In many parts of the country, mayfly hatches are dwindling, and midsummer means caddisflies. 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.
This video, from Tightline Productions—whose step-by-step tying sequences are frequently featured here—shows just how easy it is to tie this effective pattern. Like many tiers, this one substitutes deer hair for less-common elk. This does not change the effectiveness of the pattern in my experience.
Hook: Wide-gap dry-fly hook (here, a Daiichi 1100), sizes 10-18.
Thread: Brown, 8/0 or 6/0.
Rib: Fine gold tinsel.
Body: Color to match the naturals.
Wing: Elk or deer hair, cleaned and stacked.
Head: Thread and wing butts.