By Nick Simonson
The Crazy Charlie is a simple but well-known shrimp imitator that populates the fly boxes of die-hard flats anglers pursuing bonefish, permit and other saltwater species and is usually tied sparkly, light and translucent to match those warm-water crustaceans. For northern anglers, it does double duty in smaller sizes for crappies, white bass and perch and is often tied in silver or gold to mimic minnows. With a few simple pheasant-based tweaks, however, it becomes a dynamite darker pattern for connecting with spring smallmouth. The pheasant version of the fly is easily tied with the bird’s marabou and rump feather fibers and always triggers a bite, moving something like a crayfish and always looking edible.
Hook: Gamakatsu SS12 (Size 6-1)
Thread: Brown 3/0
Eyes: Dumbell Eyes
Body: Wrapped Larva Lace
Underwing: Pheasant Marabou
Overwing: Pheasant Rump Feather Fibers
Start the fly by securing the hook in the vise and laying down a base of thread and tie in the dumbbell eyes (1). Once secured, tie in a five-inch strand of Larva Lace along the top of the hook shank and up the curl of the bend, before advancing the thread back to just behind the dumbbell eyes (2). Wrap the Larva Lace forward so each segment touches the previous one until it reaches the thread; at that point tie the ribbing off securely and trim the excess, advancing the thread in front of the dumbbell eyes (3).
Select a pinch of pheasant marabou, it can be black, brown-tipped, cream shaded or one of the variety of other dark hues found on a rooster’s cape. Tie the marabou feathers in just in front of the dumbbell eyes to form the underwing, making a slight taper toward the hook eye (4). Next select a few long-fibered rump feathers – orange, green or gold, whatever is desired as an accent color – and remove the fibers from the stem of the feather. Tie them in over the pinch of marabou to form the overwing and provide a solid top line in the fly’s profile, again tapering the wraps toward the hook eye, forming a thread head (5). Build the wraps up slightly, whip finish and epoxy the thread head and the fly is complete (6).
The Crazy Charlie is quick and easy to put together and fishes just as simply in the water. Use bead chain eyes for a slower fall and a lighter presentation and heavier dumbbell eyes to get the fly down in the water column faster. Work it with a series of lifts and pops to imitate a fleeing crayfish and let it tumble back down to the bottom just like the real thing would. Wait for the strike and hold on tight, especially when smallies are on the feed in spring and summer.
Adjust the color of the ribbing going from bright orange to olive to deep purple to imitate a variety of shades seen on crayfish and other similar prey items in the natural world. Any hues in a favorite bass jig’s skirt will help turn bronzebacks with this pattern so experiment with some go-to tints. The Crazy Charlie can cover the gamut of species from saltwater to freshwater and from north to south. Tie a few dozen up and get ready for a great season on the long rod!