The Tabou Caddis Emerger

Published Feb 6th 2006

Simplistic Buggyness Using Two Materials


"Tying the Tabou Caddis"

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Download a 2.5 minute Podcast to see Steve tie the Tabou Caddis Emerger.
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This Eagle River (Colorado) Brown trout took an appetite to the Tabou Caddis Emerger.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.

Oftentimes, when I show the Tabou Caddis Emerger to fellow fly fishers, they comment on how simple it is and buggy looking, "Why didn't I think of that?!...that thing's gotta work! buggy...", they comment. Well, they hit the nail on the head with the simplistic bugginess concept, but I claim the pattern really isn't new, I think it's just a new way to tie an emerging caddis with some under-used and relatively unknown materials in my flytying material collection.

In 2002, I began to take notice of the way caddis emerged and the way fish reacted to different stages of a caddis emergence cycle. While this is not new thinking in the world of flyfishing, it was for me. I finally took the time to really understand what fish wanted out of a caddis hatch. There's a difference between reading about it and actually taking the time to study on-stream. The result was noticing that emerging caddis are gangly, ugly and disheveled when emerging. I noticed a caddis wing is one of the larger wings to emerge from an insect making the emergence awkward, their legs are wispy & fragile and the body is just plain chunky & log-like. I also noticed the caddis has a very segmented body during the emergence cycle. Those very unscientific observations from me, a person who has no entomology experience whatsoever, may seem like a bunch of "Mr. Obvious" discussions to many of you, but it was those observations that led to the creation of one of my most simple yet effective go-to patterns in my fly box to-date. I started tying the pattern in 2002 and until recently, held it close to my chest, giving it a fair shake through three caddis hatch seasons. My orginal concept/design is not much different than what the pattern is today. I am a firm believer, however, that this pattern is not really new, maybe just not tied the way I tie it and maybe not using the materials I prefer...but the pattern itself, with all its' gangly legs and ugliness, has been done before for sure, I'm willing to bet on it.

During the summer of 2005, I finally shared the pattern with only a few selected talented flyfishers and fly tiers. All attested to the simple fact the pattern works because it "moves-moves-moves" in the water; the added bonus is the materials are cheap and the fly is ultra-fast to tie. So you see, I haven't really created anything new, just maybe a unique approach to tying a caddis emerger. Whatever the case, the fly works...and I hope it works for you too.

Hook (ideal size) #14 curved nymph hook
Thread brown 6/0
Ribbing clear 0.5mm "Stretch Magic" elastic bracelet/necklace making material
Body (1) Brahma Hen Chick-a-bou feather, dyed pale yellow
Wing (1) Brahma Hen Soft-Hackle, dyed tan
Head excess trim from soft-hackle feather (tan)
The materials are simple, inexpensive and easy to prepare. There really is no reason one cannot whip out a dozen of this deadly pattern in a half-hour's time! Here, a pile of stripped marabou from the base of a soft-hackle feather is ready to dub on the Tabou Caddis Emerger.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Whiting's Brahma Hen Soft Hackle with Chick-A-Bou comes in a variety of colors. The Chick-A-Bou is the marabou-like feather patch at the bottom of each soft-hackle pelt.
(L to R: natural, golden olive, pale yellow, tan, medium dun, golden brown, brown, olive)
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.

A Brief Discussion on Materials
Stretch-Magic is one of those materials you just have to put in your fly tying material arsenal.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.


The fly uses only two materials (three if you count individual pieces). The fly is entirely tied with the Brahma Hen Soft-Hackle with Chick-a-bou pelt and a fantastic ribbing material you won't find in any fly shop: Stretch Magic.

Brahma Hen Soft-Hackle with Chick-a-bou has long been one of Henry Hoffman's favored pelts to use. And if you ask Tom Whiting today, it is also one of his most favorite birds in his flock. (But, isn't every bird a favorite to a bird grower?!) Regardless of a breeder's partiality to his flock, Brahma Hen feathers are undoubtedly one of the most used feather-types in my tying material arsenal. Natural brahma hen pelts dyed tan, pale yellow and golden olive will cover most of the nymph and wet fly tying needs you'll ever have.

Stretch Magic will rapidly become one of your most favored ribbing materials if you don't already use it. It stretches to nearly 3x its original size without breaking, has a resiliant rubbery demeanor, is quite resistant to toothy fish and can nearly stretch flat, making it a dream to tie with. The 0.5mm diameter is ideal for most nymph tying and ribbing requirements. Other colors available are solid white and solid black. It also comes in 0.7mm and 1.0mm diameters for larger flies such as bonefish and other saltwater patterns. You probably won't find it in any fly-tying store or catalog. In the states, it's carried by craft & hobby stores like Michael's and Hobby Lobby.

(At the time of publication, Crafts Etc. sold Stretch-Magic online. Click here to go to Crafts Etc.'s site. Search the site with the phrase "stretch-magic". Under jewelry making, you'll see the sizes and colors offered.)

Step 1
Hook preparation

Tie the Stretch-Magic material in, starting near the eye of the hook and secure the material back to just above the hook barb point on the hook shank. If you stretch the material backward as you tie it in, you'll find it will tie in slightly easier.
Secure the Stretch-Magic material to the barb point on the hook.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Step 2
Tying the body
Tie a Chick-A-Bou feather on top of the hook shank, ready to pull into place.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Using both hands to guide the feather, pull the feather so just the tips are trapped by the loose thread wraps.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.

This is the most complicated part of the whole fly...and it's not that difficult! Placing a whole Brahma Hen chick-a-bou feather on top of the hook whispy end toward the back of the hook, secure with two loose wraps, just above the hook barb (where you stopped tying in the ribbing material) Pull the chick-a-bou feather towards the eye of the hook, leaving just the tips of the whispy end exposed above the hook barb point on the shank. Secure with a few tight wraps and move the thread forward to the eye of the hook.

With a pair of hackle pliers, grab the whispy tips and gently twist the feather in a dubbing rope fashion. Be careful to not over-twist as you'll break the feather, remember it's a fragile feather. Five or six twists are probably enough.

Wrap the twisted chick-a-bou rope toward the eye of the hook, including the long marabou-like feathers. Those long whispy parts of the chick-a-bou feather will form the legs of the emerging caddis, while the tightly twisted upper portion of the feather will form the body.

With wraps counter to the way you wrapped the body feather on the hook, wrap the ribbing material toward the eye of the hook and tie off. Be careful not to trap too much of the long legging fibers as you wrap the ribbing forward. this counter-wrapped Stretch-Magic will help protect the fragile chick-a-bou feather.

Place the thread to the 3/4's point on the hook shank to prepare for the next step.

Gently twist the Chick-A-Bou feather with hackle pliers.

Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
A twisted Chick-a-Bou feather will form a perfectly dubbed body and legs, all in one step!

Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Notice the twisted Chick-A-Bou will naturally form a nicely dubbed body and chunkier thorax.

Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Wrap the Stretch-Magic COUNTER to the way you wrapped the Chick-A-Bou. Cut the excess "legging" and the Stretch-Magic from the top of the fly.

Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Step 3
Tying the emerging wing
Prepare the feather by stripping off the marabou-like fuzz at the end of the feather, leaving just the perfectly mottled soft hackle feather. Save the strippings for the next step. In the same way you tied in the chick-a-bou feather, tie in a prepared Brahme Hen soft-hackle feather. Use two soft wraps at the 3/4's point (2 eye lengths back) on the fly to trap the feather stem under the wraps. Gently pull the feather stem towards the eye of the hook, shortening the feather to just cover the length of the fly. This is the emerging wing of the caddis. Trim off the excess and secure in with a few wraps.
Position the thread 2 eye lengths behind the eye of the hook and loosely tie in a soft hackle feather.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Holding the soft hackle by the tips as you pull the feather forward will help prevent the feather from twisting sideways as it is positioned.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Step 4
Finishing the fly
Dub the head material over the base of the wing to help keep it riding low and tight to the body.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
A finished Tabou Caddis Emerger has all the features an emerging caddis exhibits: gangly legs, segmented body, a mottled extruding wing and a rather large head.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.

Dub a small portion of the stripped marabou-like fuzz from the soft-hackle feather. Use a dubbed portion to create the head of the fly. Use your own judgement as to how much you prefer, or use the picture to the left to help you gauge the right amount. Whip finish and apply a small bit of tying cement to lock the thread wraps. You're done!

Speed Tying Tips
If you are like me, you'll want to crank out a dozen or more of these at a one tying session. And with this pattern, you won't burn too much time doing so. I created this fly to be easy and extremely quick to tie. If you pre-strip the soft-hackle feathers and pre-select the chick-a-bou feathers and lay them in front of you, you'll be ready to tie one of these per minute! I've actually spent an hour picking an entire Brahma Hen Soft-Hackle with Chick-a-Bou pelt clean, placing prepared feathers in baggies in order to tie loads of this fly.
Prepared materials for a dozen flies.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.
Fishing Techniques

Although you can lay a few wraps of lead to this fly, I prefer not. It's an emerger, not a sinking nymph. It is meant to rise. I prefer to fish it behind a weighted fly and using a loop knot of some sort to allow it the maximum freedom of motion as it is drifted through a run. Consider using a Leisenring Lift during th last 20% of your drift to mimic the emerging caddis. More often than not, you'll get the bone-jarring take just as you begin your lift, or just at the tail end of the lift. A word to the wise fly fisher: Don't pull the cast out of the water after the end of the Leisenring lift until you have given a little jerk/twitch to the line and extended the drift just a second or two more. That trick often entices a following fish to order from the carry-out menu and may mean the difference between catching an average fish and that curious lunker!

Another Eagle River (Colorado) Brown trout took the Tabou Caddis Emerger under a golden stone imitation.
Photo - S. Schweitzer ©2006.




User comments
From: Kayden · estekayd·at·  Link
Submitted October 17th 2012

Used it today to catch a pig cutbow on a spring creek in Idaho. I like to swing it so I use brassie size wire instead of the stretch magic. Works really well.

From: Lvy · larryyeaman·at·  Link
Submitted November 11th 2010

Tried the fly at East Lk Central OR. worked awsome! The browns and (surprise) the kokanee luv'd it!

From: Robb Trauger · rtrauger58534353·at·  Link
Submitted May 21st 2010

I witnessed a man using the tabou. He released about 20 fish in about 2 hours. It was like magic. I had to ask him and he told me the pattern. Can't wait to try it!

From: Anonymous  Link
Submitted May 8th 2010

Do you drop it under an indicator?

From: Mike Bodner · m222vmnthntr·at·  Link
Submitted March 9th 2009

I live in Northern Calif. I tied several of the Tabou Caddis and have to admit they work great. Thankyou for sharing the pattern!

From: John Coxey · jpcoxey·at·  Link
Submitted February 9th 2009

Where does one purchase these colors? No one seems to have them. Thanks!!!!

GFF staff comment
From: Steve Schweitzer · steve·at·  Link
Submitted November 10th 2008

Hi Dances-With-Trout -

ummm...errr...yeah, it will work for bonefish! (wink, wink!) How about next August you and I fish some Mexico flats together, you with the Tabou Caddis, and me with a Crazy Charlie or something. Least fish buys :)

From: Dances with trout · hopper·at·  Link
Submitted November 5th 2008

Is this a good fly for bonefish and tarpon?

GFF staff comment
From: Steve Schweitzer · steve·at·  Link
Submitted December 24th 2006

You can buy the whole pelt which includes the soft hackle and the chick-a-bou, or you can buy them sold separately. They are sold either way, which explains why your fly shop has them in separate selling units.

GFF staff comment
From: Martin Joergensen · martin·at·  Link
Submitted September 25th 2006


The feathers are from the same skin: the marabou (Chick-a-bou) from the tail and the feather for the wing from the saddle. So you need only buy one pelt to get both types of feathers - which also delivers the marabou dubbing.


From: Bruce A. Tomaselli · btomas·at·  Link
Submitted September 19th 2006

Please disregard previous post. What I meant to as was is the brahma hen cape and soft hackle with chick-a-bou pelt 2 different items that one needs to purchase to tie the Tabout Caddis?

From: Bruce A. Tomaselli · btomas·at·  Link
Submitted September 19th 2006

Is a brahma hen saddle and chick-a-bou pelt 2 different purchases? It seems the Bear Lodge Angler is selling them seperate.

From: Bruce A. Tomaselli · btomas·at·  Link
Submitted September 19th 2006

What color combinations do you use the most and what size patterns? Is the body material and feather wing from 2 different chick-a-bou hens? I've been wanting to tie these but I am not quite sure about the materials. Thanks

From: Renato Bugelli · Renatobugelli·at·  Link
Submitted September 11th 2006

It looks very interesting. I'll try it with wild norwegian trout. Thanks

From: Bernard  Link
Submitted June 15th 2006

I recently encountered an unexpectedly rich caddis hatch on, of all things, a Southern California stream(!). First place I though of for a suggested pattern was your site. Thanks for being so clever and reliabe!

From: Tony Pitman · pitman·at·  Link
Submitted June 13th 2006

Lehigh River White Haven Pa. 06-11-06. I chart river every day,as far as cfs flow and screen or catch insects before fishing. Big mistate in directions. Instead of tying on #14 hook, all caddis emerging are a size #20. tie some with green body such as American Grannon. Imform me if this works. Tony

From: David Phillip · carlisleny·at·  Link
Submitted June 4th 2006

This Podcast was AWESOME. I just ordered some hackle and cnnot wait to try this out. You guys hooked me...

From: James Stallcup · james_stallcup·at·  Link
Submitted May 15th 2006

I tried it on the Arkansas (CO) and it kicked butt. The caddis hatch was just starting in Browns canyon and "caught more than four" as John Gierach says. Bottom line; the pattern is easy to tie, very realistic and browns love it! (Try hanging it under a peacock body elk hair....and hold on!)

From: bob migliore · bobpatmig·at·  Link
Submitted April 1st 2006

I just love these word AND picture shows, they really help me alot not only for the fly mentioned, but for tying technique as well.--thanks

From: Andrew Foster · gfos1111·at·  Link
Submitted March 25th 2006

I have found your flytying site very easy to navigate. and the tying instructions simple and easy to follow.
Keep up the good work

From: Chuck Digby · c.digby·at·  Link
Submitted March 11th 2006

I have just discovered this's great. As a commercial tyer for many years and a fisherman for even longer I have come to the believe that color is not a very important consideration for flies Not often are flies tied using the color of the belly of the real insect when tying dries. Wet flies of just about any type are moving too much for color to be a MAJOR concern. For example, during a Green Drake hatch I have done as well with a #10 or 12 Adams as with any of the Green Drake patterns.

From: Sherry Schrantz · Sherry·at·  Link
Submitted March 11th 2006

I'm for sure tying this one, and trying it in the Arkansas, and elsewhere. I often look for pattern with movement.

GFF staff comment
From: Steve Schweitzer · steve·at·  Link
Submitted March 6th 2006

Steve Morawski: these are standard dye colors produced by Whiting Farms for the chick-a-bou and soft-hackle product. If your catalog or flyshop does not offer those colors, it is their choice I guess. Ask your local flyshop or catalog outfit to obtain these pelts for you.

From: richard brown · fbwoodflr·at·  Link
Submitted February 14th 2006

excellent instructions
beautiful tie

From: Steve Morawski · steve.morawski·at·  Link
Submitted February 13th 2006

The colors you mention in your pattern don't match up with those available in the fly catalogs. Did you dye your own? If not where can I purchase these colors? Thanks

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