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The Cahills
By Skip Morris, Port Ludlow, WA

To me, the Dark Cahill and Light Cahill represent the ideal of the traditional dry fly. Their soft, muskrat- or badger-fur bodies, the subtle contrast of their hackle and theirs against those bodies, and their gracefully curved, finely marked wood-duck wings all tell of elegance. These characteristics also make the Cahills a fine choice for imitating mayflies from dark to light, and for imitating other insects.

Wood duck is currently scarce and quite expensive; mallard feathers dyed wood-duck color make a good substitute. You may find wood-duck wings a bit tricky to handle; the trick is to measure carefully, master the wing variation of the pinch, and handle the fibers firmly and deliberately. The leftover tips of wood-duck feathers also make good wings.

The Light Cahill and Dark Cahill were created on the East Coast by Dan Cahill, but are now in use across America. [For more on the history, and tying the wet versions of the Cahill see the Old Flies section for the Cahill.]

Materials List: Dark Cahill

    Hook: Standard dry fly, sizes 20 to 10 (the hook shown is a Partridge L3A).

    Thread: Tan, brown, or black 8/0 or 6/0.

    Wings: Wood duck or dyed mallard.

    Tail: Brown hackle fibers.

    Body: Muskrat fur.

    Hackle: Brown.

    Light Cahill

    Hook: Standard dry fly, sizes 20 to 10 (the hook shown is a Partridge L3A).

    Thread: Tan or cream 8/0 or 6/0.

    Wings: Wood duck or dyed mallard.

    Tail: Ginger hackle fibers.

    Body: Cream badger underfur.

    Hackle: Ginger.

Instructions - Dark Cahill Dry:

1. Strip the fuzz from the base of a wood duck feather, and then strip a section from each side of the feather. Set the sections back to back, measure them against the hook, and tie them in about three-quarters up the shank using the wing version of the pinch. Each section should be at least as wide as the hook's gape, even as wide as the shank is long.

2. Trim the butts of the wood duck at an angle and them bind them with thread turns. Strip some hackle fibers, measure them against the hood, and then use the pinch to tie them in as a tail. Trim the tail's butts and bind them with thread.

3. Snip some muskrat fur from the hide, and with it dub a tapered body to just past mid-shank.

4. Pull the wings firmly upright, add tight thread turns against the front of the fibers, divide the wings, set each wing upright with thread.

5. Size, prepare, and tie in two hackles. Wrap the hackles one at a time to just behind the eye; secure each hackle with two or three thread turns. Trim the hackle tips; build and complete a thread head.

6. Finished fly. ~ Skip Morris

Credits: The Cahills are two of the fourty or so step-by-step instructional flies in The Art of Tying the Dry Fly by Skip Morris and published by Frank Amato Publications.


For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.


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