Caddis Larva

Caddis Pupae

Caddis Adult

Caddis hatches are one of the most fun hatches to fish. They are typically big, easy to see, and trout attack them on the surface with abandon. While most fly fisherman are familiar with the adult bug, fished as a dry, the caddis bug can be just as productive in its other stages of its lifecycle. In this article we will walk through those stages and talk about how to fish each one, with some other tactics you can use to make your days fishing caddis more effective. At the end you can find a link to download a free chart for this hatch that will give you something practical to help remember how to fish this awesome hatch. Learn more about the caddis life cycle below.

Caddis Larva

Caddis larva, photo captured by Rich Strolis.

The first stage after hatching from its egg, is a Larva. The Larva are a wormlike bug that come in a variety of sizes and colors depending on which subspecies you have in your system. Tan and greenish colorations are pretty common colors, and size can go anywhere from a 12-20. In this stage, some varieties of caddis will actually build a case around themselves (similar to a cocoon) which protects them. As they forage for sustenance, these encased caddis are frequently dislodged from the rocks and carried along the river’s currents. While adrift, they serve as excellent nourishment for trout. There are a number of good “cased caddis” nymph patters you can use for this phase. You can find caddis larva in the river system throughout the year so be sure to turn over rocks, and look for free roaming, or cased caddis to see if there are many around. Spring and fall, would be two times of year where you may find trout keying on this stage as they prepare to emerge. Fishing tip: Higher water can wash a lot of these bugs that are already in the system off their rocks into the river.

Caddis Pupae

A caddis pupae fly variation. Photo captured by Chris Daughters.

As they prepare to hatch, they enter the second phase, Pupae.

This is the stage where the larva matures and they move towards the surface to hatch. When they reach the top of the water column they will sit on the surface while their wings dry before they fly. Trout can really key in on these bugs as they move upward through the water column. Fish feeding on these are likely feeding on them in the middle upper water column, just subsurface. Fishing tip: Because caddis in this stage are moving up from the bottom it can be super productive to let your flies swing at the end of the drift, which will cause your flies to rise through the water column. This can be a great way to imitate an emerging caddis.

Caddis Adult

Adult caddis fly, photo captured by Mick Talbot.

Once they have entered the caddis pupa stage, they proceed to dry their wings before transitioning into the adult phase.

This is what everyone thinks of when fishing caddis. The small moth like bug that illicit super splashy eats. When they are keying in on them on the surface, it can be one of the most fun hatches to fish. While the most prolific hatches happen in late spring and fall, there are often caddis events throughout the summer. One thing that differentiates the adult caddis from other bugs (like a mayfly) is that they can lay eggs multiple times and can be on the river system for multiple weeks after they hatch. You probably have seen caddis bouncing on the water, this is the female caddis laying eggs into water. Another interesting note on this phase is some caddis will actually “dive” to lay their eggs. You can look for “diving caddis” patterns to emulate these bugs. Fishing tip: When there are adult caddis on the water, there is still a great chance trout are still keying on emerging pupae. This makes it a great opportunity for a dropper setup with an adult and a pupa pattern. This lets you fish multiple stages at the same time.

Caddis are one of the most fun hatches to fish. Learn the whole lifecycle and it will allow you to catch more fish throughout the year. Head over to Broder Fly Fishing and visit THIS LINK to download the caddis lifecycle chart to help you understand how to fish these bugs while you’re on the river. 

The article was written by Chris Solfelt from Broder Fly Fishing. Be sure to follow along for more iterations of “Broder Tips,” giving you the tools and intel you need to hit the water. Check out @broderflyfishing on Instagram.

Check out the articles below:

Broder Tips: Trout By Seasons

Reel of the Week: Caddis Dries with Danny Eiden & John Kelley

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