Blue Collar Fly

I’m not exactly sure why the Elk-Hair Caddis is my favorite dry fly.

Of course, perhaps it is an evocation of the reflective tone captured best by the opening scene to the classic Robert Redford film… But I’d like to think it’s more than that. I’d like to think that the EHC is the blue-collar worker of my fly-box.

Perhaps I appreciate it so much because it’s revered in spite of itself. In fact, you could go as far as to say that it is of quite an ugly construction. To start, the body is usually coarse, ragged, and dark.. These sharp contours of course, are hidden by the hackle palmered over the entirety of the body. To improve durability, weight is often sacrificed by the addition of copper wire cross-wrapped against the fly’s hackle. This ‘durability’ is almost immediately compromised by the addition of a wing which has never lasted more than a few trips inside my fly-boxes.. A large caddis-wing of elk hair is mounted atop to dress the fly in a truly mullet-ous fashion: Business in the front, party in the back.
Photo borrowed from

What can’t be disputed however, is that this fly works… hard. It certainly wouldn’t fool me for any insect I’ve ever seen, but I’ll never pack a fly-box without it; And I’d find myself hard pressed to find a caddis fly fisherman who would. That’s exactly what you expect from a ‘seeking’ pattern. This popularity with fish and anglers alike is particularly surprising, considering that I don’t find EHCs to be a particularly easy tie; but perhaps I’m displaying my poor tying abilities. I count four distinct steps required for this one, not including the timely under-hair removal. I can’t think of too many dries that float well with the addition of wire weight, and thusly tying quality becomes increasingly important. This is especially true, following a bite or two, once the wing is worn.

These hangups however, only seem to emphasize the productiveness of this fly. Despite what you think about tying it, most tyers still do. Despite how you think it looks, it still fools fish. Despite what you think of its construction and durability, it still floats, and functions effectively.

Perhaps this is just another reason to test-the-waters even when conditions don’t seem ideal.