This step-by-step guide will show you how to tie a Crazy Charlie. It’s an indispensable fly for the bonefish angler. I’ve also seen it catch multiple trevally species, reef species, and even permit. It truly is one of the best saltwater flies of all time.

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Quick Look

  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Tying Time: 5 minutes
  • Materials: Hook, thread, bead chain eyes, superglue (optional), body braid, flash material (optional), calf tail, UV resin
  • Hook Size: 2 – 8

What Is A Crazy Charlie?

The Crazy Charlie was developed in the Bahamas by local guide, the late Charlie Smith, in 1977. Originally it was designed to imitate glass minnows frequently preyed on by Caribbean bonefish. Since then the Crazy Charlie has evolved to become a style of tying, rather than a specific pattern.

Finished Crazy Charlie Fly in a Fly Tying Vise

Many great variations have been developed over time. Although they have unique names, they still remain a Crazy Charlie variation. These include:

  • Gotcha
  • Pillow Talk
  • Tailer’s Delight
  • Golden Night
  • Green Machine

How To Fish A Crazy Charlie

A Crazy Charlie can be used to imitate a small baitfish or a shrimp. Depending on which one you’re trying to imitate, and the target species, will determine how to fish the fly.

Bonefish Caught on Crazy Charlie Fly

For most bonefish applications it’s important to lead the fish by a rod length or two. Anticipate the line the fish will swim and allow the fly to sink to the bottom.

Once the fish is close, strip once or twice to move the fly away from the fish. In most cases, this will prompt a reaction from the fish.

For small predatory fish, the Crazy Charlie can imitate baitfish. Once again, lead the fish by a rod length or two. Instead of allowing the fly to drop to the bottom, keep stripping with a lifelike baitfish retrieve. If the fish are going to eat, you will see an immediate reaction.

In both cases remember to keep your rod down – do not lift the rod to set.

Materials You’ll Need To Tie A Crazy Charlie

The following materials are needed to tie a Crazy Charlie:

Hook

A saltwater specific hook in sizes ranging from 2 to 8 is ideal. Hooks that I recommend are:

fly tying hooks

Thread

A flat thread between 70D and 210D will work perfectly. My favorite thread for Crazy Charlies is 140D or 210D Danville’s Flat Waxed. Match the color of the thread to that of the fly, the most popular colors include:

  • White
  • Tan
  • Pink
  • Chartreuse

Recommended Fly Tying Thread for Crazy Charlie:
Danville’s Flymaster Plus 140 Denier Thread
Danville’s Flat Wax 210 Denier Thread

Bead Chain Or Dumbbell Eyes

The bead chain adds weight to the top of the hook, allowing the fly to ride hook point up. The water depth, current, and fish alert level will determine what weight the bead chain eyes need to be. The most popular options are:

 

  • Bathroom plug chain (two sections)
  • Small tungsten eyes often referred to as dumbbell eyes
  • Plastic bead chain

Recommended Bathroom Plug Chain:
Basin Plug with 450Mm Chain

Body Material

Different materials can be used for the body of a Crazy Charlie. The color of which should be matched to the overall color of the fly. Good options include:

fly tying flash

  • Vinyl rib
  • Body braid
  • Chenille
  • Flash material
  • Thread (if the fish are super spooky and don’t react well to flash on the fly)

Recommended Assorted Chenille & Flashabou:
Croch Fly Tying Materials Kit

Flash Material

The flash material will be added, in moderation, to the wing. Match the color of the flash to suit the fly. I like adding a strand of black Krystal Flash on each side of the wing of shrimp imitating Crazy Charlies.

 

Instead of flash, you can make use of rubber legs that incorporate flash or glitter. These, especially translucent variations, give the fly a lifelike appearance.

Recommended Flash Material:
Phecda Sport 10 Pack Colorful Fly Tying Flash

Wing Material

The original wing material of the Crazy Charlie is calf tail. The fine, wavy fibers have the perfect balance between offering structure and movement. The best colors to have at hand are white, tan, and chartreuse.

fly tying hair

Many other materials create amazing Crazy Charlie wings. These materials include:

  • Zonker strip
  • Craft fur
  • EP Fibers and similar synthetic material

Recommended Calf Tail:
Orvis Assorted Color Calf Tails

UV Resin

UV resin is used to seal the long nose/head of the fly. You can also make use of nail varnish.

Recommended UV Glue / Resin:
Loon Outdoors UV Clear Finish

Tools Needed To Tie A Crazy Charlie

You’ll need the following tools to tie a Crazy Charlie

 
Play Video

Let's Get Started!

How To Tie a Crazy Charlie

Follow the step-by-step procedure below to learn how to tie a Crazy Charlie. The Pillow Talk is a very popular Crazy Charlie variation used extensively for bonefish in Seychelles

The main features include the chartreuse over white wing and the red head. The following specific materials were used in the step-by-step guide.

Pillow Talk (Chartreuse and White) Recipe

  • Hook: Mustad 34007-SS size 4
  • Thread: Danville’s 70 Denier Flat Waxed White
  • Weight: Bead chain eyes
  • Body: Small white/pearl cactus chenille
  • Underwing: White calf tail
  • Overwing: Chartreuse calf tail
  • Head: Danville’s 210 Denier Flat Waxed Fluorescent Red
    UV Resin

Step 1: Place The Hook in The Vise

Grip the chosen hook between the thumb and forefinger of your right hand and place the hook bend between the jaws of the vise. The hook point and barb need to be exposed and the shank must be level.

Lock the vise’s jaws once you’re happy with the positioning. The hook must be secured well to prevent it from moving around when tying the fly.

hook in a fly tying vise

Step 2: Lock in The Thread

Hold the end of the tying thread in your left hand and the bobbin (containing the thread spool) in your right hand. 

Place the thread over the shank of the hook, approximately ¼ of the shank length behind the eye.

How To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-2

Step 3: Lay a Thread Foundation

Wrap the thread forward with touching turns until you reach the hook eye. Then, wrap the thread to the back of the fly until you reach the bend of the hook.

The thread foundation provides a base for the material to be seated on. This will prevent material coming loose and twist around the shank.

How To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-3

Step 4: Tie in The Bead Chain Eyes

Run the thread forward to ¼ the hook shank length behind the eye. Remove the desired bead chain or dumbbell eyes from its packaging. Place the eye on top of the hook, where the thread was left hanging.

Secure the eyes with figure-of-eight wraps, ensuring that they are level and straight. An optional extra is to add a drop of super glue to the wraps. Leave the thread to hang freely right behind the eyes.

How To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-4

Step 5: Tie in The Body Material

Tie in the tip of the chosen body material right behind the eyes. Cut off any excess material. Hold the material on top of the hook while wrapping the thread over it in a rearward direction. 

Stop as soon as you reach the start of the hook bend. Run the thread forward to just in front of the eyes.

Fly Tying Tutorial Crazy_Charlie_step-5

Step 6: Wrap The Body

Wrap the body material forward with touching turns until you reach the eyes. Make a couple of figure-of-eight wraps around the eyes and secure the body material just in front of the eyes where you left the thread hang. 

Cut off the excess material.

Fly Tying Tutorial Crazy_Charlie_step-6

Step 7: Flip The Hook

The Crazy Charlie is designed to swim hook point up. To accomplish this the wing material needs to be tied to the bottom of the fly. 

Flip the hook by rotating the jaws (if you have a rotary vise), or by removing the hook from the vise, flipping it over, and reinserting it between the jaws.

Fly Tying Tutorial Crazy_Charlie_step-7

Step 8: Measure The White Underwing

Cut a tuft of white calf’s tail from the skin and remove any loose fibers. Stroke out any fibers that are either too long or too short. 

Measure the wing so that it’s tip extends past the hook bend.

Fly Tying Tutorial Crazy_Charlie_step-8

Step 9: Tie in The Underwing

Tie the wing in just in front of the hook eye by making use of pinch wraps

Pick the wing up and make one or two raps under it. Cut off the excess material.

Fly Tying Tutorial Crazy_Charlie_step-9

Step 10: Tie in Flash Material (Optional)

Cut two long strands of the chosen flash material. Fold them in half forming a loop on the one side. Place the loop over the eye of the hook and secure it with thread. 

Splay the fibers out, equally, on either side of the white wing and locking in place. Trim the flash to the same length as the wing.

Learn To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-10

Step 11: Measure The Chartreuse Overwing

Cut a small tuft of chartreuse calf’s tail from the skin. The number of fibers should be less than the white calf’s tail. 

The length of the chartreuse fibers should be the same as the white wing.

Learn To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-11

Step 12: Tie in The Overwing

Tie in the chartreuse calf’s tail in front of the eyes with pinch wraps

Trim the excess material once locked in place. Cover the exposed material with thread.

Learn To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-12

Step 13: Whip Finish The White Thread

The specific Crazy Charlie variation we’re tying includes a red thread head. To achieve this we need to swap out the threads. 

Whip finish the fly with the white thread to ensure that everything is done, before this point, is secure. Cut off the white thread.

Learn To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-13

Step 14: Lock The Red Thread in Place

Lock the thread in place between the hook eye and weighted eyes. You can do this by making a couple of securing wraps around the hook shank and the eyes.

When you’re done doing that, you can simply cut off the excess tag end.

Learn To Tie a Crazy_Charlie_step-14

Step 15: Create a Tapered Head For The Fly

Create a tapered head for the fly with touching turns. Cover the white thread and all the exposed material.

As the head of the fly reaches the eye of the hook, it should taper and become more narrow.

Tying a Crazy_Charlie_step-15

Step 16: Whip Finish The Fly

Whip finish the fly twice and pull the nail knot tight. When you’re happy with the whip finish, cut off the thread.

If you don’t know how to do a whip finish, check out our easy-to-follow guide that has step-by-step video instructions just like our fly tying tutorials.

Tying a Crazy_Charlie_step-16

Step 17: Seal The Head

Apply a coating of UV resin on the entire head. Make sure to clear up the hook eye if you accidentally covered it with resin. 

Cure the resin with a UV torch. It only takes a few seconds of exposure for the UV resin to harden enough that it can be placed in your fly box.

Tying a Crazy_Charlie_step-16

The Crazy Charlie

Finished Crazy Charlie Fly in a Fly Tying Vise

Now You Know

How To Tie a Crazy Charlie

As you can see, tying a Crazy Charlie is relatively simple. Once you’ve conquered the basics of the fly, especially the proportions and required weight, you can vary the colors and material used.

Thank you for taking the time to work through the step-by-step guide with me. Please feel free to leave any comments, questions, or even criticism at the bottom of the page. We’ll respond as promptly as possible.

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