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Elk Hair Caddis

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Elk Hair Caddis are one of those flies that have been around for a long time, yet still are some of the best dry flies you could fish with.  They are a classic pattern that just seems to work.  Simple, yet effective is the name of the game with these.  Somewhat of a guides style dry fly, these will work in almost any river, stream or lake where trout and other fish species are targeting adult caddis.  They float really well and really do mimic a caddis very well.  Not just for Trout though, I know a lot of people use these for sunfish and bass as well.  You can tie them in a wide range of sizes and colors, and there are a bunch of variants as well.  Make it for your local waters, and mimic the species/size of caddis the fish are going after.  

One thing I want to mention, if you look at the original pattern created by Al Troth in the late 50's he made the wing lay down a bit more.  These days you see many EHC with the wing flared up and super bushy.  Thats fine and all, and quite possibly better for seeing on top of the water.  However it stops mimicking a caddis as much and becomes more of an indicator fly.  Trout will still eat it tied that way, but I much prefer fishing these with a laid down wing rather than one that bushes upward like most modern versions of this fly.  The beauty of tying your own flies though is you can make the how you want, so have fun with it and tie it to your own needs and wants.  

Also this can be tied with deer hair as I mentioned in the video.  Traditionally it was tied with elk hair but, deer hair is generally more fine, easier to find, and easier to work with.  Also a plus is you can find it in a number of colors as well.  So dont be hesitant to use deer hair for this fly if you so choose. 


Hook:  Risen Barbless 100 dry fly (size 14)
Thread:  Veevus 10/0 (olive)
Hackle:  Whiting dry fly saddle (size 16/brown)
Dubbing:  Antron Dubbing (medium olive)
Wing: Elk Hair (bleached)
Resin:  Solarez Ultra Thin

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So Im not sure why it keeps doing this, but it says my link is not available.  So just click the link above to view the video.  If anyone knows what the issue is let me know.  

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McFlyLures - Here is your video:




I totally agree with you that an EHC wing should lie flatter than the versions that are seen in most fly shops or on tying videos.

Did you know that the EHC is not in the Gary LaFontaine's "Caddisflies"? The reason is that the EHC, as it is most often tied, is not a very realistic caddis fly pattern. Most EHC pattern are tied with hollow hair which flairs. When tied, this hair will flair up and form a wing that extend up over the body rather than down flat as a real caddis fly.

Al Troth, when he first published his EHC, noted that his EHC should be tied with hair that did not flair, but this type of hair is difficult to find especially for smaller patterns and now virtually every EHC now is tied with a prominent flared wing.

Gary Lafontaine makes the following observation about the dry fly patterns in his book, "There are some notable absences in the selections. There are no patterns with upright wings. This type generally recommended as an imitation of a fluttering caddisfly is not very effective when trout are feeding selectively, even if the adults are fluttering. When the natural begins unfolding its wings it usually flies off very quickly and such a transitory moment is not worth imitating. The tent wing fly is usually better because it imitates the insect at rest."

The second caddis bible is Larry Solomon and Eric Leiser's "The Caddis and the Angler" published in 1977. "The Caddis and the Angler" has the elk hair caddis pattern on pg 200. You will notice that the hair on the pattern is tent like and does NOT flair much. See below for Al Troth's original EHC:


During an interview with Al Troth before his death, Al's son talks about his father's EHC. The video will start at 5:35 and you will see the EHC as it is meant to be tied. Not how flat the wing is compared to how the EHC is now tied.



Here is a tying tip to make the wings flatter.  If you dub the body so that it has a "reverse taper" so that it is thicker at the tail of the fly and then narrows at the head end of the fly, the wing will lie flatter on the body. Then there will be no "bump" at the front edge of the dubbing to lift the wing up.

Another way to tie the fly with a flat wing is to bend the front 1/3 of the hook up at a 30 degree angle. Then tie the hair on this bent section. The 30 degree up angle will angle the tied hair DOWN 30 degrees and it will lie flat over the back of the fly. Tie it in the manner that Gary Borger ties his Poly Caddis.






I personally do not hackle my EHC patterns. I also use non flairing hair or tie the wing with polypro as in Borger's polycaddis or I tie a woodchuck caddis WITHOUT the palmered hackle and tied with solid NON flairing woodchuck hair like the fly below. Imagine it without the palmered hackle as a low tent winged quiet water caddis pattern for more selective trout. Compare the wing profile and imagine how it would sit on the water compared to the EHC above.

Here is the woodchuck caddis as typically tied.


Imagine it without the palmered hackle as a low tent winged quiet water caddis pattern for more selective trout. Compare the wing profile and imagine how it would sit on the water compared to the how the EHC is now tied.



Sorry for hijacking the thread.

If the above makes you examine how you tie the EHC and how the wing really should look, all the better. Hopefully, the next time you try an EHC in the right color and size and the fish refuse, you'll think about this post and trim the fly. 

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Silver, thank you.  I appreciate the background.  I am not the best with background info on things, my main purpose for my videos is to teach people how to tie patterns.  Not necessarily give a lot of background.  Although I do think it’s important for people to know, but too much info in a fly tying video and I loose the vast majority of the audience in the first few minutes.  I would love to do a series of videos on the history of patterns and fly fishing.  I’m not the best at these types of things though (history was my worst subject in school). I’m not sure where you live, but maybe some day if your willing I can feature you on my channel to give my viewers who want to watch it a history lesson?  Might be good for the newer tiers (a large percentage  of my subscribers are newer into the hobby).  

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I have had great luck with the EHC. It's one of my go-to flies and fish it all year. Fish don't know what a caddis is supposed to look like. One week, I caught over 200 rainbows just outside the Great Smoky Mountains NP. Mid-May and I got onto a dark Hendrickson hatch! With a tan EHC! I also tie it with yellow dubbing for the sulphur hatch.

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On 5/31/2022 at 11:53 AM, FlannelCladlad said:

Dude, thanks for this. Mine were looking a bit haggard and more like a parachute. This was helpful. Cheers.

Glad it helped.  

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