Trouts Journal

Five Tips for Fly Fishing the Mother's Day Caddis Hatch

Zeke Hersh / Apr 27, 2023

As we progress through spring, the first notable hatches of the season are starting. The blue-winged olive hatch on the Arkansas River has been quite fun to fish with some large naturals being seen on most days. While I truly love blue wings, I am looking forward to the next hatches as we see our spring temperatures warm.

Next up on the hatch chart on the Arkansas River and many other Colorado rivers is the Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch. This is a prolific hatch by Colorado standards and while you may not want to be fishing right in the middle of the masses of insects, this hatch should not be missed and you should have plenty of opportunities to hit this hatch in the coming days. The hatch slowly makes its way up the river which can take weeks as it typically is stifled by cold fronts moving through Colorado and then by spring runoff. As we exit peak runoff season, this will typically be one of the first hatches to emerge as the runoff starts to subside.

This is very exciting as we will have this trout delicacy in our rivers for many weeks to come and you will have many opportunities to fish the hatch in all its conditions, stages, and temperaments. If you don’t get it right the first day, you will have many more opportunities to try and remedy the issues. In this blog, we are going to explore some tips and tricks from some of Trouts Fly Fishing’s guides and pass some very useful information on to you.

1. Timing and Patience

While there are a massive number of insects emerging during the Mother’s Day caddis hatch having timing and patience is key to your success during this hatch. John Spriggs knows this all too well and notes how important it is to check water temperatures and flows daily to look for that magic temperature range of the high 40s to low 50s. He also notes that this might not be until the afternoon.

It can also be very important to stay away from fishing right in the middle of the hatch. While it can be very enticing to fish amongst the massive amounts of insects hatching and flying, fishing at this time has some challenges. Not only can the fish be gorged from chowing on adult caddis, but you may have to fish a very exact-looking pattern to fool these rowdy fish. This is another situation where timing comes into play. A good trick is to try and fish right at the front of the hatch as the bugs are just starting to hatch in that magic temperature range. Another approach is to fish behind the hatch, where there are still some bugs hatching in smaller numbers, the trout are starting to look back up and will have more willing to eat your fly.

A couple cased caddis larvae getting ready to emerge.
2. Be Ready to Fish Nymphs for Success

If you are positioned well for the upstream progression of the hatch, you may not be able to just show up on the water and expect to throw dry flies. Sam Kinney offers a good tip to not be afraid to throw caddis nymph and emerger patterns as you wait to see trout rising to adults.

Not only have trout been eating these stages of these insects for weeks, but this is a great way to figure out if you are positioned well within the hatches movement and emergence. Typically, if you find trout readily eating nymphs and emergers, there is a good chance you are in the right place and start looking for trout smashing dry flies on the surface.

The ole trusty Elk Hair Caddis - this is a lighter variety than we would normally fish during this hatch - but a great representation nonetheless.
3. Find the Fish and the Fly

As we talked about in the last point positioning yourself within the hatch is very key to your success. Sean Cowman also points out how important it is to find where the fish are actively feeding. Are the fish in the riffles? Are they in the tail outs of the hole? Are they coming out of the depths? Are they coming out of the shallows? Take note of where you are getting the most hookups and start to target these areas. Be ready to change and adapt, if these areas start to get slower, keep your eyes and ears open for where the fish are keying in on their prey.

As you are fishing throughout the day and adapting to the trout's tendencies, look for changes in water color or refusals on colors of your patterns. If the water starts to get a little off-color, you may need to upsize a bit and fish a fly with a little flash. If the water is clear, you may have to match the hatch exactly - matching color, shape, and size.

This wild brown trout was fooled on the surface by a caddis dry.
4. Skating, Bouncing, and Dead Drifting

Having the right pattern during the hatch is very important and Kaleb Orrock offers some great tips on picking patterns and techniques for fishing them. Kaleb advises to uses darker patterns for this caddis hatch. He likes to fish a classic elk hair caddis in black, gray, dark brown, or dark olive. Other favorite patterns are foam caddis in similar colors. Don’t be afraid to throw some curve balls out there like Royal Wulff and Stimulators that still have the characteristics that attract a trout's attention and warrant an eat, but offer a fly choice they are not used to seeing.

Kaleb also notes while dead drifting a dry can work, don't be afraid to throw a less traditional presentation at those caddis-eating trout. Be on the lookout for female adults bouncing up and down and skittering across this water. This is a great time to use a dry dropper technique to use the nymph weight to assist in creating a bouncing action by lifting and dropping your flies on the water's surface. You can also try skating the flies with some aggressive mends or swinging them below you and shaking your rod tip. These techniques can get some explosive strikes.

Tanner Smith rejoices at the sight of a flurry of caddis
5. Make your Fly Visible

Sometimes you may find yourself right in the middle of the hatch and the fish are still going crazy over your dry flies. If you find yourself in this very advantageous situation, Andrew Contreras offers up some great advice to help get your eyes on your fly. Andrew advises you to try and fish a larger pattern to help your fly stand out or fish a hi-vis pattern for even better visibility. The massive amount of naturals can make it very difficult to locate your pattern and this situation can turn into frustration without the use of these techniques. These techniques can turn a frustrating situation into a fishing day to remember for a lifetime.

The caddis hatch sure has the ability to offer you a dry fly fishing day of a lifetime. All of these tips and tricks should help you with your success on the water. This hatch can move very quickly in some years and slowly in others. Be ready to move up or downstream to find the front or tail end of the hatch and put all your angling skill to work once you hone in on this dynamic hatch.

We hope this article helps bring you success and alleviates some frustration that can occur on any day you are fly fishing. As always, please stop in the Denver or Frisco shops for up-to-date hatch information and pick up some of the hot flies for the season.

We will see you on the water or in the shop!

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