The Elk Hair Caddis pattern has to be one of the most well known dry flies in the world. Fly anglers have successfully used this pattern to catch multiple species of fish, but trout have to be top on this list as the most eager to chase high floating dries. The great success of this pattern might be due to the widespread nature of caddis flies, but I like to believe it is because of the unique combination of materials that Al Troth put together. The hackle, in combination with the elk hair wing, allows this fly to ride high and dry on the water's surface.
Why it Works
If you compare the actual design of the elk hair fly pattern to a real life caddis fly, the profile (from below) and the action are quite similar. When caddis flies sit on the water you basically see only the wings. Even from below the profile comes from how the wings tent over the body and rest on the water's surface. The elk hair tied onto the top of the hook shank and squared off at the head do a great job recreating this wing profile. In addition to this, caddis flies just do not sit in the water's surface. They jump, bounce and skitter across the surface, enticing fish into biting. The palmered body of the elk hair caddis allows the fly to sit high on top of the water surface but also allows the fly to skate/bounce when the fly line is lifted lightly.
When to Fish It
The Elk Hair Caddis dry fly pattern seems to do its best when fished in turbulent waters. Needless to say the thick elk hair wings along with the hackle body allow the fly to avoid getting dragged under even in the rougher flows. If you plan on fishing slower waters it is best to clip the body hackle flat alongside the underbody so that fly will ride lower on the water's surface.
How to Fish It
To fish the elk hair caddis patterns, use standard dry fly presentations and target fast water seams, or slow pools adjacent to faster water. If you are in a section of the stream that has lots of vegetation, try targeting spots near overgrown banks, below overhanging trees, and in or around other bank vegetation.
Watching fish rise to dry flies for me is one of the most exciting ways to fish for trout. The elk hair caddis is a pattern that will certainly get the fishes interest and the bite won't be far behind.