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Sweet Meat Caddis Fly Tying

In this 9-step guide, learn how to tie the Sweet Meat Caddis fly; it's just what the doctor ordered.

In the course of everyday life, we all make connections with people who strike us as just super cool. Garrison Doctor, a Boulder, Colorado native, world-class artist, passionate fly fisher, and spectacular fly tier is one of those people. I have long admired Garrison’s amazing artwork on his Facebook and Instagram feeds. The time-lapse videos of him skillfully drawing a detailed, colorful trout are sure to get a watch from me. Creative folks like Garrison have always compelled me, and I continually wonder at their talent and creativity.

Garrison grew up in Colorado, so you might assume he comes from a long line of fly fishers, but he is the first and only in his family. Like many of us, he started off as a kid with a spinning rod who bumped into a much more successful fly fisher, and the wheels were set in motion.

He got his fine arts degree at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and since then has fished all over the West. It was while working as a guide and shop rat at Rocky Mountain Anglers back home in Boulder that Garrison hatched the idea to put his beautiful artwork onto hats and T-shirts, and donate a part of the proceeds to conservation. In 2011, Garrison and his wife Corinne started a small business called RepYourWater in the basement of their house. As of May 2021, their business has donated more than $312,000 to their charitable partners—small organizations like the TU chapters of Wyoming, Colorado, Pennsylvania; Backcountry Hunters and Anglers chapters of Utah, Alaska, Southwest U.S., and Montana; the Wild Steelhead Coalition; Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters; The Billfish Foundation; Bonefish & Tarpon Trust; Driftless Area Restoration Effort; Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture; and many others.

Somewhere in this busy schedule, Garrison somehow found the time to start designing his own flies. While he loves all fly-fishing methods, from banging the banks with streamers to the complexity of dry-fly fishing, he confesses to being an avid Euro-style fisherman, and instinctively gravitated toward jig hooks. These have been standard among competition fly fishers for many years, and are now becoming popular for everyone who fishes subsurface. Jigged nymphs offer several advantages over conventional hooked nymph patterns. They don’t snag the bottom as easily, and they tend to hook fish directly in the top lip or snout, making them easier to steer and control during the fight.

The Sweet Meat Caddis is the latest and most popular pattern to spring from Garrison’s artistic mind. It features a durable wire body, flowing CDC half-collar, and a bit of flashy dubbing. It’s a simple concoction that’s simple enough to tie, and you won’t lose sleep over it if you lose it on the bottom.

Corinne and Garrison Doctor
Corinne and Garrison Doctor started RepYourWater in the basement of their house a decade ago, and so far have donated more than $312,000 to nonprofit conservation groups. (Photo courtesy of Fly Fisherman Magazine)

Garrison likes to tie this pattern with a few somewhat unusual colors and a variety of different bead sizes so he can tailor the weight to the depth and speed of water he is fishing at any time. He carries the Sweet Meat Caddis with bead sizes ranging from 2.3mm all the way up to 3.5mm.

While the Sweet Meat Caddis is an obvious pupa imitation, Garrison says it shouldn’t be pigeonholed to only hatch periods. A good caddis pupa pattern can be fished as an effective attractor anytime during the summer.

There are so many caddis hatches on Western rivers throughout the summer months that the fish become used to seeing them, and will eat them even during nonhatch periods.

With a jig hook and flashy bead, you’ve got a fly that can be deadly in faster pocketwater where the fly needs to get down fast and stay there. Garrison usually Euro nymphs but occasionally uses a more traditional nymph rig with a strike indicator if circumstances call for it.

I love to fish jigged nymphs like this on a dropper under a big dry, especially from a drift boat or raft with someone quietly rowing it.

While this is really a remarkably simple pattern to tie, Garrison gave me a few tips on perfecting it. He flattens the thread a bit to help create a smooth underbody for the tightly wrapped wire body, and he creates a CDC fan across the point side of the hook to form the collar. He prefers the bottom of the fly and the wire body to show clearly, and he designed the fly so the collar is on the top only.

He adds a few strands of barred duck flank feather for the antennae, using nearly any random barred feather from ducks he has harvested himself. For the rest of us, he says mallard flank works just fine. The collar and head are made from flashy Ice Dub, and he picks them out a bit to add a shaggy look to the finished product. He ties the Sweet Meat Caddis in both golden olive and ginger color variations in #14-18, crediting the #16 as the workhorse.


Gather up a few of these materials and fill a few slots in your fly box with some of Garrison’s patterns. You’ll have fun tying them now, and even more fun fishing them later.

Doctor's Sweet Meat Caddis Materials - Olive 3mm Bead Version

  • Hook: #14-16 Hanak 450 BL
  • Bead: Slotted tungsten gold jig bead, sized for weight
  • Thread: Brown 6/0 Danville
  • Abdomen: Small golden olive UTC wire
  • Collar: UV Brown Ice Dub
  • Wing: Natural dun CDC
  • Antennae: Natural mallard flank
  • Head: Peacock Ice Dub

How to Tie: 9-Step Guide

How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 1
Step 1: Slide the bead onto the hook up to the eye. Start the thread at the back of the bead and build a small thread dam to lodge it in place. Build a thread base back to the bend of the hook and then back to about an eye length behind the bead. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 2
Step 2: Tie in a length of small wire one eye length back from the bead and wrap over it tightly to the bend. Build a slight taper as you bring the thread forward again to the starting point. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 3
Step 3: Wrap the wire forward from the bend to the starting point in tight, concentric turns. Try to keep them butted up tight to each other. Tie off the wire at the starting point and helicopter the end to break it off. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 4
Step 4: Dub a small ball of UV brown Ice Dub on the front edge of the wire body, taking care to leave space behind the bead. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 5
Step 5: Stack two similar-sized CDC feathers and trim the center stems to form a V-shape. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 6
Step 6: Bundle the tips of the V-shaped feather into a clump and hold them against the far side of the hook, measuring them to about the bend of the hook. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 7
Step 7: Transfer the CDC to your other hand and make a loose wrap of thread, allowing the thread tension to roll the CDC fibers to the point side of the hook. You are going for a 180-degree wing on the gap side of the hook, leaving the other side clear of fibers. Clip the stub ends as close as you can. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 8
Step 8: Peel four well-marked mallard flank fibers from the stem and split them two to a side. Tie them in on the sides of the hook behind the bead so the tips extend just past the bend. Clip the excess. (Charlie Craven photo)
How to Tie the Sweet Meat Caddis Fly - Step 9
Step 9: Dub a small, ragged head using the peacock Ice Dub and whip-finish. I use a piece of Velcro to shag the dubbing out and sweep it back toward the bend. (Charlie Craven photo)

Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box 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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