The Elk Hair Caddis is a common dry fly pattern. It was first created by Al Troth in Pennsylvania in 1957 for fishing trout in Loyalsock Creek. Troth is said to be a pioneer of the sport of Fly Fishing because of his extremely useful and broadly used Caddis Fly pattern. Troth said his pattern was inspired by a number of palmered flies and the Little Red Sedge created by Lawyer and Fly Fisherman, George Edward MacKenzie Skues, or “GEM” Skues. It was the hair wing of Skues' Sedge pattern that most caught Troth's eye, and is the most prominent component in the pattern.
While it is most often used for fishing trout, the Elk Hair Caddis is generally considered to be a searching type pattern. This is because it resembles the adult form of both caddisflies and stoneflies, thereby exerting a luring effect on a broad range of freshwater river fish. The Elk Hair Caddis has become the basis for many other innovations in Fly Fishing lures. Many of the lures based on the Elk Hair Caddis are more specialized for better results in a narrower range of situations but are less versatile.
Proving its versatility, the Elk Hair Caddis has been shown, for nearly 60 years, to be overall the most useful lure for Steelhead fishing.
Because the Steelhead is an anadromous form of the Rainbow Trout, some alterations to the Elk Hair Caddis will be needed when attempting to lure these fish. The size of the hook will need to be changed. The body could be vanilla, coarse bodied dubbing, furry foam, four strand floss, or sparkle braid. Deer hair may be substituted for elk hair if necessary though some experts say deer hair is inferior for imitating the Caddis fly.
It's a stretch to say that the drawbacks of the Elk Hair Caddis are really strong and noticeable weaknesses in this lure pattern. Fly fishermen will only begin to notice any real weakness in the pattern when fishing in streams that are unusual for one reason or another, or when fishing for Steelhead. The broad effectiveness of this fly lure pattern will support fishing in most scenarios. It is only in unique situations where straying from Troth's original pattern will be worthwhile.
It is generally only the most experienced fishermen and competitive sports fishermen who will stray from the original. For everyone else, the Elk Hair Caddis fly pattern is a reliable fly lure for fly fishermen of all experience levels and is a great pattern to learn with.