** 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.
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
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)
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.
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.
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