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Gerbec's Resting Caddis Fly Tying

In this 11-step guide, learn how to master the tiny legs for Gerbec's Resting Caddis fly.

To me, caddis hatches represent the epitome of summertime fishing. They start hatching in April and, in one species or another, continue well through fall. I have many great memories of late-evening caddis hatches on Western rivers, enjoying slashing rises and aggressive feeding. I also have nightmares about the few especially particular trout I’ve found in the slick tailouts and smooth edges of my favorite rivers. While the majority of the trout during a true caddis hatch are veritable suckers for a bushy, high floater like an Elk-hair Caddis or Goddard Caddis, there are outliers that decide to change the game and reject these patterns. They are the ones that have always kept me up at night.

Enter Alec Gerbec, born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and transplanted to Colorado for his college years. Gerbec immediately fell in love with the trout-fishing opportunities in the Centennial State and started guiding once he learned his way around the numerous rivers in the area. Trout fishing took him across the country, fishing all the famous waters and even more that you’ve never heard of. At some point, he decided it would be a good idea to get a captain’s license. That landed him a job guiding for Enchanted Lake Lodge in Alaska, and later guiding halfway around the world in the Seychelles. Trout bums have a way of getting around, and it didn’t work out too badly for this kid from Illinois. He has fished everywhere.

While fishing the upper Sacramento River, he also encountered caddis-eating trout that shunned his usual offerings, but instead of throwing rocks at those fish and moving on to the easier ones, Gerbec went to his tying bench and started tinkering. He credits the base of his pattern to the Hemingway Caddis, albeit with a few significant changes to better represent the real thing, especially on slow-moving, glassy water where the fish can really eyeball your bug.

Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Materials

  • Hook: #10-18 Umpqua XC300
  • Thread: Brown 14/0 Veevus
  • Dubbing: Tan Superfine Dubbing
  • Underwing: Natural CDC
  • Wing: Mallard flank feather
  • Hackle: Grizzly rooster saddle

Gerbec started off with a curved-shank hook, favoring the Tiemco 2487 or the new Umpqua XC300 in sizes 10 to 18. He specifically told me to use “my favorite thread,” so I opted here for Veevus 14/0, though almost any small thread would work. Gerbec uses the tag end of the thread to rib the Superfine Dubbing body, and adds a CDC underwing to enhance the silhouette and improve the floatation of the finished fly.

It was when he got to the overwing that Gerbec took a hard turn. Rather than the typical duck quill or cut feather wing, he pulled the sometimes intimidating Wally wing technique out of his dusty bag of tricks, and has done a wonderful job of using a formerly archaic parlor trick to create very practical and realistic pattern.

I have to admit, while Gerbec and I are good friends, I have always teased him about this fly, calling it Gerbec’s McGinty in an ode to another pattern of yesteryear, but in the same breath, I must also admit that I had never tied one until we started to work on this article. I’m not too brash to admit that this fly, and the Wally wing in particular, are not easy to master and will test your skills and attention to detail. The technique was always a bit of a mystery to me, and through Gerbec’s extreme patience and teaching ability, he taught this old dog a few new tricks on something I had always overlooked.

The first and most important trick is to soak the mallard flank feathers after prepping them. I would never have thought of this myself, but I also didn’t really understand the technique. Soaking softens the center quill and makes the “peeling” process in the building of the wing go much more smoothly and consistently. I can say from experience that many of you will attempt to skip the soaking process, but I caution you not to. It takes a bit of practice to first understand the nuances of the Wally wing, and even a bit more to start to pull them off consistently, but once you get the hang of it, they are kind of addictive.

Gerbec’s Resting Caddis sits low on the water due to the curved hook/abdomen and trimmed hackle collar. The CDC underwing exudes life and presents a near-perfect match for the shape of a natural’s wings in mid-flutter. The inherent speckling and vast color variations of dyed and natural mallard flank make it easy to adapt this pattern to caddis of all colors and sizes. Tie up a couple dozen, as it’ll likely take you half that many to get it just right, but once you do, you’ll just want to keep tying them because they’re so fun.

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - 11-Steps

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 1

Step 1: Begin by starting the thread at the 75% point and wrapping back down the bend, leaving a long tag end of thread. Dub a tapered abdomen from the bend up to the 75% point, and then spiral wrap the tag end of the thread over the abdomen to form a rib. Tie off and clip the excess thread at the front of the abdomen. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 2

Step 2: Peel a healthy clump of fibers from the side of a CDC feather and bunch them up into a neat bundle. You may need to tear the tips to a more even length with your thumbnail. Measure this clump against the hook so it’s about a shank length long, and tie it in on top of the shank at the front of the body. Trim the butt ends flush. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 3

Step 3: Select a pre-soaked mallard flank feather with a thin stem. Create a separation point between the tip and the rest of the fibers by stroking the lower fibers against the grain so they point back toward the base of the feather. Keep the fibers aligned neatly as you preen them back. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 4

Step 4: Lay the mallard flank feather over the CDC underwing with the tips forward, keeping the feather flat across the top of the hook. I find it helpful to pinch the hook along with the feather to hold it more firmly in place. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)


Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 5

Step 5: Capture the mallard flank feather with three tight turns of thread, then separate and lift the center stem of the feather up and out of the way as you wrap forward over the fibers only. Stop short of the hook eye, and clip the stem and fibers closely. Wrap a smooth thread base over the remnants. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 6

Step 6: To start the Wally wing, separate a few fibers from the tip section on the far side of the stem. You’ll use these fibers as a handle. Use this handle to peel the fibers down to the base of the wing, “skinning” the center stem to form the far wing. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 7

Step 7: Now peel a few fibers down on the near side of the stem to repeat the skinning process. Notice that the stem itself is not “split” but rather peeled or skinned to create the rigid edge of the wings. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 8

Step 8: Clip out the center stem of the mallard flank as well as the remaining loose fibers left at the tip of each wing to end up with a final product that looks something like this. Pinch the two wings together to cup them slightly around the body. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 9

Step 9: Tie in a rooster hackle feather with the inside toward the hook shank at the base of the wings. Apply a very thin strand of dubbing to the thread and build a smooth thorax up to just behind the hook eye. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 10

Step 10: Wrap the hackle feather forward through the thorax in closely spaced turns. Tie off the hackle behind the hook eye and clip the excess. Build a smooth thread head and whip-finish. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Tying Gerbec’s Resting Caddis Fly - Step 11

Step 11: Pull the hackle fibers on the bottom of the hook downward and trim them flush with the bottom of the fly to allow the pattern to sit flush in the surface film, with the curved abdomen hanging low. (Photo courtesy of Charlie Craven)

Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box, recently moved to 7279 W. 52nd Ave. in Arvada, Colorado. He is the author of four books, most recently Tying Streamers: Essential Flies and Techniques for the Top Patterns (Stackpole Books, April 2020).

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