There is a tendency among some fly fishers to view caddis flies as a less complex insect when compared to mayflies. To a certain extent, this is a valid perception but there are times when a caddis hatch can yield difficulties requiring an imitation that does not conform to a common image associated with the stage that can cause trout to feed from the surface. I find this to be particularly true during a heavy emergence when trout have the opportunity to select only those individual insects that are least likely to escape quickly from the water.
In the U.S.A., it was probably the late Gary LaFontaine who introduced caddis patterns that target the brief but often attractive transition from caddis pupa to winged adult. Putting my own touch on LaFontaine’s concept, was mostly a matter of exchanging CDC for the synthetic yarn used in the original, but the Bubble Back Caddis possesses a couple of other distinctive features as well.
The CDC Bubble Back Caddis (Tan)
While fished mainly as a dry fly, the CDC Bubble Back Caddis is tied without wings or hackle. This pattern draws its name from the bubble effect created by cupping the CDC feathers over the abdomen in a manner that provides remarkable flotation with little else to support the fly. Like most other emerging patterns, this fly rides fairly low in the film and should be fished either dead-drift or twitched gently with the rod tip.
Olive, Tan, Gray, and Black are the colors I find most useful on the waters of the Yellowstone region, although the color chart for caddis does not end there. Adding a selection of Bubble Back Caddis to your fly fishing boxes can provide a back-up plan for those times when trout seem unusually resistant to a more common representation of this important insect.
CDC Bubble Back Caddis Hook: TMC 206 BL size 12-20 Thread: 8/0 Shuck: Sparse tuft of dubbing over three Wood Duck fibers Abdomen: Paired CDC Feathers looped over dubbed body to create a humped effect. Legs: Partridge fibers tied as a collar. Thorax: Dubbing to match natural
Rene’ Harrop with a fine Yellowstone rainbow trout – on the CDC bubble back caddis.
It is my observation that nearly every fly tying innovation is inspired in some way by something that existed before. This is certainly the case with the Turkey Tail Nymph, which follows lines of construction similar to the venerated Pheasant Tail. Created in Europe many decades ago, the PT Nymph has become a staple for fly fishers worldwide, and its reputation as a reliable producer of trout is largely unchallenged. However, devising a viable alternative to any existing pattern is what keeps the creative juices of any fly tyer flowing, and no fly works all of the time.
Turkey Tail Nymph
Introduced to the tail feathers from wild turkeys by a hunter friend in the 1980’s, I studied their fly tying potential for several years before coming upon the idea of incorporating the splendid plumage into the construction of an experimental nymph pattern. The long fibers radiating from a stout center stem can be managed in a way similar to those from a pheasant tail in forming the body of a fly in a way that is quite pleasing to the eye of both angler and trout. Turkey tail fibers can also be incorporated into the tail, legs, and wing case in a manner nearly identical to the PT Nymph. Color is the primary difference between the tails of these two abundant game birds, and this is why the Turkey Tail Nymph has become an excellent companion pattern for the reddish brown PT Nymph.
The generally oak colored turkey feathers are mottled with a lighter shade of brown creating a lovely marbled effect when applied as herl on a hook shank. When wrapped with gold wire for ribbing and weight, the Turkey Tail Nymph takes on a distinct personality of its own when compared to the copper wire used for the PT.
Like its revered predecessor, the Turkey Tail Nymph is at home in both still and moving water, and it can be tied with or without a bead. The broad feathers from which it is formed provide adequate working fiber length to accommodate hooks up to size 10, and a single quill will usually yield at least two dozen flies.
I fish the Turkey Tail Nymph as specific imitation for several mayflies like Baetis, Flavs, and some varieties of PMD’s. This is often while sight nymphing to a known target in clear, shallow water. Fishing the same pattern in tandem with a PT Nymph is a technique I use in lakes or while fly fishing blind along the banks from a drift boat. Tied on a long shank hook, the turkey tail pattern serves as a credible imitation for Damsel flies and other insects that call for more length in the artificial.
Turkey Tail Nymph
Hook: TMC 3761 Size 10-20
Thread: Dark Brown 8/0
Tail: Tips of wild turkey tail fibers
Rib: Gold wire
Abdomen: Wild Turkey Tail fibers
Thorax: Same as abdomen
Wing Case: Wild Turkey Tail fibers
Legs: Tips of Wild Turkey Tail fibers
In recent years I have sometimes struggled to separate the personal importance of fishing hatches larger than size 18 or leaving the season of gloves, heavy fleece, and covered ears. In most years, however, both comforts tend to arrive together around early May when conditions are right for streamside willows to come into bud and the first caddis of the year to begin their emergence.
Like nearly all willows and caddis, I find it difficult to tolerate long periods of below freezing temperatures, especially while in pursuit of rising trout. And with the sharp vision of youth now only a memory, my eyes become instantly grateful when a size 14 dry fly can attract the kind of enthusiasm from trout that only the warm season can inspire. Learn how casting and perfectly presenting a dry fly will catch you more fish.
In the U.S., the second Sunday in May is a day of honor for mothers nationwide which, by itself, is of no small significance. In much of the northern Rockies, however, Mother’s Day coincides with the appearance of a sizeable, mostly brown caddis that begins a string of like insects that will stretch into early autumn. And while not always the dominant insect of choice, caddis in a variety of sizes and colors play a substantial role in the diet of trout throughout the most comfortable months of the year.
Like mayflies, caddis provide opportunity to fish weighted imitations in their subsurface form. Cased and free living larvae are prime attractions for trout in nearly any season. Pupae, the second stage, become available just prior to and during emergence and are fished differently than the deep, dead drift method that is appropriate for the larval stage.
MY favorite pupal imitation is a weighted Ascending Caddis that is fished either upstream with a lift or across and downstream with a twitching motion applied by the rod tip. With naturals being active and often quick in their rise to the surface, the take on a tight line can be sudden and forceful as the fish rushes to engulf the fly before it can escape the water.
During emergence, an aggressive rise that moves a lot of water indicates a trout taking rising caddis pupae close to the surface. Duplicating the appearance and behavior of the natural in this situation means fishing a submerged rather than floating pattern.
A floating pupae pattern like the CDC Bubble Back Caddis will imitate the brief but often distinct period between the transition from subsurface pupa to winged adult. Fished on the surface without drag or perhaps with a slight twitch, the Bubble Back Caddis creates an illusion of vulnerability if only for a few seconds. However, this slight window of enhanced opportunity can be enough to attract a trout’s attention.
Caddis in the winged stage are known to be more active on the water than mayflies. Following a traditional approach to dealing with this mobility, I utilize a pattern featuring a dubbed body with hackle palmered along its entire length. This, combined with a wing of paired CDC feathers, provides a light foot print on the water and allows the fly to be inched across the surface when such behavior is called for. Flotation of this style is excellent on most water but I will sometimes add a small amount of elk hair to bolster performance on extra rough currents.
Brogan Harrop Spring Caddis
The CDC Henry’s Fork Caddis was inspired by big, selective trout feeding in clear and slow moving water. Although this pattern floats quite low on the water it possesses excellent flotation and visibility when compared to most other slow water caddis patterns. I find the Henry’s Fork Caddis to be particularly effective on summer mornings and evenings when the temperatures are cooler and the naturals mostly sedate on the water.
Unlike some who tend to trivialize the value of caddis in comparison to well-known mayfly hatches, I carry a rather extensive selection of specialized caddis patterns. The following four patterns, however, comprise a sound foundation for addressing most of what will be encountered during a caddis emergence and their subsequent return to the water when eggs are deposited and the cycle ends
The following is a sampling of some of the most common colors.
Ascending Caddis Hook: TMC 206 BL size 12-20 Thread: Tan 8/0 Rib: Copper Wire Back: Brown Marabou Abdomen: Tan Dubbing Legs: Brown Partridge fibers Antennae: 2 Wood Duck fibers
CDC Bubble Back Caddis (Tan)
Bubble Back Caddis Hook: TMC 206 BL size 12-20 Thread: Tan 8/0 Shuck: Sparse tuft of Tan dubbing over 3 Wood Duck fibers Abdomen: Tan CDC feathers looped over Tan dubbing to create a humped effect. Hackle: Brown Partridge Thorax: Brown Dubbing
CDC Palmered Caddis Adult Brown
CDC Palmered Caddis Adult Hook: TMC 100 BL size 12-20 Thread: Brown 8/0 Hackle: Whiting Cree or Grizzly dyed brown Body: Brown Dubbing Wings: Paired Brown CDC feathers Antennae: 2 Wood Duck fibers
CDC Henry’s Fork Caddis Olive
CDC Henry’s Fork Caddis Hook: TMC 100 BL size 12-20 Thread: Olive 8/0 Abdomen: Olive Goose or Turkey Biot Wing: Paired Med. Dun CDC feathers Over Wing: Brown Partridge fibers Thorax: Peacock Herl Hackle: Whiting Grizzly dyed dun trimmed on bottom
The Rhyacophila Caddis is found in almost all rivers around the UK. It’s a free-living caddis, meaning it doesn’t build a ‘house’. The Larvae like caddis favours shallow riffles and often gets caught in the current and drifts freely downstream, this making them ideal food for trout and grayling. The ‘Rhyacs’ hatch later in the afternoon and the adults can provide some great dry fly action when they return to the water. Tying a Rhyac caddis can be complicated, but here’s a simple little pattern we’ve been using for the grayling this winter.
Attach your favoured hook into the vice, here I’ve used a Fulling Mill Czech Nymph hook. Run your thread along the body to the extreme bend in the hook. Wind a layer of lead into the shank of the hook to add some weight. A tungsten bead can be used but I like these on dropper so a lead underbody is usually enough weight. With your thread, make sure you taper the body to give a slim, streamline effect and ensure you cover the lead with the thread, once the dubbing gets wet, you will get a green glow from the underbody, if you forget to do this, the lead will dampen the colour of the body.
For the rib I’ve used the tag end of thread where I first tied onto the hook. Attach two sides to the fly, FlyBox bleach dyed peacock herl is a great material to imitate the legs. Dub a TIGHT rope of dubbing onto your thread ensuring you get a thin from and back end with a slightly thicker abdomen. In touching turns wind the dubbing towards the eye and pull the side legs along the length of the hook. Secure the body and legs in place with the rib with evenly spaced turns. Tie off and add some black pen to the head of the fly to imitate the Rhyacophila’s wing bud cover.
Fly Tying Materials
Hook: Fulling Mill Czech Nymph 12 Thread: Glo Bright No12 Underbody: Medium Lead Wire Rib: Glo Bright No12 Body: Rhyac Green Dubbing Sides: Bleach Dyed Peacock – Chart Colour: Black Pen
Even the best peacock herl strands are very brittle so constructing a fly with a tear and rip proof body is a tough task without bulking it up too much. In this weeks fly tying tip we’re going to show you how to securely tie in peacock herl and create a great looking peacock body that needs an atomic bomb to destroy.
This tip was shown to be in a fly tying class probably around 12 years ago and has been saving many of my flies from the death of trout teeth. One way to test how good this method of tying peacock herl is – is to use one fly using this technique and another without, you’ll be surprised how quickly the peacock will break.
They tutorial below is obviously just the peacock body, incorporating this method into flies such as diawl bachs, black and peacock spiders, or practically anything with a peacock body, you’ll strengthen the body tenfold.
A lot of fly tiers, especially novices, have trouble stripping peacock herl. Some describe it as an art, to get all the tiny herls free from the stalk, ready to tie your favourite buzzers and nymphs with very realistic bodies.
As a tier I get asked ‘How to strip peacock herl?’ fairly often – there are many different ways fly tiers have come up with, from using the blade of a scissors to an eraser. Personally I like the old fashion approach:
The Hares Ear is probably one of the most used flies within the fishing community, here’s we’ve tied a variant which lends itself perfectly to river fishing and ideal for targeting trout and especially grayling in the winter months. The heavy tungsten bead gives it added weight to get to the bottom quickly into the fishes feeding zone. Hares ears are very versatile patterns, try changing the colour of the thorax and bead, this will change the fly completely.
Start off by threading a tungsten bead onto your hook. Here I’ve used a Fulling Mill Czech Nymph hook, it gives a great grubby look to any pattern and is also a great pupa hook. Secure the bead in place by butting up a few turns of lead and fully securing with thread wraps. Cover the lead body to ensure it doesn’t slip down the hook follow the hook shank down around three-quarters of the way around the bend.
Take a length of gold wire and tie in at the back of the hook. Take a decent pinch of Hares ear and create a tight, tapered dubbing rope which will reach the thorax of the fly. Wind in touching turns and secure in place with the gold wire rib. For the thorax I like to use a contrasting colour such as black, orange or yellow. Dub a small amount of dubbing to the thread and wind towards the bead, securing with a whip finish at the head.
Scruffy Hares ear for Grayling
Hook: Fulling Mill Czech Nymph Size 10
Thread: Black UTC thread
Bead: Gold Tungsten bead 3mm
Underbody: Medium Lead Wire
Rib: Hares Ear
Thorax: Spectra Dub Glister
Varnish: Veniard Clear
Everyone who’s ever caught grayling, know that they absolutely love pink. It’s one of those colours that really stand out when anglers talk about what fly they caught on, if it’s a hotspot, or a fully blow pink grub, pink is usually in there somewhere. This glister bug has proven it’s worth in any grayling fishers fly box, this fly pattern has counted for numerous amounts of fish for myself and others I fish with. I wouldn’t be without it.
I tie this fly with many colour tungsten beads but silver has to be my favourite. Take a bead and thread it onto a hook. Here’s I’ve used a Fulling Mill Czech Nymph size 12. Runa layer of thread onto the shank of the hook, securing the bead in place and bulking up the thorax. Wind your thread onto the hook and cover the lead to ensure it’s securely in place. The pink UTC thread creates a great underbody for the dubbing. Tie in a strip of Large width pearl mylar for the shellback and a silver rib.
Take a decent pink of dubbing and dub into the thread to create an even ‘rope’, tapering slightly thicker towards the head. Wind the glister towards the eye – in touching turns – leaving enough room to tie in the rib and shellback. Pull the pearl over the back keeping it taught and secure in place with the silver wire rib. I’ve added a small piece of pink UV dubbing at the head of the fly to give it a small colour change. And that’s it! Simple, effective and efficient.
Pink, as most fly fishermen will know is a well re-known colour for grayling. The lady of the stream is partial to any fly incorporating a spot of pink whether it’s a floss tail, pink glister thorax or a pink wire rib. These pink bugs seem to work particularly well once the Salmon make an appearance and start their spawning habits. The fixation on pink may be due to the amount of ‘pink’ eggs being released by the female salmon. Or, in many cases, because a lot of anglers use it!
Slide a tungsten bead onto your hook, here I have used a silver bead; 3mm paired with a Kamasan B170 size 12. Secure your thread onto the hook and butt up against the tungsten bead to ensure it stays in place. Run the thread down the hook until the bend in the shank and prepare the tail. Cut a length of Glo-Brite floss and create a plump tail. I like to wrap the floss around my two fingers 8 times to get a good consistent thickness. You can get 4/5 flies out of each length so don’t throw away the off cuts!
Tie the tail in securely and take three strands of peacock herl for the body. The grayling like a mouthful so don’t skimp on the peacock. Tie the herl onto the hook and wrap around the thread, this will ensure durability of the herl as it is very prone to breakages. Wind towards the bead and tie off at the head. Take a brown hen feather, or in this case, a brown grizzle hackle and secure onto the hook. Two or three turns onto the hook and tie off. The hackle gives a lot of movement and helps the fly fool both trout and grayling in fast, medium or slow paced water.
Fishtec stock a full range of fly tying materials and Kamasan Hooks
Tying Material List
Hook: Kamasan B170 Size 12 Thread: Black UTC 70 Bead: Silver Tungsten Tail: No 2 Glo Brite Body: Peacock Herl Hackle: Brown Hen
The Sedge hog was devised as a pattern to convert sedge feeders into fish on the bank. This pattern can be fished dry, pulled just on or in the surface or below the surface to attract fish feeding on sedges and other large insects. Part wet fly, part muddler. A very buoyant fly, this pattern gives some great disturbance to attract fish to other flies on your cast. competition bots use these as point flies regularly when other foam or buoyant flies need to be removed.
Attach a strong, but lightweight hook into the vice and run a layer of thread down the hook, here i’ve used a Kamasan B175. Take a pinch of natural deer hair, sort the longer fibers from the shorter fibers and put into a hair stacked. Repeat this proccess three times for the tail and two wings. Tie in one pinch of deer hair as a tail and secure in place.
Tie in a length of FlyBox Hackle in black for the first third of the body. After each turn, pull the fibers back so they don’t get trapped down and create a full sectioned body. Take the second bunch of deer hair and tie in as a wing, the same length as the tail. Take another colour of fritz , here i’ve used red to create a bibio style pattern. A great colour combination and fly for targeting heather fly feeders!
Take another amount of deer hair and tie in over the middle section of fritz. To finish off, neaten up the head with thread and make a few turns with the remaining black hackle at the head and tie off. Apply a small amount of varnish and the fly is read to use.