Tying the Elk Hair Caddis: Easy Instructions to Tie This Fly

Learn to tie this popular and effective dry fly with this step-by-step guide

The Elk Hair Caddis is the most popular dry fly caddis pattern and a must-have in everyone’s fly box pretty much the world over. It’s a simple pattern to tie as you’ll see from the step-by-step tying instructions below and the accompanying video. A high-floating imitation of the adult caddis fly, it is a versatile pattern that will take trout in a variety of settings including cast to feeding fish and skated through runs during a rise.

Materials List

  • TMC100 dry fly hook (buy here on Amazon)
  • Thin copper wire (buy here on Amazon)
  • Superfine dry fly dubbing (brown or olive) (buy here on Amazon)
  • Elk hair (buy here on Amazon)
  • One brown hackle feather (buy capes on Amazon here)
  • Brown thread (buy on Amazon here)

Elk Hair Caddis Recipe: Step-by-Step

elk hair caddis tying

Step 1: Lay down a thread base and take the thread to the bend in the hook.

elk hair caddis recipe

Step 2: Tie in the copper wire at the rear of the hook.

Step 3: Using the superfine dry fly dubbing (or Antron or other synthetic dubbing), dub a medium-thickness body stopping just short of the hook eye leaving enough space to tie in the elk-hair wing.

Elk hair caddis tying instructions

Step 4: Take a brown hackle feather and cut off the barbules from the first little bit of the feather to keep it neat when you tie it in. Tie the feather in, shiny side to the hook eye, and wind it back to the bend of the hook, taking about five turns maintaining equal separation between each wrap. Anchor it with two wraps of the wire around the hook shank, then wind the wire forward in the opposite direction with five or so wraps to the feather, preserving a similar level of separation. Tie down and trim off the wire and the feather.

Step 5: Take a clump of elk hair and trim off the skin. Use a comb to remove the underhair and place it in the hairstacker tip-first and give it a few good whacks the align the tips. Take the clump out of the stacker preserving the alignment and tie the clump in so it forms a wing running to level with the bend in the hook. Tie it in carefully not allowing it to spin around the hook shank. Make each wrap successfully tighter until you’ve got it anchored, then put a dab of Superglue on top and

tying elk hair caddis

Step 6: Trim off the end of the elk hair at a 45-degree angle to the head and whip finish to the hook eye being careful now to snag the ends of the elk hair fibers.

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Tying the Elk Hair Caddis Video Instructions

When to Use the Elk Hair Caddis

The Elk Hair Caddis works well throughout the day whenever there is a hatch of caddis flies or the prospect of one. Fish that are accustomed to eating caddis off the surface will take the Elk Hair Caddis even if the hatch is not in progress.

It is a buoyant fly courtesy of the elk hair, so you can float this down bumpy glides and cast it into pocket water, and it will still float. It can also be used at the indicator fly for a dry dropper rig if you keep the nymph small.

The only time you really have issues with this fly is when the fish are taking the nymphs or emergers in preference to the duns. In that case, you are better off fishing with the X-Caddis as the trailing shuck makes it a better emerger pattern with a CDC caddis nymph tie below it.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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