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Adventures in Fly Tying... October 2008

The CDC Caddis - Mad River Variation

Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Photography and Video Production by Jim Stuard



A favorite topic on bulletin boards, discussion forums, and around the bar at fishing club meetings is that old warhorse "If you only had one fly to fish, what would it be?"  If the restrictions are dry fly and trout then I won't hesitate in the least to answer "Caddis!"  I love Al Troth's elk hair caddis enough to carry at least a couple dozen in assorted sizes and colors in my dry fly box. In his excellent book  Fly Fisher's Guide to the Mad River Brian Flechsig references the "Mad River Caddis" pattern as built upon the EHC with "an underwing of mottled fly film... some CDC... garnished with hackle stem antennae" and advises that "caddis flies are very important to the Mad River angler."  I concur wholeheartedly.  Caddis have provided some of my finest dry fly fishing on Ohio's only spring creek.

While this fly isn't exactly Flechsig's version, it's certainly built upon that variation.  I fished the Mad River with almost zealous dedication for five full seasons.  In that time I learned three things: 1) Flechsig's book is mandatory if you want to solve the puzzle of this crystal clear flow, 2) other than terrestrials, caddis are the most important year-round dry fly opportunity you'll find and, 3) a good caddis imitation is simple, small and floats flush in the surface.  After losing several dozen more complicated ties to the Mad's low-slung canopy (not a word, Mark!) I finally settled on this simple version.  I carry it in size 16, 18 and 20 and I've never looked back.  This is my most productive general trout dry fly everywhere I've fished.


Hook Mustad 94480 or similar dry fly hook
Thread Black 8/0, 70 denier

Body   Tightly dubbed Antron sparkle dubbing

Underwing Natural CDC plume

Wing Natural coastal deer or elk, stacked and trimmed to form a blunt head

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



Mount the hook in the vise and lay down a smooth foundation of black thread.  Stop the thread just above the point or between the point and the barb of the hook.  Make sure to tie the body short and compact.
Take a small pinch of Antron dubbing.  You can use an Antron yarn if you don't have fly tying dubbing.  The idea is to have a body that has some sparkle and sheds water.  I don't trim the fibers, but use the long fibers to ensure a tightly twisted body.
Dub a short body, leaving enough room to tie in a largish head and the wing materials -  about two times the diameter of the hook eye in front of the body.  Select a CDC plume with a good, squared tip the you can stroke into a single feather for the underwing.
Tie on the CDC tippet flat on top of the body.  If there is any curve it should drape down past the tail. Proper proportion has the wing about 1 the body length.
Select good tapered coastal deer or elk body hair for the wing.  Although you can tie this fly in any color, I only vary the body color.  Even at that I carry mostly olive with a few in black.  The wing color is relatively unimportant.  A nicely marked light brown is "buggy" and easy to see on the water.
Clean and stack a small bundle of hair. The bundle should be about the same diameter as the outside of the hook's eye.  Measure the hair so it matches up with the end of the CDC.  I prefer to have the CDC even with or a touch longer than the elk hair.
Tie on the elk hair with several loose pinch wraps followed by several tight wraps.  Whip finish over the top of the elk hair and add a drop of head cement.  Trim the butts of the elk hair square over the eye to make a little, blunt head.
The finished fly had a silhouette that matches caddis flies and beetles.  The fly will fish flush in the film and is effective as a searching pattern, as an emerger or even as a spinner.  The fly produces all season under all weather conditions as a general use dry fly and is my favorite top-water offering on Ohio's Mad River.

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