How to Tie Elk Hair Caddis Fly

The Elk Hair Caddis fly is a must-have dry fly that all fly fishers should have in their fly box. It's an excellent searching dry fly pattern. In this post, you have everything that you need to know about Elk Hair Caddis Fly and how to tie them.
elk hair caddis

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The Elk Hair Caddis is a must-have dry fly that all fly fishers should have in their fly box. It’s an excellent searching dry fly pattern that makes for superb trout and grayling fly fishing. 

Here’s everything you need to know about this classic Elk Hair Caddis fly! From why it works so well, to how to tie it and the best techniques to fish this pattern, read on to find out more.

Elk Hair Caddis

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A History Of The Elk Hair Caddis Fly

The Elk Hair Caddis has been around for over 60 years and is still one of the most popular dry flies for trout fishing today. Generations of fly fishermen have Al Troth, fly fishing pioneer, to thank for coming up with this fantastic fly pattern. It simply works wonders when it comes to trout and other species of fish.

See also our post on Trout Species here to know more about the different types of trout.

Al Troth was inspired by some palmer flies and the hair wing of the Little Red Sedge Fly by G.E.M. Skues. He incorporated various elements of these flies to create the fly, aiming to imitate the Green Caddis.

Troth came up with a simple but effective fly, using a palmered hackle to bulk out the body of the fly and elk hair for added buoyancy. Elk hair is hollow, which makes it an effective material to use when fly tying dry flies. In fact, Troth had initially intended this pattern to be an emerger fly, but the elk hair made it ride high and float on the surface – and the rest is history!

Al Troth first sold his pattern from Bud Lilly’s Fly Shop in West Yellowstone. Although competition for dry flies was fierce at the time, the Caddis’ popularity took off, and it’s been a top choice for fishermen ever since.

Since the original caddis pattern designed by Al Troth, many different variations have been created. With adaptations to the hackle, body, and wing colors, the caddis fly patterns can imitate a range of different caddis and stonefly species.

What Does The Elk Hair Caddis Fly Imitate?

The Elk Hair Caddis imitates adult caddisflies and smaller stoneflies. Depending on the colors and size used to tie this pattern, you can represent a range of these species. It creates a realistic silhouette which is almost guaranteed to draw trout to the surface to sip on these floating bugs.


Will It Work On Steelhead?

You’re not just limited to fly fishing caddis patterns for smaller trout and grayling. We love to use this fly for fly fishing steelhead and have had a lot of success.

For for steelhead, you’ll need to make a few adaptions to the pattern. Go for a fly in sizes 6 – 10, using medium-grade hackle for the legs and clipped elk hair wings. You can also choose to add a flash of translucent material under the wing for greater productivity.

You can also see our post on the Best Steelhead Flies if you want to know the best flies for steelhead


Here’s what you need to tie an Elk Hair Caddis:

  • Hook: Dry fly hook in sizes 10-20
  • Thread: Tan 6/0 or 8/0
  • Rib: Fine gold wire
  • Hackle: Palmered ginger hackle
  • Body: Tan fur
  • Wing: Elk hair (deer hair as an alternative)
  • Head: Thread – tan

How To Tie an Elk Hair Caddis Fly

So you fancy fly tying your own Elk Hair Caddis? It’s a great idea – making fly fishing fun, affordable, and exciting. There’s nothing quite like hauling in a whopper of a fish that you caught with a fly you tied yourself!

The best way to get started is by watching some fly tying videos. The best fly tying videos have great visuals and clear, straightforward instructions, and will walk you step by step through the fly tying process.

We’d recommend buying one of the best fly tying kit options, as it will have all the materials and tools you need to make most flies from scratch. You can also buy your materials and tools separately, but it works out more expensive this way.

Here’s a video tutorial for fly tying the Elk Hair Caddis. Watch it a couple of times through, and you’ll be ready to have a go yourself!

Start by winding your thread just behind the hook eye, and continue all the way down the hook shank to the bend. Tie on some thin gold tinsel and create the body with some natural-colored dubbing.

Next, use hackle pliers to wind the hackle around in an open spiral and tie in at the end of the dubbing. Then, cut some elk hair, stack it carefully, and then place it on the hook and wrap firmly with your tying thread.

Finally, whip finish the fly, snip the hair into a tidy head, and add a dab of head cement. And you’re done!

How to Fish It?

This pattern performs well on fast-flowing, turbulent water. The hackle body and the elk hair wings work together to keep the fly high on the water surface, and it won’t get swept up with the current and dragged under. If you’re going for a riffly, fast river, this pattern is an excellent go-to dry fly that can stand up to the conditions. You can check out our post on dry fly vs wet fly here.

The best way to fish this fly is by casting it out to fast water seams, or aiming for slower pools and areas near the bank where the trout may be lurking. The key to success is finding where the fish are hiding – this irresistible pattern will do the rest of the work by enticing them to rise up and take a bite.

Elk Hair Caddis

The Wrap Up

So there you have the complete guide to one of the top dry flies around, the Elk Hair Caddis. This must-have dry fly is a staple for anyone who loves trout, bass, grayling, and even steelhead. Now you’re all set to tie your own and get out on the water and give it a try!

If you’ve found this article helpful, don’t forget to share it on Facebook or Twitter. Drop us a comment below or an email to tell us what you think of this classic dry fly pattern, or let us know if there’s a fly pattern you’d like us to cover next.

Elk Hair Caddis (Tan) Fly Fishing Fly
Elk Hair Caddis (Tan) Fly Fishing Fly
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