Two Classic Patterns …how to tie them
By Paul Prentiss

Here are two patterns that every angler needs to have in his fly box. Al Troth's Elk Hair Caddis is clearly his best-known and most widely used fly design. It is effective both during caddis emergences and as a searching pattern. By employing various color combinations of wing, body, and hackle, the Elk Hair Caddis can be modified to match nearly any caddis adult.

Originally tied by Frank Sawyer, the Pheasant Tail Nymph is one of the oldest of modern nymphs. A few wrinkles have been added over the years, such as the peacock thorax, optional beadhead, etc., but when you peel them away, it's still a simple, generically suggestive, effective nymph.

ELK HAIR CADDIS

Materials:

  • Hook: Standard dry-fly model, size Nos. 10 to 20
  • Thread: Tan 6/0
  • Body: Tan rabbit dubbing
  • Rib: Fine gold or brass wire
  • Hackle: Ginger or brown
  • Wing: Tan elk hair

Tying instructions:

  1. Tie in the wire at the back end of the hook.
  2. Dub the body forward and tie off.
  3. Tie the hackle in behind the hook's eye; wrap it over the dubbed body towards the back of the hook with several spiral turns (palmering).
  4. Tie off the hackle with several wraps of wire.
  5. Wrap the wire forward through the hackle and tie off at the fly's head.
  6. Tie in the elk hair for the wing, leaving some sloping ahead towards the hook's eye.
  7. After cinching the elk hair down with several tight thread wraps to cause it to flair, use a razor blade to cut the hair just in front of the wraps (near the hook's eye) to form a squared head.
  8. Whip finish.
PHEASANT TAIL NYMPH
The original Sawyer Pattern shown to right

Materials:

  • Hook: Standard nymph hook in 1X or 2X length, size Nos. 10 to 18
  • Thread: Brown 6/0
  • Body: Pheasant-tail fibers
  • Rib: Fine copper wire
  • Tail: Pheasant-tail fibers
  • Wingcase: Pheasant-tail fibers
  • Thorax: Peacock herl
  • Legs: Pheasant-tail fibers

Tying instructions:

  1. Tie in the wire above the hook's point and wrap the thread back over the wire, stopping just beyond the hook's barb.
  2. Select three fibers from a pheasant tail and tie them in above the hook's barb as the fly's tail. Secure with several thread wraps.
  3. Wind the thread forward over the pheasant tail fibers to the mid-point of the hook.
  4. From the hook's mid-point, wrap the free ends of the pheasant tail fibers backwards to the tied in wire.
  5. Use the wire to secure the pheasant tail fibers to the hook. Cut away any remaining pheasant tail fibers.
  6. Wrap the wire forward as ribbing material.
  7. Use the thread to tie off the wire ribbing at the hook's midpoint. Note: The remaining wire can be wrapped forward to add more weight to the fly if so desired.
  8. Tie in several pheasant tail fibers at the midpoint of the hook. These will serve as the wingcase.
  9. At the hook's midpoint, also tie in one peacock herl, which will serve as the fly's thorax.
  10. Wrap the peacock herl forward to just behind the hook's eye and secure with the tying thread. Cut away the excess peacock herl.
  11. Fold the pheasant tail fibers forward (over the wrapped peacock herl) and secure with thread wraps just behind the hook's eye to form the wingcase. Cut away the excess pheasant tail fibers.
  12. Just behind the hook's eye, tie in three pheasant tail fibers on each side of the fly to form the nymph's legs. Cut away the excess pheasant tail fibers in front of your thread wraps.
  13. Whip finish.
  14. Apply head cement.