Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mason Jars, Dead Bugs, and Worship: or, Why a Praying Mantis Should Be the Mascot for N.O.W.

I developed an obsession with crane flies this past summer. It started as a vengeance of sorts -- Jay and I getting skunked at a backcountry lake...the kind of lake it had taken half a day just to walk to. And then, a half-a-day's sweat and expectations were dried up by crane flies. They were hatching (and being eagerly eaten) all over the surface of the water, but neither Jay nor I had a crane fly pattern in our box. Jay had some Halfbacks though, so we coated them with floatant, and they did just that. But the cutthroats knew better, and we walked the five miles out at dusk, muttering....we really need a crane fly pattern.

A few weeks later Jay trapped one who was 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 because I'd read that after mating, the female eats the male. How cool. I always felt somewhat 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 feminist leanings, it was a microcosmic view of what I feared awaited me in life. A praying mantis should really be the mascot of N.O.W.

But, it isn't.

And so I continued looking at the crane fly in the mason jar, eventually letting him go to fly around the house until he escaped through the door propped open for 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 -- I keep 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, 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, making for the most interesting of creations.

So for a good month now, I've swept and cleaned around, leaving him undisturbed as an ever-constant reminder that I needed 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 to be company (at least, that is, expected company; and be it un-expected, well, then I'd have a good excuse for the large insect laying on my bathroom floor. 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


  1. necessity is the mother of invention- that is a great tie! mike

  2. Gestalt. A unique word that is rarely used outside of specific circles. WIN.

    Excellent tie, as well - your sensei did their job well...

  3. Royal Wulff - That she is, that she is...although sometimes I lament that the former has to come before the latter. But, that is the order of things, eh? ;-) Thanks much, Mike!

    Phillip - Thanks! But I'll have to wait til summer to truly find out.

    Colorado Angler - Yes! It's one of my favorite words! I picked it up in grad school, and have had it stored away since then. I was embarrassingly excited to slip it in here. ;) Thanks much!

  4. Your fly looks much tastier than the actual bug...any self respecting trout should eat that without a second thought.

  5. Stand by for some rod wrenching takes Erin, that fly's a winner.

  6. a great likeness, should get attention for sure!!!!

  7. HighPlains - Ha! Thanks....and I do hope so!

    Jay - You will dig it.

    Dave - Sure thing, I hope you're right!

    Tom - Thanks much! I did swat at it once on my tying desk by mistake. ;)

  8. "worship in some form, is necessary for creation"............. That is quite profound.

    I like to immerse myself in my fishing, trying desperately to understand what is in front of me but sometimes i get a little out of my depth and need to retreat to the shallows and start over again.

    I really enjoy your stuff Erin, it always makes me think :)

  9. Great post, and a title to match.
    The fly is awesome.

    Well done.

  10. If you want a crane fly larva pattern that does pretty well consider a Walt's Worm or KillerBug. Something to ponder...The males are "prettier", more colorful, have the antlers, sing louder for a reason. They have to be more attractive to the female than the next guy because SHE IS THE ONE WHO HOLDS THE CARDS AND WILL EVENTUALLY WEAR THE PANTS IN THE FAMILY! Being drab may not be so bad if you have all the choice and power.

  11. Tom Herbert - Thank you for how you never ceases to encourage me. And I think that little bits of depth are all any of us can handle before we need to steady ourselves in the shallows. As always, thank you, Tom!

    Brk Trt - Glad you liked the title! And fly. Thanks!

    Kiwi - Ah my mother often says, "the neck that turns the head." And I will check out those patterns...thanks!

  12. thats a really good looking fly :)

  13. Awesome. I can totally get behind the idea of letting a bug rest until you are ready.

    An amazing part of fly fishing for me is learning about these bugs. No longer is a Crane Fly a Mosquito in my mind. I might even be temped to catch one in my hand.

  14. I think this may be my new favorite post... they just keep getting better.
    That's an excellent cranefly pattern you've created.
    I think a Black Widow spider would be just as good a mascot by they way... I caught one yesterday while I was out in the field and couldn't help but think of it while reading this. Can you guess what I put it in when I caught it?

  15. Thats a pretty sweet bug Erin. Amazing likeness.

  16. Just when I think you can't top yourself, you do. Excellent fly.

  17. Funcfish - Bugs are fascinating, I agree! And tying as much a part of the fishing as the catching itself. Thanks!

    Jay - That means a lot coming from know your bugs! You might be right on the mascot thing...and can I venture the guess that mason jars really ARE the best things ever? ;)

    McTage - Thanks...and it was Jay's idea to take a photo of the fake in the same place. Fun!

    G Lech - Thanks!

    Cofisher - ha! Well thanks...and I'm glad you're back around town. :)

  18. Oh man, that looks beyond my tying capabilities. I'll just have to hope I don't end up in the middle of a crane fly hatch.

    They're creepy bugs anyway. Too much like a giant mosquito about to bleed you dry!

  19. "Worship in some form, is necessary for creation..."

    Might I add humbly EMB, "...and 're-creation'"

  20. The best kind of fly tying. You know, that's a good title for a book: "Gestalt Fly Tying"

  21. Tim G. - I took me awhile to not want to swat them before they got me. But once you get over that, they're cool!

    Mr. P - You may...and very fittingly too.

    Jim - Hey, I think you've got something there. :-)

    Kev - hmmm.....thanks!

  22. Really cool looking fly. I see crane flies a lot, but never have anything in my box even close...looks like this fly is a winner for sure.

    ...and its never cool for the female to eat the male after mating...I don't care what the praying mantis says.

  23. I normally have as much regard for a fly tying post as I do for still another lesson in how to rig a plastic worm, or how-to swim a lipless crankbait. Snore.

    But this wasn't bad.

    You do know the males are brightly colored in order to lure away predators, taking the chance they will give up their lives so their loved ones can continue on without them.

    And what do they get? Thanks for nuthin'.


  24. Nice tie, Erin! Very buggy. I assume you know that crane flies are a favorite of Lawn Trout.

  25. Sanders - The praying mantis says, relax. And yes, I is it that crane flies are everywhere and we have them nowhere!? Thanks, as always...

    Ken G - Ha! Well thanks...and yes I do know that, but to a little kid's birdwatching eyes, the males are just so much prettier.

    Kirk - Now that you say it, I do remember hearing that somewhere...I don't really have a lawn though, so they're kind of a foreign species. Perhaps I'll have to do some tying this next year.

  26. Hello Erin, that’s a really nice tie! I think I’ll tie me a couple of those myself as well!

  27. lonesome piker - Thank you! And I can't wait to try them out this next high country season!

  28. Erin
    One thing I've had work in the past when seeing Crane Fly's being taken was to take a Damselfly dry and trim the holy hell out of it. This was on a lake also (Georgetown Lake, near Anaconda). The Kamloops rainbows didn't seem to mind the blue body.

  29. Mike - hmm, yes, that sounds like it would work quite well. Similar shapes and all, really.

  30. Mason jars and duct tape are quite useful. I'm sure you could duct tape enough mason jars together to build a rocket engine. That fly sure looks like a winner to me.

  31. know, I bet you could, and if I knew the slightest bit about engineering, you could also bet I'd try.

  32. I leave for a couple months to see these amazing flies!! GREAT JOB!!!

  33. Ah thanks, Dustin! And you've been missed!

  34. That's a fantastic fly. How does one go about tying a knot in a turkey tail fiber? Do you use a tool, or are you just steady and patient.

  35. Hey, Rhythm Rider....thanks! I just knot the tails (making sure I get the longer fibers, as they're easier to get to loop). There might be a tool, but I'm in unawares. :) Steady and patient it is.

  36. Damn! Steady and patient eh. I was not so much attempting to knot PT hopper legs a while back. I'll take some deep breaths, and intend on beautiful knots. I'll let you know if I run across a knot tool.

    Again, brilliant pattern....nice addition of ferruled if a product of the cosmic events that brought you and Jay together. :)

  37. RR - Good luck with the legs....let me know how it all works out for you. And yeah, Jay has added much to my life, including ferruled dubbing loops! ;)