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The Crazy Charlie, a fly with a long history. On December 30, 2018, the fly fishing community lost a legend. Captain Charlie Smith – known worldwide as “Crazy Charlie,” was a true ambassador for our sport. Over decades of guiding the waters of Andros Island in the Bahamas, Charlie exposed thousands of anglers to the world of saltwater flats fishing. Charlie also owned and operated two of the most famous lodges in the Bahamas. His first lodge project, Charlie’s Haven in Behring Point, was one of the original bonefish operations on the island. Years later, Charlie dedicated himself to rebuilding and reopening the historic Bang Bang Club in Andros’ North Bight—photo screen shot.

Background on the Crazy Charlie fly:

By Skip Clement

While most fly anglers believe that Bob Nauheim from California invented the Crazy Charlie fly. It was more than likely created by Charles Smith from Andros Island, Bahamas.

The Crazy Charlie fly has a long history with some baggage. Fly Life Magazine interviewed Prescott Smith (Stafford Creek Lodge, Andros, Bahamas) at the November 2011 Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Symposium. The symposium was held at the IGFA Headquarters in Dania Beach, Florida. 

Prescott told much of the story about the fly’s origin in the first person of his father 

According to Prescott Smith, one of Charles’ many sons, the fly came to be: “One day, Prime Minister Pindling came down to the Small Hope Bay Lodge with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. Dick Birch (Canadian lodge owner – primarily a dive destination) and I were very friendly. Dick told me that the PM wanted me out there to cook and serve them both . . . So the next day, Dick said to me, “Well, Charlie . . . You have to take the two Prime Ministers fishing. Go to the drawing board.” 

So I went to the drawing board and invented the Crazy Charlie Fly (Prescott Smith said that the eyes were originally beads from military tags and the body was chicken feathers) 

The next day, I took Pindling and Trudeau fishing. Pindling caught two fish, and Trudeau caught three. Pindling used to call me “Life.” The Prime Minister said, “Life, you let him catch three, and I only caught two bonefish.” I said, “Isn’t that what you taught me? We have to look after our guests! And that’s exactly how it all started with the fly.” He said, “And from there, I gave my fly to Bob Nauheim, a guy I fished. He was the owner of Fishing International in California. He asked if I would accept the fly’s name as Crazy Charlie. So I wrote a letter saying yes, and I signed it, and that’s how the Crazy Charlie fly started.”

Years later, when Bob Nauheim had popularized the fly, he returned to fish Andros and stayed where Prescott guided. Prescott said, “He asked me if my father was mad at him for taking all the credit?”

At the time of this story, Charlie was 78

Charlie Smith was the first Bahamian to own a bone fishing lodge. It was called Charlie’s Haven; it was on the water’s edge in Behring Point, Andros. Years later, he took over the Bang Bang Club, a lodge built on a private cay. It became so well known worldwide that corporate bigwigs and prime ministers sought the privacy, solitude, and bone fishing offered by the Bang Bang.

Note: Bob Nauheim, a popular figure in fly fishing, died in 2005.

Tie The Crazy Charlie:

By Don Reed

This fly stays in the fly box because it still seduces several species of flats dwellers, not the least of which are bonefish and permit. Today, there are many variations to the original fly, but built initially with whatever was available in a thread, hook (hand sharpened), beads from a military ID tag, and chicken feathers (hand plucked). Since then, tyers have improved the fly many-fold with new materials, tying techniques, and plain old innovations.

The Crazy Charlie Fly

Here is Reed’s Crazy Charlie Recipe:

1. Hook: Mustad 34007 (or equivalent) size #4

2. Thread: Flat A nylon chartreuse

3. Underbody: Krystal flash

4. Over body: Clear V-rib

5. Eyes: Small bead chain silver

6. Wing: Bucktail and Krystal Flash

7. Weed guard 16-pound Hard Mason mono (optional)

Note: The Crazy Charlie, some say, is the stepping stone to the Gotcha Fly, which also enjoys universal acceptance, but has greater appeal.

Watch how to tie the Crazy Charlie Fly


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