Scintilla Stick Caddis – Easy and Irresistible

Over the last several weeks of guiding, and fishing on lakes from Tasmania to Victoria’s central highlands, I’ve been reminded of two things: the need for a fast intercepting presentation (more about this next time) and the value of the most basic fly in my box.

Fly histories are a fraught topic. However, I can confidently say it was David Dodd who first showed me the Scintilla Stick Caddis, and I recall he in turn credited at least some of the features to Peter Hayes. Anyway, it’s about the simplest fly I tie – not only are the ‘parts’ very basic; it’s also neither fiddly nor tricky. Only the singeing takes a little practice, but once you get the hang of it, that too is easy.

The last several weeks have produced many fine fish on the Scintilla Stick Caddis, like this rainbow.

Just as well the Scintilla Stick Caddis is a breeze to tie, because I get through more of these than any other lake fly. From Great Lake to Tantangara, if there’s a lake anywhere in south-eastern Australia which doesn’t have stick caddis in it, I haven’t fished it. And they appear to be available to the trout all year. So they’re adaptable (they can tolerate wide ranges in water temperature and salinity) and it seems trout recognise the Scintilla Stick Caddis as food just about any time and everywhere.

The Scintilla Stick Caddis in its natural habitat at Hepburn Lagoon – one of dozens of lakes where it’s caught good trout.


To tie, all you’ll need is a regular nymph hook with a medium to long shank. Tie this fly in several sizes from 16 to 10, to allow for variation in the naturals. Next, you want dull-coloured thread (6/0 is a good diameter), some micro-chenille (yellow, orange or light green works), and some synthetic (or mostly synthetic) dubbing in light green through to dark brown. The variation in ‘body’ (case) colour allows for variation in naturals – see Steve Dunn’s Snowy Stick Caddis feature which we’ll publish at the end of next week.

I often use Scintilla dubbing (hence the fly name) but don’t despair if you haven’t got some, because many other synthetic dubbing types work. The key is that when singed, it ‘contracts’ to a fairly tidy – but not too tidy – finish, comparable to a real stick caddis case.

Speaking of singeing, this part is quite delicate, so I find it easiest to do with a lighter rather than matches. I even carry a lighter in my vest to tidy up Scintilla Stickies which have been roughed up by the trout.


First, tie the micro-chenille about halfway along the shank (this will help the tapered body later) and leave a generous tag at the eye which will suggest the grub poking out. Make the tag longer than you think you need, as you’ll lose a bit when singeing. The biggest fault I see with other angler’s attempts at this fly, is too little grub!

Next, dub on your dubbing, making the overall shape slightly thicker toward the hook eye.

Now you have the rough body and grub, whip finish. Singe the chenille ‘grub’ from above to create a dark head.

Finally, singe the body while holding the fly by the grub underneath. This will avoid accidentally singeing the grub further, which will wreck the appearance.

Because it’s so easy, now tie a couple of dozen: including bigger, smaller and a mix of body and head colours.

There will be days when the trout don’t seem to care about the details of your sticky, but others when they clearly do. Recently, I polaroided a 6 pound rainbow as it refused a dark pattern, then a light green pattern… but then it didn’t hesitate to take exactly the same light green pattern, except with an orange head! Real stick caddis don’t have orange heads, so who knows what that trout was thinking. However, it’s not the first time I’ve observed this response. Often, the reverse is true, and a more natural pale green or pale yellow head works best. Still, it pays to have variety on hand.

Sighted lake trout in bright conditions are a good candidate for the Scintilla Stick Caddis.

Fishing It

My favourite way to fish the Scintilla Stick Caddis is virtually inert under an indicator or dry fly. Any movement should be down to the subtle currents in the lake, with perhaps the tiniest twitch if you think a trout may pass the fly without noticing.

Option two is to figure-8 retrieve a pair of stick caddis, with about a metre between point fly and dropper. Always start by using two slightly different flies: one bigger, one smaller; one darker, one lighter, etc. Let the trout tell you which they prefer.

Option three is to add the stick caddis as part of a team of other flies; maybe on the dropper ahead of a ‘hunting’ bigger wet; or with a smaller wet like your favourite nymph or buzzer.

Fishing under an indicator along a weed-bed edge at Newlyn Reservoir near Ballarat.

Too Simple?

The simplicity of the Scintilla Stick Caddis can be a problem for anglers. Beginners look at me sadly when I tie one on, wondering when they’ll be worthy of being allowed to fish a decent fly. Meanwhile, some gun fly tiers see this pattern as beneath their dignity. It’s just too… basic!

Well, dismiss the Scintilla Stick Caddis at your peril. Its simplicity works because real stick caddis are so simple. There are few flies in my box that look so similar to the natural in the water – and a natural that virtually all lake trout recognise as food. Not only food, but food that’s nutritious and easy to catch. Watch a big brown at Wartook, Eucumbene or Little Pine swim over to a Scintilla Stick Caddis and casually inhale it without even slowing down, and you soon get the message.