The Crazy Charlie is an iconic and ubiquitous used pattern by flyfishers all over the world. This small pattern was originally designed for targeting bonefish but will tempt a broad array of species in fresh and saltwater. I would hate to try and recall all the species I have taken on the Crazy Charlie and all its various clones.
This is an extremely simple pattern to tie and fish with. The Crazy Charlie does not imitate any food item too closely, which is probably why so many species show interest in it. Like many patterns that have survived the test of time, the Crazy Charlie has a rather interesting story attached to its invention.
Charlie Smith was a chef at the Lightouse Club, Andros. In addition to his talents in the kitchen, Charlie was also a keen and accomplished fisherman. In fact he once caught an 18lb bonefish from the beach directly in front of the resort. However, because he was a coloured Bahamian man in a different era, his feats were never officially recognised. Nevertheless, it is reported that the bonefish fed 25 guests at the club that night.
The Lighthouse Club was a prestigious hot spot for big spending celebrities such as George Bush Sr, Ted Williams and numerous others associated with the ‘Rat Pack’. Anyhow, due to circumstances and a lack of quality guides, Charlie was called upon to leave the kitchen and guide two dignitaries, Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who were visiting the resort. Charlie was told by his boss that it was very important for him to produce fish and keep them happy, and he feared that his job relied on it.
Charlie was very nervous about his responsibility and stayed up at the tying bench until 2.30am until he was happy with the new pattern, which was initially dubbed the ‘Nasty Charlie’ and then later became known as the ‘Crazy Charlie’.
It was essentially a hook, weighted eyes and a chicken feather; yet this pattern produced five nice bones for the anglers the following day and Charlie Smith’s reputation and job were both saved. From here the Crazy Charlie has undergone several slight changes and variations but the format of the pattern remains the same.
The materials list for the Crazy Charlie is fairly minimal and there are loads of variations for you to experiment with. The pattern is tied on a basic O’Shaunnessy hook and although I have used a Gamakatsu here, other suitable hooks are made by Mustad, Tiemco, Black Magic and numerous others. Gamakatsu have recently released a special Bonefish SL45 hook which is chemically sharpened and has a fine wire construction for easy penetration.
Generally the Crazy Charlie is tied in sizes #4, #6 and #8. The winging material is commonly calf tail (or kiptail), which is the best, but numerous other materials could be experimented with including Streamer Hair, Hivis, bucktail, Kinky Fibre, Slinky Fibre, DNA Holo Fusion and Ghost Fibre, to name a few.
The ribbing on the hook shank is Minnow Body material however great substitutes could include Larva Lace, Clear Rib, Jelly Rib, Vinyl Rib, Mini Sparkle Braid or Diamond Braid.
The bead chain eyes are ideal for shallow water however Cyclops eyes, I-Balz, Real Eyes, Painted Eyes, Brite Eyes and Hourglass Eyes could be used, especially when fishing in deeper water or faster currents.
The Crazy Charlie is generally fished with two or three, short, sharp strips and then a pause to allow the fly to sink. Heavier eyes will increase this sink rate and may be required in certain situations. The minimal amount of flash adds some life-like appeal to the Crazy Charlie. The combination of materials, colours, sizes and eyes available are endless, which allows plenty of experimentation with the Crazy Charlie pattern.
(1) Place the hook securely in the vice and attach the thread with a jamb knot just behind the hook eye. Lay down a bed of thread for around 5mm along the shank and then attach the bead chain eyes with a series of figure-of-eight wraps about 3mm behind the hook eye.
(2) Palmer (wrap) the thread along the hook shank until you are at the end of the shank where the bend starts. Tie in four or five altering, yet short, pieces of Krystal flash at this point so that they are pointing slightly downwards. Return the thread back up to the bead chain eyes.
(3) Just behind the eyes, secure the end of your minnow body material. Holding this material slightly upwards, secure it to the back of the hook shank with a series of firm thread wraps. Return the thread to just behind the eyes.
(4) Wrap the minnow body material firmly back along the hook shank with each wrap butted against the last. Once up to the eyes, wrap the minnow body material around the eyes in a figure-of-eight. Secure the end of the minnow body material with thread in the space between the hook eye and the bead chain eyes. Whip finish and add a little vinyl cement but do not remove the remaining thread.
(5) Turn the fly over in the vice. Cut four or five strands of Krystal flash that are one and a half times as long as the hook and secure at this point.
(6) Next cut a small portion of calf tail with the longest strands approximately one and a half times as long as the hook shank. Don’t use too much volume as the pattern is best when dressed sparsely. Tie these strands in at this same point and then whip finish, cut away the remaining thread and add a little vinyl cement.
(7) Your Crazy Charlie is now ready to be put to work catching species as diverse as bass and bonefish. Enjoy each and every species this pattern will catch for you and thank Charlie Smith for his ingenuity.
|HOOK:||Gamakatsu O’Shaunnessy #4|
|THREAD:||Flat-waxed nylon – Fluoro orange|
|EYE:||Bead chain – medium nickel|
|FLASH:||Krystal Flash – orange|
|RIBBING:||Minnow body material – pearl|
|WING:||Calf tail – tan|