Clown Shoe Caddis – Jay Zimmerman

I was thinking about caddis patterns today because I was reading about a very old pattern. It was a caddis that was born in the Catskills that I’ll say more about another day. Then I began to think of modern day caddis patterns and thought of one that has become popular and has an unforgettable look, the Clown Shoe Caddis created by Jay Zimmerman. Here is Jay showing us how to tie this beauty and some words that Jay included with the video.

If you missed my interview with Jay, you can find it here:


It is a super buoyant, highly visible and easy to tie fly commonly used as a mule to carry large dropper nymphs. Fly fishing guides love this fly as it is very easy for half-blind clients to see!

The development of this fly began with the frustration over the inability to find a decent work horse dry fly to act as a mule for a couple heavy dropper nymphs in rough water. Foam bodied hopper patterns are too big to work well all year, elk hair caddis always seem to find a reason to sink and stimulators have a knack for riding sideways and then falling apart after the third trout eats it.

The low-slung abdomen of this dry fly forces it to ride correctly every timeeven when rigged without a dropper.

This fly is exceptionally buoyant dry fly, I have found it often does not need any Gink and when it does, only once an hour to keep it riding high. This is a result of two ingredients; one is the proportionally gigantic clump of elk hair as a wing, and two; the McFly Foam post at the top (almost impossible to sink!)

With distinctive clump of fluorescent cerise McFly Foam the Clown Shoe is by far the most visible caddis dry available. Over the last five years I have tested every imaginable color of McFly Foam post (on friends, family, fellow guides, clients and half-blind strangers on the river) and have found that none of the colors, even the most gaudy, have any baring on the effectiveness of the fly but the fluorescent cerise was the one color that the most diverse group of people could always see on the water with odd light conditions.

I have also extensively tested the durability of the Clown Shoe and can say with confidence that, if tied correctly, an individual fly can land over 100 trout and still be quite fishable!

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