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The Holy Grail Caddis Emerger Pattern & Tying Instructions

Fly Tying Recipe: The Holy Grail Caddis Emerger
2X-short emerger hook hook (here, a Dai-Riki #125), size 14
Gold, 3/32-inch
Red, 8/0 or 70-denier
Pearl Flashabou
Natural hare’s-mask dubbing
Natural pheasant-tail fibers
Natural hare’s-mask dubbing
Hungarian partridge feather
Head cement
Hackle pliers, bodkin
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Video Transcript:

The Holy Grail Caddis Emerger is a versatile and effective fly that can be tied in a range of sizes and colors to match the naturals. Here’s a kind of basic do-all version.

For a hook, a Dai-Riki #125 in size 14 works well. Even though the hook isn’t especially small, plunger-style hackle pliers make handling it through the next few tying steps much easier. Start by mashing the barb, in many cases this is necessary simply to get the bead onto the hook shank. A 3/32” gold bead is used to weight the fly. I’ve found a magnetic strip glued to a popsicle stick makes picking up most beads a snap.

Begin with the small hole of the bead pointing up and thread the hook point through it. Then slip the bead up onto the hook shank and get the whole assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.

For thread, I like to spice up this somewhat generic version with a bright red head, so I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of red UTC 70 Denier. Start your thread on the hook shank a short ways in front of the hook point and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag.

A single strand of small pearl flashabou is used for the fly’s rib. Place one end of the material against the near side of the hook and take a few thread wraps to lightly secure it. You can then pull the material under the wraps so it doesn’t need to be trimmed. I’m going to stop for just a second here, the most important part of tying this pattern is that you not crowd the hook eye. Make sure when the bead is pushed back to the tying thread, there’s a full eye-length of bare hook shank left exposed behind the eye. This is so critical, I’ll take an extra step and bring the flashabou forward and lock it down with a thread wrap or two. I’ll then pull it over top of the bead and under the hook shank in order to push the bead rearward and ensure it doesn’t move from that position. With the bead locked in place, continue taking thread wraps down the hook shank, binding the flashabou to it as you go. Keep taking wraps well down into the hook bend.

I’m going to use natural Hare’s Mask dubbing here but choose whatever color you like to match the naturals. Pull a small pinch free from the packet and create a thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread, about an inch and a half long. Start taking wraps with the noodle so the dubbing begins right at the end of the thread. It’s a good idea to take one full wrap in back of the flashabou to ensure it doesn’t slip off the dubbing and back onto bare hook when you take your first wrap with it. Continue taking touching wraps with the dubbing noodle up the hook shank, building a gently tapered body as you go. Ideally, you want the body to end with bare tying thread hanging down right at the hook point.

Get hold of the flashabou and start making open spiral wraps over top of the dubbed body. Keep taking wraps up the hook until you reach your tying thread. Use it to secure the flashabou with a few tight turns. Then, snip the excess flashabou off close.

Natural colored pheasant tail fibers are used to form the fly’s wing case. Pull down and strip off 10 or so fibers from the stem. I like to cut the curlies off so they don’t get in the way. Reorient the fibers in your fingers and then snip 1/4” or so of the brittle tips off square. Place these tip ends on top of the hook shank and take several nice, tight thread wraps to secure them. Continue wrapping rearward until your thread is once again right at the hook point. This open space along with the bead will become the thorax of the fly.

Get hold of an even smaller pinch of the same dubbing as before and use it to create a thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread. Make this one about 1/2 the length of the first. Start taking wraps with the noodle to build up the thorax. Ideally you should end with the bare thread right behind the bead. Next, take your thread over top of the bead and start making nice tight thread wraps in front of it. The bead should not have moved from its original position. Pull the wing case forward over the dubbed thorax and the bead, and with your tying thread, make several really tight turns to secure it. I like to give my bobbin a clockwise spin to cord up and strengthen the thread, then take a few more wraps to ensure there’s no way the wing case fibers are going to pull out from under the thread wraps. When you’re confident the fibers are secure, reach in with your tying scissors and snip the excess butt ends off as close as you can without snipping anything else in the process.

Hungarian partridge is used to form the legs of the fly. For this size 14, you’ll need to select a feather that’s down low on the skin. In other words, right at the base of the bird’s neck. These are generally well marked and have fibers the correct length for the hook. Pluck a single feather free from the skin and strip off all the lower webby fibers and nasty stuff from the base of the stem. You should be left with something that looks about like this. Measure to make sure the longest fibers are a little more than a full hook in length. Don’t sweat it if the fibers are a bit long. I’m reasonably sure the fish won’t care. Pass the stem of the feather to your left hand and get hold of the very tip with hackle pliers or the fingers of your right hand. Pull down the lower fibers and grip them with the thumb and index finger of your left hand, leaving only the feather’s tip exposed. Use your tying scissors to snip most of the tip off leaving just a small triangular shaped tie-in anchor.

Place the anchor against the near side of the hook in front of the bead and take thread wraps to secure it. Make absolutely sure these wraps are really tight, otherwise the feather will likely pull free. Pick up your hackle pliers and get hold of the feather’s stem. Pull the stem up to vertical and fold the fibers rearward with your left hand. With the fibers pointing back, start taking touching wraps with the stem around the hook shank, two full wraps is usually enough. Use your tying thread to secure the feather’s bare stem to the hook shank. You need to be careful so as not to trap fibers while doing this. Next, reach in with the very tips of your tying scissors and snip the excess stem off close.

Gently preen the partridge fibers rearward and take a few more thread wraps to hold them back and build up a neat little head on the fly. Pick up your whip finish tool and do a 4 or 5 turn whip finish to secure your tying thread. Make sure the knot is seated well before snipping or cutting your tying thread free.

On a Holy Grail caddis emerger, there’s a whole lot happening between the hook eye and the front of the bead so I like to add a drop or two of head cement to the thread wraps to ensure nothing comes unraveled. I’ll even go so far as to use my bodkin to spread the cement all around the wraps, something I rarely do.

For those of you seeking a weighty, truly effective, do-all caddis emerger, your quest might well have ended.