I learned to fish like the kids in the great movie "A River Runs Through It". When I was 7 years old, my grandfather took me fishing for the first time. In France, where we lived. I was allowed to catch little baitfish. Some years later and with stronger arms, I caught my first trout and I remember it like yesterday. The rod was 4 meters long, made out of Bamboo and the bait was a Natural Mayfly (Ephemera Danica) which had to be handled as carefully as a snow-flake.
My first experiences of fly-fishing used an old split-cane rod of my grandfather and an even older line which had to be greased every five or ten casts! This was not a very efficient way to catch fish, but I learned a lot! In Switzerland, where I moved in 1978, I had my first contact with a cdc-fly. It was at a dinner among fishermen when my friend Bruno - who had poor eyesight - asked me to tie him a visible fly which floated nicely. Because I was very proud of that request and did not want to lose face I began a study of local cdc-flies. Those patterns used cdc-hackles, no wings and classical bodies made of silk or other materials. Worried, not wanting to copy those local flies, I developed a new concept of also tying the body with a cdc-feather: This product a perfect conical body, which floated even in riffles and rapids. Bruno and later many more fishermen in Europe, were very pleased with the simple but efficient new way to tie a fly. I have been a professional fly-tier since 1990 and today more and more anglers are convinced that those tiny and inconspicuous feathers are the best a fly fisherman can have wrapped around a hook: They are good for dry-flies, for emergers, for nymphs, for streamers and even for salmon flies or saltwater-patterns. I love them and think you will too!
Like the famous Swiss army-knife or the healthy muesli the fluffy CDC-Fly is a genuine product of Switzerland as well. CDC is the abbreviation of "Cul de canard" which is French for "Duck's ass". Not right at the backside, but on the top of the duck's tail is the preen-gland, which oils and waterproofs the aquatic bird. Around that gland are approximately Maximilien Joset two dozen small feathers - the cdc's. They are fluffy and due to their natural impregnation absorb very little water. The cdc-feathers give a natural "live-effect" which imitates the wings of many mayflies and other insects perfectly. In contrast to the barbs of a cock-hackle the cdc-hackles have very small kinked and twisted barbules that trap air and increase floatability. It is unknown who created the first cdc-patterns.
But in 1920 the Swiss fly-tyers Maximilien Joset in Courtfaivre and Charles Bickel in Vallorbe tied the first small series of simple cdc-patterns to fool the smart and suspicious trout and graylings of the chalk-streams in the Swiss Jura area. The body of those flies were made of raffia or thread. The flies had no wings and just a cdc-hackle instead of a cock-hackle turned around the hook-shank in the classical way. After local use for over 50 years in Switzerland, Marjan Fratnik from Slovenia found an important new way of using cdc-feathers in 1983. He used top parts of cdc-feathers to copy the shape of caddies-wings. The next big step in the evolution of cdc-patterns happened a few of years later in Germany. Gerhard Laible used just the barbs of cdc-feathers in a long dubbing loop
In 1985 Laible elongated the short cdc-feather that way and enabled the tyers to use the material in the same way as using long first grade hackles of a cock neck to make different kinds of wings. The ultimate step came in 1986 - again in Switzerland - when Marc Petitjean had the inspiration to use complete feathers for the body. This has several major advantages. First, the floatability of the flies increased dramatically and hackles are no longer as a "must". Second, the natural shape of the feather helps to create a conical body shape critical to overcoming the wariness of trout or grayling. Because of the floatability of these bodies the wings can be tied with remarkable resemblance to the natural flies!