How to Tie the Calico Caddis
Tan caddis or net spinners are very common in many rivers and streams throughout North America and are almost always on a trout’s menu, especially in their larval form. This pattern, that I call a Calico Caddis because of its numerous colors, seems to do a pretty good job of imitating them.
The fly starts with a size 16 Fulling Mill 5115 barbless hook. After getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of my tying vise, I load a bobbin with a spool of UTC 70 Denier in a rusty brown color. Get your thread started on the hook shank behind the eye and, after taking a few wraps rearward, snip off the excess tag.
Pull a small clump of olive-colored rabbit fur dubbing free from the packet and pull down on your bobbin to expose about 3” of tying thread. Use the dubbing to create a 2” long noodle on your tying thread. Now, pluck a similar-sized clump of yellow-olive rabbit fur dubbing from its packet. Pull down on your bobbin to expose another 3” of tying thread then, starting about an inch down the thread from the previous noodle, create another similar-sized noodle with the lighter colored dubbing.
Pick up your favorite dubbing whirl and hook it to your tying thread, midway between the two noodles, then bring your bobbin up to the hook shank and take rearward thread wraps to anchor the top end of the formed dubbing loop. Once the loop is anchored, give your dubbing whirl a good clockwise spin as if you’re looking down on it. This will twist the two dubbing noodles into a candy cane-striped, thin rope.
To avoid wrapping with the whirl, pick up plunger-style hackle pliers and hook them around the bottom end of the dubbing loop. Taking a wrap or two around the hook of the pliers before closing will ensure the pliers don’t slip. You can then remove the dubbing whirl from the loop. Take rearward wraps of tying thread to anchor the thin upper-end of the noodle to the hook shank, well down into the bend, then return your tying thread forward to behind the hook eye.
Start taking touching wraps with the dubbing noodle up the hook shank to form a multi-colored, segmented body on the fly. As you approach your tying thread, give the noodle a good clockwise twist to further cord it up and thin it out. Use tight wraps of tying thread to firmly anchor the noodle then carefully snip the excess off close, doing your best not to snip your tying thread in the process. Take rearward wraps of tying thread to cover up the end of the dubbing noodle and to create a slightly elongated brown head on the fly. After ending with your thread at the rear of the head, pick up your whip finish tool and use it to do a 5 or 6 turn, back to front whip finish, seat the knot really well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
Now for the fun part. Get hold of a brown permanent marker and use it to produce a thin brown line up the back of the fly. Do keep it nice and thin. You can then pick up a dubbing brush or here, a little strip of hooked Velcro, and use it to brush down the still-wet marker and dubbing. The effect should look quite realistic. Do this on both sides of the fly. It’s important to get the brushing done while the marker is still somewhat wet.
Pick up your tying scissors and use them to trim the dubbing sticking out from both sides and the back of the fly. Then, apply a drop of head cement, here Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, to the exposed thread wraps that create the head of the fly. Don’t be shy with the amount.
Once the Sally Hansen sinks in and dries, your Calico Caddis is ready to fish. Although I’ve used two shades of olive dubbing here, you can also use two different shades of brown or tan, as well as two different shades with a more yellowy tint. These color combinations do quite well at imitating natural caddis larvae. Yes, you can add a bead head and wire wraps behind it if you like for weight, or even tie it on a jig hook, if that’s the way you roll.