The Dark Cahill Wet Fly
By Hugh Kelly

This month’s fly originated in the Catskills over a hundred years ago and is used as a mayfly imitation. There are four versions of this fly, light, dark, wet and dry. I use the dark wet version often; I think it is taken for a caddis fly as well.

Recipe for the Dark Cahill Wet Fly

Hook – Standard wet fly hook, 8-14
Thread – Black
Tail – Wood duck flank fibers
Body – Gray dubbing such as muskrat
Wing – Wood duck flank fibers
Hackle – Brown hen hackle

I use a wet fly hook that is heavy and sinks fast but you can use any hook you prefer. You’ll see versions using different colored thread and I’m sure they work, I just use black and it works fine. The original recipe called for an optional gold tinsel tag; I usually skip that on this fly. The tail is brown Wood duck flank. If you don’t have these, you can use mallard flank dyed brown. Mallard has a heavier barred pattern than Wood duck so use the smaller feathers if you use dyed mallard. Go sparse on the tail, less than 10 fibers. For the body, I use muskrat dubbing or even dark gray dubbing yarn. If you use muskrat fur, pull the black guard hairs out and just use the dark gray fur. You can use any dark gray fur you have.

The wing is the same material you used for the tail and it should extend beyond the hook bend to about halfway the length of the tail. The hackle is soft brown hackle tied either as a full hackle swept back in a traditional wet fly style or you can tie in a small clump beard style. I often use a beard style because it is faster and the fly catches fish. The hackle should extend just past the hook point. Hen hackle is best for wet flies; it gives better action and the fibers have a bit more bulk that soak up water. This lets the fly sink faster. This is a fly you want to twitch to the surface from a lower depth.

The Dark Cahill Wet is old school. We need more of that.

Hugh Kelly has fly fished and tied his own flies for over 40 years. He and his family live in Detroit where he ties flies, drinks Moxie and plans fishing trips. He can be reached at and he writes a fly tying blog at

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