For decades, the standard by which all caddisfly patterns have been judged has been Al Troth’s Elk-Hair Caddis, which first came to the fly-fishing public’s attention in a 1978 article in Fly Tyer (but which Troth had been tying for some years). In the article, Troth claimed that he had set out to develop a wet fly for his Pennsylvania streams, but his design ended up floating so well that he stuck with it. The pattern became so popular among fly fishermen because it does, in fact, float like a cork and you can fish it so many different ways: dead-drifted, skittering on the surface, stripped in the surface film, or even as a diving caddis. In his book The Orvis Guide to Essential American Flies, Tom Rosenbauer devotes a chapter to the Elk-Hair Caddis.
On August 3, Al Troth passed away at the age of 82, after a log battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. According the obituary in The Montana Standard, Troth was a Pennsylvania native who ended up teaching Industrial Arts in the Williamsport, area, where the Loyalsock was his home water. After several summertime trips to Montana, he moved with his wife and son to Dillon, Montana, in 1973. There he guided anglers and tied flies for a living:
Al Troth was probably best known as the innovator of many popular trout fishing flies. His Elk Hair Caddis, developed in 1957, has become an international standard. Al has been featured in numerous books and was three times on the cover of Fly Fisherman magazine. Known for the creativity and excellence of his work, he produced beautiful fly displays in the latter part of his career. He also attracted many loyal clients in his parallel profession as fly fishing outfitter on the rivers of southwestern Montana. Al retired from guiding in 1996 with the onset of Parkinson’s while his son, Eric, continued with the family business.
Troth will remembered for his devotion to durable, easy-to-tie, effective fly patterns, and all of us who have landed many trout on an Elk-Hair Caddis owe him a debt of gratitude.