fly tying

CDC Parachutes

I have a ton of CDC on my hands right now from the past duck hunting season. All this CDC has led to some experimenting, and lately I’ve been playing around with CDC dubbing loop hackle. I tied these two parachutes using a CDC fibers in a dubbing loop in place of the standard chicken hackle. It can be a little tricky to get the “hackle” to behave, but I’m pretty happy with the results. These guys should work pretty well on the flat water where the trout demand a little more realistic fly.

cdc parachute tied with a cdc dubbing loop hackle

Hook: #16 Mustad Signature Series fine wire dry fly hook
Thread: Olive 8/0 UNI
Tail: Lemon wood duck
Body: Gray “Adams” superfine dubbing
Post: Fibers from a brown wood duck breast feather
Hackle: Natural gray CDC fibers in a dubbing loop


Hook: #16-22 Mustad Signature Series dry
Thread: Olive 8/0 UNI
Tail: Barred mallard flank over cream, gray, or blue dun antron
Body: Olive micro tubing
Post: Cream or blue dun antron
Hackle: Natural gray CDC fibers in a dubbing loop
Thorax: Olive hare’s ear dub with a little bit of Ice Dub 


Tight Lines,




Tying Ice Flies for Winter Panfish

Tight lining has taken the panfish ice fishing scene by storm in the past few years, and for good reason. This highly productive technique utilizes ultra-quick sinking tungsten jigs in combination with realistic, imitative ice flies on the same line. I’ve been tying, testing, and tweaking the design of a few ice flies over the past two seasons with great results on the ice. Here are two of my most productive patterns for hardwater panfish.

Slab Spike

Hook: #12-16 heavy wire nymph hook
Bead:5/32″ brass bead
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Natural gray chickabou with one to two strands of gold flashabou on either side
Body: Brown micro tubing
Legs: Brown x-small or micro barred rubber legs
Thorax: Dubbing blend of your natural dubbing (hare’s ear, squirrel, etc.) and gray or olive UV Ice Dub
Get some hand-tied Slab Spikes in our shop!
The 'Gill Shrimp. the translucency of the ice perfectly mimics a fresh water shrimp.

The ‘Gill Shrimp. the translucency of the ice perfectly mimics a fresh water shrimp.

Hook: #12-16 heavy wire nymph hook
Bead/Eyes: 5/32″ brass bead or x-small black bead chain eyes
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Gray marabou with two or three strands of root beer Krystal flash
Body: Hare’s ear, gray UV Ice Dub, and gray/cream antron mix dubbing, picked out
Rib: Fine copper gold wire
Legs: Medium rubber


Spikes (mayfly nymphs) and scuds are a favorite food source for winter panfish. The Slab Spike, with its segmented body, rubber legs, and seductive chickabou tail, closely imitates a small mayfly nymph. The ‘Gill Shrimp is a good match for freshwater shrimp that live among the weed beds.

For me, the key trigger in ice flies is movement. Marabou, fur, dubbing, and feathers are all great ways to add movement to your flies, but my favorite materials are chickabou and small rubber legs. Chickabou is almost like a marabou feather, but it comes off the back of a chicken and has finer fibers that breathe, twitch, and quiver convincingly with the slightest lift of the rod tip. Another important factor to think about when tying ice flies is durability. Removing deeply inhaled bugs with pliers is the death of many small ice flies, so while a body material like pheasant tail might catch fish just fine, it won’t hold up as well as micro tubing and dubbing.

Pile of bluegills to 8″ on Gull Lake that fell for a #14 Slab Spike in an afternoon of fishing.

Winter panfish have a much slower metabolism than summer fish do, so that means they will be less aggressive and not as willing to attack a large, gaudy fly. Small sizes from #12 at the very largest down to a #16 is in order, and a sparsely tied fly with a skinny body will help with profile and sink rates. Again, micro tubing, dubbing, and thread bodies are my favorites for bodies. Flash is an essential ingredient to a good pattern, but use it sparingly. Too much flash or a large, overdressed fly can quickly put off big panfish. I usually tie my flies with a gold bead and one or two strands of flashabou on each side of the tail.

Ice flies are great for turning negative, cold front slabs into biters. I’ve watched many fish on my underwater camera shy away from the big, juicy waxie-tipped jig, then slowly tilt up and inhale the ice fly. Slab bluegills and crappies can get pretty finicky under the ice, and ice flies are sometimes the only way to hook mid-winter panfish.

Get some hand-tied Slab Spikes in our store.

Tight Lines,



The Simple Scud

Here is a quick little scud pattern to add to your trout box. Scuds are an important food source for trout in nutrient-rich spring creeks and tailwaters year- round. This fly fishes equally well in rivers and lakes. Drop it off a beadhead in an indicator rig or strip it in around the weed beds.

The simple scud uses just a few materials and is very easy to tie. For me, the simple scud is more of a style of fly than an exact pattern. Don’t be afraid to experiment and change it up. For this fly, I used a standard straight Mustad Signature Series Nymph hook (mostly because I don’t have any scud hooks:)), which works just fine. My favorite dubbing blend is a mix of hare’s ear, antron, and Ice Dub, but scud dub, Ice Dub, and antron are all good substitutions. The scruffier the better, so don’t be afraid to aggressively pick out the body. The shellback is nothing fancy, just a strip cut from a clear plastic sandwich bag, but your favorite scud back material will work as well. Tie these guys down to a size 18 or 20.

Hook: #12-20 Mustad Signature Series nymph hook. You could also use a standard curved scud hook.
Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
Body: Mix of equal parts gray ice dub, cream antron, and dark hare’s ear dubbing (or your favorite scud dubbing), picked out.
Shellback: Plastic sandwich bag strip
Rib: 6X tippet

A pink variation

This is the same fly but with pink Hareline Scud Dub for the body. Change up the color for your local waters.

Tight Lines,


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from 3 Brothers Flies!

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child an will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us).” –Isaiah 7:14

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do no be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'” –Luke 2:8-11

Tight lines and thanks for reading!

Smoky Mountains Fly Tying Jam

The first couple days of our trip out to the Smokies in late October were shut out due to some rainy, cold conditions. The hurricane pushed a huge cold front through the mountains, dumping over three feet of snow in the higher elevations! Newfound Gap Road, which cuts through the mountains, was closed for most of the first two days. All that was left to do fishing-wise was to sit down and crank out a bunch of flies. That’s exactly what we did.

First on the menu were some tungsten hare and coppers tied with lemon wood duck flank from a wood duck I shot in September. I always keep a good stock of these in my box, as they work well pretty much anywhere and are quick and easy to tie. The tungsten version worked great to get down to the fish in the cold.

Next, I whipped up a few prince nymph variations, kind of like a psycho prince with some ice dub on the thorax.

Hook: #14 Mustad Signature Series Standard Nymph hook
Bead: 3/32 gold copper
Thread: 8/0 black UNI
Tail: Brown goose biots
Abdomen: Peacock herl
Rib: Copper wire
Thorax: 50/50 mix of olive hare’s ear and black ice dub
Wing: White Goose Biots

Tellico nymphs, along with other yellow flies, seem to be quite popular out there. The Tellico is an old fly that was developed somewhere around the Smokies. Here is my version of the classic, again with some lemon wood duck. I bet a pink version would work well in the Driftless….

Hook: #14 Mustad Signature Series Standard Nymph hook
Bead: 3/32 gold copper bead
Thread: 8/0 black UNI
Tail: Lemon wood duck flank
Abdomen: Yellow yarn (I used yellow GSP on this one)
Rib: Copper wire
Shellback: Pheasant tail fibers
Thorax: Peacock herl
Hackle: Grey hen

After fishing a bit and finding fish taking small blue winged olive nymphs, I started fishing a small brown nymph I call the Chocolate Greedo, a brown version of my Greedo BWO. I caught a beautiful 17″ wild rainbow on its first time out. We caught a lot of our trout that week on this fly.

Hook: #20 dry fly hook
Bead: Small (5/64) gold copper
Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
Tail: Brown duck flank
Abdomen: Brown tying thread
Rib: Fine copper wire
Wing Bud: Brown goose biot, clipped to half the length of the abdomen
Thorax: Mix of hare’s ear and black superfine dubbing

Also, check out the fly box, where we post fly patterns that we tie and fish, along with a few step-by-steps.

Tight Lines,



DIY Fly Fishing: How to find CDC feathers on a duck

Duck season is in full swing in many parts of the country right now. Hunting has slowed down here in Minnesota, but I had a pretty good season and bagged a couple ducks. A nice collection of CDC from mallards, wood duck, and teal is sitting on my tying bench, ready for the long winter. CDC is pretty quick and easy to grab off a bird, and is an outstanding feather for dry flies.

Cul De Canard (or CDC) is one of the best feathers on a duck for fly tiers. It is found near the duck’s preen (urogypial) gland, which releases oils that a duck uses to help waterproof his feathers. Contrary to popular belief, CDC gets its great natural flotation properties primarily from the structure of the feather, not the oils. Micro-barbules extend from the fibers of the CDC feather, increasing surface area and trapping tiny air bubbles when on the water. This makes it a great material for tying flies that float well but hang low in the surface film.

Harvesting CDC

CDC is relatively easy to find on a duck. The preen gland is on the lower back just above the tail feathers. Feel around just above the base of the tail feathers, where you will find a bump. That is the preen gland. Lift up the cover feathers and there you go, CDC. Pluck all the feathers right around the gland, including the oily feathers on the bump, stopping when the feathers become just regular fuzzy down. Put them into a plastic bag, where the oils will distribute throughout the feathers. A mature mallard will usually yield roughly sixty or seventy plus useable feathers up to two inches long. Any waterfowl that ends up in your bag at the end of the hunt will be good for CDC. I favor the smaller CDC from a wood duck, especially for tiny flies that require a thinner feather shaft. Geese also have some great CDC, with some giant feathers up to three inches long that are great for larger flies.

CDC! Pluck all the feathers right around the preen gland

It’s probably a good idea to freeze the feathers to get any critters out before putting them on the shelf.  A cycle of one week in, a few days out, and another week or two in the freezer should remove any troublesome bugs. Any cold resistant eggs that survived the first session will hatch in the break, and then die in the next freeze. I have been doing this with all my fur and feathers that I harvest for a couple years now, and I haven’t had any problems with bugs.

Uses of CDC

CDC, one of my favorite materials for tying dry flies, is very versatile. The flowing fibers of CDC on a dry fly might suggest a trailing shuck, a crippled wing, or simply movement. It adds a nice trigger and floats like a cork. CDC is a great material for fooling picky trout on flat water. Feathers from a wild bird are almost always better than what you can get commercially. There is much more variety in feather types, and the quality is usually quite good.

CDC Comparadun- One of my favorite CDC flies is a comparadun-style BWO or midge, which works very well in the tail of pools when trout are slurping tiny midges. The comparadun-style wing has a great silhouette and floats fairly well.

Emergers- A down-wing is deadly on emergers (F-Fly), producing a very life-like fly that floats low in the surface film. CDC makes a great wing on an RS-2 style fly, adding some motion and life. Stick it in a dubbing loop and wrap it like hackle on a parachute to create an excellent emerger.

Bodies- You can also wrap it as a body, such as in Hans Weilenmann’s CDC and Elk. The fibers make a good dubbing, too.

Nymphs- One application that is gaining popularity and often overlooked is using CDC on nymphs. Once the feathers get thoroughly wet and the barbules collapse, it produces a very tantalizing motion to the fish in the water. It’s great for a soft hackle collar on nymphs, or to add some motion to a wing.

Rainbow trout from Missouri’s Lake Taneycomo that took a tiny #20 olive CDC Comparadun

I should also add that floatant is usually a bad idea with CDC flies. The paste or liquid stuff collapses the barbules on the feather, leaving it unable to trap air. If the fly starts to sink, just dry out the fibers really well and false cast a few times. CDC is usually best in slower water, but if you must add floatant for fishing broken riffle water, use a powder like Frogg’s Fanny or something similar. In most situations, the feathers float very well without floatant and rarely need it, and a good drying is all you need to get it floating again.

So, next time you bag a few ducks, or you have a friend that hunts, grab some CDC. It just might become a standard in your dry flies. A supply of CDC from about two mallards should easily last you the winter of tying.

Tight Lines,


The DIY Fly Fishing Series

We make a lot of our gear here at 3 Brothers Flies. We tie our own flies, build fly tying tools, harvest and preserve fly tying materials, and tie our own leaders. It is common to over-analyze fly fishing and gear. Sometimes simpler is better. This DIY fly fishing series shows that a lot of fly fishing gear can be built by yourself for very little money and time.


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