Many readers will recognize the Cross-Dresser as having its roots in the venerable Griffith’s Gnat, and that’s exactly right. I typically carry both in my boxes. Here’s a quote about the fly, part of which can be found in the book, Modern Midges:
The Cross Dresser (Winged) is an extension of the venerable (and highly effective) Griffith’s Gnat. This pattern adds a shuck, a V-wing, and a body color that allows the fly to work well during many midge and mayfly hatches (that’s the cross-dresser part). Like many effective midge patterns, this fly is fairly minimal and impressionistic.
The illustration above shows the basic elements of the fly, including the “V-Wing” design. The trick with the V-Wing is to simply use one piece of material to make both wings (Z-lon, sparkle yarn, SST, etc. can all work). Just pull the material up under the hook as shown, and tie it down. One can tie it down (and add dubbing, etc.) in such a way that the wing(s) point more to the back, more to the front, or more straight-up. The wings can also be positoned more fore or aft on the hook shank. Experiment to find what you like.
Also keep in mind that this technique can be used to quickly create a parachute post, too (just tie it down and reenforce it so that the “V” becomes an “I”. This V-Wing technique is a simple trick that I learned a long time ago, but it’s one that I still use for many of my own “winged” patterns (as well as “cripples” and emergers).
The rest of fly is pretty simple, with a Z-lon, sparkle yarn or SST trailing shuck, a dubbed body (that uses a light olive and light gray 50/50 dubbing blend to mimic an array of midges and mayflies), and a palmered, dun-colored hackle, clipped on the bottom. Modify as necessary.
Here’s the instruction set for tying the fly:
1. Wrap the hook shank with thread (from front to back).
2. Tie in the trailing shuck (use as a full underbody to prevent a possible “lump” at the rear of the fly).
3. Tie in the hackle feather.
4. Apply a small amount of dubbing to thread and wrap body forward to wing area.
5. Tie in the wing, and add more dubbing to the thread.
6. Dub the wing area and then wrap the body forward to the head.
7. Palmer the hackle forward (take care going through the wing area) and tie off at the head.
8. Tie off the thread and apply any head cement, if you wish.
9. Trim the hackle off the bottom of fly.
10. Go fish!
Hook: TMC 101, 103BL, 104BL, or other brand equivalents.
Thread: 8/0 or smaller, color to approximately match body.
Shuck: SST, Z-lon, antron yarn or similar (dark sand is a good color).
Body: SuperDry, Super FIne, or silk dubbing, light olive/light gray blend (typical, but colors may vary).
Hackle: Dun or watery-dun dry-fly hackle, palmered and trimmed flat on bottom. Wing: SST, Z-lon, antron yarn or similar (medium gray is a good color), tied V-wing style.
Note: For dark midges or to go for a “silhouette” fly, try tying the fly all-black (except for the shuck).