Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Matching the Hatch: Elk Hair Caddis

For years fly fishermen and women have had one motto or truism when it comes to picking which fly to use next and that is "Match The Hatch".  In other words match your fly to what the trout are eating.  I've been thinking of this fact and wondering what I can do to make this statement come to life.  So I decided to make a Match the Hatch series of blog posts, possibly once a month, highlighting different baits, not just flies, and matching them to the bait species they imitate.  This way we can learn both how to fish said baits matching them to their real counter parts.

So with that in mind here is the first "Match the Hatch" post.  I first heard about caddis flies in particular the winter caddis when I lived in Connecticut and decided to learn how to fly fish.  The first question I asked that winter after learning how to casts a fly rod was which baits should I learn to tie first.  Well, the person working at Orvis, also a fly fishing guide, said I should start with the elk hair caddis fly but make sure I tied it in the winter caddis colors as that is what they were currently catching trout on the Farmington River with.  Which to me made no sense whatsoever because it was very much into the winter and from what I understood no bugs would be hatching or flying about in the winter.  Well I was wrong, caddis flies do hatch in colder months.  So a quick grab of the materials and I was off tying some not very artistic looking elk hairs with the hopes of catching a fish or two that winter. 

Needless to say I didn't get lucky enough to catch a trout on those flies that winter.  However what I did learn was that just about every fish in streams, ponds and lakes will gorge themselves on caddis flies during an evening hatch.  As that following spring I got lucky and experienced a hatch while casting wooly buggers for trout in a local lake.  So with a quick switch of baits I was landing way too many bluegill a couple of small bass and yes my first trout on an elk hair caddis, only on the tan color not the winter caddis pattern.  From that point forward I've always kept them in my fly box whenever I'm out fishing, which this year turned out to be another forgotten treasure as I learned pretty quickly that here in Michigan when the flying ants begin to hatch the elk hair makes a great imitation for them as well.
The materials needed to tie the elk hair caddis are:
  • Sizes #12 - #18  dry fly hooks  (Mustad R50-94840)
  • Elk Hair
  • Saddle Hackle in brown, grizzly or black
  • 6/0 Tying Thread
  • Super fine copper wire for ribbing
  • Dubbing your choice of color

The overall pattern is very easy to tie so it's perfect for someone learning, as we all are.  Below are  few videos with great examples and variations on this essential fly.

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