Introduction: Deer Hair Caddis Fly

This is a classic dry fly pattern, invented in 1957 by Al Troth in Pennsylvania to catch the trout hunting for emerging caddis flies. Typically hatching from April to October, the caddis flies are one of the most common insects found in the stomach of a trout during this time.

To tie this fly, you will need patience, manual dexterity, and a few cheap tools that can be bought at any fly shop. One of the first dry flies most fisherman learn, this is a reliable friend to have on the water.


  • Hook Vise Grip
  • Hackle Pliers
  • Bobkin
  • Bobbin
  • Whip Finish Tool (Optional)
  • Scissors
  • Hair Stacker
  • Size 12 - 18 Dry Fly Hooks
  • Gold Wire
  • Dry Fly Hackle
  • Deer Hair or Elk Hair
  • Dubbing Wax
  • Dubbing

Step 1: Attach the Thread

Thread the bobbin and start wrapping the thread from the middle of the hook, careful to leave distance between the thread and the eye as to not misjudge how much space is left on the hook later. Snip the excess thread off the hook, and make a few more tight wraps to keep it in place so that the thread is left hanging from the end of the shank of the hook.

Hook image from Wikipedia.

Step 2: Cut Hackle and Wire

Cut a piece of the thin gold wire and set it aside. Now, look through your hackle to find a feather with barbs approximately 1 to 1.5 times the length of the shank. You can check by flexing the shaft to isolate a few barbs and comparing to the hook length. Cut the hackle at the part indicated, and trim the barbs for a few millimeters on both sides. This will allow the thread to hold the hackle in place. Set the feather aside.

Step 3: Tie in Wire

Put the end of the wire against the shank with the wire extending down the vise, and make five or six solid wraps of thread around it to hold it in place. Trim the end so that it does not bulk up the shank.

Step 4: Tie in Hackle

Place the end of the hackle against the shank just as before with the wire. Make five or six solid wraps of thread around the trimmed part, and unwind a few inches of thread from the bobbin.

Step 5: Tie in Dubbing

Gently rub the dubbing wax against the thread to make it somewhat tacky, and pull a small pinch of dubbing similar in color to the thread. Pull the dubbing to match the length of the thread you waxed, and twist it onto the thread so that it does not come off. Wrap the dubbed thread forward around the shank of the hook, and stop wrapping where you started the thread at the very beginning. Don't worry too much about the shape of the body, because you will obscure it with the hair and hackle.

Step 6: Wrap Wire Forward, Tie Off, and Trim

Wrap the wire forward opposite to the direction of the thread, so that the spiral is open. Make a few tight wraps of thread around it when it reaches the thread, and trim the wire.

Step 7: Wrap Hackle Forward, Tie Off, and Trim

Now, clip the hackle pliers onto the end of the feather and wrap it forward opposite to the gold wire so that you can see the wire flashing between hackles. When you reach the thread, make a few solid wraps around it and trim the hackle end off.

Step 8: Cut Hackle to Ramp Shape

Before adding the hair, cut the barbs on the top of the fly into a ramp shape. Don't worry about cutting any of the hackles on the sides. Remember that the tips of the fibers are most sensitive to water and provide the most movement for fish to see; only cut tips that are going to be obscured anyways. If there is no shank visible from under the thread, gently push the thread back from the eye so that a small amount of metal is visible. This guarantees room for the head of the fly.

Step 9: Cut a Clump of Hair and Stack It

Select a clump of hair from the deer or elk hide, and trim the hairs from the base of the hide. Carefully pull at the base of the hairs to tease out any underlying fuzz and errant hairs. Gently place the hairs in the hair stacker and tap it against the table top a few times. When you pull the aligned hairs out of the stacker, give it a few more pulls to get the fuzz out. Trim the base of the hairs to make them all similar length.

Step 10: Tie in Hair

Place the hair over the shank of the hook, with the tips extending about half a bend past the shank. Make two wraps of thread over the hair, and pull the hair up before tightening the thread. The hairs should splay out when you apply tension. Make a few more solid wraps over the hairs, tightening it down securely.

Next, lift up the hairs over the eye of the hook and start wrapping the thread under hair as close to the wraps as possible, making a small thread head to ramp up the hair head.

Step 11: Trim Head and Whip Finish

Use the scissors to trim the head of the fly. Use the whip finish tool to make a knot on the head of the fly, and apply head cement to the wraps over the top of the hair and the head of the fly where the knot secures the thread.

Congratulations on your new fly! I hope this brings joy to you on the water, and trout to your rod.