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Elk Hair Caddis Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: Elk Hair Caddis
Wide-gap dry-fly hook (here, a Daiichi 1100), sizes 10-18.
Brown, 8/0 or 6/0.
Fine gold tinsel.
Color to match the naturals.
Elk or deer hair, cleaned and stacked.
Thread and wing butts.
Show / Hide Elk Hair Caddis Transcript

Video Transcript:

I'm going to tie this elk hair caddis on a size 16 Dai-Riki #305 dry fly hook. The shank is relatively short for the gap size, which I like. Although it's not essential, a rotary vise works very well for this pattern. Because the hook is relatively small, it's important to get the hook shank properly aligned with the vise's axis of rotation.

For thread I'm going to use UTC 70 Denier in cream because it goes well with the light ginger hackle and bleached elk hair that I'll also be using.

Secure your thread to the hook shank just behind the hook eye and snip or break off the tag. I like to use small gold wire counter-wrapped over the hackle to initially secure and then protect it. If you don't like the wire, you could leave the tag end of your thread long and use it with the same effect. I like the wire because of the little bit of flash it provides and I find it easier to manipulate than thread.

For the body of the fly I'm going to use tan colored super fine dry fly dubbing. You don't need much. Because the entire body is wrapped with hackle, the dubbing doesn't have to be perfect, but a gentle taper from thin in the abdomen to a little thicker in the thorax is something to shoot for.

With the shiny or front side of the hackle facing toward you, snip a few fibers below the stem and then strip a longer length from the top. Secure the stem to the hook shank with 4 or 5 nice tight wraps then place your thread in the bobbin cradle.

Rotate your vise so the stripped part of the hackle stem contacts the body first and make one complete rotation to get the hackle started. You can then angle the hackle and palmer it rearward. When you reach the bend of the hook, wrap your wire over the hackle to secure it. Then rotate your vise to advance the wire up the shank in an open spiral trying not to trap hackle fibers as you go. Take your bobbin from the cradle and secure the wire with a couple of tight wraps, then use your bobbin as a brace and give the wire a spin to break it off. Pull any errant or trapped fibers back and out of the way and give a few wraps to keep them there. I use a single blade of my scissors to slice the excess hackle free as opposed to snipping it. Then use your scissors to snip the hackle on top of the fly where your wing will be.

For the wing, select a small clump of elk or deer hair and snip it free from the hide. Use a fine-toothed comb to strip the fuzzies from the butts. Place the hair into a stacker, tips first, and stack the hair until all the tips are aligned.

Using your thumb and index finger for reference, measure the wing so the tips extend just to the outside bend of the hook. Do this carefully as it's very easy to end up with a wing that's too long. Now transfer the bundle to your other hand. I go thumbnail to thumbnail to ensure the transfer of measurement is precise. Then, using your thumbnail once again for alignment, snip the butts off square.

Align the butts with the very front of the hook eye and take 2 loose collecting wraps before pulling straight up to flare the elk hair. While keeping thread tension, make another wrap at a 45 degree angle into the butt ends. Then use your thumbnail to push them back and expose the hook eye. Take 2 or 3 turns just behind the hook eye and then whip finish with another 4 or 5 turns.

After you've snipped or cut your tying thread free, snip away any wayward hackles that might block the hook eye. Turn the fly upside down and apply a drop of head cement to the exposed wraps beneath the elk hair and the fly is done.

No matter how many of these I tie in both tan and cream, I never seem to have enough - it's a great fly.