Ed Story created the Crackleback in the 1950’s and it has become a staple in almost every fly fisherman’s fly box. The reason is because the fly is extremely versatile. It can be fished as a dry fly, under the surface as a wet fly and even as a nymph. Made of only three materials (like the Woolly Bugger) you can simply use a different colored body material and you have different flies for any condition. Not to mention, changing the body material and even adding in a wire or flash rib and you can enhance this fly even more. That being said, the original is still a great fly to fish and very fun to tie. The average tier can have one of these tied in less than five minutes and if you sit down at the vise for a couple hours you’ll have enough Cracklebacks to get you through a season.
If you are a beginning fly tier, the Crackleback is a great starter fly. The materials are straightforward and the techniques used to apply the materials are used in many common fly patterns. You can use the more traditional turkey rounds for the body or a yarn for the body or direct dub all sorts of materials for the body. Plus, since the fly can be tied relatively quick, it is a great fly for just knocking out a few everyday to work on improving your tying skills.
If you have any questions about the article or the video, do not hesitate to leave me a comment here or on YouTube (the video) and I will be glad to help clear anything up.
Wapsi UTC Ultra Thread 70 Denier or Uni 8/0, Brown
Turkey Round, Cream
Rooster Saddle, Furnace or Brown
1) Place the hook in the vise. You can de-barb the hook if you like.
2) Attach the 70 denier thread behind the eye of the hook and wind down the hook shank to just past the point of the hook.
3) Prep your saddle hackle by removing any fluffy fibers at the base of the feather and trim away the remaining hackle stem. Pull off barbs (feather fibers) from both sides of the feather so there is about 1/8″ to 1/4″ bare stem.
4) Tie in the saddle hackle so the dull side of the feather is facing you (or at least up) and make certain to have about 1/16″ to 1/8″ of bare stem exposed behind the thread wraps.
5) Select two peacock herls and tie them in at the end of the shank. It is not necessary to have the herl extend the length of the body but you can if you prefer. Make certain the herl is tied on top of the hook and not to one of the sides. You will want this to eventually fold directly over the back of the fly.
6) Cut away five to six turkey round barbs and tie them in at the end of the hook shank by the tips. Advance your tying thread to the front of the hook just behind the eye of the hook.
7) Palmer the turkey round barbs around the hook shank to the hook eye and secure with your tying thread. Once secure trim away the waste. Make certain to not apply too many thread wraps. You do not want to build to bulky of a head on the fly.
8) Fold over the peacock herl and secure with two to three wraps of thread just behind the eye of the hook.
9) Before trimming away the excess herl make certain the herl is directly over the back of the fly. If needed, remove the secure thread wraps and re-tie the herl. Once it is directly over the back of the fly you can trim away the excess herl.
10) Attach your hackle pliers to the saddle hackle and begin palmering the hackle forward. As you wind the hackle around the hook, make certain all of the bare stem that you left hanging out of the back of the fly is wrapped at the very back of the fly and the barbs are starting to stick out from the fly before applying five or six wraps of hackle towards the eye of the fly. This will make certain that hackle fibers are sticking out from the fly and canting forward from one end of the fly to the other.
11) Secure the hackle behind the eye of the hook with three turns of tying thread.
12) Inspect the fly all around to make certain it is as you want it and trim away the excess hackle if you are satisfied with the fly.
13) Add a few thread wraps to secure the ‘head’ of the fly. You do not want to make a pronounced head on this fly, just a small one to secure the fly. Trim away the tying thread, apply a small drop of head cement and the fly is done.
If you prefer, there is a video on tying this fly. I recommend you watch the video even if you prefer the step-by-step directions as the video can clarify some of the steps.