Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Adaptation of new materials to old ideas can sometimes foster simplicity in tying but also produce effective flies. The CDL BB is such a fly. Part Clouser, part bottom bouncer, the CDL BB takes advantage of a new hook, the 523 Firehole Stick heavy jig hook from Firehole Outdoors and the ever increasing variety of Coq de Leon rooster and hen saddles coming out of the Whiting Farms. The pattern is desperately simple:

With the hook in your vise angled so that the apex of the bend is at the top, start thread wraps just behind the hook eye. Make multiple wraps just behind the apex of the bend to create a thread bump. Move the thread in front of the apex and create another thread bump. Place the dumbbell eyes between the bumps and secure with figure eight wraps. Finish the wraps with the thread approximately 1/16” -1/8” behind the eyes. Select two or three strands of flash and secure the middle of the flash length with several wraps. Move the thread in front of the eyes. Draw both ends of the flash over the eyes and secure with a couple of wraps. Move the thread behind the eyes. Draw the flash back over the eyes and secure with wraps just behind the eyes. Move the thread in front of the eyes. Trim flash to desired length. Douse the wraps with head cement.

Rotate the fly in the vise so that the eyes are at the bottom. Select two pair of CDL hackle. Trim to desired length leaving about ¼” of bare hackle stem. Lay one pair concave side in on underside of the eyes and secure with wraps. Repeat with the second pair. The hackle may tend to twist but can be secured straight with one or two wraps around the hackle stems just behind the eyes. Finish wraps with the thread in front of the eyes.

Select a small, thin clump of Arctic Fox or Finn Raccoon fur and trim the butts to length with a clean 90 degree cut. Tie in the fur clump just behind the hook eye and secure with wraps back to the eyes. Finish the head with wraps and secure with half hitches and head cement.

The CDL BB is clearly a baitfish pattern designed to be fished along or near the bottom of the water column. The jig style hook keeps the hook point away from snags. CDL rooster cape feathers display a subtle mottling, a translucent narrow profile and prominently darker hackle stem that mimics typical baitfish morphology. CDL hen hackles are somewhat denser and create a wider profile.

Although any attempt to get into the mind of a fish seems to be a waste of brain cells, this pattern performs in a manner that reminded me of experiences I had in my home waters in Alabama. In a local reservoir with relatively clear water, we’d take snorkel gear with us when fishing and take a break in the water during the heat of the day. In areas where the bottom was gravelly, we’d see tiny fish head standing in the gravel searching for food. They were most likely some species of Killfish as they displayed mottled or banded markings. The most memorable aspect of these fish was their translucence. They were nearly invisible when not moving. One can only imagine a predator fish sucking these up off the bottom. The CDL BB replicates this translucence, mottling and head standing behavior.

This is a versatile pattern that can be adapted to just about any freshwater or inshore saltwater species. With at least eighteen colors available in CDL rooster capes and a relatively infinite availability of flash and fur colors, the pattern can be tied to meet just about any baitfish need. Additionally, on average CDL rooster capes are half the price of traditional rooster capes.


  1. Isn’t that tied brass backwards? Or am I missing something? In nature, dark on top, light on bottom,especially with baitfish. Please advise. Thank You.

    1. Although you are technically correct, I would agree with MV below and say functionally incorrect. I just spent the day on a local river where the trout are so intelligent they eat pink grasshoppers in the middle of a trico hatch, slam Mylar bodied buggers and eat pink headed nymphs. Indeed the color relationship may be “brass backwards” but I don’t think the fish mind. While I was in Europe in the USAF I had a guy that worked for me refuse to eat mash potatoes that had lumps in it and he didn’t like any of his food touching other food on the plate. He was an obsessively picky eater. The average wild trout, not so much.

      1. Yep. Trout in my home waters like pink hoppers too. Why? Well I sum that up to a trout’s eye functions different than a humans and they definitely see color differently! Definitely not a measure of having “smarts” or intelligence. You see pink. What do they see? But a dark color is a dark shade and a light color is light shade. Plain and simple. So no, this isn’t a “technicality” not in the least. Flash attracts fish but isn’t a “color or shade” Which brings us back to nature. Nature’s rule is dark shade is on top and light shade on the bottom, especially when dealing with bait fish . One caveat, this doesn’t take into account equilibrium or a wounded bait fish so if any explanation is valid as to why this pattern is tied upside down… that would be it.

  2. Paaul it may be that fish looking for an easy meal will home in on baitfish whose equilibrium isn’t working. As you suggest, I tend to tie my own streamers light (generally white or cream) color down, but maybe the opposite draws strikes for its own reasons. Fish have brains the size of a small pistachio, after all, so who knows what they surmise when they see a color pattern? If my brain ever grows to that size, then I’ll know.

    I do like Coq de Leo feathers.

    – Mike

  3. When I saw Mike C.’s beautiful fly, I had the same immediate reaction. Of course it will fish “upside-down.” Mike V.’s analysis is quite logical. Distressed minnows often lose equilibrium and show their light undersides, which can be a trigger for predators. My theory is that positive triggers in fly patterns that elicit fish to strike only need to be present, not necessarily in a configuration that seems logical to humans. By tying the fly with the wing on the inside of the hook bend the wing would conceal the hook–if you’re one of those people who thinks this matters. Some things we tyers do with our fly designs are to catch fish, some are for our own sense of aesthetics. It’s purely a personal choice. However, just my own opinion, I’d tie this pattern the other way around.

    1. Thanks Mary. That makes two of us. I can’t help but comment on Mike V’s assessment of a trout seeing a pink hopper or nymph for that matter and eating it, therefore tying it to “smarts” or intelligence. A trout’s eyes work different that than of a human. What we see as pink they may see as a totally different color! They still see shades, and in nature, especially bait fish, it is dark shade on top and light on bottom. The equilibrium or distressed bait fish is the only plausible and logical conclusion to tying this pattern…Upside Down!

  4. I’ve gone to some trouble the last few years to come up with patterns that fish “belly to bottom,” but that effort has always been to control the orientation of the hook point–I’ve wanted to make streamers and crawdads that are snag-resistant. I’ve tied them light-color-down up to now, but this has been a good thread here and I might try some with the ligh color upward, or sideways, as a test. If nothing else it’d be a fun experiment and could add to our lore.

    Predators do take advantage of the incapacitated and the injured. From watchig fish in large aquariums I know there’s a whole “language of movement” they know and we don’t–prey can swim relatively close to predator because both can detect the intentions and wariness of the other. I believe they can detect that by how each other move. One advantage we have is that our streamers don’t know that “language,” and so they swim along like a doofus just begging to be attacked. If additionally they looked somewhat compromised with a belly-up posture, it stands to reason that more strikes count be the result.

    It’s all conjecture, but I remind myself that conjecture itself is fun and that tantalizing theories have been part of fly fishing sice fly fishing began.

    But sorry, I draw the line at pink. Not going there. Instead I’ll try a “light fuschia.”

    – Mike

    PS. When my daughter was six she said, “Daddy, my favorite color is no longer Pink.” “Oh? What is it now?” I asked. She replied, “Now it’s Hot Pink.”

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