Mother’s Day was last Sunday. That means I’m optimistic that one of these days I’ll go fishing and I’ll catch fish.
Going back to the end of February, I’ve done lots of fishing and most of the time it has been a lonely pursuit, and fish, for the most part, have not been involved in my quests for fish. I think it was on Facebook that I ran across something that felt all too true. It was a list of common excuses for not catching fish, many of which felt much too familiar these last couple months, with the author concluding that all those excuses were legitimate. It’s too cold. It’s too windy. It’s too sunny. The water is roiled up. If you’ve been fishing at some point in your life you most likely are familiar with these excuses and have used them.
Fortunately, nobody has been going hungry because I’m an unsuccessful angler. I normally release any trout I catch, so my wife might ask if I had fun on my day on the river, but that’s mainly out of courtesy and politeness. Kiri, my Labrador retriever, gets excited when I catch a fish but her urge to jump into the water I’m planning to cast a fly into is more important than fish. It might be one thing on the Big Hole or Madison Rivers, but her jumping into a quiet pool on Poindexter Slough pretty much guarantees I’m not going to catch any fish for a while.
But, as I said at the beginning, Mother’s Day makes me optimistic about catching fish. That, of course, is because of the Mother’s Day caddis hatch happens sometime around that time.
There are earlier hatches on area rivers, such as baetis, or blue wing olive mayflies if you prefer. The skwala stonefly gets fish excited—sometimes, if you’re lucky. But, if you really want to get fish excited about a bug you need something big enough for fish to notice and in numbers profuse enough to satisfy a fish’s appetite. The Mother’s Day Caddis hatch usually satisfies those needs in a big way.
It usually takes a few days of above average warm weather to get the hatch going and that’s a moving target. It might be around early May, but I’ve seen it in late April and even early to mid-April.
The other big issue for the caddis hatch is river conditions. It seldom happens when water conditions are ideal, from the standpoint of spring runoff muddying up the water or running too high and fast for fish to be interested in feeding on bugs on the water’s surface.
But it does happen, that miracle of insects and water conditions both behaving well enough to make it fun and productive.
Once that first caddis hatch happens, chances are the fish will be looking at caddisflies until October. There are many caddis subspecies and at some point during the day trout will look at it and decide it’s good enough to eat.
Of course, there are many flies designed to imitate the humble caddis and its various life forms, though most concentrate on the adult phase.
Al Troth’s Elk Hair Caddis is one of the classic imitations and I feel privileged I got to know Al while he was still living, even if I didn’t get any coaching on how to tie his famous bug.
If caddisflies are on the water, a soft-hackle fly, such as a Partridge & Green, will also get attention from trout, especially those trout more interested in cruising for bugs caught in the surface film of the water.
A fly I plan to add to my arsenal is A.K. Best’s Spent Caddis, and I learned that from a YouTube video by Tim Flagler, one of the best presenters of flytying on the Web.
If you like complicated flies, you might try Mercer’s Missing Link. It’s a tricky bug to tie, but the first time I tried it and took it to the Big Hole for a test drive, the trout went crazy for it.