By Brandon Dwyer
What insect is so “fly” that it goes by its street names more often than its given name? The most common insect I can think of that fits this description is the Crane Fly, which you may know by one its nicknames: the Mosquito Hawk, the Gollywomper, The Skeeter Eater, the Flying Long Legs.
Truth is, trout often relish at the chance to opportunistically eat one of these critters, and on some waters, the Crane Fly is actually a full blown “hatch” that anglers anticipate each year. You can fish the crane fly in two forms, 1) as a larval “nymph”, which makes a great dropper below a hopper, and 2) as a wispy, delicate, long legged adult.
The larva is a very uninteresting looking pattern that has limited little bin appeal at the fly shop—in fact, a San Juan Worm might be prettier—but its effectiveness, particularly in June-September, should not be ignored. The adult dry fly pattern is a bit snazzier due to the long legs and rapidly fluttering wings but is very slim and slender.
The adult can be very fun to fish because it often skitters/skates across the surface of the water (or struggles mightily) allowing you to impart some movement to this fly while fishing it (the fish don’t seem to mind). While the nymph is typically dead drifted quite effectively, it also can swim very well (check out the Tightline Productions video below) so you could effectively “swim” or “swing” both patterns.
The Crane fly is an incredible “wild card” particularly in the month of September when anglers often find themselves between the trico/terrestrial time frame and the fall mayfly/October Caddis hatches. And for any trout-spey anglers or spey-curious anglers out there, a skating crane fly on a floating line is a fun and fantastic way to get used to your two-handed rod and for a little practical “steelhead practice”. On the flip side if you have a beginning fly angler in your boat that hasn’t quite got the hang of the concept of dead drifting or a young angler that like to have something visual to lock into, a skating crane fly adult might just make their day.
There are adult and larval patterns available from most major fly manufacturers and fly shops in the know…