Craneflies are of the order Tipulidae, also known as Daddy Long Legs in their adult form, and rockworms in the larval form. They are, essentially, a giant midge, and resemble their smaller cousins both in the larval and adult stages. Cranefly larvae are rather large, from one to three inches and quite fat and resemble a big, drifting turd. This is the best description I can give and really is pretty accurate. Cranes bury into the river bottom and only become dislodged when high flows wash them out. Spring runoff and flushing flows on tailwaters push the cranefy larvae into the food chain and the trout relish them. This is a great pattern up on Gray Reef, as well as the South Platte, Colorado and Bighorn. Many waters are home to cranes, but the adults hatch at night, and so, are invisible to many anglers. Anytime you encounter big flows on your favorite waters, try this pattern. I like to fish it as a top fly in a two fly rig, under an indicator. The heavily weighted underbody often eliminates the need for additional weight on the leader, but depending on the water flow and speed, you may need to add a split-shot too. This fly was my secret ace in the hole back in my South Platte days. While everyone else was fishing worms and scuds, I’d throw the meat…it works, trust me.
Hook: TMC 200R #4-10
Thread: Olive 3/0 Monocord
Weight: Lead wire
Tail: Pale Olive Gray Marabou
Rib: 3X Tippet Material
Shellback: Tan Thinskin
Body: Coarse Synthetic Dubbing like Arizona, Emergence or SowScud.
Place the hook in the vise and make about thirty wraps of large lead wire around the shank. The lead should stop a couple eye lengths back from the hook eye and run back to just short of the hook bend.
Start the tying thread in front of the lead wire and build a slight taper up to the lead. Wrap the thread back over the lead wraps to the bend of the hook forming a smooth thread base. Return the thread to the front of the lead wraps. You don’t need to completely cover the lead wraps with thread, just cross-hatch the wraps to anchor the lead in place.
Clump the tip of an olive gray marabou feather together into a bunch and measure the tip so it is about as long as the gap of the hook. Tie the clump in at the bend of the hook with the tip extending out the rear of the hook.
Pull the remaining butt end of the marabou feather forward over the top of the shank and wrap the thread forward over it to just behind the hook eye. This allows the bulk of the marabou to create a smooth underbody on the shank.
Clip the remaining butt end of the marabou flush at the eye. Wrap the thread back over the marabou underbody to smooth it out a bit.
Return the tying thread to the front of the hook and tie in a length of tippet material for the rib. Tie the tippet in on the far side of the hook and wrap back over it to the bend.
Once you have wrapped all the way back to the bend over the tippet material, let the tippet hang at the back of the hook and return the thread to mid-shank.
Cut a strip of Thinskin that is just a bit narrower than the hook gap. Peel the paper backing from the Thinskin strip.
Lay the Thinskin on top of the hook shank at the mid-point of the hook and fold it around the hook. Tie the Thinskin down tightly at the front end with a few firm wraps of thread.
Pull back on the Thinskin to stretch it slightly and continue wrapping back over it to the base of the tail. Stretching the Thinskin in this manner will allow it to cup around the shank and buckle into position for the shellback.
Dub the thread heavily and begin forming a tapered body from the bend of the hook. I find it much easier to dub half the body first with one strand of dubbing, then come back and add more dubbing for the front half, rather than trying to turn a foot long strand of dubbing around the hook.
Add more dubbing to the thread and complete an elongated football shaped body. The body should be fattest in the middle and taper down at either end.
Pull the Thinskin forward over the body and tie it down right behind the eye. Take care to let the Thinskin buckle over the top of the dubbing, cupping the dubbing underneath. Do not clip the Thinskin just yet.
Rib through the body with the monofilament, making about a dozen evenly spaced turns. Pull tightly on the tippet material to sink it down into the body and create prominent segments.
Tie off the ribbing and clip both the excess Thinskin and ribbing material flush against the hook eye. Build a smoothly tapered thread head with the tying thread and whip finish. Clip the thread. Trim the dubbing across the bottom of the fly a bit to smooth out the body shape.
Barr Cranefly (17)
Place a drop of head cement on the thread head.
Cream Cranefly Larva