FLY OF THE MONTH- December-2018

December  2018

The CDC & Elk
(... as tied by Gordon Brooks)






Gordon Brooks is a fine fly tier. As a member of the South Australian Fly Fishers’ Association he ran their fly tying classes and prepared the fly tying segment in the SAFFA monthly journal for many years. Gordon was in Tasmania a few weeks ago and following a discussion with your editor offered this fly as a very worthwhile contribution to our Fly of the Month segment.

The websites tell us that the Dutch fly tying master Hans Weilenmann developed the CDC & Elk as a variation of Al Troth’s Elk Hair Caddis. It became his go to fly for mayfly hatches, a general search pattern for hatch less conditions, as a generic emerger pattern and even as a wet fly. It is Hans' signature fly and is a pattern that a lot of other anglers have learned to love.

As a fly it has these advantages – just a few materials (thread, CDC feather and deer hair), it’s easy to tie (just a few tying steps and few turns of thread), is durable, floats like a cork (the materials are willing floaters, and floatant can add to that), and is a good imitation of a caddis whilst looking like a lot of other things to a
fish. Hans has a large section on his web site giving the history, a tying sequence, a video, and much more.

Another writer eulogises as follows - this is a fantastic fly imitating caddis but is also a killer bug in mayfly hatches. It is one of my favourite flies for dealing with difficult fish.

Hans’ Weilenmann describes the fly as follows: “The inspiration for the CDC & Elk was Al Troth’s classic Elk Hair Caddis. The EHC is a great fly, but I like to think the CDC & Elk improves on this great pattern. It is, if possible, better floating.
The illusion of movement and life is provided by the straggling CDC barbs which suggest any or all of the following - straggling legs, antenna, trailing shuck, crippled wings, etc. It is tied with easily obtainable materials and is fast and simple to tie.”


Materials for the CDC & Elk:

Hook: standard dry fly hook, in sizes 12 - 18.

6/0 brown or a colour to match the body.

Body and Hackle:
CDC feather, colour to match the natural’s abdomen

Wing: fine tipped elk or deer hair.


Tying the CDC & Elk:

  1. Start the thread near the centre of the shank and wind a thread base back to just above the barb.
  2. Select a CDC feather in a colour to match the body of the insect you are imitating. Stroke the fibres towards the tip and tie the feather in by its tips on the shank above the barb.
  3. Wind the tying thread in open turns up to near the eye of the hook. Twist the CDC feather until the feather fibres (which are tied in by their tips) resemble a rope. Wind the feather forward along the shank to form the body of the fly. When the loose fibres start hanging out as you wind the feather forward, stroke them towards the rear as you make each turn with the feather.
  4. Tie the feather down at about 3 millimetres from the eye and trim the waste.
  5. Select a bunch of deer or elk body hair sufficient in size to form the desired wing on the fly. Clean out any underfur and short hairs, then stack the fibres to even the tips.
  6. Hold the bundle of fibres on top of the hook so the tips reach a bit past the bend, then tie the wing down with several wraps. Take care to hold the wing on top of the hook until the wing is secure. The rear-most securing wraps should be a made with less tension to avoid flaring the wing. Lift the wing butts up and take several wraps under them around the shank to elevate them.
  7. Finish the fly with a whip finish, then trim the wing butts an angle above the eye to represent the head of the fly.
  8. If you intend to wake the fly to represent a skittering caddis adult leave the butts a bit longer. If there are too many straggly CDC fibres on the fly just tear a few off until you have the number, you require. If the CDC fibres trail too far beyond the wing just tear them off to length.

Fishing It

Do not use floatant on the CDC & Elk as the CDC feather will matt and loose its floating qualities. When the fly has become slimed by a trout wash the fly in the stream, dry it with a piece of towel or a tissue and execute a couple of vigorous false casts to restore its floating qualities. Desiccant powders work quite well on CDC based flies so are valuable for restoring a waterlogged fly.

The CDC & Elk when tied with a full wing will represent both the adult and the emerger. It works equally well on both moving and still waters. It can be presented static without drag, or may be twitched to represent the skittering caddis adults.

With a sparse wing and tied in the appropriate size and colour it can also be a valuable addition to your arsenal during mayfly, midge and stonefly hatches. The body sitting in the film plus the straggling legs suggested by the stray CDC fibres present a convincing emerger profile.


Copyright © Gordon Brooks 2009