How to Tie a Puterbaugh Caddis Variant

Producer: Tim Flagler

This is a Puterbaugh Caddis variant. It’s one of my favorite caddis patterns for fishing broken water where a little extra floatation really helps. It deviates only slightly from Don Puterbaugh’s original pattern.

I start with a Fulling Mill 35050 dry fly hook in size 14. Begin by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise.

For thread, I’ve loaded a bobbin with a spool of tan UTC 70 Denier. Get your thread started on the hook shank, leaving an eye-length space behind the eye, and take a few wraps rearward before snipping off the tag.

Departing from the original pattern, I like to produce an underbody on the fly made with very fine tan beaver fur dubbing. Use the dubbing to create a super thin, 1 1/2” long noodle on your tying thread. Start taking wraps with the noodle to build up an underbody that covers the rear 2/3rds of the hook shank. Ideally, you want another half inch or so of dubbing noodle left when you reach the bend of the hook.

The main body of the fly is created, as on the original, with 2mm craft foam. Here, I’m using tan. Cut the foam into a thin strip about 3mm wide – a straight edge and a sharp hobby knife work well for doing this. The cleaner you can cut the foam, the better looking the fly. I like to relieve the corners on what will be the butt end of the fly in order to give it a more realistic look. Place that end over top of the hook shank so it extends a short distance beyond the hook bend.

Start taking wraps with the dubbing noodle to anchor the foam to the top of the hook, then pull the front part of the foam back and make open spiral wraps with your tying thread over top of the dubbed underbody. More than anything else, the underbody helps to firmly anchor the somewhat slippery foam to the hook shank. At a point 1/3 of the way down the shank from the eye, anchor the foam once again with tight turns of tying thread. You should be left with something that looks about like this.

Pull back on the front portion of the foam and snip it off at a shallow angle with your tying scissors. Take wraps over top of the foam ramp to start producing a smooth transition from the thicker foam down to the bare hook shank. End with your tying thread at the front edge of the foam.

Bleached, short and fine deer hair is used for the wing of the fly. Snip a small clump free from the hide and strip out the underfur and shorter hairs. Place the clump, tips first, into a small hair stacker and give it an ample stacking. Open your stacker so the hair tips point toward the rear of the fly. Then, while keeping the tips aligned, get hold of the butt ends in the fingers of your right hand. Place the clump on top of the hook so the hair tips extend ever so slightly past the end of the foam body. Re-grip the clump with the fingers of your left hand. Use your tying scissors to snip the butt ends off just short of the back edge of the hook eye. Give your bobbin a good counterclockwise spin so your tying thread will jump rearward as you take two loose collecting wraps around the butts. Pull towards you with your tying thread to compress and flare the hair. Take angled thread wraps through the butt ends to further secure the hair to the hook. Then make a few looser channeling wraps rearward, followed by more wraps to smooth out the thread ramp down to the shank. End with your tying thread at the base of the wing. If you have any wayward hair or fibers, now’s a really good time to get them snipped off.

For hackle, I’m going to use a feather from this exceptional looking ginger grizzly cape. After locating a good-looking feather, I’ll measure to make sure its barbules are the correct length, here size 14, and only then will I pluck it free from the skin. To prep the feather for tie-in, with the shiny side facing you, preen the lower fuzzy and webby fibers down and snip the stem off where the good fibers start. Pull a dozen or so fibers down on either side of the stem and then snip them off to form a small triangular tie-in anchor. Then strip a dozen or so fibers off only the top of the stem. Lay the tie-in anchor against the near side of the hook and take thread wraps to secure it. Make sure it’s bound down really well so it can’t pull free. End with your tying thread an eye-length behind the hook eye.

Using your favorite hackle pliers, get hold of the hackle feather’s very tip and start making wraps with it. That little bit of bare stem should ensure the feather wraps correctly. Keep taking touching wraps forward with the feather, pulling the fibers rearward as you go. When you reach your tying thread, use it to anchor the feather’s tip and carefully snip the excess off close. Preen the hackle fibers rearward and take thread wraps to hold them back while producing a neat little head on the fly. Reach for your whip finish tool and use it to do a 5 or 6 turn whip finish, doing your best not to trap hackle fibers in the process. With the wraps complete, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free. I know that one fiber below the hook eye is driving you nuts, me too, so I’ll carefully snip it off.

And that’s my Puterbaugh Caddis variant. I think the dubbed underbody actually adds something to the look of the fly. It also eliminates the need for super glue when attaching the foam to the back end of the hook.

And that’s my Puterbaugh Caddis variant. I think the dubbed underbody actually adds something to the look of the fly. It also eliminates the need for super glue when attaching the foam to the back end of the hook.