Mangrove Critter
  |  First Published: March 2010

The estuarine environment is alive with activity and its nutrient rich waters are the spawning ground for many saltwater species. Mangrove plants are the heart of the community, keeping the waters healthy and enriched.

Their roots provide refuge for many species of fish and crustaceans. The mud in which they grow also provides refuge and nutrients for many small crustaceans and other creatures.

Various species of fish lurk around the mangrove fringes and adjacent mud banks in search of these food sources. These will become another saltwater statistic if they aren’t quick enough to escape their predators. Many types of crabs, yabbies, prawns, shellfish and fish can be found here.

This month’s pattern is a bit of a crustacean conglomeration, only imitating some features of these inhabitants, yet it is not an effort to specifically imitate any of them directly.


The Mangrove Critter is a strange looking fly that has similarities to many of the creatures inhabiting the estuarine mangrove environment. The longer you look at it the harder it is to decide what it closely imitates.

At a quick glance however, it looks just like that thing you saw last time you went fishing. It can easily fool us and it will definitely fool many species of fish, which will pounce on this tasty looking morsel upon sight.

In this environment there are lots of places for prey to escape a predators advances, therefore fish hunting in this arena know they need to be quick or will miss out on a tasty feed.

For us, the fly fisher, the most important part is the end result of a loaded rod, and the mangrove critter will help you achieve this.

Why the predator fish hit this fly is irrelevant to the end result. While it’s not the prettiest fly around, it will produce strikes, and that is good enough for me.


This pattern does have some attributes that are fairly unique and have specific purpose in this estuarine environment.

The stem-style eyes are similar to that of many crustacean type critters yet in this pattern they also serve a separate purpose.

Mangrove root systems can be very complex; these entwined masses, and the little mangrove stubs that protrude from the mud flats, will commonly cause snagging.

Apart from the optical imitation, the stem style eyes also act like a weed guard and will push the fly away from snags as it passes.

It does not interfere with hook-up ratios however, as it is flexible enough to be compressed when the fish strikes.

The orange section at the rear of the fly is designed to look like the roe which many yabbies, crabs and other crustaceans possess when in berry. Predatory fish know this will slow them down, hindering their escape and therefore making them easier prey.

The barring of the feelers at the head of the Mangrove Critter is similar to that which prawns posses. It has also been said that this section, when wet, also shows some similarity to the large claw single that some crustaceans possess.

The weighted eye helps to keep the hook point riding upright which will decrease snagging and increase the possibility of a positive hook set when sucked up by a hungry fish.


The materials used in the Mangrove Critter pattern are fairly basic and should be available at most retailers that specialise in fly fishing. However, most have many different substitutes if you can’t find the exact material I use here.

The weighted eye is only required for ballast in this pattern and not as an eye so it can be any colour, but I use the orange to enable it to blend in with the orange chenille.

The colour of the chenille used for the body and the calf tail used for the head also has many, many colour and material variations. You can just use white thread if you don’t have any orange.

As this pattern does not imitate anything too closely, it is open to your own interpretation of colour and material, which is one of the great attributes of tying your own flies.

Make the stem eyes yourself from a short length of 80lb monofilament. Bend this into a V shape and then use a naked flame to burn the ends.

The monofilament will always bend towards the flame so you will need to a hold it above the monofilament’s tip as you burn, not to the side.

Once you have a little blob on each end of the mono, allow it to dry. Hit the bottom of the V with a little heat, as this will melt the mono slightly so the monofilament does not straighten out again over time. Presto, you have a great looking eye that cost you virtually nothing.


(1) Secure the hook in the vice and attach the thread just behind the eye of the hook. Lay down a bed of thread for a few millimeters behind this eye and then attach the weighted eye with a series of figure-of-eight wraps.

Advance the thread along the hook shank until you are just onto the bend, which will roughly be opposite the barb of the hook. Take around 6-8 strands of krystal flash and tie in at this point.

(2) Take your streamer hair and use a waterproof red marker pen to bar it at intervals as shown. Tie in around a dozen or more strands so they just point downwards a little.

Whip finish but do not cut away the remaining thread. Apply a little vinyl cement at this point and around the weighted eye for durability.

(3) Turn the fly over in the vice and secure as shown. Cut some calf tail and tie this in all around the hook shank at this point, not just on one side. You may find this easier to do in smaller sections on each side, but it is important to get an even coverage around the shank.

Tie in the end of your chenille at this point too. Again, whip finish and apply a little vinyl cement.

(4) Take your pre-made stem eyes and tie them in on the hook shank about 5mm in front of the hook point. Putting them this far forward will help with the reduction of snags and allows them to fold downwards easily when the fish strikes.

Make sure they are securely in place and then whip finish on the shank just in front of them. Add a little vinyl cement and then advance the thread forward to a few millimeters short of the weighted eye.

(5) Wrap the chenille forward to this spot, maintaining a fairly even body and full coverage of the hook shank and also around the stem eyes. Tie off the end and whip finish a few millimeters shy of the weighted eye.

(6) Tie in the end of the orange chenille where the tan finished, then advance it forward and around the weighted eyes evenly. Tie this off in the gap between the hook eye and weighted eye, whip finish, cut away the remaining thread and add a little vinyl cement.

Use your waterproof red marker to colour in the tips of the stem eyes.

The Mangrove Critter is a delicious looking morsel, just waiting to get bit by species such as jacks, cod, trevally, bream, fingermark, flathead, salmon and many others. Try it out.



Hook:Mustad 34007 #1
Thread:Flat-waxed nylon (orange)
Weighted Eye: Tungsten twin-offset 4mm (orange)
Flash:Krystal flash (UV grey ghost)
Feelers:Streamer hair (opaque white, barred with waterproof red marker)
Head:Calf-tail (tan)
Body:Super-salt chenille (tan)
Roe:Super-salt chenille (hot orange0
Stem Eyes:80lb monofilament, bend, burnt and marked as described
Finish:Vinyl cement

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