By Spencer Durrant
With runoff in full swing in most of my favorite rivers, I’m spending a bit more time behind the vise, cranking out caddis patterns to fill my boxes. I love fishing caddis flies – they’re easy to tie, easy to see, and the fish love them. They’re such a ubiquitous insect, too, that they work on a wide range of rivers and streams.
Like just about any aquatic insect, though, there are a ton of different caddis patterns out there. So how do you pick ones that will work well for your local fish and fisheries?
Well, the caddis patterns I’ve included here are ones I’ve used everywhere from Alaska to Colorado. They’ve worked well for me, either as a searching pattern, or the top fly in a dry-dropper-dropper rig. I use some type of caddis in just about every rig when I’m guiding, too.
With that in mind, I’d recommend carrying a few of these caddis patterns with you as you fish throughout the summer.
Elk Hair Caddis
The elk hair caddis is probably the most famous of all caddis fly patterns in existence. It’s a remarkably good representation of an adult caddis, and relatively easy to tie, too. The elk hair caddis floats high, is easy to see, and it’s durable. I prefer fishing these in a size 14. It’s big enough to hold up a nymph on a dropper, but not so big that it doesn’t blend in with most caddis hatches.
The X caddis looks, at first glance, remarkably similar to the elk hair. Both have an elk hair wing, and both have lightly tapered bodies.
The big difference, though, is in how the two flies sit on the water. Where the elk hair caddis rides slightly above the water’s surface, the X caddis is built to ride low in the surface film. For fish that aren’t rising to eat duns, the X caddis can be a deadly pattern. The sparkly tail looks like a trailing shuck, making the X caddis a good fit for fishing when trout are keyed in on the emerging stage of the caddis hatch.
Corn Fed Caddis
The Corn Fed caddis is a fun pattern that gives the classic caddis pattern a new twist. Lance Egan is widely credited with creating the most popular, CDC-based corn fed caddis.
Basically, the Corn Fed caddis is a super-sized, high-floating version of the elk hair caddis. The wing and hackle are entirely made from CDC, which floats high and stays dry. This is the perfect fly for high-mountain streams and hungry, eager trout.
LaFontaine Sparkle Pupa
The first nymph on our list was designed by the legendary caddis master himself, Gary LaFontaine. LaFontaine dedicated much of his angling life to deciphering the mysteries of the caddisfly for the average angler, and we all owe him a large debt of gratitude. The Sparkle Pupa is a great fly because it precisely imitates caddis nymphs as they rise to the river’s surface. It sports the classic colors that so many of these flies wear when hatching ,too. It’s a simple tie, and worth having in your box for use before the duns start coming off in droves.
Corded Cased Caddis
Caddis are unique because they make a case, usually from small stones and dirt, in which they spend the majority of their larval stage. When they get ready to hatch, caddis attach those cases to stones and branches. Trout see these cases all the time, and know they’re chock-full of protein. So a cased caddis pattern is a must-have. You can find tons of different variations on the cased caddis, but I really like The Corded Cased Caddis because it’s easy to tie, looks great, and sinks like a rock.
The October Caddis is, as the name suggests, a time-sensitive fly. Even though it only hatches later in the year, this is a great prospecting or stimulator pattern to use during the summer. And, it’s always nice to have these on-hand for when an October caddis hatch takes you by surprise.
These are the caddis patterns I bring along for every fly fishing trip during the spring and summer. They’re dependable bugs that do a wonderful job of imitating the natural flies they were designed after. If you tie your own flies, these patterns are simple enough to do up, and are just begging for your own personal flair.