Due to the widespread distribution of caddisflies throughout the world, it’s important as a fly tier to know how to tie a Caddis Nymph. The color, size, and weight can be varied, but the general recipe remains the same.
This fly has been in my fly box for many years. I’ve caught many Smallmouth Yellowfish on it, from the popular Vaal river to the remote stretches of the Orange river in the Richtersveld. It has even caught me trout in the Campbell on Vancouver Island when I was fly fishing in British Colombia.
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- Difficulty Level: Easy
- Tying Time: 5 minutes
- Materials: Hook, thread, bead (optional), lead wire, scud back material, two contrasting colors of dubbing, ribbing wire, head cement, dubbing wax.
- Hook Size: 8 – 18
What Is A Caddis Nymph?
The caddisfly, order Trichoptera, is a large group of aquatic insects that frequent most rivers in the world. In the larval stage, it resembles a small worm that sticks to rocky riverbeds.
Some subspecies build portable cases during their larval stage (from there the development of the Cased Caddis fly). During the adult phase of the caddis’ life cycle, the insect leaves the sub-surface aquatic world and develops wings.
The Caddis Nymph is a caddisfly larva imitation. Depending on the specific subspecies, the size and coloration of the fly may be varied. Due to the widespread distribution of caddisflies, it’s a fly that can be used with confidence in most rivers.
How To Fish A Caddis Nymph
One of my favorite methods to fish the Caddis Nymph in a river is by making use of the dry-dropper technique. A small caddis is attached about 2-feet under a dry fly. The dry fly acts as a strike indicator and will signal when there’s a take on the Caddis.
Another very effective method is by using two, or even three weighted nymphs. These will be spaced about 2-feet apart. The nymphs are cast upstream and allowed to drift drag-free through the water. The key is to stay in touch with the flies to pick up any takes.
Materials You’ll Need To Tie A Caddis Nymph
The general material’s you need to tie the Caddis Nymph are:
The Caddis Nymph pattern works best on a curved shank nymph or scud hook. The size of the fly, and hence the hook size, will be determined by the size of caddis larva present on the water you’re fishing. They mostly vary between size 8 and 18 hooks.
Specific hook models from popular brands include:
Select a bead that will suit the size of the hook and produce the desired sink rate. I recommend using countersunk tungsten beads. Build up a selection of different sizes ranging from 2mm to 4mm. Good colors to have are:
- Fluorescent Orange
Whether you’re tying a Caddis Nymph with a tungsten bead or not, it’s a good idea to build an underbody with lead wire. The fly will sink better due to its increased relative density. It will also add bulk to the thorax area – enhancing the fly’s profile.
Lead wire sizes that will work include:
- 0.01 inch
- 0.015 inch
- 0.02 inch
- 0.025 inch
If you prefer a lead alternative, you can make use of lead-free wire. Bear in mind that lead-free wire has a much lower relative density when compared to the normal lead wire. Therefore, you’ll need to apply more turns for the same effect.
Recommended Ribbing Wire:
→ Phecda 10pcs Assorted Colors 0.3MM Copper Wire
A 70-denier fly tying thread will do when tying on hook sizes larger than 14. For smaller hooks, make use of thinner threads. One of my favorite threads for small nymphs is Semperfli Nano Silk 30D. It lays flat and is incredibly strong.
Recommended Fly Tying Thread:
→ Semperfli Nano Silk 30D
Scud back material
This is a versatile material for nymph patterns. It’s used to create the lifelike back of the abdomen and thorax on the Caddis Nymph. It comes in ¼-inch and 1/8-inch sizes. If you have the ¼ version like I do, cut a section in half lengthwise with a long pair of scissors.
Good colors to have in your tying kit are:
Recommended Scud Back Material:
→ Scud Back Materia 1/8″ Wide Brown
Dubbing for abdomen
I prefer making use of dubbing that includes hare or rabbit fur. There are many hare dubbings on the market. Test different brands for yourself and over time you’ll find a favorite. I recommend starting with a dubbing dispenser that offers different colors of the same dubbing.
Creating a contrast between the abdomen and thorax colors works well. For example, a chartreuse abdomen combined with a black thorax. Keep this in mind when tying variations of the Caddis Nymph.
Dubbing for thorax
For the thorax, you want to make use of a very buggy dubbing. This means that the dubbing should include fibers that, when combed out, mimic legs commonly found in caddis larva thoraxes.
I mix additional natural fibers (seal’s fur, hare’s mask, crushed elk/deer hair, etc.) with normal dubbing to achieve this. Comb any trapped fibers out with a piece of Velcro when the thorax has been dubbed. If the fibers are too long you can always cut or break them shorter.
Recommended Dubbing Material:
→ Hareline Ice Dub – Dispenser W/ 12 Popular Colors
The ribbing serves two very important purposes. Firstly, it creates realistic segmentation in the abdomen. This segmentation is enhanced by the scud back material pulled over the back of the fly. Secondly, it makes the fly more durable by locking the material in place.
Good colors for ribbing include:
- Transparent (using appropriately sized mono or fluorocarbon)
Remember to wrap the ripping around the shank in the opposite direction of the dubbing.
Recommended Ribbing Wire:
→ Phecda 10pcs Assorted Colors 0.3MM Copper Wire
The head cement will be applied after the fly has been whip finished. You can also make use of UV resin.
Recommended Head Cement:
→ Loon Outdoors Water Based Head Cement System
Tools Needed to Tie A Caddis Nymph
You will make use of the following tools when tying a Caddis Nymph:
Let's Get Started!
How To Tie a Caddisfly Nymph
Below is a step-by-step guide to tie a Caddis Nymph. To follow along with the step-by-step guide below, here’s a list of the material that I used.
Tan and Brown Caddis Nymph Fly Recipe:
- Hook: Size 8-18 Nymph (or Scud) Hook
- Lead wire: 0.015-inch lead wire
- Thread: Tan Semperfli 8/0 Waxed Thread
- Scud back material: Brown scud back material cut to size
- Abdomen: Tan Hemingway’s Hare’s Dubbing Plus UV
- Thorax: Dark brown Hemingway’s Hare’s Dubbing Plus UV with some seal’s fur mixed in
- Ribbing: Copper brown Ultra Wire
- Loon Outdoors Low Tacx Swax thread wax
Step 1: Place The Hook in The Vise
Place the hook between the jaws of the vise. Hold the hook in place with your thumb and index finger and close the vise’s jaws.
You will know that the hook is set securely in the jaws on the vise if you can wiggle it firmly and it still stays in place.
Step 2: Wrap Lead Wire Around The Hook Shank
Cover the first 1/3 of the hook shank with lead wire. If you chose to make use of a tungsten bead, the lead wire section will be shorter as the bead makes up a portion of the thorax.
If you’re not using a bead, leave a small gap between the lead wire and the hook of the eye. This is where the head of the fly will be.
Step 3: Lock The Thread in Place
Hold the end of the thread in your left hand. Place the thread over the hook shank, behind the lead wire. Make about 5 wraps with your bobbin, then run the thread over itself, locking it in place.
When the lead wire is secured by thread on both ends, you can then cut off the excess thread on the tag end.
Step 4: Cover The Lead Wire With Thread
Cover the lead wire by making thread wraps in a forward direction. Run over the lead wire a couple of times to secure it in place.
Make sure that the ends of the thread are tapered over the lead wire and that no sharp edges of wire are poking out in an unnatural-looking way.
Step 5: Lay a Thread Foundation
Move your thread back with touching turns. Move along the hook shank until you reach the point near the curve at the back of the hook.
You will know if you’ve wrapped the thread to the correct place on the hook if the free-hanging thread naturally hangs on the inside of the curve and directly downward from the vertical curved part of the hook shank.
Step 6: Tie in The Ribbing Material
Wrap the thread forward and stop behind the point where you created the lead wire section. Place the tip of the ribbing wire against the hook shank and secure it with a couple of thread pinch wraps.
Make securing thread wraps in a rearward direction while keeping the ribbing material on the side of the shank. Stop where the thread foundation ends and cut off the excess ribbing.
Step 7: Tie In The Scud Material
If you’re using ¼-inch width scud back material, cut it in half lengthwise. Cut a 1-inch section and place the tip on top of the hook shank where you left the thread in the previous step.
Secure the material with two pinch wraps and cover the left-over material with a thread layer. It’s important that the scud back material sits right on top of the hook shank as it will be pulled over the back of the fly.
Step 8: Dub The Abdomen
Apply a coating of thread wax to the thread. Place the dubbing material against the thread and turn to form a slender and tight dubbing noodle. Make one or two touching turns in a forward direction. Pull and turn the dubbing around the thread again to tighten it up.
Repeat this dubbing procedure until you slightly go over the lead wire starting point. The abdomen should be evenly tapered.
Step 9: Pull The Scud Material Over The Abdomen
Pull the scud back material over the back of the fly and secure it with two thread wraps. Now, pull the scud back material tight, ensuring that it remains positioned on the fly’s back. Make two more thread wraps to secure.
Do not cut off the excess material as this will be used to cover the thorax.
Step 10: Rib The Abdomen
With wide-spaced wraps, move the ribbing material forward by wrapping in the opposite direction than the dubbing. It’s important to pull the ribbing tight after each turn.
Pinch the scud back material with your left hand’s thumb and index finger and manipulate it to stay on top of the fly. When you reach the end of the abdomen, tie off with the tying thread and remove the excess.
Step 11: Dub The Thorax
Pull the scud back material backward and secure it in place with tying thread. Apply a thin coating of dubbing wax to the thread. Place the thorax dubbing against the thread and form a dubbing noodle. This noodle can be slightly thicker than that of the abdomen.
Continue until you reach the gap between the lead wire wraps and the eye of the hook.
Step 12: Create The Head
Pull back any dubbing fibers with your left hand’s thumb and index finger and clean the head section up. Make sure that the scud material and any loose fibers are out of the way when creating the head.
Wrap the head with a few touching turns to give it a nice natural taper towards the eye of the hook.
Step 13: Brush Out The Thorax Fibers
Carefully brush the thorax with a piece of Velcro or dubbing brush. Direct all loose fibers to the bottom of the hook.
This simulates the legs usually found in the thorax area of a caddis larva. Don’t worry if the legs look unnaturally long as you can cut them to length at the end of the tie.
Step 14: Pull The Scud Material Back Over The Thorax
Pull the loose fibers of the thorax dubbing down and bring the scud back material forward. Secure the scud back with two loose thread wraps and leave the bobbin hanging freely. Pull the scud back material tight and secure it well with thread.
Step 15: Finish The Fly
Pull the scud back material to the back and create a tidy small head for the fly. Whip finish the fly and cut off the thread. Pull the scud back material tight and cut off as close to the head as possible.
Apply a thin coat of head cement to seal the thread. If the thorax fibers are too long and don’t look like natural legs, cut them shorter.
The Caddisfly Nymph
Now You Know
How To Tie a Caddisfly Nymph
With this basic Caddis Nymph pattern, it’s easy to imitate any caddis larva found on your local waters. All you have to do is match the size and general coloration of the fly the specific species.
Thank you for taking the time to go through this step-by-step guide. Please share this post with your fly tying friends and leave any comments or questions at the bottom of the page.
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