Tying the Tape Wing Caddis
by Mike Hogue

Note: Portions of this article are scheduled to appear in Mid West Fly Fishing magazine in the near future.

One of the most common aquatic life forms in the Midwest is the caddis fly. Caddis flies are prevalent on nearly every trout stream I've ever fished. In late summer and low water conditions trout can become very selective in their feeding and will refuse flies which lack the exact shape, size and color in mimicking the natural life forms.

More often than not fly fishers use Al Troth's Elk Hair caddis to imitate the adults in dry fly fishing. While Troth's Elk Hair is one of the most famous dry flies used, it often fails because its elk wing lacks the translucent wing which is characteristic of the the adult caddis.

Prior to the introduction of the Elk Hair Caddis , many Eastern fly fishers used Hiram Brobst's Henryville Special. Western Anglers often used Wayne Buszek's King's River Caddis. These two flies used a lacquered feather tyed down wing which is very effective in low water conditions. The problem with these flies is that the fly is not very durable. After a couple of fish are caught on one of these flies, the wing is worn out.

A few years ago Darrell Martin in his new book "Micro Patterns" introduced a new technique for making caddis wings which was created by Slovenian fly tyer Bodizar Voljc and the German tyer Roman Moser. In the Voljc-Moser caddis the tyer applies glue to stretched panty hose and sticks the feather to the backing for a more durable wing. This technique also makes the wing translucent but it is very time consuming to make.

By chance to visit with Carl Richards author of "Selective Trout" and fly tyer Bill Heckle of Chicago. From Carl's photos of the Muskegon Caddis and Bill's technique, the problems of time, durability and translucence were all solved with the use of a PVC tape. By applying feathers to a vinyl water proof tape, the making of durable caddis wings becomes an easy process.

Making the Tape Wing Caddis:

The hardest part of making the tape wing caddis is finding the right tape. I've found that you must select a clear PVC based water proof tape that is slick and has a thick texture to it. Mernard's lumber yard sells a 2 inch wide PVC wrapping tape for $2-$3.00. Another good tape is 3M's magic mend tape which can be used to repair rips in clothes and is washable. Other good tapes may be found at a water bed store or tapes used for mending tents. Ordinary cellophane tape or thick wrapping tape is not water-proof and will not last when the wing gets wet.

To make the wing cut off a strip of tape 2 inches long. Select mottled soft hackle feathers such as grouse, partridge, quail or hen saddle which match the natural and remove the bottom webby section. Generally I use the very largest size feathers of feathers from a saddle as they are easier to work with and cut out. Next apply the feather to the sticky side of the tape so that the shiny side of the feather is face up. Cut around the feather to remove the excess tape. Fold the cut feather in half along the stem. After the feather is folded, cut the wing out by making a 45 degree cut from the stem to the edge of the feather. Make a another 45 degree cut to square the edge of the wing. Make a sharp 60 degree cut from the edge of the feather to the stem. The completed feather should be heart shaped with a pointed edge. If you have trouble getting the wing shaped correctly, make a pattern out of paper or use a wing burner for a guide.

Tying the Tape Wing Caddis:

Hook: Mustad 98480 sizes: 10 to 16
Thread: 6/0 or 8/0 black, brown or gray to match the body color
Body: Dubbed beaver or superfine dry dubbing in olive, ginger, black or dun
Wing: Grouse, Partridge, Quail or Speckled hen Saddle feathers to match the natural
Hackle: 2-3 wraps of ginger, cree, black or med dun
Antennae:Hackle stem, micro fibbets or Chinese boar fibers 2x the length of the body

Begin by wrapping thread back to the bend of the hook. Dub body leaving 3 eye lengths open.Tie on the tape wing so the the wing extends beyond the bend of the hook. Add antennae. Wrap hackle and finish head. You may wish to cut the hackle flush along the bottom of the fly to make the fly float better.

Matching the Hatch:
Since I'm not an entomologist I won't begin to try match sizes, colors and Latin names. For exact names and photos try Richard's Hatches of the Muskegen, LaFonatine's Caddis Flies , or Borger's The Naturals. Local fly shops near the streams you fish or capturing specimens from the stream can often help you in correctly identifying the right fly.

Generally very dark dun or black caddis appear in early May and late April. Match this one with a size 10-12 hook, a black wing, body and hackle. In the Mid-South along the White River and Little Red River a ginger/tan caddis is common in May and is matched with a size 16 hook, ginger wing, olive body and a cree hackle. Typical summer hatches of many NE Iowa, SE MN and SW Wisc streams have a size 14 hook, a mottled partridge wing, dun body and med dun hackle. Late summer Mich hatches are a size 16-18 hook, ginger wing, tan body and a ginger hackle.


Email: Mike@eflytyer.com

For more Info Contact:

Mike Hogue / Badger Creek Fly Tying / 622 West Dryden Road, Freeville, NY 13068

Phone: 607-347-4946