No Bells or Whistles

No Bells or Whistles

Martyn White | Tuesday, 9 June 2020

About 3 years ago I discovered the ballpeen craw a crayfish fly but didn't realize how good it was at the time. I used it on an off and caught bass carp and barbel on it, but I had other crayfish patterns that I'd fished for several seasons, incumbency was their friend. Then last year I fished old bucktail patterns exclusively for bass so only used the new crayfish when chasing carp, to the exclusion of the larger bass style crays I'd been using previously. This year, I've not been out so much obviously, but the new crayfish has been outfishing the bigger more elaborate patterns incredibly consistently. And now I think about it, it's easy to see why and I wish I had recognised it sooner. I should have; years ago I read a study that the research arm of Berkley did as they tried to develop a more effective soft plastic crayfish for pitching and flipping jigs. Basically they tested baits with various numbers of appendages, from none to all the squiggly bits you can imagine. The result was that overwhelmingly the most attractive shape was a pincerless little lump, they never made that bait though as the market research showed it wouldn't sell! But the fish preference is what's interesting, I've used it to inform my crayfish patterns and I'm sure it's a big factor in the effectiveness of the Clouser crayfish.

So what's so good about the ballpeen craw?  Well first off it catches fish but that's in itself isn't that special, the clawdad, nearnuff crayfish, fighting craw and any number of others catch fish. A great deal of my smallie fishing around Tokyo is sight fishing and the way the ballpeen craw gets eaten is different from the busier patterns.  There's a confidence about the eat, and this is largely true of carp and barbel too.  Possibly it's because the fish see a lot of soft plastics and jigs with hundreds of legs and swirly claws, but it probably also has something to do with the Berkley study- yes there are rubber legs coming out the back, but they are all cut the same length and are shrouded with dubbing which makes them move largely as a single cohesive piece.

Catching fish isn't enough though,for me there are other considerations.  Namely tying time, durability, cost and availability of materials. the ballpeen craw ticks all these boxes.

Unlike  most crawfish patterns it has very few tying steps -5 in total- making it nice and quick . The materials are cheap and readily available, aside from hook and thread all you need are bead chain, rubber legs, some crystal flash and a long fiber dubbing. When properly tied, it's tough ideal for fishing around rock walls and structure, pilings, concrete around dams, flood defenses and will last many many fish.  It always lands the right way up.  It's just great. The only downside is that it might be marginally snaggier on rip rap than some other patterns, but not that much, It could be fixed by cutting off the extra bead on either side, but that would reduce its stability sitting in current.  

I fancy it'll make a great flats fly, a nice each way bet that looks crabby enough to cast and sit but also shrimpy enough to move. I'll be sticking some on saltwater hooks in the  box before the next trip to the airport flat or if I manage down to Okinawa this year.

Ballpeen Craw
Hook: Kamasan B175 Size 6 (original TMC 3769 size 6)
Thread: 6/0 Uni to match colour scheme
Weight: Medium bead chain
Tail flash: Crystal flash Legs: SIlli legs
Body - rear1/3: SLF blend (Whitlock's blends are good)
Body - front 2/3: Craw dub Make the body in a dubbing loop