50 Pheasant Flies: Camden Crunch

By Nick Simonson

Stocked trout are known as the eat-anything additions to their foster flows, and they probably aren’t as sharp as their more naturally occurring cousins.  However, they can still be a challenge and are definitely a lot of fun as the openwater angling season gets going, whenever this spring decides to show up and make that happen.

In the meantime, we have a few extra days to up a bunch of these little gems to be ready for the coming season. While not a “fly” per se, this jig is light enough to be used on the long rod and heavy enough to be cast on ultralight trout tackle as well, and with a pheasant marabou tail, it adds to our growing collection of patterns from our favorite upland bird.


The Camden Crunch tied by Nick Simonson

Hook: 1/32 oz gold jig, no collar
Thread: 6/0 brown
Tail: Pinch of pheasant marabou
Body: Medium chenille, brown
Hackle: Furnace dry hackle, trimmed

The Camden Crunch is the nickname given to this buzz cut jig version of the woolly bugger and just like its parent pattern it can be tied in many variations.  The lure takes its title from the state park in southwestern Minnesota where it came to be and was used on the Redwood River with great success for brown trout.  Since then it’s been deployed on the prairie lakes of North Dakota, the streams of southeastern Wisconsin and the tributaries of the North Shore of Lake Superior with universal success.  The pattern couldn’t be simpler, unless you removed the hackle, which you can do, but then there’d be no “crunch” to the pattern, and what fun would that be?

Click Here for Step-by-Step Tutorial

Secure the jig in the vise with the hook eye pointed down.  Start the thread at the middle of the hook and go back to the bend forming a thread base (1). At that point tie in a pinch of pheasant marabou forming the tail. (2). Keep the tail short – no longer than three-quarters of the jig’s length – to prevent short strikes on the marabou.  In their early iterations, I trimmed the tails on my first set of these patterns while streamside after missing half a dozen strikes and that made all the difference.

At the base of the tail, tie in the hackle feather. Then tie in a three-inch strand of medium chenille to the hook shank in front of it (3).  Advance your thread to the base of the jig head and let it hang. Palmer the chenille forward, keeping each wrap tight to the one before it.  Tie the chenille down as close to the jig head as possible and trim the excess (4).

Next, using hackle pliers, wrap the hackle forward over the chenille.  When you reach the jig head, secure the hackle with your thread.  Make a few more thread wraps, further securing the materials to the hook; whip finish and trim the thread (5).   Apply a drop of

The Camden Crunch can be tied in a variety of colors, like this bright crappie variant (Simonson Photo)

head cement to the tie-in area behind the jig head for posterity.  Finally, trim the hackles around the jig’s body so they are about one hook gap in length (6). This gives the fly a compact, leggy appearance, like a crunchy bug of some sort, such as a dragonfly nymph.

One morning, I landed over 15 trout on one of these jigs.  By the end of the outing, the thread had given way, the hackles had been stripped and the chenille was unwinding from the hook shank. Stocked or wild trout, bluegills and crappies in your area should take well to this easily customizable jig, so give it a try and feel free to experiment with colors and add in various bells and whistles like sili legs, krystal flash or body wire for extra effect or to what the fish on your specific waters want.   You’ll find it to be a potent pattern that should bring a few more fish to hand this spring!

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