… trim the fuzzy velcro on the bottom of the fly.  The fuzz catches air and makes it not sink well, but if you trim that on the bottom… well… it will land correctly.  He also crushes lead barbell eyes and puts them in the pattern… have not done that yet, but that would work too.

UPDATE #4: I’ve taken to putting some UV Knot Sense (or the Rio product, which is pretty much the same thing) on all the bits and pieces (legs, eyes, pincers) and putting the UV lamp on it before superglueing it closed.  This seems to be increasing the durability of the fly.

Mmmmm.... crab!

My first Velcro Crab.

While searching the tubes of the internets for crab flies I ran into this…

It's crab... tied with... crab.

It’s crab… tied with… crab.

That has to be the crabbiest looking fly I’ve ever seen.  The main reason for that would be that it is tied with… crab.  Some really good looking crabs (including the crab crab) on StripersOnline here.

I’ll be tying up some crabs in the weeks to come.  I hope the cast of The Deadliest Catch doesn’t knock the door down.

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  1. I have never caught a bonefish on a crab pattern, but I haven’t tried very hard, either; and I wonder if what we humans see even resembles what the fish sees and responds to because, in addition to the Gotcha, my most productive bonefish fly has been a chartreuse Clouser.

  2. Ya know, I haven’t even done much bonefishing, so pretty much all my landed fish were on gotcha’s, which don’t look too much like anything to my eye. Does make one wonder. I’ve seen a picture of a bone with a gummy “fly” in it’s mouth, which is about the most realistic fly I’ve come across, if it really can be called a fly… I’m inclusive in that regard, so I’ll call it a fly.

    I know they EAT a lot of crab, but how that translates into fly selection is really the trick. A Bitter is supposed to be a crab pattern, but they don’t look too crabby to me at all. Some day I’ll have enough experience to have my own opinions about this stuff… year and years from now.

  3. I have fished bonefish in Belize numerous times and while we catch lots on crazy charlies or gotchas, we also lots on small clousers (tan/white or chat/white) and gummies. When we fish big schools of small bait on the flats the bones are in there along with tarpon, permit, jacks and snappers feeding. In fact, one of the biggest Belize bones I have caught (maybe 6 pounds) hit a 4 inch long olive clouser which I had cast to 3 tarpon. All 3 fish were following, when out of no where the stupid bonefish streaked in and ate the clouser. I was bummed because one of those tarpon were going to eat, but it was fun to hook a bone on a big clouser. It even surprised the guides.

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