Dedicated fly fisherman we will know that the most prolific food will be the caddis flies. Caddis flies come in two types – cased and uncased. They make their cases from gravel, sand, tiny pebbles and even a discarded case from another caddis. There may be as many as 300 to 400 caddis in a trout’s stomach. Early in the season, when the water level rises due to snow and spring rain, the caddis are easily dislodged from their resting spots and are taken by hungry trout.
Even as early as October, caddis adults are showing on the surface. They are recognizable when at rest on the surface; their wings fold back along the body in a tent like shape. There are hooks available with a curved shank, so that we can closely represent the curved nature of the caddis in its larval stage. We are then able to fish the caddis in three stages – larval, emerging and adult.
Early in October, I fish the emerging pattern. Not all caddis larvae have a case. Some are known as free living caddis, their soft bodies exposed completely during the pupae stage, and are easy prey to other larvae or insects like the dragonfly. These free living caddis are also larger than their cased cousins. Nymphs tied with a dark head and a furry segmented body in greys and dull greens, also work well.
The stage I like to fish most is the adult – it’s very spectacular fishing and can extend your fishing day well into the night. The adult caddis patterns vary widely from wings tied of elk hair, or plastics, to a pattern tied and shaped from fine deer hair to fish the adult caddis. The Goddard Caddis is a good one to try, along with the Feather Wing and Elk Hair Caddis versions.
Tie on a leader slightly heavier than normal – 6 lb plus – as you could suffer from break offs. It varies on your type of water – small water, 4 lb is okay.
I have fished the Waitaki River since 1969, and caddis numbers have fluctuated over the years, through various reasons, but in the good years below Kurow, quite a night’s entertainment could be had by skating a hair wing caddis across a run or ripple – but be ready – a splashing take can be unnerving in the dark. You need to face downstream to skate the fly, your landing rate is not as good as your hooking.
Closer to home on the south branch of the Waimakariri River is a nice quiet place to fish a caddis. A finer, more sparsely dressed pattern is used for the slower waters – a light body with a split wing tied on top in sizes 14 – 16 works well. It pays to know your water well during the day, because after dark you don’t want any surprise dunkings.
Fishing the Cam during the beetle hatch, on the odd time I have taken a fish home, has shown me a river that looks devoid of fish during daylight (actually the fish feed close to the bottom on horn caddis and cased caddis). Catch a trout on a beetle about 10 pm, and when you check the stomach contents, you find two beetles, a few mayflies, and perhaps 500 caddis of various shapes and sizes.
Fishing the cased caddis has got to be the imitation if they take several hundred of these tiny morsels – and I’ve tried, but I think the answer is that it’s very difficult to get the pupae imitation to the depth and act like the natural – especially in rivers like the Waitaki. The Cam is a very slow moving river, with many uncontrollable currents for a drag free drift – also it is very deep and weedy.
The deer hair caddis is tied by spinning a body of fine deer hair, starting at the bend of the hook and working to the eye. Take the fly out of the vice and trim wings to shape, return to the vice to tie in the head and antennae. I use a spun hackle for the head and hackle quill for the antennae – this helps balance the fly on the surface, and trim off under the hook. By tying in different colours, you can give your fly a mottled wing effect.
The Goddard Caddis fly is certainly worth a try in the spring.