The Power of the Hop

The Crayfish Hop was conceived by Smallmouth Angler Tim Holschlag. But before we can start talking about the power of the hop, we need to understand the behaviors of the food source we are trying to mimic. Let's start by talking about the crayfish. Crayfish inhabit almost all fresh water, making them well known among a wide variety of fish populations. The crayfish is a food source for channel catfish, walleye, trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pike, musky and many more species of fish. Studies suggest that fish will select the largest prey when available, making the crayfish a powerhouse bait. Because of their size and nutritional value they can't be passed up.

When a crayfish flees from danger, they use their powerful tail to propel themselves backwards creating an up and down hopping motion through the water. It is this motion that we are trying to mimic with the crayfish hop.

A crayfish pattern can be one of the most versatile flies that you can have in your fly box. I have caught largemouth, smallmouth, pike, carp, channel catfish, and brown trout on crayfish patterns. There are three main patterns I use the crayfish hop with; the Midwest Electric Wooly, the TeQueely and the Midwest HiTail Craw. I carry these flies in sizes ten and eight for the Midwest Electric Wooly, size four for the Midwest HiTail Craw, and sizes six, four and two for the TeQueely. Each fly has their advantages and disadvantages. The Tequeely and the Midwest Electric Wooly tend to swing much better than the Midwest HiTail Craw but the HiTail sits close to perpendicular to the bottom and can be super deadly in slow moving pools. Whether I am swinging, stripping or twitching on the bottom, I always blend in the crayfish hop.

To properly execute the crayfish hop, we need to get the fly bounding ten to fifteen inches at a time. No matter how hard you strip your line it is just not going to happen. To generate enough power, we will need to harness the power of the rod. Starting with the rod tip near the water, we pop the rod straight up ten to fifteen inches and immediately drop the rod back down to the water all while stripping in the slack. The popping motion causes the fly to rise and move in an arc like fashion. Another benefit to popping the rod straight up then down is when the line falls back to the water along with the strip it causes a secondary more subtle hopping motion that is absolutely deadly.

Illustration of the crayfish hop in action
To get the most benefit from the crayfish hop, I like to blend it in with other retrieves. Sometimes a couple twitches on the bottom then a hop, sometimes hop, hop, pause, or sometimes hop, pause, hop, pause. Mix it up. The most important part about the crayfish hop is to always be ready and keep as much slack out of the line as possible. Watch the tip of the line. The majority of the time, the fish will strike when you start the hop. If this happens, immediately drop your rod tip back down toward the water and strip in the slack. This will allow you to get the fullest range possible and ensure a solid hook set. Other times, when the fly is just sitting on the bottom, the fish will pick it up and run with it. If you see the line move in any erratic way set the hook. When I am guiding, this is the scenario where I see most of my clients miss their fish. They are expecting to feel the strike and are not paying attention to the end of the line. For this reason, many fly fisherman who use this technique will use an indicator.

Knowing how is only half the battle. The where is just important as the how. My favorite places to use crayfish patterns with the crayfish hop is deep pools with rocky bottoms. The reason I like pools better than riffles or runs is that I can maintain better control over the fly and I can let it sit on the bottom still after the hop. When using the crayfish hop in faster runs, line mending becomes essential to get your fly ticking bottom. Will hopping a crayfish through a run catch fish? Absolutely. But, I like to use the best tool in the box for each scenario and for me crayfish and the hop will catch more fish out of these pools than any other fly. While in runs and riffles, other patterns will work as well or better.