Fly Fishing with Beadhead Caddis

Complete Guide to Fly Fishing with the Beaded Caddis Nymph (Plus Tying Instructions)

The deadly caddis nymph. I’m not sure there are many other patterns with such a reputation for catching fish and many varieties of fish at that.

This simple yet deadly pattern has been around for a long time with little to no changes, and I would say it is one of the staple patterns for all trout anglers of past and present.

These buggy-looking patterns can be tied in many sizes and colors, with greens being the most popular color.

I always fish a green caddis on my local waters, our caddis larvae tends to show a little later in the year, but they are still such a prominent food source for the trout you can’t not have them in your fly box.

In the below article, we will go through the how, when, and where to fish these patterns to achieve the best results.

Beadhead caddis fly pattern
Beadhead caddis fly pattern

Why the Beaded Caddis Nymph is Great

As we enter the spring period, caddis spaces in our fly boxes need to start being filled. Caddis larvae is one of the main types of food for trout, well, any fish really. The fact that the caddis is found in most streams and running fresh waters around the world makes it a very popular food source.

The second thing is that the caddis life cycle runs from spring to late fall, and this makes the caddis one of the most common foods for trout and other fish species over an extended period.

I also like that the caddis nymph pattern, when tied in darker, smaller sizes, they can also imitate a midge nymph. I find this very attractive as midges are probably the most commonly found species of insect in most bodies of water worldwide.

The pattern can be fished on a dry dropper setup, as part of a euro nymph rig, or as a single Spanish-style method. The latter is a great way to fish the pattern over a rocky bottom in relatively shallow water. If you are new to the world of single nymphing, then a tiny strike indicator or dry fly will help you read the eats and water currents.

A Little information on the Beaded Caddis Nymph

What’s interesting to note is that the caddis nymph doesn’t have a nymph stage in its lifecycle. It is more commonly referred to as a larvae which becomes a pupa, then an adult. Closely related to the moth, the caddis fly emerges from a case built by the larva for the pupa to emerge from. Well, most species do.

The caddis fly is a prominent species for trout and many other species of fish. Three types of caddis flies can be found in various water systems.

The Case building caddis– this species has larvae that build a casing for the pupa.

The Web building caddis– In this species the larva has a small spider web-like construction.

The Free Living caddis– this species hasn’t got a shell or casing but rather hangs onto rocks with its claw-like hooks on the abdomen. This species is also the caddis that most anglers will learn to spot first. Identified by its green, and brown abdomen and black head. It is these larvae that most of our fly patterns imitate.

Whichever caddis is in your waters, be assured that the fish will feed on all stages of its life cycle. The larvae stage is the longest stage, and thus it’s best to always start with this stage of imitation. I myself know that certain stretches of my local waters have these larvae, and a small size #16 beaded caddis nymph in light green is very deadly.

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What Fish Does a Beaded Caddis Nymph Catch?

Taking into consideration that the caddis fly is found in many bodies of water throughout the states and the rest of the world, it is easy to say that the caddis can catch most fish species where it is a constant food source.

Fish such as trout, grayling, and yellowfish all feed on them. Large grass carp are also known for eating tiny caddis larvae. My personal best grass carp was caught on a size #18 caddis nymph. It was such a fight, one that I had no control over from start to finish, a basic run-down stream until the fish tired out. What a fish and memory!

The beaded nymph is a great pattern to have in the fly box. It is always a great pattern that will produce a good few fish, trout, and anything else.

How to Setup a Beaded Caddis Nymph

The setup used to fish a beaded caddis correctly doesn’t have to be complicated. I would recommend fishing a 9’ or 10’ rod with your standard reel and floating line setup. If you are a euro nymph purist, then an extended 20’ mono leader will work well for you. If you fish a variety of methods, then the 10ft tapered leader will be just fine.

Nymphing with Indicators Setting Up a Fly Rod
Nymphing with Indicators Setting Up a Fly Rod

Tippets and lengths will always depend on the size of flies, depth, and flow of the water that you will be fishing. The faster and deeper the water, the larger the flies. The extra weighted patterns will cut through the water column and get to the bottom.

Remember that the caddis larvae cling to the bottom of the riverbed either in a chamber or with its small claw-type hooks cling to rocks. This means that you generally fish the caddis on the bottom and thus need to get down there fast, especially in faster water.

As mentioned before, the larger hooks of a classic caddis hook are rather thick, and with the thinner tippet sizes, the knot won’t seat itself too well and may slip. I have recommended the Rapala Knot for this problem.

PRO TIP- Fishing the beaded caddis as a dry dropper rig ‘truck and trailer’ style is a very effective way to catch fish. The dry will allow you to detect even the subtle takes.

What Does the Beaded Caddis Nymph Represent

This is an easy one. The beaded caddis nymph imitates the three types of caddis larvae we find in our waters. The larvae are the longest stage of the lifecycle, and this is what we imitate with the beaded nymph.

Beaded Caddis Nymph Favorite Size and Color

These are my top three caddis patterns

Electric Caddis Tungsten
Caddis Beaded Pupa
CZ Caddis
  1. Electric Caddis Tungsten– this is a great general pattern to start with. I like to have this pattern in size #16 with a 3mm and 2.5mm bead option.
  2. Caddis Beaded Pupa– A great pattern to fish if you know you have the free-living caddis in the water system. Best fished in sizes #16 and #14.
  3. CZ Caddis– This is my go-to change if the Caddis pupa isn’t working. I find that the hotspot orange works really well in the faster, dirtier water.

Guide Pro Tip – always carry a few caddis nymphs without a bead. This unweight version will often get an eat when the going is tough.

Where to Buy Beaded Caddis Nymph

Where you buy your flies from is completely up to you. I tie my own, and if you do as well, then great. If you need to buy some then online from Umpqua is great, or even better to support your local fly shop if you have one.

How to Tie Beaded Caddis Nymph

Materials Needed:

  • Hook: Size 12 Wet Nymph Hook
  • Bead: 1/8” Gold Cyclops Bead
  • Thread: 8/0 Black
  • Body: Caddis Green Ice Dub
  • Thorax: Hare’s Mask

Download a FREE PDF with a high resolution picture and the materials list 👉 Beadhead Caddis Fly Tying Materials

  1. Slip the bead onto the hook.
  2. Secure in the vise.
  3. Wrap a thread base from behind the bead backward to the bend of the hook shank.
  4. Spend some time creating a thread body taper, ending at hook bend again.
  5. Create a dubbing noodle and wrap it forward until behind the bead.
  6. Wax your thread lightly and spin some hares mask onto the thread.
  7. Make two tight wraps creating the collar of the pattern.
  8. Whip finish.
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One Last Cast with the Beaded Caddis Nymph

There is no doubt that the beaded caddis is a good fly to fish. If you see the right signs in the water system, it is a no-brainer to fish it first.

The pattern also makes for a welcome first change and has often yielded great results when nothing else was working. I personally think that the lumo green body can also be a trigger of sorts for the fish.

Whatever it is, these nymphs work well and should always be one of your top fly choices.

Tight Lines!

Kyle Knight writer Guide Recommended

Kyle Knight

Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.


  • A special thanks to the folks at Umpqua for fly picture use. World’s Best Flies – UMPQUA
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