It's probably not a healthy thing to do, but once Christmas has passed I spend most of my time dreaming about long summer evenings and exciting dry fly fishing on my local rivers. This tends to be reflected in the flies I tie at this time of year - patterns with a very summer flavour to them.
This is one of them. And to be honest, it's long overdue that I paid my respects to it on this blog. Roman Moser's balloon caddis is one of the deadliest top of the water flies I have ever used. Fished singly as a searching pattern, it pulls trout and grayling up from absoutely anywhere and everywhere - irrespective of whether or not they happen to be rising. If you put me on any trout stream in the country with just one fly on my leader, this would be it, such is its astonishing effectiveness.
Many of you will be aware of it already, but for those who have never tried this fly, I urge you to take a look at the tying sequence below and knock a few up for yourselves.....and next time you are scratching your head by the banks of a low, clear summer river with nothing hatching and no fish rising, stick one of these on a tapered leader and prepare to be amazed!
Hook: Varivas 2200 #16, 14, 12.
Thread: 14/0 sheer.
Rib: Amber Pearsalls silk.
Balloon: Yellow polycelon foam.
Wing: Coastal deer hair.
Abdomen: Blend of ginger SLF and light tan life cycle dubbings.
Thorax: Blend of muskrat and dark tan life cycle dubbings.
There is plenty of scope for variation in this pattern. I use a curved hook where the original used a straight shanked model. Dubbing shades and hook sizes can be adjusted to suit the caddis on your river, but to be honest, I don't think it matters too much - tied fairly large, it is the distinctive footprint of this fly which I'm sure provides the key trigger - a right busy old mess suggestive of a good sized caddis pupa on the point of emerging through the surface film. Tying sequence is as follows:
1. After running on the tying thread, bind down the silk rib to the tip of the abdomen and park the thread back up at the rear of the thorax:
2. Cut a strip of foam to suit the hook size used. I'm tying on a #14 here and a 3mm wide strip of foam seems about right. After cutting a point in the end to form a tying-in tag, secure it to the top of the hook shank with a couple of firm turns:
3. Now secure the foam well, but try not to compress too much of the tag, which will add a little to the finished flies' floatability later on. Form a rough thread taper from the foam down the abdomen and park the thread at the butt awaiting dubbing:
4. Now dub the abdomen back up to rear of the thorax region:
5. Follow with open turns of the ribbing material:
6. Next, the wing: I use pale-ish coastal deer for this - de-fuzzed and stacked in the normal manner. Offer the stacked bunch up to the hook with the right hand to assess wing length. This is a matter of personal preference, but I tend to aim for the points of the wing being just slightly beyond the hook bend. Now swap the bunch to your left hand (I'm assuming right handedness here), and cut off the butts to the desired length. Offer up to the hook and pinch and loop in with a couple of tight turns. Don't worry too much if the wing flares upwards a bit - we'll deal with that later....
7. Now is the time to further secure the wing and trim off any waste butt ends:
8. Thorax dubbing next: You can use the same shade as the abdomen, or a slightly darker mix as I have done here. This needs to be dubbed on backwards - ie from the hook eye, back toward the base of the deer hair wing:
9. Nearly there. Fold back the foam thorax cover - under only slight tension so as not to compromise the foam's inherent floatability too much - and secure with two firm turns of the thread. Do a three turn whip finish in situ and trim off the thread. You will notice on my photo that in whip finishing the fly, I have inadvertantly 'rolled' a couple of deer hairs round the wing - you can see them hanging off the underside of the fly on the opposite side. If this happens, don't worry, just snip them off at the base - this is a scruffy, suggestive fly which doesn't need to be tied super neatly (bloody good job where my tying is concerned)!
10. All that remains is to offer the scissors up to the back of the tied down foam and snip off the tag end. You will notice that in tying down the foam, the tag end has flattened down the deer hair nicely, dealing with that slight flaring that we had before - maybe a touch too much, but the final stage takes care of that....
11. As a finishing touch, use the very tips of the scissors to trim back the tag closer to the whip finish. As the excess foam is trimmed, you will find that the slightly over-flattened wing springs back a little bit into a more pleasing position. Add a drop of cement to the whippings and it's job done. Not perfect by any means, but the trout wont care I can assure you!
And that is just about that. Save another five or so months need to pass before we can seriously consider tying this one onto the leader. A quick look at the 'over and under' views of the finished fly (see below), give some clues as to why it can be so effective - particularly the underside which presents a lovely straggly, busy appearance so typical of pupating caddis flies. The fly sits low in the surface film and so mimics this stage of the life cycle well......but put a dab of floatant onto the top side of the foam thorax cover and it will float like a tiny cork all day. Hats off to Mr Moser, he really did produce a killer when he came up with this one!
View from the top.....
Hope you find it of some use.....and happy new year from NCA Towers!