Bottlebrush Cripple and the Torch Cripple
(originated by Wes Wada)
DESIGN RATIONALE & PROBLEM SOLVING
In a recent fly tying class, I asked the tiers how many had a go-to cripple pattern. Only a third of the group of 30 raised their hands. That represents lots of holes in lots of fly boxes!
A cripple pattern (mayfly, caddis, midge) is a fly that represents an unsuccessful attempt by the insect to emerge from its nymphal case. Some of the emergers get stuck, others get injured, and the wind capsizes more than a few. Some bugs are even too weak to fight through the tension of the water’s surface film, and fall short of their buggy destiny. (Death via Saran wrap.)
WHY ARE CRIPPLES IMPORTANT?
Why cripples are important to fly tiers is simple. Trout and other gamefish are opportunistic predators. A crippled insect is an easy meal, trapped and unable to fly away. Fishing a fly that looks like easy prey can be devastatingly effective.
I have avidly fished cripple patterns for almost 20 years, and hold them near and dear to my fishing heart. The first fly out of my box during a mayfly hatch is invariably a cripple pattern. You’ll find me knotting one of those weird looking beasts to my tippet in lieu of traditional dries. And being rewarded with predictably consistent hookups.
PERSONAL CRIPPLE EXPLORATIONS
Early hunches about cripple design were successful right out of the starting gate, and one of those flies, the Bottlebrush Cripple is now over 15 years old, and still kicking out fish wherever it is employed.
More recently, I was inspired by the design of traditional Japanese Tenkara flies. There are reverse-hackle designs where the hackle wraps point forward over the eye. Being a Japanese fella, I can joke that Tenkara has got it right, everybody else is doing it backwards.
When I analyzed the basic Tenkara design, one thing jumped out – Tenkara flies make great cripple patterns – at least during the time when they are afloat. Adapting the basic Tenkara design to be a full-time cripple fly was easy, and has resulted in an easy-to-tie, multiple purpose pattern.
Original article posted: Feb. 12, 2013