The Light Cahill is a classic Catskill dry fly, one of the most popular dries to use when cream-colored mayflies are hatching. It is slightly more complicated than the Blue-Wing Olive, in that it features upright wings of wood duck flank feathers. Handling these feathers is one of the toughest accomplishments in dry fly tying, but a lot of patterns call for this kind of wing. A lot of problems with wood duck wings stem from material preparation and selection, so pay close attention to steps 2 and 3, to a size 12 dry fly hook.
Step 1: Select and tie in a bunch of cream or light ginger hackle fibers to a size 12 dry fly hook for tails, exactly as you did for the
Blue-Wing Olive. Advance the thread to a point about 1/4 of a hook shank length behind the eye.
Step 2: Select a wood duck flank feather, or mallard feather dyed to match wood duck, in which there are nicely formed, even tips distributed equally around both sides of the stem. At each side of the feather, you'll see where the nice even ends grade into soft, webby fibers. Strip the webby fibers away. Come down about 3/4 to 1/2" from the top of the feather, and with the very tip of your scissors, snip out the center stem. Now work the feather around in your hand, folding the two sides together, until all the ends line up. Come down about 1'' from the tips and snip the rest of the feather off.
Step 3: Measure the clump of wood duck feathers against the hook shank — one shank length, including the fine untrimmed ends should extend beyond your thumb and forefinger. Hold the feathers just above the top of the hook shank, extending over the eye of the fly, and tie them in with the pinch method. Repeat for 3 or 4 pinches. Trim the butt ends, beyond the windings, on an angle and wind the thread back over the butt ends and then back in front of the wing. Step 4: Pull the wing fibers straight upright and wind some tight turns of thread directly in front of them. 8 or 10 turns should do it — let go of the wing and see if it stays in place. If not, raise it up and take a few more turns.
Step 5: Using a dubbing needle or the point of your scissors, split the fibers into two equal bunches. Pull each bunch off to one side. Wind the thread in a figure-8 motion between them by crossing over the top of the hook to the back of the far wing, underneath the hook, and back between the wings on top of the hook. The fibers should be equally split into two wings.
Step 6: Wind once around the base of each wing to keep the fibers in place: holding the far wing, wind around the hook in front of the wing, carefully once around the base of the far wing in a clockwise direction, underneath the hook (keep very light pressure on the thread), then grab the near wing and go clockwise around the base of it (this is the tricky part, keep very light pressure on the thread), then take a complete turn around the shank in front of the wing. Now let go of the near wing. You should be left with two neatly cocked wings. Step 7: Run the thread back to the bend of the hook and dub a thin fur body of cream fox fur (follow directions for the Blue-Wing Olive previously). Stop the body a little more than 1/16" behind the wings.
Step 8: Tie in two cream or light ginger dry fly hackles behind the wing. Prepare and tie them in exactly as for the Blue-Wing Olive. Trim the butt ends of the hackles just behind the wing and wind them forward, with about equal turns behind and in front of the wing. Don't wind the hackles between the wings, just make a turn behind the wings and then in front as you pass by them. The first hackle should be tied mostly behind the wing, with 2 or 3 turns in front; then the second hackle should be spiraled quickly through the hackle behind the wings and concentrated in front of them. Tie off the hackles, whip finish, and apply head cement as for the Blue-Wing Olive.
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