The Chernobyl crab is a modern day classic saltwater pattern designed by Tim Borski. I love dynamic patterns that you tweak slightly to cover a range of food sources and fishing applications and this fly fits the bill. The basic design is beautifully simple: a splayed hackle wing tail, flared deer body hair tips as a collar, followed by hackle fibers palmered through loosely spun and trimmed deer hair body for a head, then finished off with some bead chain eyes. Though named "crab", the fly is more impressionistic and can imitate a minnow, crab, or shrimp all at the same time. However, changing the amount or positioning of the materials can make the fly more suggestive of one food source over the other. For example, the pictured fly has splayed hackles that can imitate claws if the fly is fished slowly. Also, the deer hair collar is large and fanned over the back of the fly like a carapace. Yes, this fly is intended to be fished more like a crab i.e. retrieved slowly in sight fishing situations. However, the beauty is that even with crab-like aesthetics, if fished blindly and more erratically, this fly could easily be confused for a shrimp or a mangrove minnow such as a mud minnow or molly. To be more suggestive of a shrimp or fish rather than a crab, I would tie the hackles cupped (curved in) rather than splayed and I would reduce the size and spread of the deer-hair collar. This technique would create a narrower profile, suggestive of a minnow or shrimp rather than the wide footprint of a crab.
This versatility also makes the fly a great winter pattern for the back country in southwest Florida. Typically, during the cooler months, the primary forage base shifts from bait fish to shrimp and crabs. That is not to say that bait fish aren't present or that predator don't eat bait fish or even key on bait fish during this time but rather that bait fish are not in as high of numbers and the crabs and shrimp presence increases. So, using a fly that covers a range of food sources can help you cover water more effectively.
Additionally, because of the deer hair and overall design, the fly can be fished slowly in shallow water which allows for proper presentations to cold slow moving fish during winter's negative tides.
Tie up some Chernobyl crabs/shrimp/minnows in olives, tans, blacks and whites with dumbbell and bead chain eyes and be confident that you have a fly that every southwest Florida fish will eat.
Side Bar: If the deer hair body seems like a pain, then large tan, black, olive or pearl crystal chenille is a suitable alternative. In fact, if you intend to fish the fly deeper in the water column, then crystal chenille may be a preferable alternative. On that note, if you are fishing a deer hair CC, be sure to squeeze out any trapped air before use. This is done by gently squeezing the body under water. By forcing the air out of the fly it will track true and sink faster.
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