Tying the Pad Crawler

The Pad Crawler Fly.

What's the Story?
Bass often live in heavy cover, where they are hard to target with a fly rod. The choice is often between bypassing productive water or continually retrieving snagged flies. The Pad crawler is the culmination of several years spent experimenting with different ideas trying to come up with a pattern that would slide through vegetation, entice fish to eat, and hook those fish.

What's it Good For?
The Pad Crawler was designed for catching bass in and around vegetation and works very well for that purpose. It also catches fish in open water. .   

How to Fish It:
When fishing heavy cover use a tippet of at least 16 lbs. You need to be able to muscle big fish out of the weeds and can’t do that with light tippet. I use a factory tapered leader so there are no knots to catch on vegetation.

When casting across vegetation, try to keep your line straight from the rod tip to the fly. I like to use relatively slow, steady strips across vegetation, pausing when the fly hits open water. Keep slack out of your line and be ready to set the hook hard when a fish eats. You may miss a few more hits than you would without the weed guard but, since this fly will go where few others can, these are bites you probably wouldn’t have gotten with a more traditional fly.

Though this fly is designed for cover, it works surprisingly well on shorelines and even in open water. A solid strip will pull the fly below the surface and a pause will let it rise again.

Tying Options
Tie the Pad Crawler in any color you choose. My current favorites are black/olive, black/purple and olive/orange.

The recommended hooks are ideal for the pattern, but for years I tied it with a standard stinger hook, like the Gamakatsu B10S or Mustad C52SNP-BN. It can be tied with or without a bead. The bead helps the weedguard to stand up, keeps the fly upright, and gives you the ability to let the fly sink slowly into holes in vegetation. Without a bead the fly will stay closer to the surface.

The key to the Pad Crawler is the weed guard. You can try different wing materials and lengths, wrap the body with Estaz or chenille, or change the pattern in other ways to make it what you want. In addition to the pattern shown here, I have used the same weedguard on baitfish and frog variations.

Available on our Website:

The materials needed to tie this fly are all available on our website. Click the links in the materials list below to purchase materials. 

Tying Steps

  1. Slide a cyclops bead onto the hook. 
  2. Put the hook in your vise. Then start the thread just behind the front bend of the hook. Lay down a thread layer about as long as the width of the bead behind the front bend, finishing with the thread just behind the bend. 
  3. Slide the bead up, positioning it on the straight part of the shank, just behind the bend. Lash it down to the hook, with crisscrossing wraps going over the bead on the point side of the hook. The effect will be to push the bead down away from the hook point towards what will be the bottom of the fly. Tie a whip finish right behind the bead. 
  4. Move the thread in front of the bead and secure it with a half hitch. You can add some head cement or UV resin on the whip finish behind the bead to make the fly more durable.
  5. Cut a bundle of Supreme Hair that is a slightly thicker than a #2 pencil lead when compressed. Tie it in on the point side of the hook, the top of the fly, just in front of the bead, with a length of about two and a half times the hook length extending past the tie-in point. Wrap it back against the bead so it sticks up over the hook point. Trim off the excess material. And bind the butt ends down securely, finishing with the thread just in front of the bead.
  6. Cut off a clump of arctic goat hair that looks about as thick as the Supreme Hair. Clean it up by removing the loose underfur. Tie it in on top of the Supreme Hair so the tips extend to the end of the Supreme Hair. Trim the butt ends and bind them down, finishing with the thread right in front of the wing.
  7. Gather the Supreme Hair and goat hair together, making sure they are arranged like you want. Wrap around both materials several times, posting them like you would a dry fly wing, forcing the wing to stick up towards the hook point.
  8. Tie a grizzly marabou feather on the top of the hook, which will be the bottom of the fly, just in front of and on the other side of the hook as the wing. A hook shank length works well but the length isn’t very important. The feather serves to break up the profile and give the fly some body. Trim the butt ends off and bind them down.
  9. Cut a sheet of 2mm sheet foam into a strip about three eighths of an inch wide. Cut a “V” into one end of the strip. 
  10. Lay the foam onto the top of the fly with the V extending a little way back over the wing. The wing should fit inside the V. Place a couple of loose wraps over the foam, then hold it in place as you tighten the wraps. Continue wrapping, using enough tension to flare the foam and bind it down securely but not so much that you cut it. Pull the foam back and place some locking wraps directly in front.
  11. Fold the foam back on itself, towards the front, with the folded portion extending towards the hook point. Make sure that even when pulled tight the foam doesn’t quite reach the hook point. 
  12. Pull the foam back out of the way and whip finish just behind the hook eye. Then trim the foam extending over the hook eye. 
  13. Check the fly to make sure it is straight and even. Make any necessary adjustments, carefully rotating the materials around the hook shank so they are in line with the hook.
  14. Apply head cement to the thread wraps. I prefer UV resin in place of standard head cement since it makes the exposed thread wraps more durable. 

Our brands