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Hans Weilenmann's classical contemporary sedge fly.
CDC&Elk is One of the contemporary classics. The originator, Hans Weilenmann, tells the story of the fly.
My first trip to Montana took place in July/August 1982. In preparation for this trip I read up on all the hatch-charts and other information I could lay my hands on. I then compiled all the required patterns and commenced tying them. (I was naive and more gullible then...) I literally tied up hundreds of flies.
Caddis all the way
Dries, wets, nymphs and emergers in sizes ranging from #10 4XL through to #28. Unfortunately, very few of the anticipated hatches actually materialized. Apart from one rather spectacular Yellow Sally egg-laying session on Rock Creek, where an imitation (with a deer hair bullet-head, extended body made from twisted
yellow poly yarn and a trimmed grizzly hackle wing tied flat) triggered explosive rises, it was caddis all the way. Not a mayfly in sight. So I fished the Elk Hair Caddis. And the EHC.
When this fly did not work, I'd fish the EHC. I'm sure you get the picture. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the EHC has been one of my most effective dry fly patterns from this time onward. Mostly I would follow the Troth pattern closely: dubbed body, palmered hackle, counter-ribbed with fine gold wire. Or, on #16 and smaller, sometimes only dubbing without hackle.
The troth path
The last season, though, I deviated from the Troth path. With the increased availability of CDC in natural and dyed colors I started experimenting with this material on my core set of fishing flies. For my EHC I started using CDC barbules dubbed onto the thread. Although this worked OK, it did not really improve on the pattern. What I wanted to achieve, next to (perhaps) improved floatation, was a stronger illusion of
movement, i.e. to utilize the in-built mobility of the CDC feather. I tried and discarded to trap the CDC barbules in a dubbing loop. Tying in clumps of CDC barbules was not satisfactory, either. Various other options were tried and rejected. The answer turned out to be to use the whole CDC feather, including stem. The resulting fly, basically a modified EHC, I call the CDC&Elk.
|Hook||Rather large (up to #12) dry fly. Debarbed.|
|Thread||Brown or tan|
|Body||Cul de Canard feather (Natural or dyed)|
|Wing||Fine-tipped deer hair|
- Attach the thread halfway down the hookshank and run backwards to the bend.
- Select a CDC feather of the required color and size. (The longest barbule approx. 2 times shank-length) Hold the CDC feather at the butt and, by stroking the feather between thumb and indexfinger towards the tip, bunch the tips together.
- Tie in the bunch, butt pointing backwards. Tie down with two turns, then slip a third turn under the tips and a fourth turn over the barbules, just forward of the third. This will lock the CDC barbules in place and prevent them from coming loose. Spiral thread forward to eye, then back one turn.
- Clamp butt with hacklepliers and wind the CDC feather towards the eye in touching turns. You will find that the rear half of the body will resemble a dubbed one, but as you progress towards the eye, more and more free barbules appear. Stroke these backwards with each turn. A little practice will enable you to arrive at the eye with only the bare part of the stem left.
- Tie off with one tight turn of thread, unclip the hackle but do not trim yet. Tighten with a second and third turn of thread. You will see that the CDC butt will move with the thread, securing the tie-off point. Clip the CDC butt.
- Finish off as a regular EHC. I like to trim the deer-hair to the required length before tying it in. Your mileage may vary.
To summarize: the EHC is a great fly, but I like to think the CDC&Elk improves on this great pattern. If possible, better floating. Surprisingly durable. Illusion of movement provided by the straggling CDC barbules to suggest legs, antenna, trailing shuck, crippled wings, etc. Easily obtainable materials and incredibly easy and fast to tie. And it even catches fish!
Do give it a try...
© 1996 Hans Weilenmann