** NOTE** Video for the Craft Fur appears below.
Some flies do one thing really well. Other flies are your workhorse on the water, lending solutions to river problems by being adaptable. These are the flies we reach for over and over. These are the flies we tie first and keep well stocked. This is the Craft Fur.
I’ve fished the Craft Fur for eight years, and it truly is that workhorse pattern. I swim it and strip it like a streamer. I jig it, glide it and slide it, fast and slow. I swing it with a lift-n-fall and dead drift it like a nymph. I employ the Craft Fur as the point fly in a crossover rig, and I fish it as a single in tight quarters against bank structure. I use it for long retrieves and short ones, to the other side of the creek or with targeted drifts just a few feet away. It’s big enough to interest Old Granddad under the log, and it’s reasonable enough to fool picky trout of every size.
The Craft Fur is easy to cast because it sheds water. It falls quickly and breathes on the pause — with expanding fur to show just a little twinkle from the inside.
It’s versatile, quick to tie, easy to change up and fun to fish.
Sound good? Then let’s do it . . .
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I tie and fish the Craft Fur in three variations:
- A lead ball jig head (I paint these with Pro Tec Powder Paint)
- A heavy tungsten slotted bead on a jig hook
- A medium weighted tungsten bead on a straight hook
The difference lies at the head of these flies. How we build the weight into the head of the fly is what dictates its performance — how it moves in the water — and therefore, how we fish it.
History and Origins
Jigs have been around forever. Think of the bucktail. Is there a more common and useful lure in the fishing world? Compared to bucktail, craft fur is softer, so it moves and flows easier in the water. Sometimes, that’s a good thing.
There is nothing special about a Craft Fur jig. And honestly, I stole this idea from the bass world. Years ago, Pup’s Jig Works provided an endless array of ideas for combining craft fur and companion materials on a ball jig. I also credit Rich Strolis as the first fly tyer I saw give life to the ball jig in the fly world. Check out his work on the website, Catching Shadows. Rich has some fantastic jig flies and some great ideas for fishing them.
I’ve tied a lot of materials on ball jigs over the years. And I have a few other favorite jig patterns. But, for me, a jigs should be simple and easy to lose. Meaning, I’m not afraid to take risks with it, because the next one takes only a few minutes to tie. Although I fish the Craft Fur (and other jigs) in many different ways, I reach for it most when I want to be close to the bottom or very near structure. It’s a great targeting fly that way.
READ: Troutbitten | Troutbitten Fly Box — The Jig Streamers
So, simplicity wins the design here. And after a lot of experimentation, the Craft Fur found its final form. It’s simple, with two colors of craft fur, a little ice dub in the middle and a hot collar accent.
Fish it hard.
Here’s the Craft Fur video. Take a look, and then find more details, with recipes and materials links in the paragraphs below.
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The Craft Fur Recipe
Hooks For the Ball Jig: Wapsi Super Jig -- 1/32, 1/24, 1/16, 1,8
Hooks For the Tungsten Jig: Ahrex PR374 90 Degree Jig Streamer Hook, #2
Hooks For the Straight Version: Daiichi 2461, #4 or #6, or Gamakatsu B10s, #4
Paint: Pro-Tec Powder Paint, Watermelon (or other)
Beads for Tungsten Jig: MUUNN Slotted Tungsten (6.5mm, 5.5mm, 4.5mm or similar)
Beads for Straight Version: Tungsten Beads (4.5mm, 4mm, 3.5mm or similar)
Lead Wire: Hareline Lead Wire, .020, .025, .030 (wire to roughly match hook shank diameter)
Thread for Covering Lead and Building Taper: UTC Thread, 210 Denier (black or similar)
Thread for Tying the Fly: Uni-Thread, 6/0 (black or similar)
Thread for Hot Collar: Uni-Thread, 8/0 (Red)
Body: Ice Dub (Olive or Peacock Black)
Craft Fur Wings: Wapsi Super Select Craft Fur (Olive, Cream, Tan or Similar)
UV Resin: Loon UV Clear
When painting the balls, heat the lead for about ten seconds. If it’s not hot enough, the powder paint won’t melt to the lead. If it’s too hot, the lead will actually liquify and fall off the hook. Dip and swish the hot jig head for a quick second. No more. Then clean the eye with a needle before it hardens. Bake the jigs in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes to cure the paint. All of these instructions are on the powder paint container.
The addition of lead wraps not only adds weight, it also creates a base for the fly materials and a taper. Using 210 denier thread over the lead makes covering the lead wraps a quick task.
Don’t overdo the ice dub. It should not be thick, and it should not come back any further than above the point of the hook. Rough it up and keep it sparse.
Craft fur can be difficult to work with, until you get a feel for it. Cut clumps larger than you think you may need. Craft fur has three layers. Comb out the underfur — the shortest layer. Then stack the middle and the longest layer before tying in. This process makes the most of the fur.
Remember that the jig versions will invert. We want the lighter color of cream or tan on the bottom of the fly as it’s swimming.
Don’t let the hot collar overtake the head. Use 8/0 Uni-Thread or similar. And keep the wraps just enough to create a collar, keeping the two-tone look at the head — black then red.
UV resin is optional. It’s not necessary, and it somewhat darkens the red collar.
Design and Function
The lighter, straight-hooked version of the Craft Fur is a spin-off from the original Craft Fur Jig. It swims more and drops less, simply because it is lighter. I use it when I don’t care to be close to the riverbed or plan to make contact with the bottom.
The Craft Fur Jig with the lead ball is my favorite, because nothing rides the bottom like a lead ball jig. For years, I tried to bounce and tick the bottom with my streamer — like so many anglers recommend — but I got hung up too often. As soon as I tied on a lead ball jig, I finally had the ability to ride the bottom with precision. And I’ve been using these flies ever since.
The fly inverts, but the lead ball also bounces well. It rolls out of snags rather than sticking. And the ability to feel the fly and manipulate it over the riverbed is unmatched with any other style of fly. Tungsten beaded jigs are similar, but they stick more, because they don’t bounce like lead. Also, there is no tungsten bead being sold that is heavy enough to match the heaviest weights of a lead ball jig.
Fishing the Craft Fur
I recommend fishing jig streamers on a Mono Rig, to get the most from their performance. I call it a Mono Rig instead of euro rig, because there is nothing European about fishing a lead ball jig on a long leader. In fact, Europeans traditionally scorn streamers in general, calling them lures. There are no euro-streamers or euro-jigs either. They’re just flies tied on a jig hook, and we fish them best on a tight line.
Semantics aside, a Mono Rig or long leader system provides the amazing ability to be tight to the streamer. Therefore, we can control every part of its movement at every moment. Lift, drop, swim, head flip, strip — all of this is at our hands, without the intermediary of a fly line in between. The tight line angler, with contact, controls the elements of depth, angle and speed, all the way through the course of the retrieve. Once we realize how much control a jig provides, it takes a while to learn the motions necessary to manipulate the streamer. Honestly, it might take a lifetime, because what we can do with the fly in the water comes with an endless set of skills to refine.
Fishing these flies is a lot of fun.
I often use the Craft Fur Jig as a vehicle to get smaller flies — usually nymphs — very near the bottom. By tagging a nymph above the jig or trailing behind it, I get excellent control over the course of the companion fly.
The Craft Fur can be fished any way you can imagine. By carrying a few different weights or styles, you can perform any streamer presentation.
READ: Troutbitten | Category | Streamer Presentations
That said, I most often use the advantage of a heavier, faster sinking fly to get near the bottom — to bounce along through the zone where real baitfish reside, attempting to give my streamer convincing animations that trigger trout. I often fish what I call a Crossover technique, and you can learn more about that HERE.
Tie the Craft Fur. Fish it and learn its strengths and weaknesses. Watch it in the water, and observe what your rod tip motions combined with hand retrieves do to the fly. Then cast further and get deeper. Choose a further off target, but keep it tight. Repeat those best animations and seal the deal. Make the trout eat. Convince them. Sell them with your streamer presentation, and have fun out there.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N
Acknowledging that we’ve been pushing the boundaries of what a ‘fly’ is on here lately, this fly and the techniques for fishing them feel just over the line to me. I can’t help but feel I could fish these as-or-more effectively with a spin rod. I guess the decision for using a fly vs spin outfit to fish these flies comes down to what other techniques you think you might apply on the day (unless you carry both).
Putting it on the table I’m no snob, and I’ll happily catch fish with the gear and the techniques that work (where permitted). But I think I’m in the camp of this being a lure. I couldn’t tell you where the line is – is a B+H (or a bare hook) a fly? I think you could argue you’re fly fishing using either of these. But stick any kind of bait on it and I don’t think there’s a law in the world that recognises you’re fly fishing (scent on a fly… I think that’s still a grey area? That’s not the next TB experiment is it…?).
On here, lately?
Fly anglers have been pushing the boundaries since the very beginning. WEIGHT is the original sin. If you are fishing weight, please tell me the difference between lead on a head or tungsten at the head? Furthermore, is lead or tungsten impregnated into a fly line actually more “fly fishing,” even though the casting to throw the unweighted flies at the end of those weighted lines is more of a bastardization than a pure Mono Rig cast?
Food for thought, right?
The guys and I also addressed these questions in a full podcast too:
And they are questions, for sure. They are best considered with an open mind. No bias. Real consideration about WHY we draw these lines and where they come from.
Lastly, if you don’t like the lead ball jig, do you like the straight hook, beadhead on the Craft Fur? Is that one okay? If so, why? If not, do you use any streamer with a beadhead, conehead, etc? Do you use split shot?
Again . . . weight, in any form, is the original sin.
One more thing:
“I can’t help but feel I could fish these as-or-more effectively with a spin rod.”
That’s not true. I’ve tried it. You should too. See what you think.
I’ve tried them on UL spinning gear too, and while they might weigh nearly the same as a typical UL lure, the air resistance will get you every time.
That’s an excellent point.
Right on Dom, it is a house of controversy here, unashamedly, and I love every bit of it. That’s why I keep coming back, because it’s innovative, and the resulting methods and tactics are versatile and effective. I’m with you on weight being the original sin, but I still feel there’s a point where a fly becomes a lure and vice-versa. To stretch the metaphor, perhaps a little weight is purgatory, and a lot of weight is damnation.
I’ll put on the table that I don’t fish streamers a hell of a lot. At my usual trouting haunts they’re just not the best tool for the job all that often. Sometimes, but not often. However, I did spend most of my youth and 20s fishing small soft plastics on small jig hooks with spin gear (in the salt and for native freshwater fish, rarely for trout). Spin gear is great for this kind of jig/lure, partially because spin rods have specialised around these kinds of lures and partially because of the advantages of using braided line. They cast further and far more accurately than any fly rod, and you can feel every little tick, current change, bottom type and fouling on the way back in. You can cover a lot of water very effectively and efficiently.
None of the streamers in my fly box have enough weight to fish effectively with a spin rod, even though they have varying amounts of lead or tungsten incorporated – usually around the middle rather than the head, but I’ll be tying some ‘balanced’ patterns soon. If I don’t need to get them too deep I’ll fish them with the mono rig, but if I need to get them deeper I’ll use an intermediate or sink tip. If I need deeper I’ll turn to heavier lures and the spin rod.
I could use split shot with the mono-rig, but I rarely do – I’ve got no objections to shot, but I don’t love it. It can slide on the line, or damage the tippet, or create unwanted tangles. I’d rather pop a tag on and use a weighted nymph to get things down if need be. It doesn’t move and it rarely tangles.
Out of respect for the topic though, I’ll tie up a couple of jig hook streamers, fish them on the mono rig and see how I like it. Perhaps I’ll see you in purgatory 🙂
To follow this up, I tied up a 1/16 jig head on Friday and gave it a whirl over the weekend. I don’t have any lighter jig heads on hand, so I acknowledge I’m at the upper end of your preferences for weight.
In spite of the extra weight compared to my usual streamers (largest bead I usually use is 3.3mm tungsten), I couldn’t cast it any further on the mono rig, except when the wind came up. I didn’t love fishing with it, but I can envision scenarios when it could come in handy, such as high flows, really deep runs, higher wind days and, I reckon, stillwater (I’ve never tried the mono rig in stillwater, but flipping jigs like this could be quite effective, though again I think spin gear would work better).
I won’t dismiss it as part of the toolbox just yet, and I’m sure I’ll get better with it the more I practice. I’ve got a couple of spots in mind where this might be the best fly to throw.
To really test it and understand how to work it, run that same fly in a foot of water. That’s the key. Stop thinking of heavy weight as a deep water technique, and stop thinking of jig flies as heavy.
Yeah, it’s arbitrary where each of us draws the line as to “what is fly-fishing, or when does it stop being fly fishing”. These modern jig-craft fur streamers don’t too much resemble traditional streamers, no more than perdigons resemble catskill dries. Nor do our euro-nymph-ish long leaders resemble traditional presentations. (Well, neither does “bobber-nymphing). Yet we continue our devotion to “fly-fishing”. I include myself. I suppose I must have a point, too, where I no longer consider some innovation “fly-fishing”. I guess I haven’t found it yet.
“What is fly fishing” comes up too much. It makes me scratch my head. Do other styles do this?
For one to claim they are “fly fishing” they must be casting the line – not the terminal rig. Chuck-and-duck casting or lobbing clearly fall into another category of angling. Fishing a mono-rig seems to lie somewhere between the two. Whether or not one cares is of course a personal thing.
That’s pretty good. I’ve made this point hundreds of times — that I love what I call the standard Mono Rig because it is build for casting. It casts itself, with not weight attached. However, I also fish a micro mono rig at times. I use the same flies, and even the same casting stroke. I don’t get the same performance from the leader, but I do get a fly first entry, and if you stood back and watched, you’d be hard pressed to say it wasn’t a fly fishing cast. It’s not my favorite rig to fish, but I’d never say it’s not fly fishing — it’s just closer to that line.
I’ve written this as well: fly fishing is fishing with flies and using a line hand for retrieval. That’s about it for me. What’s a fly? Well . . .
How did I get into this subject again?
“Use the right tool for the job.” my grandfather often said.
What makes fly fishing fun (for me) is fly casting.. and trying to fly cast a jig (or heavy streamer) makes it not fun.
Which leads one to bigger fly rods/lines, two handed setups, Skagit, etc. Been there done that.
Lately I have evolved to hanging a jig below a proper float and fishing it with spin or pin gear. Simplicity is elegance, right?
Many favorite streamer patterns can be easily adapted to jigs.
” trying to fly cast a jig (or heavy streamer) makes it not fun.”
Depends on what you mean by heavy. 1/4 ounce? Maybe that’s where I’d start to agree with your statement. But I don’t even carry anything that heavy. I use 1/32, 1/24, 1/16 most often. These are fun to cast on a fly rod. Gotta cast them, though. Don’t lob. Use the rod. Make it flex and fire the fly to the target.
I think we have to define “fly fishing “. If it means using only insect imitations then what do we call using a long rod to cast mouse patterns, frog poppers or crayfish patterns? Spin fishing doesn’t only mean throwing spinners and bait casting isn’t just plugs. Fly fishing is just a way to deliver your offering. We use similar equipment ,5wt, for dry flys and and poppers. Let’s not get lost in the semantics and just go out and catch some fish. Tight Lines. John
I love that, for sure!
That pattern looks very similar to a streamer named “Carl’s Little Precious,” or simply “Little Precious,” or affectionately just “Precious” (and trying hard not to sound like Gollum when saying it). I, too, find myself reaching for it all of the time.