John Anderson’s Bird of Prey Caddis is a very adaptable and effective pattern. Simply by changing colors and sizes you can create imitations over a wide range of caddis fly species.
For a hook, I’m going to use a Dai-Riki #125 in size 14. As is almost always the case, plunger-style hackle pliers make hook handling a breeze. Start by mashing the hook barb, this will allow you to slip a 7/64” gold bead onto the hook, small hole first. With the bead in place, get the assembly firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise and push the bead forward so it rests against the hook eye.
For tying thread, I load a bobbin with a spool of black UTC 70 Denier. Start the thread on the hook shank at the back edge of the bead and take a few wraps rearward before snipping or breaking off the tag. End with your thread at about the hook point.
Small, pearlescent flashabou is used for the rib. A single strand cut from the hank is enough to make numerous flies. Lay one end of the material against the near side of the hook and take a few thread wraps to lightly secure it. Pull rearward to shorten the tag end so there’s no need to trim off the excess. Take thread wraps rearward down the shank, working the flashabou to the far side of the hook as you go. Continue wrapping well down into the hook bend. To make tail tie-in easier, I like to reorient the hook in the vise so it points downward as shown here.
Natural Hungarian partridge is used for the tail. The often overlooked larger feathers out by the edge of the skin work well. Pluck a single feather free and strip off the lower fuzzy fibers then get hold of the tip, which usually has a white stripe in by the stem. With the very tips of your tying scissors snip this little white part out. You should be left with something that looks about like this. Fold the two sides together and position the fibers above your tying thread so they form a tail approximately a hook gap in length. With a pinch wrap, secure the fibers to the hook shank and continue taking thread wraps forward to bind the material down. You can then reorient your hook back to its normal position. Keep on taking thread wraps forward to in front of the hook point before using your scissors to snip the excess butt end of the partridge feather off close. Take thread wraps rearward to halfway between the hook point and the barb in preparation for dubbing.
I’m going to use light Hare’s Mask to dub the body of the fly but use whatever color best matches the naturals. Create a thin dubbing noodle on your tying thread about 2 1/2” in length. Start taking wraps with the noodle so the dubbing begins right at the base of the tail. Do take a single wrap with the dubbing noodle behind the flashabou rib to keep it from slipping backwards during it’s first wrap. Continue making touching turns with the dubbing noodle to build up a slightly tapered body on the fly. Then get hold of the rib material and begin segmenting the body, 5 or 6 open wraps usually looks pretty good. When you reach the bead, secure the flashabou with a couple tight turns of tying thread and then snip the excess off close. Take several tight wraps to create a relatively flat landing area for the soft hackle wraps in the next step.
Pluck a single appropriately sized feather from the neck area of a Hungarian partridge skin. After stripping off all the lower fuzzy and malformed fibers, get hold of the feather’s very tip and preen the lower fibers downward to isolate that tip. You can then use your tying scissors to snip it off, leaving a small triangle for a tie-in anchor. Give your bobbin a counterclockwise spin so the thread will want to jump rearward for the first wrap. Lay the anchor against the near side of the hook and make several nice tight thread wraps to ensure it won’t pull free. Get hold of the feather’s stem with hackle pliers and preen the fibers rearward. Take wraps with the feather to create a sparse soft hackle collar. Then secure the feather’s stem with 3-4 wraps of tying thread. Once you’ve got the stem really locked down, reach in with the tips of your tying scissors and snip the excess off close. At this point, I like to preen the fibers rearward and take just a few thread wraps to pin them back in that position. This will also make room for the peacock herl which gets tied in next.
Select a single peacock herl, try to find one that has fairly long flues. Orient the herl so the side with the longer, more perpendicular, flues is pointed down and snip about an inch of the brittle tip off square. Lay the herl against the near side of the hook and take some thread wraps to secure it. Then break, or better yet, snip the excess off close. Start taking wraps with the herl. Notice how the longer flues are the ones that stick out and form a nice full collar. Keep taking wraps with the herl until it pushes the bead up tight to the hook eye. Use wraps of tying thread to firmly anchor the herl before snipping the excess off close.
I like my Birds of Prey to have next to no thread collar showing so I’ll go directly into a 4 or 5 turn whip finish to keep thread wraps to a minimum. When you have the knot well seated, snip or cut your tying thread free.
To increase durability and to ensure nothing comes unraveled, I’ll add a drop of head cement right behind the bead which will basically soak in and disappear once it’s dried.
This is one of those patterns where all the materials work together really well to add movement, realism and general fish-catching goodness.