It was John Geirach who said, “Mayflies in flight look like angels, Caddis are like moths on speed” – true.
Everything mayflies do is slow, they are gentle and seem to float sedately and are ghost like in the air – there is a kind of sophistication and dignity about them. On the other hand Caddis appear like hooligans, always in a hurry, scooting and flitting across the surface before blasting off like mini space shuttles. But, there is no denying the fact that they are good flies often showing up as a superior searching fly. Using Leonard Wright’s theory in his excellent book, ‘Fishing the Dry Fly as a Living Insect’, fish them with a little upstream twitch occasionally or fish upstream and across and just as drag sets in, skate them across the stream – this resembles their movements as an adult on the surface..
Mayflies are ephemeral and after hatching into duns, mate and seldom live longer than 24 hours. Caddis are different and can live for up to a couple of weeks or more after hatching. It’s the reason why there almost always seem to be a few around and why they are so familiar to the trout.
Had I not seen it I wouldn’t have believed it – although most egg laying takes place on the surface a few female caddis swim down and lay their eggs amongst the structure on the stream bed. You can simulate this by adding a split shot ahead of the adult pattern or tie a few of the sunken patterns described in Gary LaFontaine’s book, ‘Caddisflies’, too many to mention but a few really interesting ones – Emergent Sparkle Pupa, Diving Caddis and various cased pupa imitations
Perhaps the most well-known Caddis pattern is Al Troth’s signature Elk Hair Caddis – a proven good fly. I do find that it’s often tied with the down-wing too short, too splayed and too bulky. The natural has a low, slim and longish wing. To achieve this I use a fairly sparse bunch of elk hair making it slightly longer than the hook shank. To hold the wing in the position and shape I want, I add a drop of UV resin at the base of the hair tie in point, hold the wing in position and cure. Otherwise let off on the tension of the thread wraps to secure the elk hair to avoid too much flare.
The modern tying and now preferred style is the CDC and Elk – I think an improvement on the original (apologies to Mr.Troth). Again I prefer the wing style already described, but it has with the addition of CDC, movement and an impression of feelers and legs which are distinctive trigger features of the natural. The CDC also adds to the floatability.
There are probably as many caddis patterns as there are naturals, and there a lot of them varying slightly in colour and size, but the profile remains the same. I have tried a number of my own creations based on established patterns,
But, I always come back to the Elk Hair Caddis or CDC and Elk.
As the new river season approaches, don’t forget the Caddis.
All images and copy in this post are copyright Peter Brigg Photography © 2016. All rights reserved