Advanced Fly Tying:
Al's Lace Caddis Pupa
By Al Campbell
One of the aspects of fly tying most troubling to beginners is
learning how to look at a fly from the inside out. Multi-dimensional flies
can be stunning to look at and great to fish with, but too many people
find it difficult to view a fly in layers, so they never try to tackle
these types of flies. Too bad, they don't know the feeling of
accomplishment they could enjoy if they would just try to progress to
The concept of seeing a fly in layers isn't really new. Guys like
Franz Pott and George Grant used it in many of their patterns. They
experimented with multi-layered under-bodies and over-wraps of
monofilament in many of their patterns with great success from the
fisherman's standpoint. What they didn't do was use this method to create
more realistic flies, but instead continued with impressionistic flies
with woven hair hackles. The fish loved their flies, and the fishermen
loved the results so much they often paid high prices to fish those woven
With the advent of clear and semi-clear vinyl and plastic lace
materials, the idea of multi-layered flies took on a new dimension that
wasn't readily available in the days of Franz and George. Fly bodies could
be created with multiple layers then over-wrapped with a clear layer of
lace or vinyl to give them a realistic translucent look that other tying
methods couldn't create. The effect is pleasing to the human eye and the
eye of the fish as well. It also produces more durable bodies than other
Although I don't consider all multi-layered flies to be advanced
patterns, some patterns require a type of attention to detail and mastery
of material placement skills that just aren't present in the eyes and
hands of beginners and most intermediate level tyers. This fly is not an
exception. If you don't get the body dimensions right or don't place the
materials in the right position, the fly won't look right and probably
won't fish as well as a fly tied with the right proportions.
However, don't let that scare you away from trying something new. This
pattern is just the type of skill building exercise you need to advance in
your fly tying studies. Few people hit home runs their first time up to
the plate; but with practice and dedication, they can become good ball
players if they want to. You can master difficult patterns and skills if
you're willing to work at it and practice.
I promise I won't stay on multi-layered flies forever; but I think
learning to tie flies in layers is worth lingering for a short while on
this subject. This pattern is part of that exercise.
Al's Lace Caddis Pupa
Hook: Shrimp/Caddis, Mustad 80250BR; Tiemco 2487; or equivalent. Size
10 to 20.
Thread: 6/0 or 3/0, 6/0 olive and black.
Under-body: Green or orange dubbing topped with about 6 to 12 natural
fibers from a pheasant tail.
Outer-body: Light amber or clear Larva-Lace. (v-rib or another similar
material can be used)
Thorax: Coarse grayish/brown dubbing.
Wing pads: Hungarian partridge feathers dipped in Anglers Choice Thin
Soft Body and pulled to shape.
Legs: 4 to 10 dark, barred Hungarian partridge feather fibers tied in
Antennae: Two fibers from a lemon wood duck feather. (Dyed or bronze
mallard will work.)
Start the olive thread on the hook, then tie in the larva-lace
wrapping it down the bend.
2. Add the pheasant tail fibers, tying them in by the tips.
3. Create a tapered under-body of green dubbing. I prefer coarse
dubbing created by blending several colors of sparkle yarn in a coffee
grinder until I find the color I want. By using several colors, it gives
the finished fly a better hue.
4. The body should cover about 2/3rds of the hook shank.
5. Pull the pheasant tail fibers over the body; tie off and trim.
6. Start wrapping the lace over the body. Keep your wraps close
together to create a segmented look, but don't allow any gaps in the lace.
Be sure to keep the pheasant tail fibers on top of the hook. Don't let
them drift down the far side of the body.
7. Over-wrap the entire body, then tie off and trim.
8. Tie off the olive thread then switch to the black thread.
9. Select a dark partridge feather with barred markings. (Any dark,
barred feather will work.)
10. Tie in 4 to 10 of the dark fibers as a beard. Be sure to keep the
fibers directly under the body. The fibers should extend to the hook bend.
11. Select a pair of lighter feathers from the same skin. I prefer
feathers with a light band down the center of the feather.
12. Dip the feathers in Anglers Choice thin Soft Body or coat them
with flexament, then squeeze and pull the feather fibers together to form
a thinner feather profile. Tie one feather on each side of the fly to form
wing pads. The wing pads should extend about half way back on the body of
13. Select a lemon wood duck feather like the one shown.
14. Remove two of the fibers to use as antennae.
15. Tie in the fibers as antennae about twice as long as the body of
16. Dub a tapered thorax of coarse brownish/gray dubbing.
17. Whip finish, trim and cement the head and thorax.
18. From the side, your finished fly should look similar to this.
19. From the top it should look like this. Notice how the antennae
bend away from each other?
It should take about the same amount of time to tie this fly as it
does to tie a properly winged Adams. However, this fly looks a lot more
realistic than most traditional dry flies do. I believe the fish will
Fish the fly by casting slightly upstream and letting it sink as it
drifts; then lift the rod tip and cause the fly to rise toward the surface
like a naturally ascending pupae would rise. The combination of a
realistic looking fly and realistic looking motion should do the rest. I
think you'll be pleased by the results.
See ya next month - Remember, I'm always happy to answer your
questions, feel free to email me.
~ Al Campbell
Fly Tying Archives
FlyAnglersOnline.com © Notice