Not many of us can imagine eating at Red Lobster’s Crabfest every day of our lives, and there’s a reason crab meat is so expensive; it’s good!…and crabs are relatively time consuming to catch in high numbers.  On the other hand, species like permit, redfish, and even bonefish can eat nothing but crab at certain times and places.  Because of this and pioneers like Del Brown, crab flies have become essential to saltwater fishing.  A crab fly is like a little Frisbee in the water and can really look unnatural when it falls, sinks, or lays at rest, so water testing is necessary for every new pattern you design or fish.  As far as tying these patterns, there are two main steps: 1) the backend, which consists of the claws and eyes (detailed or otherwise), and 2) the body/shell, which is self-explanatory.  One problem with crab patterns, is that they are cut unevenly on each side, and this causes patterns to twist and wobble unnaturally.  This article offers a method for creating crab bodies/shells that are consistent from one pattern to the next, versatile in profile/shape, and professional in appearance.


Crab fly template.The procedure that unites almost all crab fly bodies is that of cutting.  Most crab patterns require you to cut the shell into shape.  This can occur before the body/shell goes on, as when using furry foam, or when using a pre-cut crab coin or body.  The other common way is simply to cut fibers to make a crab looking profile.  The most common shape in crab flies is a simple circle or semi-oval body.  In order to get this shape, you can use your thumb as a guide or simply draw both sides together and cut as close as you can to a half circle.  You could cut each side one at a time as well, but this is not recommended.  Another way, and the way that this article will demonstrate, is to use a template to form your crab fly bodies.  There are a lot of advantages to this method: 1) all flies of one pattern will look the same, 2) you can control size and proportions to the hook size much better, 3) you will have equal sides and thus reduce twist and unnatural movements of your fly in the water, 4) you are not limited to one shape like circular, since you can cut your template to any shape, and 5) it’s a technique that works with almost any crab fly pattern.


The first step is to browse the internet to find a picture of a crab that you would like to imitate.  It will depend on what species of the swimming, mud, or spider crabs you want to imitate.  Once you’ve found a nice looking picture, simply copy this image and paste it in to a Word doc.

Crab fly.The second step is to size the image accordingly.  On my computer, the image on the screen is nearly the same size as the one that prints out.  So, the procedure I use is to measure the image on the screen with a ruler.  You can, also, measure the shank of you hook, and do some research on crab sizes in the waters that you are going to fish, but remember that you may not be cutting out a perfect circle, so get a general estimate of how big you want the body to be, then just adjust this on your screen.  If your computer does not match what prints out, then trial and error are necessary until you get the perfect size.  In the end, you need to print out the image with close to the exact proportions that you want.

The third step, is to cut this image out to the shape you want.  You may stay right on the lines or make the pattern rounder etc.  I always try to make the image a bit smaller than I will need since this is not the final template but rather the pattern you will use to make your template.

Crab fly.The fourth step, is to make your final template.  Take your image and place it on a stiffer more durable paper like construction paper or thin cardboard from a cereal box.  Alternatively, you can print your image out on heavy paper.  Now, simply cut out around the image so that you end up with a perfect replica of your crab image on the heartier paper.  Next, make a line with a pen straight down the middle.  I usually eyeball this, but you can take measurements with a ruler if you like.  Either way, make sure to have a line down the middle, since you will use this to rest directly over the shank of the hook.  Finally, on the side of the template where the hook bend will go, i.e., the claws and eyes, make a very small slit, just big enough to fit the hook diameter into.  You can write the hook size on the top for future reference.  Your template is now done.  You will use this to make your crab fly bodies by cutting around the template when you set it on the fly, and curved scissors, such as Dr. Slick Hair scissors, aid immensely with this task.  See this video on how to use the template with a crab fly body.


Here is an example of a fly pattern that you can make with this technique.  It uses an Enrico Puglisi Crustacean Brush and has the shape of a blue crab with some lighter colored claws for contrast.  Common materials for crabs with a template are Enrico Puglisi dubbing brushes, Enrico Puglisi fibers, wool, and furry foam.  Most have heard the expression, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  This expression kind of sums up this technique—it teaches you how to make all sorts of crab flies, not just one pattern.  Now, whether or not this will feed you for the rest of your life, I don’t know.  If not, you always have Crabfest!

  • Hook: Gamakatsu SL12 #2
  • Thread: Blue Danville’s 210 Denier Flat Waxed Nylon
  • Weight: Dumbbell Plated Lead Eyes 1/30 or 1/20 (Thread Coated with Brushable Zap-A-Gap)
  • Mouth: Grizzly Tan Chickabou/Mini Marabou
  • Mouth: Peach Estaz
  • Eyes: Mono Eyes (example: Enrico Puglisi Crab/Shrimp Eyes (Large Black))
  • Claws: Cream Ultra Chenille with Burnt ends or Enrico Puglisi Crab Claws
  • Body: Enrico Puglisi Crustaceous Brush (Blue Crab)
  • Legs: Hareline Crazy Legs or Loco Legs (here Bonefish Tan)



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