The spent caddis imitates several stages of emerging caddis.
The upper Missouri River near Craig, Montana, is known for its prolific hatches of caddis flies, and in my too-brief, lone trip to the river, I experienced a blizzard caddis hatch unlike anything I’ve ever seen in my life.
During that hatch, the trout were, naturally, keying in on this ubiquitous food source. However, it wasn’t clear which phase of emergence – or spinner fall – the trout were taking most readily. In my case, I was fortunate to have a pattern that could do it all.
This is my variation on the All-Stages Caddis pattern originated by Bob Keith, a Missouri River Guide. It’s a versatile pattern that roughly approximates several stages of caddis emergence.
It can be fished any number of ways – as a greased dry fly, an emerger in the surface film, or even weighted and fished deep.
In addition to its versatility, it’s also a relatively easy pattern to tie, and materials can readily be substituted to match the local hatch.
Here’s what you’ll need to tie the Spent Caddis fly
Hook: TMC 2457 or any wide-gaped caddis fly hook (dry or nymph), sizes 14 and 16. (in this example, I’m using a size 16 TMC 5262, because that’s what i had.) Thread: UTC 70 Denier, Tan Rib: X-small gold or fine gold oval tinsel Abdomen: Hare’s ear or squirrel dubbing – tan, olive, brown or black Legs: Hungarian Partridge Wing: Medallion Wing Sheet Thorax: Dark Hare’s Ear or Pine Squirrel dubbing
Step 1: Tie in the wire.
Start your thread a little bit back behind the eye of the hook and tie in your rib material.
Wrap the thread back to just past the barb of the hook.
Step 2: Dub the abdomen.
Wax your thread and build about a 1″ long dubbing noodle, using a pinch of tan dubbing. In this example, I’m using tan hare’s ear…because this is what I had handy.
Dub to about half-way up the hook shank, tapering the dubbing so it’s slightly thicker at the back of the hook than it is towards the eye.
Step 3: Finish the abdomen.
Wind your rib material over the abdomen and secure it with a couple wraps of thread, making sure to trim away the excess.
Bind the end of the wire down with a couple of securing thread wraps and secure with a half hitch.
Step 4: Prepare the wing material.
Cut a triangular piece of medallion wing from the sheet.
This piece should be slightly longer than the shank of the hook.
Step 5: Make the wing look natural.
Cut the wing to shape – round the wide end with a couple of cuts, and create a triangular notch in the center.
We're not looking for perfection, just something that approximates the natural tent shape of a caddis wing.
Step 6: Tie in the wing.
Place the wing on top of the hook and position the material so the back of the wing extends just a bit past the bend of the hook.
Secure the wing in place with a couple of wraps of thread, and wrap back to about the halfway point on the hook shank.
Step 7: Prepare the partridge feather.
Select an evenly barred Hungarian partridge feather and remove the webby fibers from the stem.
Cut a notch from the tip of the feather.
Step 8: Tie in the legs.
With a couple of loose wraps of thread, bind the partridge feather to the top of the hook and stroke the feather tips downward so they point downward toward the hook bend. Pull on the feather stem to adjust the length of the “legs”. The tips of the feather shouldn’t extend past the barb.
Once you have the partridge positioned the way you want, trim away the stem and secure it with more thread wraps.
Step 9: Tie in the thorax.
Dub the thorax in whichever way you’re most comfortable. I prefer to use a bodkin to split the thread and spin in a small pinch of dark dubbing. This creates a buggy, impressionistic profile without a lot of bulk.
Alternatively, you could use a dubbing loop or a small dubbing noodle to wind the thorax. The key is that it should look loose and scruffy without being bulky.
Step 10: Completing the spent caddis.
Stroke back the dubbed thorax and build a thread head. Whip finish to complete the fly.
That’s it! Have fun fishing this pattern. I’m sure you’ll be able to come up with your own variations to make this pattern work for you, no matter where you fish.