Hans Stephenson from Dakota Anglers & Outfitters demonstrates how to tie a crane fly larvae in this fly tying video.
Why Fish Crane Flies
Often overlooked, Crane flies are a great food source for trout, particularly in the winter and are in just about every trout stream from the East coast to the West Coast. Not only that, but they are a very large morsel with larvae ranging from 1/2 inch to almost 3 inches. Crane fly larvae are not the pretty insects (see video below) but trout love them. Crane fly larvae patterns are easy to tie (typically in size 6 to 8 ) and due to their size easy to tie-on in the winter when your fingers are half numb!
About Craneflies and Cranefly Patterns
Cranefly larvae differ from most aquatic insects that trout feed on in that they can be found in the soil along a stream, in the stream bank and in the stream bed. An ideal time to fish cranefly larvae patterns is during periods of rising or high water or during a water release for tailwaters. During these periods, cranefly larvae can be dislodged and are easy prey for hungry trout.
One of the best known cranefly patterns is the Barr Cranefly Larvae pattern which differs from the one above (and many others) in that it does not include a pronounced dark head. As John Barr notes in his book Barr Flies: How to Tie and Fish the Copper John, the Barr Emerger, and Dozens of Other Patterns, Variations, and Rigs,
...naturals do have a dark head but keep their head retracted inside their body when being carried by the current.
If you watch the video clip above you'll notice the dark head of the cranefly larva does disappear inside its' body periodically and I could imagine where if the cranefly were stressed out it might keep its' head tucked in. (Note: the head is opposite the end with the appendages sticking out.) With or without the dark head or collar the fly works great!
Crane Fly Larvae Pattern Material List
Hook: Daiichi 17110 / 17120 or TMC 5262 / 5263
Weight: Lead wire or lead tape
Tail: Tan Grizzly Marabou
Ribbing: Olive D-Rib
Lateral Line: Black Krystal Flash or Ostrich Herl
Body: Olive and Tan Hare's Ear Dubbing mixed 50/50
Head: Black dubbing