|Hall's Perfect Crab|
The perfect solution to spooky bonefish
Hawaii has some incredible bonefishing. Over the past three years, I’ve fished bonefish here several times a week, catching more than 100 fish. While the average is somewhere between 6 and 7 lbs., quite a few have weighed in at 10 lbs. or more. As phenomenal as the bonefishing is, however, the relatively limited number of flats and high fishing pressure have helped to create some of the most selective bonefish anywhere.
These educated Hawaiian bonefish are incredibly spooky, so we have to fish extremely realistic flies that enter the water with little or no splash. With a good chance almost every day of catching a fish with a double-digit weight, you need to be prepared to fish large flies—especially crab flies. And you need to be aware that our flats are covered with special kinds of seaweed that seem to be scientifically designed to snag hooks. So there is the dilemma: find a large crab fly that is realistic in appearance, enters the water with little splash, and is generally weedless.
I created Doc Hall’s Perfect Crab to do just that. Crab flies with hard bodies, large eyes, and exposed hooks can be realistic enough, but tend to sound like a sinker when they hit the water. Plus, the exposed hook snags lots of seaweed. The Perfect Crab’s flared deer hair, palmered hackle, and subtle marabou allow it to slip quietly through the surface tension of the water with little splash. And the hook shank has strips of lead wire on the underside to give the fly a favorable sink rate and keep the hook point-up. These wire strips also allow for smaller lead eyes, further reducing the entry splash. I trim the flared deer hair to cover the hook point, which acts as an effective weed guard—and the buoyancy of the deer hair ensures that the hook point always rides up. One of the real keys to the success of this fly is the addition of the Orvis centipede legs. The buoyancy of these legs makes the legs flare up in the water and help the “head” end of the crab stick up just like a crab in the defensive posture. The action of the fly, even when sitting still on the bottom, is incredibly crab-like.
Doc Hall’s Perfect Crab is most effective when fishing for tailing fish, or for fish that are slowly cruising in shallow water. The most important thing to remember is to fish it slowly. Just when you think you are stripping slowly enough, go twice as slow, then slow down even more. This crab likes a gentle touch! I crawl it along weedy bottoms with long, slow, strips—just enough to keep the line tight, maybe 1-2 feet every 4-6 seconds. The fly is almost completely weedless, so I just keep it on top of the weeds so the fish can see it. If I’m fishing a bottom with better visibility, I barely move it at all. The inherent action of the marabou, hackle, and centipede legs allow the Doc Hall’s Perfect Crab to fish incredibly well with no strip at all—maybe just a twitch or gentle, slow pull to get the fish’s attention. If this is fished with a Crazy Charlie or Clouser-style hopping action, the fish bolt immediately. They’re used to seeing crabs hunker down in a claws-up posture when they approach, not hop away 18 inches at a time. I just can’t emphasize enough that the importance of moving this fly slowly!
The fish’s strike or “take” on this fly is a subtle shiver or a tipped up tail. You should also look for the fish that comes in then stops on it. It is not a take that you always feel—in fact, I’d estimate that I feel the take on only about 10% of the fish I hook on this fly. Look for these signs and do a long, slow, strip set, even if you aren’t sure if he has it. If he doesn’t have it and the strip set is slow enough, he’ll probably pounce on it. Don’t worry about missing the hook set by going too slowly. Because it is a slow pull, you often pull the fish toward you a bit before it reacts. When the fish does react, it’ll set the hook for you, creating a better hook set because the slow pull allows the tip of the hook to find good purchase for penetration. More fish are lost due to a fast hook set—either it hops up away from them and spooks them, or they feel the sting and react quickly, with the hook not penetrating or the line breaking as it suddenly tightens against your hook-setting hand.
This is the most realistic, quietest landing, most weed free crab imitation I know of. When fished slowly, with skill, I suspect you’ll have as much fun with it as I do. Get some today and see for yourself.
- By Daniell Hall