Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Cracklebacks - Who fishes them?

The Crackleback - "Expect near instant success."

I recently wrote something about an evolution of this fly that became a very effective warm water pattern.  Not that there was anything wrong with the original, it just sorted morphed over the years into something else.  But it did get me thinking about the fly, how I came to discover it and the number of trout it has caught over the years.

Many years ago I picked up an old aluminum fly box that contained many examples of one fly, the Crackleback.  The original owner was obviously quite fond of this pattern, he (or she) liked it enough to fill an entire fly box with the same fly!  At some point in time, I fished one of those Cracklebacks and caught a fish.  I caught enough fish with them to start tying the fly myself.  It was one of those patterns that I would tie on the end of my leader when nothing else was working.  I was surprised when they caught fish, but secretly always expected that it would work.  The funny thing is, it was never a pattern I would start off with.  There were always so many other sexier flies to fish.
Why do they work?  Beats me, but work they do.  The fly was developed by Ed Story of Feather-Craft in the 1950's.  His one-liner in the catalogs, "Expect near instant success" always cracked me up, but the pattern does indeed work.  Maybe it is the fly's versatility, it can be fished as a dry, swung like a wet, dredged like a nymph or stripped like a streamer.  At least that is what the originator claimed.  Truth be told I have probably caught fish all using all four methods.  I have had my most success with the pattern during caddis emergences.  On these occasions, I would begin by twitching the fly on the surface, letting hang in the film at the end of the drift, then jerking it under the surface and using a hand twist retrieve bring it up stream for a few feet before picking it up and casting it again.  It would take fish dead drifting, swinging and moving up stream.  One of the best evenings I have ever had on the water was fishing this fly over ravenous rainbows and browns during an evening caddis hatch on the Madison River in Montana.  It took fish on nearly every cast!  My friend Rick enjoyed the same success fishing just downstream of me using an Iris Caddis, so maybe it had nothing to do with the fly.  I like to think it did.

The rainbow ate the Crackleback

Just for the hell of it, I fished it as a nymph last week on my first outing of the year.  While other nymphs were far more productive,  a big rainbow which was one of a few doubles caught that day, fell for its charms.  The fly should not have worked, as all the other fish caught that day were eating small euro style nymphs, but it did!

These flies are simple to tie and can be fished in a variety of ways.  They can be tied in various sizes and colors to imitate nearly anything. There is no reason not to try them.

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