The Peacock Caddis is a pattern that’s been around forever, probably because it just plain works. Trout will even take them when there’s a complete absence of naturals.
You can tie the Peacock Caddis in a range of sizes but I think a 16 is about perfect, here, I’m using a Dai-Riki #300 dry fly hook. Start by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise, either standard or rotary.
For thread, olive 6/0 Danville is hard to beat. Start your thread 1/3 of the way down the shank from the hook eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Continue taking thread wraps all the way back to the start of the bend.
Select a single herl from a peacock eye feather and snip it free from the stem. Try to get the herl oriented so the bare stem side is facing up. Lay the herl against the near side of the hook at an angle and take thread wraps to secure it. Keep taking wraps all the way up to the initial tie-in point. Start wrapping the the herl so the stem overlaps the stem of the previous wrap. After clearing the hook point, I’ll switch to using the rotary function of the vise to complete the herl wraps, again to the initial tie-in point. Once there, use your tying thread to firmly secure the herl to the shank, then snip the excess off close.
Here, I’m going to use gray deer hair for the wing but go with whatever color you feel appropriate or have handy. Snip a small clump free from the hide and then clean the fine underfur out of the butt ends. Place the hair bundle into a stacker, tips first, and give it a good stacking. Carefully remove the hair by the aligned tips with your left hand and then pass the clump to your right. Measure to form a wing that extends to the back edge of the hook bend and re-grip the hair in the fingertips of your left hand. Reach in with your tying scissors and, using the angled hook eye as a guide, snip the butt ends off at an angle.
With a pinch wrap, make 2 loose, collecting turns of tying thread and then pull to close them down. Take one more turn and then start angling your thread through the butt ends as you work your way forward to the hook eye. This will keep the wing from wanting to spin around the shank. Use the tips of your tying scissors to trim off the longer butt ends. Then, start making wraps of tying thread rearward. The last few wraps at the base of the wing should be fairly loose so they channel the wing down as opposed to flaring the hair. End with your tying thread a little ways in back of the hook eye.
Although many people use both brown and grizzly on this pattern, I’m going to go with just grizzly. Locate a feather that looks to have the appropriate sized barbules. Measure using a hackle gauge to make sure they’re the correct length before plucking the feather free from the skin.
With the shiny side of the feather facing you, snip off the butt end to get rid of the webby fibers. Then pull the fibers down and strip off 1/4” or so from the top of the stem and about half that amount from the bottom. Stripping the fibers off like this works wonders in terms of getting the hackle to wrap correctly.
Lay the bare stem against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it. Continue taking wraps all the way back to the base of the wing and then forward to behind the hook eye. At this point, if you’re rotary tying, it’s a good idea to do a couple of half hitches or a 2-3 turn whip finish to secure your tying thread before placing it in the bobbin cradle.
Begin taking wraps or rotating your vise so the hackle starts right at the base of the wing and continues to make turns all the way up to the hook eye. Once there, use your tying thread to firmly anchor the hackle and then snip the excess off close. Don’t throw the excess away. Oftentimes, you can get 3 or 4 flies out of a single hackle feather.
Finally, do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free. If you’ve trapped any hackle fibers, now’s a good time to snip them away.
And that’s the Peacock Caddis. Three great materials put together in a nice, neat, little package that works like a champ.