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Fly Tying SBS: The Costa Maya Strong Arm

The fourth fly in our series of step-by-step fly tying posts and one I always have tied in a range of weights and sizes in the guiding box. Whilst we love chasing Permit, we often encounter a range of other species on the flats. Having a fly that you can confidently throw in front of any specie, expecting to get the eat is a fly that's worth its weight in gold.

Now, I am the first to say that I don't believe the fly plays that big of a role; however, I can make an exception in this case. It may be increased confidence levels or a more subtle presentation, but this fly gets it done more often than not.

Having confidence in your fly is everything, and this fly is one that is proven, giving us a great deal of confidence in most situations.

When tied correctly, this fly lands soft and sinks quickly, tracking straight and doing an excellent job of mimicking the swimming grab (Jaiba) that we have on the flats down here. The fly is relatively neutral in colour, with a few small triggers that stand out over mottled and sandy bottoms.

So, the fly. 'The Strong Arm' was initially designed by 'Dave Skok' for fishing the Florida Keys, over grass/sand and mottled bottoms, with a depth of 2 - 4 ft. We have tweaked this version to the fishery down here and tie these in sizes 4 and 6 on the Umpqua S420 Saltwater hook.

Typically, we pair it with medium or small lead eyes depending on the depth we are fishing. You could also tie these lighter, swapping the eyes for bead chain if required.

Check out the SBS below and let us know what you think!

Step 1).

A relatively simple and straightforward fly, let's jump in. The materials are:

-Umpqua S420 Saltwater Hook #4

-Small Lead Dumbbell Eyes (Nickel)

-Blue thread

-E.P. Tarantula Brush 1” Tan/Brown

-Tan E.P. fibre

-Cream E.P. fibre

-Tan marabou

-Tan ultra chenille (standard)

-Fly enhancer lt. blue/pumpkin legs

-Orange, yellow, blue and brown Sharpie

-Mason hard mono 16lbs

Step 2).

- Begin by placing the hook in the vice. Add a base of thread and capture in the lead eyes, leaving space in front to finish the fly.

- Once complete, add a dab of glue or U.V. resin to the lead eyes and advance the thread towards the barb of the hook.

Step 3).

- Cut a length of ultra chenille and tie an overhand knot. Cut the tag ends, leaving around 1/4 inch and lightly burn with a lighter to form the claw.

- Once complete, take your orange Sharpie and colour in the tips of the claws. Once done, add a highlight of blue on the knot and add a light colouring of brown and yellow Sharpie. This should give the claw a mottled look whilst still having the orange trigger point.

- This mottled look is perfect for representing the crabs we have on the flats down here and can often make the difference on more challenging days

Step 4).

- Tie in the coloured claw at the bend of the hook. Make sure to wrap the claw down the bend of the hook to get the correct angle.

- Having a 45-degree angle helps the crab turn over and track correctly whilst also looking natural, swimming similar to a real-life swimming crab (Jaiba).

- Once tied in, add a base of thread wraps around the claw, coming off from the hook's shank. This keeps the claw rigid whilst maintaining the correct angle. This also aids in better hookups on Bonefish and Triggers than glueing/epoxying the claw to keep it rigid.

Step 5).

- Add a marabou collar to the base of the claw, covering the thread wraps. Doing this also adds movement to the fly on both the strip and drop.

Step 6).

- Tie in the E.P. brush in front of the marabou. This adds additional movement and texture to the fly whilst also covering up the remaining thread wraps.

- Add around 2-3 open turns and then tie off when you reach the shank of the hook.

Step 7).

- Cut 4-inch lengths of the tan and cream E.P. fibre, keeping the width around 1/4 of the diameter of a pencil or less.

- Tie in each piece, alternating the colour from tan to cream. Once you have tied in 3 lengths of fibre, tie in your first set of legs.

- Once complete, continue the steps until you have completed the body and tied in all three sets of legs.

Step 8).

- Once the body is complete, whip finish and prepare to trim the fly.

- I usually find the easiest method is to take the fly out of the vice and trim it in your hands.

- For me, the ideal shape is a diamond/oval shape, similar to that of a crab carapace.

Step 9).

- Having trimmed the crab, place it back in the vice and trim the legs to size.

Step 10).

- Cut around 5 inches of your Mason hard mono and slightly bend the end of the mono to help get the correct angle and bed in the weed guard.

- Tie in the weed guard and whip finish the fly.

Step 11).

- Lastly, to add even more of a mottled effect, take the brown and yellow Sharpie and brush over the top of the fly, making sure not to add large blotches of colour.

- Doing this adds a nice contrast and mottled effect, similar to the crabs we find down here on the flats.

To Close:

Having completed this last step, the fly is ready to be thrown in front of any Bonefish, Permit, Triggerfish or anything else you may encounter on your next flats mission.

I hope it works as well for you as it has done for my clients and me in southern Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Tight lines,


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