Cream-Caddis Delights

To me, I see this as a dredging chore. That is, write in detail about a skill I honed years ago, have not used in many moons but am confident I could quickly remaster if, on a whim, I decided to dig out equipment and head to my old lower-Deerfield River flyfishing haunts.

The dredging image my imagination presents in vivid color involves a muddy-bottomed, spring-fed meadow pond — my aging mind — and the murky depths of sediment that must be activated to recreate an activity I perfected long ago before moving in other directions. I think I can do it. And even if I mis-remember, or some young whippersnapper writes to say he does it differently, well, so be it. Maybe we just fish the same hatches for the same trout with slightly different artificials or by slightly different methods using the same fly. No problem. I can live with that.

What brought me to this subject was a pre-midnight sighting of a fluttering, flickering insect casting a shadow in bright onion-lamp light Tuesday night out by my carriage sheds. Not five feet from my face, a solitary cream caddis fly soared away from me to the dark heavens, its erratic upward flight immediately drawing my attention and reminding me of a conversation two days earlier. Speaking on the phone with my cerebral brother-in-law, a retired college professor and observant man, as usual, he was reporting this and that from his secluded Montville, Maine, retirement farm and naturalist’s Nirvana.

Somehow we had touched upon his stocked trout ponds from which he harvests many brook trout each spring, and he told of standing on the bank with his mate and noticing peculiar, tubular, inch-long, clumps of small sticks underwater near the shore. Suddenly, his lady friend, Leigh, pointed down and said excitedly, “Look, those sticks are moving.” And, sure enough, upon closer inspection, they discovered a well-camouflaged head and a couple of legs protruding just enough for whatever was inside to walk along the pond floor.

“Yes,” I told him, “I’m quite familiar with that aquatic insect from fishing. I call it a stick-case-building cream caddis and used to have great fun catching trout with a wet-fly imitating the pupa that exits the case and soon pops to the surface like an air bubble to fly away as a winged insect.” The strike and the ensuing battle are always worth the trip when they’re hatching.

But, hmmmm? Why do these things happen to me at such opportune moments? Not that it’s unusual to see caddis flies in my yard. With a clear, clean trout stream acting as my rear property line, I often see Mayflies and caddis flies around my home. But I can’t recall seeing a cream caddis this summer and, planning to dredge the depths of my flyfishing memories for a column this week anyway, I had an ideal segue and an exciting subject in the world of flyfishing. Coincidence? Uh-uh. I believe things like this happen for a reason.

Nonfishermen who pay little attention to stream entomology would probably identify the fluttering insect I saw that night as a tan moth because that’s exactly what it looks like in flight, day or night, the flight pattern similar to that of a woodcock without the accompanying whistle. I know it because it was my favorite Deerfield River fly. Astream, the first clue that such a hatch is underway is the athletic rises of trout chasing it to the surface. First you identify the rise. Then upon closer inspection, you notice cream-caddis flies flickering toward streamside vegetation perches. The next step is to dig out your flybox for a cream-caddis pupa or sparkling emerger, which can bring exciting angling indeed when the artificial is manipulated with the rod tip to simulate the quick upward emergence of this fly that’s tied in several styles, some winged, some not, some shiny, others drab. You can make them all work, though everyone has a favorite. Old fishing buddy and commercial fly-tier “Indian Al” Niemiec of Chicopee used to tie a couple of beauties that produced many nice trout for me over the years.

Myself, I had more success with the cream-colored wet-fly version in the larva and pupa stages. But I always carried identical flies in olive green to imitate a pebble-cased caddis cousin that hatches from the same waters and can be fun. Though it’s been a long time since I’ve wet my line in the Deerfield, I remember such flies being effective at riffle tails dropping into deeper channels with strong current. The first clue that trout are feeding on cream caddis pupa is aggressive rises exploding skyward like torpedoes, fish out of the water head to tail. The reason for the urgency and energy is that the caddis emergers don’t dilly-dally on the surface like many other flies, which float for many feet while drying their wings for flight. Not so with cream-caddis emergers, which shed their stick cases from the larva to pupa stage and leave the water in a hurry when ready, rising from the stream bed like a released bobber and forcing trout to pursue them with a quick, powerful surge that carries them through the surface totally airborne, landing with a loud, showy splash.

I used to fish this fly most often using sink-tip line and a short leader. Floating line and a weighted fly works, too. I’d cast 45 degrees upstream and swing the fly down a 135-degree arc, basically sacrificing the first 45 degrees to mend line and get the proper drift with my rod-tip low. Then I’d lift the rod tip to sink the fly to the bottom before twitching the rod-tip upward several times and letting the fly sink again before repeating the process throughout the final 90-degrees. Sometimes feeding trout would take the hook on the upward motion and clear the water with hook in mouth. Other times, you’d get an aggressive strike on slack line in the process of letting it sink before another erratic twitching ascension. When they’re hitting, it’s a ball. If not, you go to plan two and dig out another fly you’re comfortable with.

The beauty of flyfishing is that you’re always occupied with casting and fishing, not to mention mending line and manipulating the fly to entice a strike. Plus, there’s always other chores to keep you occupied, such as tying tippets, changing spools from wet to dry lines, and selecting different flies when nothing seems to work. When the action slows, you can always move to another spot and give it a shot. Or maybe just surrender and call it a day.

The name of the game is identifying what the trout are feeding on and having something in your flybox to fool them.

Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.
Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mad Meg theme designed by BrokenCrust for WordPress © | Top