Tim’s Candy Crane – Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson is a guide at Falcon’s Ledge and is a very talented fly tyer. Here is his tutorial on the candy crane that was just picked up by Orvis. But you have to read the story that Tim wrote that goes along with it to appreciate this cool bug even more!

At an Orvis guides’ rendezvous in Casper, WY, my Falcon’s Ledge friends and I attended a workshop on entomology.  Expert entomologist Robert Younghanz waded into the North Platte and returned with all kinds of macroinvertebrate samples which he dumped into a dozen or so water-filled trays for the guides to study.  We were all given alcohol-filled vials and tweezers and invited to take what we wanted.  Only fellow fly fishing junkies could possibly understand why we all felt like kids in a candy store.All the “bugs” were interesting, but I was immediately captivated by the enormous crane fly larvae that populated every single tray.  They were HUGE and way more plentiful  than I had ever imagined.  I asked Robert about the typical size of these crane flies and how widely and densely distributed they might be.  Basically I wanted him to make me feel better for not having a crapload of these in my box and for rarely fishing them.  Looking at bratwursts before me, I needed the “bug guy” to give me some justification for why everyone wasn’t using them all the time in rivers like the North Platte, or in my Utah home waters like the Provo, the Green and everything in between.  Maybe they’re not in most rivers?  Maybe they rarely get dislodged from the streambed?   Rather than making me feel better, and assuring me that we weren’t all idiots, Robert said that they are undoubtedly the most underfished fly in the world!

No excuses.  They’re big.  They’re bad.  They’re beefy.  And they’re available to trout in most every river we fish.  The trout are certainly eating them.  In fact, I can’t imagine one of these hapless, chubby, porkchops makes it too far downstream before that hole’s alpha-trout pounds it.  So I had to wonder, why aren’t we fishing them more?

I took more than my fair share of the beautiful little sausages that day and studied them closely.  They were huge (some were pinky-finger-sized!), and clearly segmented, things I’ve seen in every decent crane fly larva pattern I’ve ever seen.  What struck me most though, was their obvious translucence.  They almost seemed to glow in the sunlight.  Very soon after dying in the alcohol, however, they turned opaque and drab.

From that day forth I was a man possessed.  I tried various methods to get that translucent glow into a fly dressing, but nothing was both accurate and efficient.  Dubbings, furs, herls, all had good properties but lacked that hypnotic, translucent glow through the middle.  With the popularity of UV-cure resins a few years ago, I finally had the obvious solution. With a bright core of krystal flash to prevent the dark hook shank from stealing light, and using clear UV epoxy to create the requisite beefiness without blocking the glow, I had the size and the sheen I’d been looking for.  It was time for the Candy Crane to go to Beta testing.

The final version’s virgin dunk was on Montana’s Beaverhead.  A BWO hatch was in force and fish were intermittently rising and feeding on the emergers. I figured the Candy Crane would make an ideal lead fly; it would glow big and bright and get the attention for the emerger pattern I put on point.  Maybe stick the occasional fish not keyed in on the hatch.  In reality, it stole the show.  In the middle of a BWO hatch it outfished every baetis pattern I tried 3 or 4-to-1!  Since then it has produced for me and my friends from Montana to Arizona, even in stillwaters.  Now the jig is up and it’s available through Orvis.

Use the Candy Crane as your lead fly to grab attention and stick the fatties, and drop from it the fly du jour on your local water.  You won’t be disappointed.


Filed under Step by Step, Trout flies

2 Responses to Tim’s Candy Crane – Tim Johnson

  1. Dennis Collier

    Extremely aggravating to have a “Colorado Pastry Course” ad embedded right in the viewing area of the video, which I couldn’t move to the side in order to close the pop-up!

    • Paul Beel

      Dennis, I didn’t see that, but my guess is that it was a YouTube ad. You could try it again. I just watched the whole video on my phone and didn’t see an advertisement.