Intermediate Fly Tying:
The Sparkle Caddis Emerger
By Al Campbell
So far we've looked at dry flies that float on the water's surface by
resting on the surface tension of the water. As a general rule, most dry
flies float in this manner. We also tied a couple of flies that had
buoyant materials in addition to the standard materials that make most
flies float. Now, it's time to turn another corner and look at flies
that float because of the buoyant materials they are made from, rather
than relying on the surface tension of the water for floatation.
For lack of a better way of describing these flies, most flies that
float in, rather than on, the surface film are called emergers. The
buoyant materials used in the wings and often the bodies of these flies
keep the fly floating near or in the surface film. By suspending the fly
in the surface film this way, it looks like an emerging insect to hungry
fish searching for an easy meal.
One of the most hazardous moments in the life of an aquatic insect is
the moment when it swims or floats to the water's surface, forces its way
through the surface tension, cracks open its nymphal case, and waits for
its wings to dry enough to fly away. To the fish, this is feeding frenzy
time. Emerging insects are easy targets and fish take advantage of any
easy meal. To the insect, this is the time of intense danger because
there is no avenue for escape until their wings dry enough to support
their body weight in flight.
Since this is the time insects are most vulnerable to fish attacks, it
only makes sense to imitate this stage in the life of an insect with a
fur, feather and hair creation of our own. For all the "upstream and
dry" fanatics, this is your moment. Emerging insects are forced to wait
for their wings to dry. In the case of mayflies, this takes a long time.
In the case of midges and caddisflies, this takes a few short moments,
but these are treacherous times for any insect caught in the surface film
and unable to escape the watchful eye of the fish below.
Several people have dedicated countless hours to researching the
emergence process of various insects. One of the best known studies was
Gary LaFontaine's study of the emergence habits of caddisflies. In that
study, he noted that caddisfly pupae often surround themselves with an
air bubble that lifts them and supports them during their struggle
through the surface tension of the water. Although there has been a lot
of discussion about the existence of such bubbles, the flies he developed
to imitate caddis pupae during this phase of emergence have added
credibility to his theory by catching lots of fish.
This week's fly pattern is a modified variation of one of Gary's
original sparkle caddis patterns. The body is tied similar to his diving
version, but I add a full elk hair wing to it for floatation. After
testing Gary's patterns and my variation on my local waters, I've decided
I like my variation better. Of course, the reason I decided I like mine
better was due to the fish liking it better and me catching more of those
fish. Reason enough for me!
This fly floats entirely in the surface film due to the buoyant
characteristics of the elk hair wing. The hollow hair will return the
fly to the surface even after it takes a dunking in turbulent water.
It's a little like adding a bobber to the top of the fly. The only
problem with this fly is seeing it. It rides low enough in the surface
film to be hard to see. Let's tie up a few.
List of materials:
Hook: Light wire dry fly. Mustad 80000BR or equivalent. Size: 12 to
Thread: 6/0 Gudebrod or equivalent, black or olive green.
Tail: None, or you could add a short antron tail.
Under-body: Metallic green mylar tinsel. I usually scrounge mine from
Easter baskets (fake grass).
Over-body: White, yellow, forest green or olive antron, tied to flare
slightly, forming a bubble shape.
Wing: Elk hair, tied to flare slightly.
1. Start the thread and tie in a strand of antron. Let the antron extend
over the hook bend a few inches.
2. Tie in a strand of green mylar tinsel.
3. Wrap an under-body of green mylar tinsel and tie off behind the hook
eye. Leave plenty of room for the head and wing. When fished, this green
tinsel will provide a green hue common to most caddis pupae.
4. Pull the antron forward and around the mylar under-body trying to keep
it evenly distributed on all sides of the fly.
5. Secure the antron to the hook with a couple of loose wraps of thread.
6. Gently pull the antron back a little ways toward the hook bend to form
a bubble of antron around the hook. Secure with a few tight wraps of
7. Trim the excess antron and tie the loose ends down to the hook.
8. Prepare a wing of elk hair like the one you used for the elk hair
caddis. The wing should extend to the hook bend. (In the original
LaFontaine pattern, the wing is much shorter.) Tie the wing in and trim
it the same way you did the elk hair caddis wing.
9. Whip finish and cement. A drop of cement on the front of the wing
will help keep the wing together and make the fly more durable.
Just like the elk hair caddis, this fly has a time and place. As much as
the EHC is a perfect imitation of those caddisflies that are returning to
the water to lay their eggs, this fly is a perfect imitation of an
If you've sat out the caddis emergence because your EHC just didn't work
for that part of the hatch, your slack times are about to end. Any time
you see caddisflies emerging, tie one of these sparkle caddis emergers on
for a fast and furious time. I like to fish it in the slow water just
below the riffles. Although it works in the riffles, I just can't see it
well there. And, since the caddis emergers are usually still drying
their wings in the slow water for a few moments, I can fish where I can
see the fly.
The most productive antron colors I've found are white and olive with
white leading slightly. You might want to tie up a few color variations
to be prepared for any variation you might encounter on the water. Try a
few this summer. You might become an emerger fisherman.
See ya next week - Remember, I'm always happy to answer
your questions, feel free to
email me. ~ Al Campbell
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