Designed by Bob Nauheim
Hook: Daiichi 2546 #4-#8
Thread: MFC 6/0 or 3/0 or UTC 70 or 140, Color to compliment overall fly color
Underbody: Mylar, color to compliment overall fly color
Body: Clear V-Rib, small
Wing: Calf tail or synthetic substitute topped with a few strands of pearl Crystal Flash
Eyes: Bead chain or dumbbell eyes
By mid-winter most people in Canada and the northern United States are sick of the cold, rain and snow. A fortunate few take the time to head south for warmer climates such as Belize, Mexico and the Bahamas to chase bonefish, permit, tarpon and a host of other sports fish on the fly. If there is an international airport nearby you can be rest assured that fly fishing snowbirds will be flocking south.
Most inshore tropical fish dine on small crabs, shrimp or baitfish. The Crazy Charlie, designed by the late Bob Nauheim, is a simple fly that can be dressed to match this tropical forage base. It is as saltwater staple. No travelling fly fisher should leave for a tropical trip without a diverse selection of Crazy Charlie’s.
The Crazy Charlie is an easy tie, consisting of three primary components, a pair of eyes, wing and body. Most Crazy Charlie’s are tied on a 1xl straight eye saltwater streamer hook, #2 through #10. In most locations, #4 or #6 is standard but there are instances where patterns on either side of this range are the norm. Always check with your destination for the size and color of Crazy Charlie’s they recommend.
The combination of the wing and eyes causes the Crazy Charlie to ride inverted, hook point up. This profile helps keep the fly snag free and when skipped across the bottom creates a convincing puff of sand or mud that bonefish aggressively recognize as food.
Bead chain is the most common eye material. Lead dumbbells, mono and Eye’s N Tubes are other popular eye choices. Water depth, clarity and local prey characteristics all have a bearing on eye choice. It is common to have a number of Crazy Charlie’s on hand all tied in the same color but using different sized eyes.
To secure bead chain or dumbbell style eyes use figure eight wraps to lock the eyes in place on top of the hook a minimum of two hook eye widths back from the hook eye. Placing weighted eyes on top of the shank helps roll the fly over so it fishes upside down. Once the eyes are initially tied in, place horizontal thread wraps under the eyes and above the hook shank. After a few wraps use a smooth firm pull to tighten and constrict the figure eight wraps. A dab of superglue on the thread wraps provides additional security.
Prior to applying superglue ensure the eyes are horizontal by placing the hook with the eyes attached upside down onto the tying bench to ensure they are positioned correctly. The hook should be 90 degrees to the eyes and not leaning over to one side. Tuning the eyes and hook ensures the fly swims true. If you are planning on tying a number of Crazy Charlie’s use production techniques to improve your efficiency. Tie the eyes on all of your hooks first so the glue has had time to set before adding the body and wing.
The body of a Crazy Charlie typically consists of a bright Mylar or Flashabou underbody covered by an over body of size small clear V-Rib. The body color often compliments the wing of the fly. Silver bodied Crazy Charlie’s coupled with white wings suggest baitfish while pink, copper or gold underbodies blended with pink, orange or earth toned wings suggest small crabs or shrimp. V-Rib protects the fragile underbody and enhances the vibrancy of the underbody.
V-Rib can be stiff to work with. Rub it through your thumb and finger to warm and soften the material. Looking closely, you will see that V-Rib is flat on one side and round on the other. The rounded side should face out when the fly is complete. To accomplish this, always tie in the V-Rib with the flat side up. Your first wrap places a 180 degree rotation in the V-Rib so the rounded side faces out as you wind it forward.
Calf tail is the most common choice for Crazy Charlie wings. Other materials such as squirrel tail, polar bear hair craft fur and a myriad of other synthetics make excellent substitutes. When using calf tail choose the hair from the middle 2/3rds of the tail. This location offers the longest straightest fibres. Pull the hair perpendicular to the tail prior to trimming to pre-even the fibres. You can even the tips by hand or using a hair stacker. I prefer a large diameter hair stacker. Large diameter hair stackers provide enough space for the crinkly calf tail fibers to shuffle around and even their tips. Keep the wing sparse.
Calf tail is a slippery, solid, non-compressible hair. Trimming the butts prior to tie in on an angle leaning towards the hook eye provides a solid base reducing the risk of the hair fibres accidently pulling out. A touch of brushable superglue is also a good idea to provide further reinforcement. In most instances the tips of a Crazy Charlie wing extend back even with the hook bend. Some tiers opt for longer wings. The choice is yours.
A sparse topping of pearlescent or complimentary colored Crystal Flash completes the Crazy Charlie. I secure 2-3 strands at the midpoint of the Crystal Flash so there are equal lengths on either side of the tie in point. Fold the strands pointing forward of the tie in point back over the wing and lock in them place with tying thread. Build a neat smooth head and whip finish to complete the fly. Stagger cut the Crystal Flash to different lengths so it shimmers throughout the length of the wing.
Armed with a selection of Crazy Charlie’s you are ready for your next bonefish excursion. Bonefish are an excellent introductory fish to whet your tropical saltwater appetite. Wading beautiful sand and coral flats in a hot tropical climate pushes the thoughts of another Canadian winter to the back of your mind. The pace of a fleeing bonefish snaps you back to reality. You will be hard pressed to recall ever seeing your backing leave your reel at such a rate. I still have vivid memories of my first bonefish on the fly. Fly fishing the tropics becomes a difficult addiction to shake and provides a welcome winter respite.
1) Cover the hook shank with tying thread. Using figure eight wraps secure the eyes on top of the shank at least two hook eye widths back from the hook eye. Once the eyes are in position place three or four horizontal posting wraps beneath the eyes and above the hook shank. Pull the bobbin forward to tighten and constrict the thread wraps around the eyes. Add a dab of brushable superglue to the thread wraps for added security.
2) Tie in a length of clear V-Rib flat side facing up directly behind the eyes. Secure the V-Rib in place to the rear of the hook shank. Return the tying thread so it is hanging behind the eyes. Tying the V-Rib in place flat side up ensures the rounded side faces out when you wind it over the Mylar underbody.
3) Tie in the Mylar behind the eyes. Wind the Mylar back down the shank. Once you reach the final securing wraps of where the V-Rib was tied in reverse direction and wind the Mylar forward to its original tie in point. Tie off and trim the excess Mylar.
4) Wind the V-Rib forward over the Mylar underbody using close touching turns. Make sure the round side of the V-Rib faces out. Tie off the excess V-Rib behind the eyes and remove the excess.
5) If you have a rotary vise, rotate the vise so the hook is inverted. If you don’t have a rotary vise, remove the hook and place it back into the jaws so it rides point up. Prepare and stack a sparse clump of calf tail. Make sure all the short fibers are removed. Measure the prepared calf tail clump so the tips extend no further than the bend of the hook. Once the calf tail has been measured trim the butts on a taper on an angle sloping up and toward the front of the fly and away from the tips of the hair. Once the calf tail has been measured, trim the butts on a taper on an angle sloping up and toward the front of the fly and away from the tips of the hair. Trimming the hair on this angle ensures a firm tie in. Using firm wraps, tie in the prepared clump of calf tail in place in front of the eyes. Place a dab of brushable superglue on the tie-in point for added security.
6) Tie in 3-4 strands of pearl Crystal Hair so there are equal amounts of Crystal Hair on either side of the tie in point. Fold the front portion protruding out in front of the hook eye back over the wing and secure in place. Stagger cut the Crystal Hair to different lengths so it shimmers throughout the entire wing.
7) Build a neat tapered head. Whip finish and apply high gloss head cement.