Missoulian Angler Fly Shop owner Taylor Scott working hard catching Crawdads for the Annual Crawdad Boil in August.
  • Family:  Freshwater Crustacean
  • Size: 20-600mm
  • Emergence:  Available year round
  • Emergence Time:  All Day

In Montana, we call them Crawdads. But no matter what you call them- Crayfish, Mud Bugs or Crawfish, these freshwater crustaceans are big meals for trout in the Blackfoot River, Bitterroot River and Clark Fork River around Missoula. The MAngler knows a bit about Crawdads, because every August we have an annual Crawfish Boil. Follow us on Instagram or Faceboook and look for the announcement. The food is delicious, the beer is local, and the crowd is awesome! But we digress……..

Fly Fishing Crawdads

Back to fly fishing. Crawdads in Montana run the gamut in size, from less than an inch to over 6 inches. Yes, over 6 inches! One of the largest genus of Crawdad is found in the waterways of Missoula, and of course the trout eat them.

Crawdads mate in the Fall and give birth in the Spring. As crawdads grow, they outgrow their exoskeleton. This causes them to molt, and grow a new outer shell. The crawdads are most vulnerable during the molt, but will be eaten at any time they’re available. They live in the rocks found on the bottom of the river, and are omniverous , eating plants, fish and insects. Given a choice, crawdads are nocturnal, but will be found at any time of the day.

The best way to fish a crawdad pattern in moving water is under an indicator. That allows a good drift, and keeps the fly at the proper depth. Crawdads vary in color from dark olive to brown, and in size as well. It pays to have a few different sizes of crawdads in your box, to mimic the most prevalent size. We’ve found a smaller imitation is more effective than a 6” fly, simply because there are many more smaller crawdads than larger. Additionally, you have a larger trout population to work with if you use a smaller pattern.

The crawdad gets a lot of ink when it comes to bass fishing, but in Montana, where the crawdad population is so large, they’re a really effective fly. Tuck a few in your nymph box and find the magic of the freshwater lobster

Additional Crawdad Resources