"So the obvious question regarding the fly is: What makes it so good? How can the addition of a claw tied up the hook shank be that important? When we’re talking about what a fly does on the shelf, it’s not much. It looks cool, which is helpful, and it’s different than the realistic flies that we used to throw. It’s not the only fly with a claw, but as far as we’ve been able to tell it’s the only one that has just a single claw. One thing this does is present the same profile on either side—unlike some realistic flies meant to mimic a swimming crab that look crab-like only from the claw side—something that has always been anathema to me. This fly looks the same from either side.
Here I’ll mention something that I think is important in all saltwater fishing, but particularly for permit: In nearly all cases, there is no hatch to match. As fly fishers in salt water, we have always been burdened by trout. We want to believe that a permit feeding on a flat is eating just one thing, just as a trout feeds on Blue-winged Olives, but that’s simply not the case.
Whereas a trout is at the mercy of metabolic math in moving water, a permit will likely eat anything it considers to be food as it travels along the flat. A Strong Arm Merkin can appear to be a crab, a shrimp, a baby lobster—you get the idea. Add to that the fact that it can be fished shallow without hiding in grass or deep if left to drop, stripped or left to lie, and the force behind Skok’s invention comes into focus: It’s the best blade for the unknown number of unpredictable knife fights a day of permit fishing might bring. What makes it such a great fly is not how it looks but how it acts, not what it imitates but how many things it could appear to be."
Nathaniel Linville, The Angling Company
(originally featured in Fly Fisherman Magazine)
HOOK: Tiemco 811S (#2)
THREAD: 210 Denier Danville (Cream)
WEIGHT: Plain Lead Dumbbell Eyes (XS | Painted with nail polish to match crab color)
ARM/CLAW: Large Ultra Chenille - Knotted and burned to form claw (Tan; Add sharpie marker for colors on arm and claw)
UNDERBODY: 1:1 Blend of Sparkle Yarn and Rabbit Fur
COLLAR: Hen Saddle Feather
CARAPACE: Sparkle Yarn
LEGS: Chicone's Crusher Legs (Orange)
RESIN: Loon UV Clear Fly Finish (Thin)