The Breadcrust is an old Colorado pattern developed by Ed Rolka. This fly is a bit obscure these days, as Ed has long retired from tying them commercially for the metro area shops. When Ed retired he turned the business over to South Platte Sage and commercial tyer, Pat Dorsey. Producing this fly was one of the keys that unlocked the doors to the industry for Pat, and the rest has become history!
The Breadcrust is really a pretty simple fly, but the devil is in the detailed preparation of the grouse tail feathers. Ruffed grouse tails have become a bit hard to find in recent years, but I have a line on where to get some these days (thanks, T.J.!).
My best guess at what the Breadcrust imitates would be a cased caddis larva. But as I’ve said before, I never worry about what the fish thought was on the end of my line, as long as he eats it! The Breadcrust falls squarely within this description and I’m not one to argue with happy fish.
Hook: TMC 3761 #10-20
Thread: 8/0 Brown
Body: Split and Stripped Ruffed Grouse Tail Feather
Underbody: Any Dubbing
Hackle: Grizzly Hen Neck
Ruffed grouse tail feather.
Detail of the backside of the tail feather. Note the groove running down the middle of the center quill.
Cut the butt end of the quill off and split the feather down the center of the quill from the base to the tip with a single edge razor blade. Be careful and go slowly. Following the groove is pretty easy with a sharp new blade.
The split feather should now look like this.
This is a close-up of the split quill from the cut side. Notice the pithy, white “marrow” in the quill. This gunk needs to be removed. Split several feathers and place them all in a cup of hot water to help soften the marrow so you can scrape it out.
Once the quills have soaked for an hour or so, run your thumbnail down the quill to scrape the softened pith from the feather, exposing the thin outside skin of the quill.
After you have removed all the pith, cut the feather fibers from the other side of the quill with your scissors. I tend to leave them a bit on the long side and trim them to their proper length after the body has been wrapped.
You should now have a feather quill that looks something like this.
Finally, start the thread on the hook and build a thread base from the index point to the bend. I usually go back and forth a couple times to really anchor the thread base. End with the thread hanging at the bend.
Tie the grouse feather in at the bend of the hook with the inside of the quill facing out. Be sure to firmly secure the feather to the shank with tight wraps.
Dub a football-shaped underbody from the bend to about two eye lengths back from the eye. Any type or color dubbing will work here, although I like to use Superfine dubbing as it is easy to compress and builds a taper nicely.
Cross-hatch the thread over the dubbing to tighten it down on the hook. The thread also compresses the dubbing forming a hard base to wrap the quill over later. End with the thread hanging at the front of the dubbed underbody.
Wrap the stripped grouse feather forward in tight, concentric wraps, butting the turns against one another. Don’t sweat the length of the barbs at this point, we’ll trim them in a second.
Continue wrapping the feather forward to the end of the dubbed underbody and tie it off with a couple tight turns of thread. Clip the excess grouse feather flush against the hook.
Now you can trim the stubble around the body into a short, bristly cone. I taper the fibers slightly toward the front of the hook.
Prep and tie in a grizzly hen neck feather at the front of the body with the inside of the feather toward the body of the fly.
Fold the hackle fibers to the back of the quill as shown, wet-fly style.
Wrap the hackle feather forward two or three turns and tie it off. Clip the tip of the hackle feather.
Sweep the hackle back along the fly body and build a smooth thread head to hold it in place.
The hackle ought to look about like this. Whip finish behind the eye and clip the thread.
Finished fly. This fly was tied with a lighter colored tail feather and has an overall grey tone. The next photo will show a darker fly, tied with a feather that was more brown in tone.
Brown feather Breadcrust, side view.
Breadcrust, top view