Published Sep 15. 2012

Martin's Mundane Crane Fly

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 - A very accurate study of a crane fly showing the wing and leg positions in detail. You don't need to imitate this. Simply tie a mangled, dead cranefly
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 mundane crane fly - This fly uses dark brown Antron for the body and wings. Too dark compared to most naturals, but fine when seen from below by a fish. The body is a bit long and the wings a bit short on this prototype specimen.
Brown crane fly

Martin's Mundane Crane Fly

Pattern type: 
Martin Joergensen
Kamasan B170 size 8-12
Tying thread
Black 6/0
Knotted pheasant fibers
Antron or Poly yarn, light gray, cream or tan
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 2½ 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 1½ 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.

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.



Got it! Thank you both!

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.

Martin Joergensen's picture


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


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?

Martin Joergensen's picture


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!


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.


Martin Joergensen's picture


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.


Excellent pattern Martin.

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

Great fall pattern!

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