Aquatic insect hatches are like a garden growing. Once all the seeds are planted things begin to grow over time and eventually harvest season arrives. Radishes are likely you’re first crop. You can hardly wait until you have the first bunch for your salad. But after you’ve eaten radishes everyday for a week you are not as excited about eating the last of the crop. All of a sudden the lettuce is ready so you move on and so it goes… peas, then beans, spinach and corn and tomatoes.
The same goes for fish and their garden of aquatic insects. Mayflies are the first to show and fish go wild over them but after the Blue Wind Olives have hatched for a few days they get sick of them and quickly move on to the newly hatched Hendricksons, then Red Quills and March Browns. These days the Cycle of Caddis has begun so fish want nothing to do with your mayfly imitation that worked a couple weeks ago, they want the current crop of caddis.
Fish also begin to recognize imposters. If your fly isn’t the right size or body color they might have a look but they may not eat it. Fish will also key on a stage of a particular hatch. When you spot a splashy take a fish is probably trying to grab an emerging caddis before it flies away. A simple swirl of water with not splash and a fish could be eating a submerged adult drifting with the current. If you spot feeding fish it’s a good idea to observe how they are eating so you can figure out how they want a fly presented. Your fly needs to look like it came from nature. The last few days both trout and salmon have been looking for caddis bouncing around on the surface. A simple twitch of your fly as it drifts along on the surface can provoke a take. At times we had to skip our flies up river a few feet then drift back over the same area to get fish to cooperate. And we had quite a few takes when we were reeling in to move and the fly was moving fast and bouncing on over the surface. How fish want a fly presented can get complicated but once you figure out what they are keying on your luck will quickly change.
Fish often key on subsurface bugs drifting with the current. They’re an easy meal. Caddis become adults subsurface, the process isn’t without it flaws. Most make it through the surface film and fly away but many fail and are left to drift away in the surface film. When you find fish making only a swirl of water there are eating crippled caddis. Your tactic will change from flirting a fly about on the surface to using soft hackle wet flies just under the surface. They are easy to tie and easy to fish. Their names are simple, Partridge and the color of the body… Partridge and Olive, Partridge and Orange, Partridge and Brown… the partridge part of the name is the hackle used for its wing and the color in the name would be the body color.
Now is the perfect time of season to use them. In a fishes mind they look like a dead caddis just beneath the surface. Begin with a couple rod lengths of line. Cast 45 degree downstream and crosscurrent. Mend upstream and swing them slowly across the current. If they swing too fast like you would fish a streamer fish will likely ignore them. It’s unnatural, bugs don’t move that fast. Add a couple of feet of line to the next cast and repeat. It’s a good idea to loosen your drag and keep your index figure off the line. The strike is usually a gentle take leading you to believe it many be a small fish but when a fish feels the hook it will take off and your drag will take over. If you try and hold a fish but using your figure you are likely to either straighten the tiny hook or break it off. Swinging soft hackle can be extremely productive and far less intense as trying to fish tiny dry caddis on uneven water and currents. Caddis will be the predominate hatches throughout the month of July. The more you know about these bugs the more successful you’ll be.
Drake (Hex) season is a bit behind this year. Shallow, low elevation ponds should have already had Drakes hatching by now but rainy, cool weather hasn’t allowed trout ponds to warm enough for hatches to begin. This week’s stellar weather forecast should change all that. It’s finally time to start babysitting your favorite pond. As with all hatches the first couple nights are magical, you can do no wrong. Trout have been waiting for these cheeseburger size mayflies and when the event begins trout can’t get enough of ‘em. Stashed canoes get flipped, and launched in hopes of hitting the main event of the season. A quick paddle around the shore will let you know if anything has been going on. When drakes emerge they leave big shucks (exoskeletons) behind that float and wash up on the shore. No shucks showing translates into maybe tonight is the night.
The photo above is Geo Matteson with a fine East Outlet salmon caught on a caddis emerger.
Have a memorable Forth of July week. See you on the water. We’ll be closed on the Forth.