My fly tying journey started almost 20 years ago. I had been playing with a fly rod to catch bass and panfish. I was not a trout fisherman. It was fun to tie up some Wooly Buggers, Clouser Minnows and Panfish Poppers. The more I tied, the more I enjoyed wrapping stuff around a hook to fool fish. After taking some tying classes at a local fly shop that were of course focused on trout flies, I was hooked.
As my good friend Craig always seems to remind me, I tend to be a little old school. I do not always embrace our current technology. When I started tying flies all of the information available to me was either in books or magazines. I am not sure if YouTube existed back then. If it did, I did not know what it was.
One of my go-to print media was Midwest Fly Fishing Magazine that was put out by the late Tom Helgeson. In each one of those editions there would be an article on fly tying by Dennis Potterout of Michigan. I would soak up everything he wrote like a sponge.
In one of those editions, he featured a pattern called the Opal X-Caddis and he talked about all the success he had with that fly and why you should fill your fly box with them (just like I am about to tell you!).
Based on that article, I tied up a bunch. Of course, since it’s kind of my thing, I had to make some changes to the original pattern. Not everyone agrees, but I always call my changes improvements. That’s how Mr. Potter’s original fly became my Improved Opal X-Caddis. (Thanks to my friend Mike Alwin for the clever name.)
The biggest change I made was to the head of the fly. Mr. Potter would just clip the butt ends of the deer hair wing like you would on a standard Elk Hair Caddis. I refined the head just a little by adding a touch of dubbing and 3 or 4 turns of brown hackle to finish the fly. So now it is improved! I almost always tie the Improved Opal X-Caddis on a size 14 hook, but I do size my hackle down to about a size 18 feather for the head.
Even if you don’t trust my opinion (hard to fathom, isn’t it?), you can believe Dennis Potter: This is a great fly pattern and one that you should have in your fly box this spring.
If you have any questions or comments, I always like to hear from you.
Hook: Size 14 dry fly hook
Thread: 14/0 dark brown
Shuck: Improved Amber Zelon
Abdomen: Opal Tinsel, size medium
Wing: Bleached Deer Hair
Thorax: Mahogany Brown Superfine Dubbing
Collar: Brown Hackle