Beginner’s Fly Tying: Cicada (Magicicada cassini)

View our instructional video for tying this fly. This video includes several chapter markers so you can easily jump to the section you wish to view — visit our YouTube channel to easily jump to the chapter of your choice. Written instructions for each fly are presented below.

The fly pattern chosen for the April Beginner’s fly tying is an imitation of a six-legged insect, i.e. a cicada. Why did we choose this pattern? For two reasons. First because we fly fishers are about to witness one of nature’s ‘miracles’ which only happens every 17 years, specifically in this region of our country. The last big cicada hatch in our region of the United States was in 2004. And for those of us who had the opportunity to fish the cicada hatch then, it is an event forever etched in our fly fisher’s memory.

Second is that tying a cicada imitation provides the Beginner’s class with skills which can easily be applied to tying other artificial flies which mimic terrestrial insects (e.g. beetles, grasshoppers). If you are not familiar with this general term, terrestrials are those insects which live their entire lifecycle on land as compared to aquatic insects which live the majority of their lifecycle in the water. To learn more about the biology of a cicada, here is an overview I wrote for the April 2021 Streamlines.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Tying the Cicada


  • Size 6 or 8, 4x long streamer hook or 2x long wet fly hook
  • 6/0 black or brown thread
  • Orange colored chenille (size medium) or orange yarn
  • 2mm craft foam (colors range from black, brown, tan)
  • Rubber legs, preferably orange/black or orange/brown
  • Orange dyed deer hair
  • Crystal flash (preferably orange or pearl)
  • Eyes – Bead chain or plastic chain – optional
  • Super glue – optional

Tying Steps

  1. After pinching down the hook barb place the hook in vise.
  2. Start thread immediately behind the eye and wrap back to the start of the hook bend and then return to the front of the hook where the thread wrap started.
  3. Scrape off one end of a 2” piece of chenille and secure the exposed tip with the tying thread.
  4. Once the chenille is in place advance the thread to the rear of the hook, stopping at the hook bend. Wrap the chenille around the shank to the rear where the thread is hanging and secure the chenille in this location with several thread wraps and clip off the excess.
  5. Cut a section of craft foam approximately 2 ½” long and the width of the hook gap. Shape one end of the foam to a very blunt point or rounded tip.
  6. The tying thread should be hanging immediately above the hook barb. Then hold the foam on the top of the hook such that the blunt point (or rounded) tip is to the rear of the hook and extending approximately ¼” beyond the bend of the hook.
  7. Make one or two loose wraps of thread around the foam and hook, with each wrap pulling the thread directly down toward the tying bench. Then make several more tight wraps to secure the foam at this point. (Note: If you do not apply downward pressure with the thread on the foam it will tend to move the foam piece to the far side of the hook).
  8. Lift the loose end of the foam up and make several broad thread wraps forward stopping about ¼” behind the hook eye. Leave the thread hang there and apply a small amount of cement (i.e. super glue) to the top of the chenille body, do this sparingly.
  9. Fold the loose end of the foam down on the top of the fly body and secure it with several thread wraps at this location. (The glue should secure the foam to the chenille abdomen). Make at least three wraps of thread at this location.
  10.  Select approximately 6 full length pieces of crystal flash. Fold the strands in half and cut them such that there are now 12, ½-length pieces. Hold this crystal flash ‘bundle’ on top of the tying thread). Then make ~ 2 thread wraps to secure the crystal flash on top of the foam. Fold the forward portion of the crystal flash to the rear and secure it with several thread wraps. Clip any fibers of the crystal flash off so that none extend beyond the end of the foam. (A drop of cement on the top of the thread holding the crystal flash, will help hold it in place).
  11. Select a bundle (approximately diameter of a lead pencil) of deer hair and stack it (tips down in the stacker). Remove the deer hair bundle and trim the blunt ends even. (Be sure to remove any of the under hair from the bundle before proceeding).
  12. Hold the hair bundle such that the thin tips are approximately the length of the foam body and make several thread wraps around the foam and deer hair bundle. (Try to hold the tip end of the bundle with the left hand while making 4-6 thread wraps over the bundle with each successive wrap tightening more and pulling the thread down toward the tying table).
  13. Leave the thread hanging at this point and trim the butt ends with a taper leaving approximately 1/8-1/4” forward of the wing tying point. (If you are inserting artificial eyes on your fly, make several thread wraps forward toward the eye of the hook and tie in the small section of artificial eyes with several X wraps and return the thread to where the wing is secured).
  14. Fold the foam which is facing back toward the rear of the fly covering over the artificial eyes. Secure the foam (which is now facing toward the rear) at the location where the wing was initially tied in, with several thread wraps.
  15. Tie in one pair of rubber legs on each side of the fly at the location where the wing was secured. After making several thread wraps to secure the legs, whip finish or half hitch finish the fly immediately behind the hook eye.
  16. Trim the legs as desired, and apply a drop of head cement to the thread wraps. 
  17. At this point several small markings can be made with a marker pen to ‘dot’ the abdomen.   

*Being that 2021 is the year of the brood X cicada hatch in the middle-Atlantic States. I chose this cicada pattern for the PVFF Beginner’s Fly Tying. In tying the fly, I have made several minor changes to the cicada pattern which Tommy Marks (long time PVFF club member) who introduced the pattern to me during the brood X hatch 17 years ago).

By Don Fine