Thursday, April 26, 2012

Confounding Caddis

In my limited experience fishing for rising stream trout, I'd always had pretty good luck during caddis hatches. Their tent-like wings keep them on the water longer than the more graceful mayflies. And a skittering caddis (i.e., no need for drag-free drift) could often generate an eager strike.

The late, great Gary LaFontaine devoted his life to studying the caddis, but I never felt the need to "study up." Not anymore. After being frustrated on. But in my limited stream trout experience I also found caddis hatches to be relatively easy to figure out. Not anymore. Now I am ready to do a seance with Mr. LaFontaine.

Earlier this month on the Little Juniata I watched brown trout leap from the water to grap at caddis flies just as they left the water. Several were skilled enough to catch the caddis in mid flight. Even more chased emerging caddis, bursting through the surface tension after inhaling the fly at top speed. And plenty of them missed; the caddis fluttering off as the trout splashed back into the river.

The caddis hatch wasn't thick but it was consistent. Catching a caddis in one's hand isn't easy, but it can be done. And the samples I captured appeared to be a size 14 or 16 with a olive green body. The experts had said tan or brown. I tried them all. The fish kept rising. I kept coming up empty. An olive wet fly caddis pattern produced strikes regularly. But nothing on top. I skittered. I swung. I dead drifted. Upstream. Downstream. Nothing.

I learned what smarter anglers already knew. Caddis hatches can be confounding. Time to study up.

On the

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