Mastering The Art: How To Tie A CDC & Elk For Fly Fishing

You are sitting at your home, feeling bored, and yearning for an activity that brings you happiness, like fishing. You decide to embark on a journey into the world of fly tying; specifically, the art of crafting the CDC & Elk fly. But where do you begin? Fear not, as we have the answer to your angler’s call.

To begin this exciting journey, gather the necessary tools and materials. Prepare the hook by securing it in the vise and creating a solid base with thread wraps. Now, it’s time to prepare the CDC feather, ensuring it has the desired length and taper.

Carefully wrap the CDC feather around the hook, forming the body and providing lifelike movement. But wait, there’s more! You’ll add elk or deer hair for the wing, shape it, and secure it in place.

So, keep reading to delve into the step-by-step tying process of the CDC & Elk fly, uncover valuable tips and tricks, and explore effective fishing techniques that will enhance your angling adventures.

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What Makes the CDC & Elk a Remarkable Fly Pattern?

When it comes to fly patterns, the CDC & Elk is truly exceptional. This fly pattern has gained popularity among fly anglers for its remarkable ability to imitate caddisflies effectively. Let’s dive into the key factors that make the CDC & Elk fly stand out from the rest.

CDC Feathers: The Secret to Flotation and Realism

At the heart of the CDC & Elk fly lies its secret weapon: CDC feathers. CDC, or Cul de Canard, feathers are plucked from the preen gland of waterfowl, such as ducks and geese. These feathers possess unique characteristics that make them perfect for dry flies like the CDC & Elk.

CDC feathers are incredibly buoyant, thanks to their natural oils and structure. When properly prepared and tied onto the fly, these feathers create excellent flotation, keeping the fly riding high on the water’s surface. This feature is crucial in imitating the behavior of caddisflies, as they often skate, flutter, or rest on the water.

Moreover, these feathers have a delicate, wispy appearance that closely mimics the legs and wings of natural insects. The fine fibers of the feathers provide subtle movement, enticing even the most selective fish. The realism and natural motion achieved by using CDC feathers make the CDC & Elk fly irresistible to trout and other species.

Deer Hair Wings: Creating the Perfect Silhouette

Deer hair is highly regarded in fly tying for its buoyancy, durability, and ability to hold its shape. The deer hair wings on the CDC & Elk contribute to its exceptional silhouette, closely resembling the natural profile of caddisflies.

When tying the CDC & Elk, it’s crucial to select fine deer hair with hollow fibers. This type of deer hair floats effortlessly, allowing the fly to stay afloat even in rough or broken water. Additionally, the hollow nature of the fibers traps air, providing additional buoyancy and imitating the natural air bubbles often observed around caddisfly wings.

The deer hair wings on the CDC & Elk fly create an attractive and visible target for fish. The silhouette stands out against the water, making it easier for fish to locate and strike the fly. The durability of deer hair ensures that the CDC & Elk can withstand numerous casts and encounters with fish without losing its effectiveness.

Versatility and Effectiveness: Not Just for Caddisflies

While the CDC & Elk is primarily designed to imitate caddisflies, its versatility extends beyond this particular insect. The realistic profile and excellent flotation properties of the fly make it effective in imitating various other insects on the water’s surface.

Trout, in particular, are known to be opportunistic feeders, targeting a wide range of insects. The CDC & Elk can imitate mayflies, midges, stoneflies, and even terrestrials like grasshoppers or ants. Its versatility makes it a reliable choice for fly anglers in various fishing conditions and locations.

How Long Does It Take to Tie a CDC & Elk?

Tying a CDC & Elk fly is a relatively quick process, thanks to its straightforward design and simple materials. On average, with moderate tying skills and familiarity with the pattern, it should take around 5 minutes to tie a single CDC & Elk fly.

The fly’s simplicity and minimal materials contribute to its efficiency in the tying vise. However, it’s important to note that the actual time may vary based on individual tying proficiency and the level of detail and precision desired.

With practice and experience, fly anglers can streamline the tying process and become more efficient in creating this remarkable fly pattern.

What Are The Necessary Tools And Materials for Tying A CDC & Elk?

To tie a CDC & Elk fly, you’ll need a few essential tools and materials. These items will help you create a well-crafted and effective fly pattern that mimics the natural caddisflies. Let’s dive into the tools and materials required for tying this remarkable fly:

Vise and Bobbin:

A vise is a crucial tool that holds the hook securely during the tying process. Look for a sturdy vise that offers good grip and adjustability. The bobbin, which holds the thread, allows for smooth and precise wrapping.


Selecting the right hook is essential for tying the CDC & Elk fly. Opt for hooks in sizes #12-20, depending on the desired size of the fly. The TMC 100SP-BL hook is a popular choice for this pattern.


Choose a high-quality thread in a suitable color, such as brown, to match the natural tones of caddisflies. The thread provides the foundation for securing materials and creating a durable fly.

Elk Hair:

The CDC & Elk fly gets its name from the elk hair used for the wing. Elk’s hair provides buoyancy and excellent floatation, making it an ideal material for dry flies. Ensure you have clean and properly stacked elk hair for the wings.

CDC Feathers:

CDC (Cul De Canard) feathers are a distinctive feature of this fly pattern. They provide excellent natural buoyancy and a realistic appearance. Select CDC feathers in tan or natural dun colors for the CDC & Elk fly.


The CDC & Elk fly incorporates a hackle for added floatation and movement. Use high-quality hackle feathers in a matching color to the body and wing.


A suitable dubbing material, such as tan or natural dun, is used to create the body of the fly. Choose a dubbing that matches the color of caddisflies in your local waters.

Scissors and Hackle Pliers:

Sharp scissors are essential for precise cutting and trimming of materials. Hackle pliers provide a firm grip on delicate materials like hackle feathers, making them easier to handle during tying.

Whip Finish Tool:

A whip finish tool helps secure the thread and finish the fly neatly. It creates a tight knot that ensures the durability of the fly.

How Do You Tie A CDC & Elk? Step-by-Step Tying Process

Now that we have discussed the tools and materials needed let’s walk through the step-by-step process of tying a CDC & Elk fly. Follow these instructions carefully to create a well-crafted fly that imitates caddisflies and entices fish to strike:

Step 1: Hook Selection

We recommend using a size 16 dry fly hook to tie the CDC and Elk fly. Specifically, a diary key size 16 number 305 dry fly hook works perfectly for this pattern. Secure the hook firmly in your vise, ensuring it doesn’t slip during tying.

Step 2: Start the Thread

Begin by starting the thread just behind the hook eye and winding it all the way back to the hook bend. For this pattern, we recommend using UTC 70 thread in brown. The color complements the fly’s overall appearance and enhances its realism.

Step 3: Prepare the CDC Feather

Now, let’s prepare the CDC feather. Select a single brown CDC feather with long fibers approximately the length of the hook. Hold the feather in your left hand and pull the fibers forward with your right hand, regressing with your left. This action aligns the fibers and prepares them for placement on the fly.

Step 4: Secure the CDC Feather

Place the tip of the CDC feather on top of the hook shank, slightly lifting it, and take two wraps around the feather and the shank. This ensures that the slippery CDC feather is securely locked into place. Then, take another wrap between the feather tip and the hook shank. Finish it off with a wrap around the feather and the shank.

Step 5: Wrap the CDC Feather

With the CDC feather securely fastened, wind your tying thread up the hook shank to just behind the eye. Use hackle pliers to grab the CDC feather’s stem and make adjacent wraps up the shank. Remember to keep the feather straight, as there’s no need to twist it as you go.

Step 6: Manage Free Fibers

Once you reach about halfway up the hook, you’ll notice that free fibers have started to wrap around the shank. To manage these fibers, use your left hand’s thumb and index finger to pull them back as you continue wrapping. This technique ensures a neat and tidy appearance for your fly.

Step 7: Complete the CDC Wraps

Continue making wraps with the CDC feather just behind the eye. Once you’ve reached your desired number of wraps, tie off the stem with a few secure wraps. Remember, CDC can be slippery, so make sure to snip the stem close to the wraps and take an additional firm wrap for added security.

Step 8: Add Elk or Deer Hair

Now, it’s time to introduce some elk or deer hair to our fly. Select a small clump of finely tipped elk or deer hair in your desired color. For this demonstration, we’ll use natural-colored hair. Snip the hair free from the hide, and with your fingers or a fine-tooth comb, remove the underfur from the base of the hairs.

Step 9: Stack and Measure the Hair

Using a hair stacker, stack the elk or deer hair bundle to align the tips. Measure the hair on the hook, ensuring the tips extend only to the outside of the bend. Once you have your desired measurement, hold the hair bundle between your thumb and index finger of your left hand and snip the butts off right at your fingertips.

Step 10: Secure the Hair Bundle

Place the elk or deer hair bundle on top of the hook, aligning the snipped butt ends with the very front of the eye. Make one and a half turns of tying thread around the bundle and the hook, pulling straight up with good tension. Then, bring the thread around to complete the second wrap.

Step 11: Lock the Hair Bundle

To lock the elk or deer hair bundle firmly in place, bring the thread through the butt ends at a 45-degree angle. Working it down helps ensure a secure hold. Lift the butt ends slightly and make a couple of tight wraps between them and the hook shank.

Step 12: Finish the Fly

To finish off the fly, make three or four turns with your tying thread and cut it free. Adding a small drop of head cement on the underside of the wraps will help keep everything in place and increase the fly’s durability.

Tips and Tricks for Successfully Tying a CDC & Elk

Tying a CDC & Elk fly can be a rewarding experience, but it does require some finesse and attention to detail. To help you tie this fly effectively, here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind:

Properly Prepare the CDC Feathers:

When selecting CDC feathers, look for ones with long and tapered fibers. Remove any fuzzy fibers near the base to ensure a clean and effective tie-in point. This will help create a realistic and buoyant wing.

Use High-Quality Elk Hair:

The quality of elk hair used for the wing plays a crucial role in the fly’s performance. Choose hair that is clean, properly stacked, and has tapered tips. This will allow the wing to sit upright and imitate the natural silhouette of caddisflies.

Apply Dubbing Sparingly:

When dubbing the body, use a small amount of dubbing material. It’s better to start with less and add more if needed. This will help create a slender and realistic body profile.

Secure the Elk Hair Wing Properly:

When tying in the elk hair wing, ensure it is positioned on top of the hook shank and remains upright. Secure it firmly with tight wraps of thread to prevent it from spinning or becoming misaligned during fishing.

Choose the Right Hackle:

Select hackle feathers that match the body color of the fly. The hackle should be proportionate to the hook size, neither too sparse nor too dense. This will provide optimal floatation and movement in the water.

Wrap the Hackle Evenly:

When wrapping the hackle, make sure to space the wraps evenly to create a consistent and well-distributed appearance. This will enhance the fly’s ability to float and imitate the natural movement of caddisflies on the water’s surface.

Trim Excess Materials:

After tying off the hackle, trim any excess materials, such as elk hair or hackle fibers. This will improve the fly’s overall profile and prevent any unnecessary drag in the water.

Experiment with Colors and Sizes:

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different color variations and sizes of the CDC & Elk fly. Caddisflies come in various shades and sizes, so try to match the local insect species or imitate a specific stage of the hatch for better results.

Tying the CDC & Elk fly requires practice to master the techniques and achieve consistent results. Take your time, be patient, and keep practicing to improve your tying skills and refine your fly patterns.

What Are Some Effective Ways to Fish With The CDC & Elk?

The CDC & Elk fly is not only a pleasure to tie but also a highly effective pattern when it comes to fooling trout and other fish that feed on caddisflies. Here are some effective ways to fish with the CDC & Elk and maximize your chances of success:

Dry Fly Presentations:

The CDC & Elk is primarily a dry fly pattern, and it excels in imitating the adult caddisfly floating on the water’s surface. When fishing in rivers or streams, use traditional dry fly presentations such as upstream casts, downstream drifts, and across-stream presentations. Aim for areas where you spot rising fish or likely holding spots near structures, seams, or riffles.

Dead Drift Technique:

The dead drift technique involves presenting the fly without any drag, imitating the natural drift of a caddisfly on the water’s surface. Cast the fly upstream and allow it to float naturally downstream, following the speed and current of the water. Maintain a slack line and be prepared for subtle takes or rises.

Skating the Fly:

Skating the fly involves imparting movement to the CDC & Elk pattern by using a combination of rod twitches and mends. This technique imitates an adult caddisfly fluttering and skittering across the water’s surface. Experiment with short, quick twitches and longer, slower strips to mimic the natural movements of the insect.

Swing Technique:

The swing technique is effective when fishing larger rivers or when targeting fish feeding in the surface film or just below it. Cast the fly across the current and let it swing downstream, creating a broad arc. The fly should move enticingly across the water, imitating a caddisfly emerging or in the process of laying eggs.

Wet Fly Approach:

While the CDC & Elk is primarily a dry fly pattern, it can also be fished as a wet fly with success. Allow the fly to sink slightly below the surface and fish it in areas where fish are actively feeding below the surface. Use a slow, steady retrieve to imitate an emerging or struggling caddisfly.

Use the CDC & Elk in Caddis Emergences:

Caddisfly hatches can create exciting feeding frenzies, with fish aggressively targeting emerging insects. During these hatches, fish the CDC & Elk as part of a team of flies, incorporating nymphs or emergers in your setup. This combination can imitate various stages of the caddis life cycle and increase your chances of enticing fish to strike.

Observe and Adjust:

Pay close attention to the behavior of fish and the natural insects on the water. Observe rises, feeding patterns, and insect activity to determine the most effective presentation. Be prepared to adjust your technique, fly size, or color based on the fish’s response or changing conditions.

Final Say

The CDC & Elk fly pattern is truly remarkable in its ability to imitate caddisflies and entice trout to strike. With its buoyant CDC feathers and realistic elk hair wing, this fly exhibits exceptional floatability and natural movement on the water.

Tying the CDC & Elk requires basic tools and materials, and the process can be completed in around five minutes. You can tie effective and durable flies by following the step-by-step tying process and implementing the tips and tricks provided.

When it comes to fishing, employing dry fly presentations, dead drifts, skating techniques, swings, and wet fly approaches can all yield success. Observing fish behavior and adapting to the conditions can maximize your chances of fooling trout with the CDC & Elk fly pattern. Happy fishing!

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