I developed an obsession with crane flies last summer. It started as a vengeance of sorts – my partner Jay Zimmerman and I getting skunked at a backcountry lake…the kind it had taken half a day just to find. Add on that hours of casting, re-rigging and sweat, and you start to feel you’re deserving. At least, of one fish.
But we weren’t, and walked the five miles out at dusk muttering….we really need a crane fly pattern.
They had been hatching (and readily devoured) all over the surface of the water, all day, but neither of us had a pattern to match. Jay had some Halfbacks we coated with floatant, but the cutthroats knew better (which is always somewhat insulting – like cheerleaders scoring better than you on a test).
A few weeks later I trapped one flying around the mason-jar yard light, with another mason jar (these might in fact, be the most useful things in the world aside from duct tape). I sat at the kitchen table and stared at it, as a ghost of the kid who I once was, transfixed before a praying mantis cocooning on a magnolia tree twig in a sun-tea jar. I remember feeling empowered, reading that after mating, the female eats the male. She had the power. How cool, I thought, always feelingsomewhat jipped by the birds at my mom’s feeders in the backyard — the males were always prettier. The females? Pragmatically dressed to care, feed, and hide the young. You know, the usual. And to my growing mind of certain leanings, it was a microcosmic view of what I feared awaited me. A praying mantis should really be the mascot of N.O.W.
But, it isn’t. And wasn’t, thank god.
So I continued looking at the crane fly in that mason jar, eventually letting him go to fly around the house until he escaped through the door propped open for my dog Banjo.
Then just a month ago, one appeared dead on the bathroom floor. I left him there, exactly where he lay — just like a CSI investigator would do — a body on a scene. The gestalt. That’s how I do things creatively — I type and write and tack pictures up on my wall — keeping the subject always before me, trying to understand its entirety. For that, is worship — and worship in some form is necessary for creation. It need not always be praise-full though, or ripe with joy or even thanks. I fully believe there to be a type entered into out of fear, hatred, or in this case, avengement. And sometimes this sort of worship is the truest, if we’re honest.
So for a good month, I swept and cleaned around him, left undisturbed as an ever-constant reminder that I needed to do something — a pattern after his kind. I’m sure preserving an insect for observation on one’s bathroom floor is considered uncouth, and I was glad there wasn’t any company expected during that time (and be it un, well then I’d have a good excuse…caught unawares, you know).
Having decided I had stared enough, I picked up and pinned him above my tying desk to look at some more. To worship. To tie. And as I did, I thought about the lake, it’s lay, and how I would go back with this fly. Yes, this next high lake season, I’ll have crane flies in my box.
Crater’s Crane Fly
Hook: TMC 100 size 18
Body:Ferruled dubbing loop (brown dubbing)
Legs: Four turkey tail feathers, 1 fiber knotted for each leg
Wings: Brahma hen soft-hackle feathers trimmed on one side and tied back in a loop
Hackle: Brown saddle hackle