I call this fly the Dustup Caddis for reasons that will become obvious later. It’s super easy to tie, can be done in a range of sizes and colors, and in fairly short order has become my go-to caddis pattern when I’m able to find fish rising to take naturals.
For a hook, I’m going to use a Dai-Riki #300 in size 16, but I like to carry 14’s and 18’s as well. Start by mashing the barb and getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.
For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of olive UTC 70 Denier, tan or brown will also work just fine. Start your thread on the hook shank a little ways in front of the point, and take wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. Leave your thread hanging right at about the hook point.
The entire body of the fly is created with rabbit fur dubbing, here the color is natural hare. Pull an ample clump free from the packet and set it aside in a safe place to be used later. At this time it’s a good idea to ready your tying wax too. For this application, I like Loon High Tack Swax. Set the wax aside so it’s easily accessible. Pull down on your bobbin to expose 3-4” of tying thread and then give it a counterclockwise spin to uncord and flatten the thread. Pick up your bodkin and use it to help flatten and spread the thread fibers. This will make it easier to place the point between the fibers to separate them. You can then work your index finger between the two strands and down to the bobbin nozzle.
Pick up the uncapped and readily accessible wax with your free hand and give the lower strand a fairly thin but uniform coating. Then, put the wax down and pick up that clump of rabbit fur, and place it in the fingertips of your bobbin hand. Pull small slips of fur from the clump, they should stick to the lower waxed strand. 4-5 thin slips is usually enough to dub the whole body of the fly. Remove your index finger from between the strands so they sandwich the slips of dubbing. Then, give your bobbin a clockwise spin to cord up the thread. Don’t be shy with the number of spins. The result should be a nice, shaggy dubbing rope, but one that holds the fur tight enough so it won’t easily pull out.
Take wraps with the rope so the dubbing begins right at the start of the hook bend and continue making touching wraps forward up the shank. Occasionally, pull the dubbing rearward as you go. Ideally, you want the dubbing rope to end an eye-length or two behind the hook eye. Take thread wraps on the remaining bare shank to build up a little landing pad for your wing and end with your tying thread at the midpoint of this space.
Here I’m going to use short, fine, bleached deer hair for the wing and head of the fly, but elk hair also works well. It’s a good idea to use a color to match the naturals. Separate a small clump and snip it free from the hide. It should be about the same amount as for an elk hair caddis. Strip the fuzzies and shorts from the butt ends and place the clump tips first into your stacker and give it a real good stacking. But, don’t separate the stacker just yet.
Although not essential, I’ve found a drop of medium viscosity Zap-a-Gap applied to the front thread wraps works remarkably well when it comes to really locking down the wing. With the adhesive applied, open your stacker and carefully pull the hair out by the aligned tips. Transfer the clump to the thumb and index finger of your right hand and then measure to form a wing that extends rearward to the outside bend of the hook. Re-grip the hair with your left hand and then pick up your tying scissors with your right. Using the front edge of the hook eye as a guide, snip the deer hair butts off square. Take two loose wraps with your tying thread to contain the hair and, while squeezing hard with your fingertips, pull down to compress it. Maintaining a constant tension, take a few more thread wraps rearward. This pressure will set the Zap-a-Gap, which in turn, will keep the wing from wanting to spin around the hook shank. Then pick up your whip finish tool and complete a 4 or 5 turn whip finish in front of the butts but behind the hook eye. When you’re done, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
If you like, carefully snip some of the dubbing from the underside of the fly to open up the hook gap and also create a more realistic looking ventral profile. A drop of Sally Hansen’s or head cement applied to the thread wraps at the base of the wing will make sure they don’t come unraveled.
The Dustup Caddis floats ok on its own but will eventually get waterlogged and begin to sink and need to be revitalized. This will also happen if you catch a fish and get the fly all slimed up. Simply remove the fly, release the fish and give the fly a good swirl in the water to help remove the slime. An amadou patch is a great way to blot much of the excess moisture away. And now for the “Dustup” part. Using Frog’s Fanny or a similar treatment, brush the powder into the wing and particularly the rabbit fur body of the fly. Don’t skimp here, work the powder in well. Then blow off the excess and your Dustup Caddis is really ready to fish. You’ll be absolutely amazed at how well this pattern floats with the Frog’s Fanny embedded in the fur. And, its overall look is extremely realistic. You can even skitter the fly around on the water’s surface to imitate the naturals.