The Cripple Pattern, magic or what?


You're some pretty smart guys. Maybe you can explain this to me. A Cripple Pattern is tied with the hair wing forward over the hook eye. Deer hair isn't exactly a light material. How on earth does the pattern defy physics and end up floating at a right angle to the surface just because the wing is tied forward?

I question stuff like this. Just because you design a pattern believing it will do something magical doesn't mean it will. Look at my example:

Okay, you cast the pattern onto the surface. Why on earth wouldn't it float parallel on the surface just like any other dry fly???? Why does the hook bend somehow sink so the fly is now at a right angle? It would take enough weight to overcome the weight of the deer hair to drag the hook point below the surface. Okay, so marabou is added at the body and the tail... big deal. Marabou does not absorb enough water to overcome the weight of the deer hair and hackle. Plus, you have the weight and drag of the tippet knot and tippet material and surface tension of the water to overcome for the butt of the fly to sink.

How do I know this? Because I tried casting a "cripple" into my aquarium to see if the hair wing ends up pointing upward, it didn't. Instead, it floated on the surface as shown in the A position and did not flip upward and end up in the B position.

Someone please explain to me how this pattern defies weight distribution and won't float like any other dry fly on the surface but instead at a right angle???

Maybe if you added led wraps at the hook bend or a metal bead the pattern would float at a right angle but otherwise, I can't see how it will when tied as it is. Why does a steelhead skater pattern, with the hair fibers tied forward, float parallel to the surface and not flip into a right angle?

Inquiring minds need to know. This sort of stuff keeps me awake at night. :)



Neither do mine. That's why the premise of the pattern doesn't make sense. Attaching the tippet material with a knot to the eye adds weight and the tension created by the tippet also causes drag to prevent the pattern from floating at a right angle.

Pat Lat

Mad Flyentist
also the body material makes a difference, biots dont add any buoyancy, whereas buggy rabbit fur traps air bubbles and keeps the body from sinking.


Yeah, see, I can understand that. The tied down eye, the use of CDC instead of deer hair, no hackle, a water absorbent body. That one makes sense.
Larger sizes (14 and larger) kind of work, sometimes, but I've never had smaller one's work, they just don't have enough weight in there tails to break the surface tension. Even if I use almost no materials in the tail they still won't sink. But they still catch fish.


Yes, I know they catch fish. But not while floating at a right angle.

Over the years of tying flies I've found that sometimes folks assume how a pattern they tie will react in the water without actually trying them in a bathtub or someplace they can watch just exactly how the pattern floats or appears when wet. My friend and fellow outdoor writer, Dave Engerbretson, also tested the original "cripple" design in a small lake and it simply did not float at a right angle.

So what does it really represent to the trout when it floats flat on the surface? Who knows? But for whatever reason, it does catch fish at a right angle or not.
Almost all of the cripple mayflies I've seen are lying horizontal and look like crap, some don't even look like a mayfly. I have caught fish on one's that are actually sitting vertical, I'm sure they are taken more for emergers then cripples but
only the trout know for sure.