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From Caddisflies by G. LaFontaine pg. 315.  “Nearly every mention in modern angling literature of adult caddisflies includes the solemn advice “Always catch one because caddisflies appear lighter in flight than they actually are.” The most common reason caddisflies appear lighter in the air than they do in the hand is that the wings of most species are fairly translucent, and they allow a lot of sunlight to pass through them. When an angler holds an adult in his hand and looks down at it, the light does not affect the coloration. Maybe someone finds it valuable to view adults this way, but it has been my experience that it is difficult to get wild trout to take caddisflies from my hand. They usually suck adults off the surface, looking up at them, which is roughly the same way fly fisherman see them in the air… Even the way fly fishermen look at an insect is warped by the “mayfly” obsession. It is fine to study a mayfly in the hand because the wings are upright, but certainly a caddisfly, with two sets of wings over the body, must be looked at against the natural background of the sky for a fish-eye view; and a matching artificial should be chosen the same way.”

Additional Thoughts:

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  • Could the thickness of the Elk hair wing contribute or detract from the effectiveness of the pattern both in terms of color, a thicker wing would block more light which would make the color appear darker? Whereas a sparsely tied wing is more translucent creating similar conditions to what LaFontaine describes above? I remember an outing with Wendy B. fishing the hatch I am attempting to imitate here and the sparse No Hackle Elk hair Caddis pattern was crushing fish. The sparser the wing became, the more fish took to it, even sitting half in the film.
  • The #16 Two-Toned Chubby No Hackle Elk Hair pattern is an attempt at better imitating the caddis I have been seeing as of late by imitating the olive/black body I had documented previously as well as the bulbous body shape.
  •  The Olive CDC & Elk, we’ll see how effective this version is for the spring caddis hatches. I have my hopes but I think the Olive maybe too much. Also, it’s hard to get the bulbous body appearance by palmering a CDC feather.

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  1. I’ve been following your blog for a while I stumbled across it somehow when I started fly fishing and noticed we both began the same month.
    In regards to using cdc in an elk hair caddis have you ever seen a pattern that uses cdc as an underwing instead of palmering it? I find it keeps the body much lower in the film which for me gets always seems to get more strikes. I thought it might allow you to dub the body the way you wish and still get the good float from the cdc

    here’s a link to the pattern and a video if my description wasnt specific enough


    avatar Luke
  2. Luke, I have tied a pattern that used CDC as an underwing. I busted one out the other day and it worked like a charm. I used a CDC “Puff” (not a traditional CDC feather) for this pattern. Below is the link to the post I made for it.


    Last season the CDC and Elk just got crushed, the CDC was slimed and the Elk hair was keeping the pattern a float, something about the way the CDC either traps air bubbles or looks in the film makes it very effective even if it’s not aiding the float. Just my observations on that pattern. I think having the body sit in the film is very effective as well. Thanks for the thoughts.

  3. Haven’t read the book but this year I started tying some variations of his ubiquitous sparkle patterns.

    My last time your way was two weeks ago and ran into a brief caddis hatch….would it be advisable to bring a few patterns this weekend?


    avatar Paul
    1. Paul, the weekend air temps are looking low on Saturday but I did hear something about Baetis coming off around the area on the cooler days. If you can make it down Sunday you might catch an excellent caddis hatch depending if the air temp can get up into the 60’s for a bit. Good luck Paul.

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