The Caddis Hatch
July 2, 2006
The Sedge, or caddis as it is known to many, is of interest to the river angler through all of its lifecycle, from larva, through pupa, to adult. Now, I like nothing more than taking fish on an upstream dry fly, and there are times when fish key into the adult stage of a sedge hatch, presenting just the occasion for my favourite technique. But as ever, you have to adapt to make the most of your opportunities. Luckily for the angler, from larva, through to adult, sedge are always open, in one shape or form, to predation by fish. A point we do well to remember.
There are many tactics that can be employed to take fish during a sedge hatch (more on that in a moment), but the most important thing to remember is that your fly must match the local hatch. Size and colour is of up-most importance. If it doesn’t match, you wont catch, simple really.
I find the Czech, or Polish, style of fishing the most effective way of presenting larvae, and pupae, to feeding fish. If you are certain that a sedge hatch is imminent (that evening), this is a very effective way of fishing a few hours before hand (early afternoon). Both the larvae and pupae will be active below the surface, long before adults show on the surface, and the fish key into this meal first.
For this stage of the hatch, I use a 10ft 4-wt, fast action rod. The leader set up is simplicity itself. I fish an Oliver Edwards Peeping Caddis or Polyfutis pattern on the point, and about twelve inches above this I fish, on a six inch dropper, either an ascending sedge, or a dislodged caddis pattern.
Hook: 10 – 14 nymph
Thread: Olive Uni 6/0
Tail: brown partridge
Body: olive hare dubbing
Rib: medium oval gold
Hackle: brown partridge
Weight: gold bead
Hook: 10 – 16 caddis
Thread: Brown Uni 6/0
Abdoman: cream nymph skin
Shellback: brown nymph skin
Thorax & Head: Cdc Dubbing
Legs: hen pheasant or wild turkey
Antennae: two black or dark brown bucktail filaments
The important thing with this style of fishing is to present the flies where the fish expect to see them. With the rig described above, you need to fish upstream, and slam the flies into the water. The weight of the peeping caddis, or Polyfutis, will pull the flies to the bottom, where the fish expect to see them – you need to feel the bottom.
That last comment is the most important, you need to feel bottom, if you can’t, you are not fishing effectively. You can add split-shot to get the required depth, it doesn’t scare the fish.
When you have cast your flies upstream wait for them to find the bottom, and track the flies down stream, moving the rod tip slightly faster than the current. Strike at any resistance you feel, at any indication of a take at all. Fishing in this way produces some very gentle takes – you have been warned!
Although I have said that this is best in the early afternoon, just before a sedge hatch, fishing a peeping caddis, in this manner, is a very effective way of catching fish all year round. After all, the larvae are present all year round, under rocks, and amongst the weed and debris. They will get dislodged from time to time, and fish will not miss an opportunity to nail such an easy meal.
Dry Fly fishing, requires a little more finesse. An 8ft 6in – 9ft, 4 or 5-wt , is ideal. As always, I would strongly advocate the use of tapered leaders for this, and all other dry fly fishing – don’t under value good presentation… Why is it that people will spend £600 on a rod, then moan about £2 for a leader!? The very piece of kit that delivers your presentation!? Off my soap box now…
When the sedge and the fish start to show at the surface, I really like to use the Elk Hair caddis, with an underwing of CDC. This pattern seems to outfish all flies on its day – it’s always worth having a few in the box.
A good indication that fish are taking adult sedges is a splashy rise, so keep your eyes open. As for tactics with dry sedges, most usual dry fly tactics, i.e. upstream, will work, but there is another tactic, downstream. Yes I said it, downstream. The waking fly! Many British traditionalists reading this, may now be falling off their chairs in consternation, e-mailing complaints to the editor… “Chill out guys! It works, and more importantly, its good fun!”
Its quite simple to do, and very effective. Using a big bushy sedge, like the Sizzling Sedge, cast 45 degrees downstream and allow the current to swing the fly across the river. If the fly is moving too quickly for the fish to grab hold, throw an upstream mend into the line. If the fly is moving too slowly to get any interest, throw a downstream mend into the line. To get the same effect on an upstream presentation, you’ll need to put in a retrieve!
This is a very exciting way to fish, they really nail it! And if there are any in the river, you also stand the chance of catching a sea trout, but why they take it is a whole different kettle of fish! Just ask our steelhead fishing friends…
Some species of sedge flies, especially the Travelling Sedge (Phryganeidae), scuttle along the surface after hatching. Many of these species are found on slow rivers and on stillwaters. Stillwater angler's can emulate the river angler's waking fly technique by actively retrieving their dry fly. Strikes to this type of presentation can be ferocious!
On stillwaters you can use a less bushy pattern, something like a well hackled elk hair caddis will work.