The Masquerade Caddis - by Harrison Steeves
Those of us who spend an inordinate amount of time tying flies have a propensity to fiddle around with or “tweak” patterns that have been standard for years. Is it an attempt to “improve” old patterns or just curiosity to see what sort of changes we can come up with? Sometimes the “new” pattern seems to outperform the one from which it was derived, or maybe not. Be that as it may, saying that a modified version of an old pattern is better than the original is often only subjective.
The original Elk Hair Caddis developed by Al Troth is such a tried and true pattern that it is unlikely to be improved upon, but some of us have “tweaked” it a bit to see what we could come up with. The addition of an over-wing of CDC was one such “improvement”, but does it out perform the original?
Having messed around with foam for years I was curious to see what might arise by adding a bit of foam to the pattern. When 1mm foam became available I immediately thought of adding a foam head to the elk hair caddis. I had done this with many of my other patterns and this thin foam allowed me to do the same for the elk hair caddis. Tied projecting forward in the same manner as for other of my patterns, then folded back and tied down it formed a nice-looking little bullet head. The head was further modified by splitting the rear projecting portion to form a couple of little “ears”. Rubber legs were added and the pattern was complete.
I think a nice thing about this pattern is that it does not necessarily have to represent a caddis. Tied in different color combinations it could also represent anything from a small green hopper to a little black cricket. I have fished this pattern from east to west coast, in different colors and have had great success. Does it work better than the original? Good question. I know it works well for me, and I have confidence in it. After all, how many of us have certain “confidence” patterns that we routinely fish and that have never failed us? That’s sort of how I feel about the Masquerade Caddis.
Harrison comes from a long line of fly fishermen and tiers where his love of tying came from my father’s efforts at the tying bench. He learned a great deal watching the intricacies of tying through observation and pretty soon he was catching fish on my own flies.
Being raised in Alabama, he had tried everything - wet flies, nymphs, dries, streamers, etc., He learned that bluegills, “red eye” bass and a bunch of other warm-water species were fine game on fly rods. He eventually planned a fishing trip to Tennessee and North Carolina where he lost his heart to trout. It was the experiences that he had on this trip and many others like it that helped him dial in his tying and become innovative and imaginative, and to listen to what the materials were trying to tell me.
Although he an accomplished tyer, fisherman, and Author…the real satisfaction is to know that others enjoy fishing with patterns that he has created. Harrison is a retired Professor of Biology and has been a professional guide and fly fishing instructor for almost eighteen years.