On a recent trip to Maine I met a group of guys who were singing the praises of this fly, Steve Schweitzer’s Tabou Caddis Emerger. It’s simple, ingenious, ultra buggy and just plain fun to tie. Once you get tying them, it’s hard to stop.
For a hook, I’m going to use a size 14 Dai-Riki #270. This fly is most often tied in this size because it really works out well for the feathers used in it’s construction.
Start by mashing the barb on your hook and then getting it firmly secured in your tying vise. For thread, it’s hard to go wrong with Olive 6/0 Danville. Get your thread started on the hook shank, leaving a small space behind the eye, and take securing wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.
Steve’s original recipe called for a rib of craft store Stretch Magic, but I’ve found the Wapsi equivalent works fine. Place one end of the material on top of the hook shank and take tight wraps of tying thread down the hook shank to just above the barb. Let thread torque carry the material to the far side of the hook.
Whiting Farms Brahma Hen Soft Hackle with a Chickabou Pelt is the only other material used on this fly. The soft hackle feathers are fairly large but have beautifully marked, fine fibers. The chickabou pelt, which is attached to the skin, has feathers that resemble mini-maribou plumes. Whiting offers this combo in a number of especially buggy-looking colors. Here I’m going to use white thats been dyed tan.
Start by selecting a single feather from the chickabou pelt. Find the point where the stem dramatically drops in size then strip away and discard all the fibers from below that point. Stroke the remaining fibers to the tip with your left hand, then get hold of them with your right. Place the feather on top of the hook shank at the tie-in point and take a single wrap around it. Pull the base of the feather back and take a single wrap just around the hook shank. Now, carefully pull the chickabou through the wraps to leave a very short, little tail. Take a few thread wraps to secure the feather then pull the butt end back and take wraps forward to about the 3/4 point on the hook shank. With your hackle pliers, get hold of the bare stem and begin gently twisting the fibers into a rope, 5 or 6 twists ought to do it. Begin counter wrapping this fuzzy rope in touching turns up the hook shank. You should find that you’re about down to bare stem when you reach the tying thread. Take normal wraps with the thread to secure the stem. You can then reach in with your tying scissors and snip the excess stem off close.
Sweep the chickabou fibers back and take a few wraps rearward to coax them in that direction. With this done, pull the fibers forward to expose the abdomen of the fly. Get hold of the clear rib and begin making open spiral wraps up the hook shank. You want to stretch the material quite a bit while you’re doing this. When you reach the longer chickabou fibers, once again, sweep them rearward and bring the rib through them to the front. Secure the rib to the hook shank with a few nice tight wraps of tying thread. Once you’re sure it’s not going to pull out, snip the excess rib off close. You can then take a few wraps of tying thread to really lock everything down.
If you find that your fly has a few too many legs, trim some of them off with your tying scissors. If you want to shorten them, just break them off with your fingernails.
For the wing, select a single soft hackle feather from the skin. Strip and discard the very lowest off-colored fluffies from the stem. Then use your tying scissors to snip the remainder of the fluffy stuff off close. You can strip it off if you’d like but then you get curlies in the mix which can cause problems. Finally, strip off and discard fibers until you’re left with a feather about as long as the entire hook. Set the good fluffies aside for safe keeping as they’ll be used later.
With it’s back side facing down, place the soft hackle feather directly on top of the hook shank and take a single wrap over top of the stem. Then lift the butt end of the stem and take a wrap beneath it. As you did with the chickabou, pull the feather forward under the thread wraps. It’s tip should extend just past the the hook bend. You may have to do a little jostling to get the feather to lay flat on top of the fly. Once you get it oriented correctly, take a few good thread wraps to keep it that way. You can then lift the excess butt end up and snip it off at an angle. Take thread wraps to cover the butts up and form a smooth thread ramp down to the hook shank.
Now corral the fuzzies, or was it fluffies, you set aside and use them to form a slim dubbing noodle on your tying thread that’s about 3 inches long. You’ll find it dubs quite well. Starting just behind the eye, wrap the dubbing noodle up the ramp to the base of the wing and then back down to form a rough cone shape.
Do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish to secure your tying thread and then snip or cut it off close.
This one’s about as buggy as it gets which is a very good thing. Give ‘em a try in different colors and if you ever see Steve Schweitzer tell him thank you for an excellent caddis emerger pattern.