When all the stars line-up and you’re witnessing a caddis hatch stop everything and watch what’s going on. Often there will be hundreds of caddis floating pretty as can be on the surface going unnoticed and untouched by lots of fish watching as well. Spot one caddis amongst all the others that is struggling and bouncing on the surface as it tries to take to flight and you’ll probably see it singled out and get eaten. Dead drift your fly over that fish and it will probably ignore it. Use this skittering trick and you’ll fool that fish every time.
When major caddis hatches begin everything changes. The perfect drag-free drift required during mayfly season becomes much less important. Caddis actually hatch and become adults subsurface. Like magic they are airborne immediately after they are above the surface. But there are lots of malfunctions during the process and many are unable to take to flight and bounce about on the surface in an attempt to get airborne. Fish often key in on this component of any caddis hatch.
So now at the end of your perfect drag free drift and your fly hasn’t been touched try skipping it back upriver a few feet then dead drift it back over that same water.
As your bug skips upstream it will get the attention of a fish eager for a morsel, then as it drifts back over the same water that same fish will rocket to the surface and pick it off before it gets away. There are lots of days during caddis season this kind of approach is the answer to fooling fussy fish. Skittering caddis about fools fish when nothing else will and needs to be in your bag of trick.
To get the most out of your skip be sure to treat your bug properly with floatant before you toss it on the water. We like to use Loon Aquel or any similar silicone gel. Put a tiny bit on your index finger and rub it with your thumb, which liquefies the silicone. Now knead it into your caddis. When you’re done your fly should look like it has nothing on it. Appling too much silicone defeats the purpose of simply waterproofing elk hair and feathers. When you’re done treating your bug slide the first few feet of your leader between your thumb and forefinger and it too will float nicely on the surface film so your fly doesn’t get pulled under when you flit it around.
Now make your cast, mend, and dead drift the caddis while feeding slack line until you have no more line to feed. As soon as your fly begins to drag slowly lift the tip of your rod up about three feet skipping your fly back upstream. Now drop your rod tip back down to the water and dead drift your bug right back over the same water. Make sure you don’t have too much slack in the line or you can’t set the hook when a strike comes. Way too often we see fishermen lift their rod way upstream and create 10 feet or more of slack line. Remember your rod is probably 9 feet long. Move the tip of the rod from straight down stream to straight upstream (180 degrees) and you moved 18 feet of line upstream. When a fish eats your bug and you can’t get the slick out of your line to set the hook all you have accomplished is furthering along the education of another nice fish you could have hooked if you did a better job managing your slack line.
Another key component to fooling more fish, especially when there aren’t any showing, will be fishing your fly over every square foot of water. Treat the water like a checkerboard of squares. Drift and skid your caddis over every square foot and you’ll convince more fish into participating. Fish that are not regularly feeding aren’t going to chase a tiny morsel of food very far. They are not going to burn more energy trying to get something than they are going to get out of it. So you’ve got to make it easy for a fish and get your fly right on top of him. Now with one flip of its tail the fish can zip to the surface and pick off a tidbit with very little effort.
Finally when there is a caddis hatch stop everything and watch what’s going on. Often there will be hundreds of caddis floating pretty as can be on the surface unnoticed and untouched. Spot one caddis amongst all the others that is struggling about on the surface and you’ll probably see it get eaten. Dead drift your fly over that fish and he will ignore it. Use your skittering trick over that spot and you’ll fool that fish every time.