Martin's Mundane Crane Fly

Published Oct 13th 2012

The crane fly or daddy longlegs is a simple insect with some very distinct characteristics, in particular the very long legs, which are a key ingredient in any crane fly pattern. This pattern uses two materials and is dead simple to tie.


It's been a while since the latest installment in the Mundane Fly Project, and writing about the golden pheasant inspired me to develop another. Develop might be using a large word, because crane flies or daddy longlegs as they are also known have been "developed" again and again, and the number of crane fly patterns is really large.

The natural

The crane fly is a simple insect with some very distinct characteristics, in particular the very long legs, which are a key ingredient in any crane fly pattern. The body is simple, cylindrical and with no special markings, and the wings are also simple in shape, and there are only two since the crane fly is of the order diptera - the two-wings - like houseflies and mosquitoes.
Legs, body and wings - three materials, just as prescribed in the mundane dogma.
I have even gone so far as to cut the materials list down to two items apart from the hook and the tying thread. I use poly yarn for the body and wings and golden pheasant tail fibers for the legs.

I have even gone so far as to cut the materials list down to two items

Fishing the fly
Crane flies can be fished in lakes as well as on streams. The most common use is probably fishing the fly on lakes on windy summer days where the clumsy insects tend to be blown onto the surface where they get caught in the surface and struggle, attracting feeding fish.
On streams it's more common to use hoppers or beetles even ants for this purpose, but the crane fly will most likely do just as well where it's present in the landscape.
Fish the fly on a floating line dead drifted both in running water and on stillwaters, which will imitate a dead crane fly nicely. It might sometimes work to induce a bit of life into the fly by twitching the rod tip or tapping the base of the rod a bit with the line stretched. This makes the fly vibrate, emitting the kind of movement in the water that could come from a struggling, juicy, helpless daddy longlegs just waiting for a large fish to emerge and eat him!
Poly yarn tends to float better than Antron, so for a high floater, opt for Poly. A bit of mucelin or other floatant can get both to float like corks, so material choice isn't necessarily critical.

It might seem a little late in the year to introduce a terrestrial insect (some species are aquatic), but right now the last crane flies are taking their last flights on warm days, and thanks the the often harsh autumn winds, they tend to end their flight blown to the ground or onto the surface of a lake or stream.

Brown crane fly

Martin's Mundane Crane Fly
Martin Joergensen
Year of origin

HookKamasan B170 size 8-12
Tying threadBlack 6/0
LegsKnotted pheasant fibers
Body/wingsAntron or Poly yarn, light gray, cream or tan

Tying instructions
The steps to tying a crane fly are few and simple, which also corresponds well with the mundane principle.
  • Prepare 6-8 pheasant tail fibers by tying a knot or two on each. Using a thin crocheting needle makes this process much easier.
  • Start the thread in the front part of the hook shank
  • Tie in the legs. They need to be about 2 centimeters or 1 inch in length depending on the fly size. You can be meticulous and arrange them as on a live natural, or you can simply tie in three on each side, pointing outwards to the rear as on a dead insect.
  • Cut a piece of Antron or Poly yarn about 10 centimeters or 4 inches in length. If the yarn is thin you may want to double it and use two strands, if it's thick you can split it.
  • Twist the yarn by rolling one end repeatedly in the same direction between the fingers while holding tight on to the other end.
  • Double the twisted yarn without losing the grip. I sometimes use the hook eye to catch it. Let in unroll to form a rope.
  • Fasten the body material on top of the shank, having the twisted part to the rear and the body length about 1 times shank length. Just use a few tight wraps.
  • Unravel and split the forward pointing yarn in two equal parts to form the wings.
  • Wrap in front of and over the wings to separate them.
  • Take a few wraps in front of the wings, whip finish, cut thread and varnish.
  • Trim the wings to a proper length.
  • If you want to be fancy, use a black or brown marker to color the body darker than the wings.

Step 1- GP tail feather - Use a feather with long and sturdy barbs
Step 1- GP tail feather
Step 2 - separate barbs - Separate the barbs and pluck or cut of 6-8
Step 2 - separate barbs
Step 3 - crochet needle - You will need a small crochet needle or a similar tool to make the knots on the barbs
Step 3 - crochet needle
Step 4 - loop - Make a loop on the barb. Pull the tag end through with the needle to form a simple overhand knot
Step 4 - loop
Step 5 - pull the knot tight - Maneuver the knot to the position where you want it and tighten it. Make a second knot
Step 5 - pull the knot tight
Step 6 - next leg - Take a second bard and repeat
Step 6 - next leg
Step 7 - lazy leg - Some or even all of the the legs just need one knot if you\\\'re lazy
Step 7 - lazy leg
Step 8 - legs ready - Here I have 7 legs, some with one and some with two knots. The number of legs and knots isn\\\'t critical
Step 8 - legs ready
Step 9 - start thread - Start the thread right behind the hook eye
Step 9 - start thread
Step 10 - split yarn - Here I use poly yarn, which is just on the thick side, so I split it on two
Step 10 - split yarn
Step 11 - cut yarn - You need enough yarn for the double body and two wings and a bit extra. Put aside
Step 11 - cut yarn
Step 12 - first legs - Grab the first 3-4 legs and measure them for length. they can be pretty long - daddy longlegs, remember?
Step 12 - first legs
Step 13 - tie in - Tie the first legs in on one side of the hook, pointing back and down
Step 13 - tie in
Step 14 - second bunch - Tie the second bunch in on the opposite side of the hook shank
Step 14 - second bunch
Step 15 - legs ready - Both bunches should point to the rear and down and can be pretty messy without problems
Step 15 - legs ready
Step 16 - trim butts - Trim the surplus butts off the legs
Step 16 - trim butts
Step 17 - twist yarn - Grab each end of the yarn and twist it really tightly. Double it and let it untwist around itself to form a rope
Step 17 - twist yarn
Step 18 - body - Hold on to the rope and tie in the body. About 1 hook shank lengths is fine
Step 18 - body
Step 19 - unravel - Let the front part unravel to its separate strands
Step 19 - unravel
Step 20 - pull apart - Pull the wings apart
Step 20 - pull apart
Step 21 - tie down - Tie down the wings with criss-cross wraps and some tight wraps in front of them to separate them. they should ideally be perpendicular to the hook shank
Step 21 - tie down
Step 22 - trim wings - Pull up the wings and trim them. Not too short but still quite dense and broad like on the natural
Step 22 - trim wings
Step 23 - wings done - The wings are fine here - about half the body length each - but you can make them longer to match the natural more precisely if you want, but it influences the \\\
Step 23 - wings done
Step 24 - whip finish - Whip finish, trim thread and varnish over the final wraps
Step 24 - whip finish

Step 25 - color - You can optionally color the body using waterproof markers
Step 25 - color
Step 26 - done - The crane fly is ready
Step 26 - done

Furled flies
Using furled yarn is a very easy way of making a segmented or extended body for insects or other invertebrates as well as small fish. Ken Hanley's book Tying Furled Flies has lots of great examples.
More Mundane
These are the articles in the Mundane series:

Your flies?
Do you have new patterns that follow similar rules or ides for flies that fit the Mundane principle?
Let us know. Contact Martin through mail and your fly can become a part of the Mundane Fly Project. You can read more about submitting patterns in this article.

User comments
From: Brian Green · green_ink·at·  Link
Submitted October 17th 2012

Got it! Thank you both!

From: JohnTemplar - Full name and email anonymized  Link
Submitted October 17th 2012

Check out "Flytying wirh Poly Yarn" by Lee Clark & Joe Warren;Frank Almoto Publictions, inc,; Portland, OR, 2000.
The technique #7 has two ways to twist poly yarn.
This very same pattern can simulate a Blue colored Damsel Fly.

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted October 17th 2012


The yarn I used (poly yarn and Antron) staid nicely rolled after I let go of it. It unraveled a bit, but not more than I could still keep it under control. You are aware of the fact that the yarn is rolled in full length and then doubled? If not it will definitely unroll. Try rolling doubling and immediately tying it down (with the closed end forming the body and the open end ultimately forming the wings). That should catch the twisted yarn and keep it from separating.

Hope this helps


From: Brian Green · green_ink·at·  Link
Submitted October 17th 2012

I love the concept of the "Mundane" fly, but had trouble tying this one. The yarn just unrolls into two strnads as soon as I let it go after twisting it. Any suggestions?

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted October 14th 2012


Just did a bit of research, and yes, you are right: some species are aquatic and lay their eggs in water where the larvae live. I never heard that before, and only knew crane flies as terrestrials until now. I stand corrected. Sorry for being so sure of myself!


From: Eric K · Patroutbum·at·  Link
Submitted October 14th 2012

Ah Hmm. Maybe you're crane flies are different than ours because during the early spring in the mountain streams near my camp crane flies can be witnessed hatching on small rocks at waters edge. And a greyish grub like pattern subsurface is lethal in most cases.


GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted October 14th 2012


The crane flies (Tipulidae) are definitely terrestrials. The larvae typically grow up in grass (often lawns) feeding on the roots, and hatch with no contact with water. The adult females deposit their eggs by diving unpredictably to the ground and dropping the eggs. When crane flies come in contact with water, it's not a part of their life cycle, but a mistake, and often a fatal one.


From: Eric K · PAtroutbum·at·  Link
Submitted October 13th 2012

Excellent pattern Martin.

P.S. I'm fairly sure craneflies are an aquatic insect, not terrestrial.

From: Kelvin Kleinman · kkrvp·at·  Link
Submitted October 13th 2012

Great fall pattern!

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