Flash­back Cruncher

Peter Gather­cole ties a nymph that will serve you well around the weedbeds

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

“The Cruncher pro­file has proven so ef­fec­tive, it finds it­self in many a fly box.”

AS RESER­VOIR water lev­els fall the ex­pan­sive weedbeds that formed dur­ing sum­mer be­come ex­posed. They pro­vide trout with a rich larder, of­fer­ing a per­fect habi­tat for coarse fish fry, snails, corix­ids, hoglice and shrimps. Trout will cruise the shal­lows close to these beds and through chan­nels that have formed within them, pick­ing off these small crea­tures. Un­sur­pris­ingly then these ex­pan­sive ar­eas be­come a tar­get for an­glers look­ing for some great end-of-sea­son sport, es­pe­cially the chance of catch­ing big, grown-on rain­bows and brown trout. While fry-feed­ing trout pro­vide the most dra­matic ex­am­ple of what’s on of­fer, it’s not al­ways the most con­sis­tent. A nymph pat­tern of some form can of­ten be more ef­fec­tive than a fry im­i­ta­tion, though it’s pos­si­ble to fish both at the same time, in­creas­ing your chances. An ef­fec­tive set-up is to com­bine a medium-sized Pop­per Minkie with one or more nymphs used on drop­pers. This tech­nique is in essence a ver­sion of the ‘wash­ing-line’ where a buoy­ant point fly is used to con­trol the depth at which other flies on the leader are fished. It works well in shal­low water or where trout are cruis­ing close to the sur­face where, even a lightly-tied nymph, can all too read­ily sink be­neath the depth at which the trout are cruis­ing. Among the most use­ful pat­terns are the Hare’s Ear nymph, the Di­awl Bach and the Cruncher, which – be­ing hack­led – sinks nice and slow. The Cruncher first came to promi­nence in the ti­tle ‘ TroutF­lyFish­ing’ jointly writ­ten by Martin Cairn­cross and John Daw­son, both of whom are highly-skilled fly fish­ers. Their stated in­ten­tion was to im­prove upon the Pheas­ant Tail Nymph and, while that might seem like an over­lyproud boast, at least from a stillwater per­spec­tive, it has pos­si­ble proved cor­rect. Orig­i­nally tied with a body of pheas­ant tail fi­bres and a pea­cock herl tho­rax, over time the Cruncher has mor­phed into a vast range of in­ter­est­ing and ef­fec­tive vari­a­tions. As with the Di­awl Bach, the Cruncher pro­file has proven so ef­fec­tive that it finds it­self in many a fly box. And, given the propen­sity of fly ty­ers to con­stantly tweak even an al­ready deadly pat­tern, to make it just that lit­tle bit bet­ter, the Cruncher is now tied in all sorts of colours and ma­te­ri­als from stripped pea­cock quill to Flexi-Floss. The fi­bres found on the tail of a cock pheas­ant range from dark chest­nut to a light brown, depend­ing on the age and in­di­vid­ual coloura­tion of the bird. In the clas­sic Pheas­ant Tail Nymph the feather of choice is the darker more dis­tinc­tive type: how­ever in Crunch­ers the re­verse is true with its orig­i­na­tors pre­fer­ring the paler feather. The way that the Cruncher dif­fers from the pat­tern it is in­tended to im­prove upon is that its pro­file is ac­tu­ally a cross be­tween a nymph and a hack­led wet fly. The hackle is a soft-fi­bred pale Green­well type – with a dark cen­tre run­ning ei­ther side of the hackle stem while the tips are a pale brown. As the fi­bres need to have plenty of move­ment they should be ei­ther a soft-fi­bred cock hackle or a hen hackle. What you don’t want is a dry fly grade hackle which has fi­bres much too stiff. And don’t be afraid to use the pat­tern in small sizes. While any­thing on a size 16 hook is bet­ter tied as a sim­ple Hare’s Ear, a slim size 14 Cruncher can be very ef­fec­tive in­deed. This is es­pe­cially so when the water is calm and clear. Us­ing a fly of this size and pro­file of­ten makes all the dif­fer­ence with fish that are ig­nor­ing a big­ger ver­sion.

Red Flash­back Cruncher

Hav­ing fixed the hook in the vice, run the thread down to the bend in touch­ing turns, then catch in a few fi­bres of Green­well hackle. If you don’t have any hackle of this type, don’t worry, a pale brown or ginger one will be fine. The tail fi­bres should be roughly half the length of the hook shank and, with them caught in place, the next step is to at­tach a length of fine sil­ver wire. This will form the rib, which helps give a seg­mented ef­fect to the body, but also af­fords some pro­tec­tion to the pheas­ant tail fi­bres which make up the body. In this flash­back ver­sion of the Cruncher, the tin­sel used to cre­ate the back is added now. So take a length of small red holo­graphic tin­sel and catch in at the same point as the sil­ver wire. To form the body, first take four or five pale cock peas­ant tail fi­bres and catch them in by their tips at the base of the tail. Pheas­ant tail fi­bres have a slight ta­per to them and when wound over the hook im­part a sim­i­lar, nat­u­ral-look­ing ta­per to the body. With the tail, rib, tin­sel strip and pheas­ant tail fi­bres caught in, carry the thread two-thirds of the way back to­wards the eye cov­er­ing the waste ends of these ma­te­ri­als, se­cur­ing them in place. Now it’s de­ci­sion time. In or­der for the rib to best pro­tect the pheas­ant tail fi­bres, the turns of each should cross rather than run­ning in the same spi­ral. It’s not the end of the world if they do, it’s just that the wire will bed in a lit­tle more and the fly won’t be so ro­bust. In or­der for the fi­bres and wire to cross they must be wound around the hook in op­pos­ing di­rec­tions. When wrap­ping any ma­te­rial on a hook, it’s nor­mal – if you’re right-handed – to wind it away from you over the top of the shank bring­ing it back un­der­neath each time a turn is made. To re­verse the di­rec­tion, sim­ply do the op­po­site, wind­ing it un­der the hook then to­wards you over the top of the shank. You’ll soon get the hang of it. Wind the pheas­ant tail fi­bres al­low­ing them to spread flat un­til two-thirds of the shank has been cov­ered. At that point se­cure the ends with the thread then trim off the waste. That done, evenly-spaced turns of wire can be wound over the en­tire body length af­ter which the loose end is se­cured and the waste re­moved. If you now look closely you’ll see that the turns of wire ac­tu­ally cross those of the pheas­ant tail fi­bres lock­ing them in place. The next step is to add the tho­rax which – in the orig­i­nal – com­prised a few turns of bronze pea­cock herl. While this ma­te­rial works well, it’s pos­si­ble to in­ject a touch of bright­ness by us­ing a coloured dub­bing of some sort with red, or­ange or even pearl be­ing par­tic­u­lar favourites. Here, it’s formed from a small pinch of red seal’s fur or a sim­i­lar coloured sub­sti­tute. To add a lit­tle ex­tra sparkle at this stage, sim­ply use red Lite-Brite or Glis­ter in­stead of the seal’s fur. Dub the fur onto the thread to form a thin rope then ap­ply three or four turns to cre­ate the tho­rax, leav­ing a small gap be­tween it and the eye to ac­com­mo­date the hackle. Se­lect a soft-fi­bred cock hackle or al­ter­na­tively of the same Green­well or light brown colour. Strip away some of the fi­bres from the hackle’s stem then trim it with scis­sors to leave a short stub. Catch the hackle in by this stub then, us­ing hackle pli­ers, wind on two or three turns. The in­ten­tion is to cre­ate a hackle with plenty of life to it so the ef­fect should be light and rel­a­tively sparse. With the hackle in place se­cure its tip with thread then trim off the waste. Fi­nally, build a small head with the thread then cast it off with a whip fin­ish.

Green­well’s hackle.

Red seal’s fur.

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