Waters & words : a celebration of flyfishing

Posts tagged “Caddis

Book-end ants

Rainbow Trout

While packing up after three hours or so of frenetic ant hatch, it occurred to me that the last time I fished a stillwater, some four months ago, had also been a wild ant hatch. In between there was a baker’s dozen of trips to streams and rivers all along the berg…a wild ride between heavy rain and summer heat.  A time of wearing out the studs on my wading boots in the lush grasslands, and getting achy feet and small browns, all in fair measure. But either side of that chapter was a day in the sweetness of spring’s cool air on the one end, and this day in the glow of a slightly pale April sun at the other.

Two distinctly different days on two different stillwaters, but both marked by the excess of a ridiculously prolific hatch of little black ants.   The few hours prior were marked with frustration, as were my hours in early December.  Ants, ants, ants, everywhere you looked, and the Trout going absolutely dilly.

Ant

Of course as soon as I saw the ants, I pulled out my box and found an imitation. A small “E Z 2 C” ant with a cylindrical black foam body, with a white tip, which, for the life of me I couldn’t see out on the water, to a Mc Murray ant, to various of my own imitations.  I tried smaller ones (to imitate the males) and bigger ones (to imitate the females). I swiped my hand through the swarm and captured one or two, and I studied them, and pulled my fly box out again. As the sun passed above and moved westward, a shiny, coppery light reflected off ten million little wings on the water’s surface. The fish had so many specimens to choose from, that introducing my own exact replica was clearly an exercise in futility. I tied on three ants at once. Three times zilch is still nothing. Why would a fish eat any of mine, when they had thirty acres of water in which they could just about swim in a straight line with their mouths open, and stuff themselves like orcas on plankton?

I took to practicing my casting accuracy. It was strangely like clay pigeon shooting. Nature presented me with totally randomized targets, which appeared suddenly and demanded a “hit”.  I was getting quite good…bang…hit the ripples marking the extremities of the fish’s window at ten yards to the left….then a single pickup and hit twenty five yards slightly right. Strip that in, pick it up, and fire a 15 yard cast far right. Bang. Bang. Bang. It was fun, but I wasn’t catching fish.

Since I was aiming for “The edge of the dinner plate”, it occurred to me to put something different on. Something big and juicy. Something to persuade a Trout that it could eat something other than a damned ant! I chose a cased caddis on a #12 longshank hook…a sort of shiny, reed-like thing that was unweighted, and had an alluring little brown-headed, chartreuse  worm, sticking out the end of the reed-stem case.

A few casts later, it worked, and I brought in a fish of around two pounds.  I sneered at it and told it that I knew caddis were tastier than bitter ants.

Rainbow Trout

The ants carried on hatching and landing on the water, and the trout carried on eating them. It was interesting to observe the rises.  Some were splashy, but  others were clearly not surface rises. Were they eating ants that had sunk, or was there a blind hatch of  something else?  I scanned the margins, but all I saw was ants, ants, ants.  Millions of shimmering wings:  ants mating and dying on the water. Their affinity for nesting near a body of water, was claiming half their number, but the orgy of excess was such that it hardly made a difference.

I changed to a bigger, juicier distractor pattern, and landing it on the edge of the dinner plate with enough of a splash to make the Rainbow turn and look at it, I got another one.

Towards the end the number of ants on the water diminished as the hatch slowed, and a light breeze blew the carcasses into the reeds. The trout were still looking up now, but they were having to go looking for food. Sensing the cue, I changed to a dry bigger and tastier than an ant:  a DCD and deerhair beetle. Presently a fish rose, a full cast out in front of me, and still in clay pigeon mode, I swung around and with two false casts shot out the longest cast I am capable of. It alighted like thistledown, and the Trout ate it. Finally!  A Trout on the dry.   I landed the fish, clicked off a picture and returned it to the water, before reeling in and strolling back to the bakkie.

My obsession with the streams had been folded between two covers. I thought back to the streams, and to the December ant hatch as I drove home. Many happy hours on the water had passed in the first three months of the year. There were days in which I stuck diligently to the dry, and others where I never took off the heavy nymph. I had had water as clear as the proverbial gin (that we are now allowed to buy again), and days in milky, murky water, where that was all that was on offer. Neil and I had fished in the rain. Graeme and I in broad sunlight. 

I had blanked on the Mooi  with PD and then with Neil on the same stretch, had a field day on a particularly sparse parachute dry with an orange post.  There was that fish that had gotten Anton shaking at the knees, and the one Graeme got which I captured on video, from the approach, to the strike, to the release. There were all those fish I got on the #20 nymph, and the enormous fish that famously stole one such nymph, paying scant respect to my silly 7X tippet.

Back at my fly-tying desk, I pulled out some CDC in black and in white, and a few strands of pearlescent flashabou to try capture those sparkling wings, and I got tying one of Marc Petitjean’s ants, complete with wing sparkle.

I tried a few more, and then I substituted the CDC  wing with some white Kapok, and I held the result up to the light to study it. It looked good.

I will carry it out to the next ant hatch. And when I get there I will strap on a caddis, and I will catch me a Trout. 

But  perhaps I will fish a few more streams before I do that. Mix things up a bit you know…… Perhaps an ant on a river (on 5X tippet of course).


Hot fishing

winged ant

Sunday dawned hotter than all the rest. Hot and still.  I was up at five in the morning, and set out through the wet grass to look for rising trout, and it was warm then.  The sun was shining at a low angle across the water and my eyes ached as I scanned the water and tried to track my dry fly. A fish swirled here and there. Once or twice within casting distance. I changed dry fly several times: Beetles, para RAB’s, a DDD, and a midge, damsel and Copper John on the dropper.  I held my hand up to screen my eyes. Later I stood behind a small willow, merely for the relief its trunk gave me. I positioned myself directly behind the trunk, in its narrow shade, and then side cast my fly under the willow fronds, merely to escape the piercing rays. It was then that I realized I was grateful for the slender shade of the trunk, and at the same time that it was now hot. It was 6 am.

I walked back to the cottage. As I did, I noticed more swirls, and also the dimples of fleeing minnows, and the formula dawned on me. My fly box with minnows in it was back at the cottage.

Later, after a hearty breakfast, and time with our feet up, my wife and I decided to set up under a willow, with bottles of cold water and our books. I moved the deck chairs, put on sunscreen, took off my boots, and sighed at the prospects of a hot day. The three days prior had been cloudy and windy and stormy and misty: all changing and interesting, and cool. Weather as interesting as a broken landscape, and with patches of great promise between, when the trout would surely come on the rise. Periods of wind change, or calm after a cooling storm, or breezy with scudding clouds and patches of mist. Times that breathed promise and opportunity. But I had yet to hit it right. I had not connected. Sure, I had caught 2 or 3 fish:  one off the front lawn in near darkness on a dry fly. One on a dragonfly nymph just after the storm, that sort of thing. But I had missed fish, had takes, been broken off twice due to poor knots, and not landed more than two in any one day. On the Saturday I put in a solid six hours and all I had to show for it was a missed follow. You know the thing where you pull the fly out of the mouth of a following fish, and watch it turn as it sees you. And you curse your stupidity for hours thereafter.  And that had been it.

Now, as I put the chairs down and resigned myself to a day of waiting out the stifling still weather, I saw one or two last bulges. Last remnants surely, of the morning’s minnow gluttony. My wife was still busy inside, so I found the box with minnow imitations in it, and tied one on. She still wasn’t out of the cottage yet, so I quickly threw all my stuff into the canoe, and leaving my water bottle under the tree, and wearing an old pair of crocs, I pushed off.   Just off the front lawn I dropped an anchor, and started casting a minnow imitation in the direction of one or two more swirls I had seen. The water was a pea soup of food. There were midges, and ants, and corixae and damselfly nymphs. Dragonflies darted over the water, swallows swooped, and the sun beat down mercilessly.

Nature would surely take a break any minute now and sit out the searing heat of day as I was about to do.

Then a fish grabbed the minnow strongly, and set off for open water. I raised the rod tip triumphantly, gathered the loose line, and got my mind in gear to fight a fierce fish, which was pulling line. That’s when my knot gave in.

When I had finished muttering and swearing and analysing the errors of my ways, and tying on a new minnow pattern, I looked up, and saw more fish were moving. I threw the minnow out again. I retrieved in a manner as alluring and enticing as I could conjure in the dead calm sticky conditions. I sucked the minnow back in, just under the surface, there under a burning white sun. More fish were rising now. Porpoising. I had a take on the minnow….just a tug, and then it was gone. I threw it again, but fish were porpoising everywhere now, so after a few casts I changed to a midge. That was when fish started cartwheeling into the sky. I quickly rigged the other rod with a caddis, and threw that out before retrieving the one with the midge on. The next five fish porpoised. I tied a sunk buzzer below the emerger I had on the five weight, and when three casts of the caddis drew no result, I put that back out. Now the fish were swirling. I looked at the water. There were copper beetles. I took the caddis off and threw it into the canoe, and tied on a beetle imitation. The fish were back to cartwheeling. I threw the beetle. A hundred fish swirled. Twenty porpoised. A dozen cartwheeled. I looked into the water beside the boat. Caenis; hoppers; beetles (Black and copper); one or two winged ants, midges. I put on a tiny ant imitation, throwing the buzzer and emerger in the boat.  I cast. The tops of my feet were burning.  I threw off the crocs and dug in my vest for sunscreen, which I rubbed on my feet. I cast the tube aside.  Fish were getting airborne again. My leader was sinking. I pulled it in and coated it in silicone paste, threw the tub in the boat, put the caddis back on and cast. I readied the other rod with a larger ant. The caddis was being ignored by fish that were taking insects either side of my line.  There were a lot more winged ants around now .

winged ant
The winged ant that was driving the trout crazy

The fish were going nuts now.  I pulled in the caddis, and started tying on ants. I needed more tippet. Fish were rising right beside the hull of the boat.I was battling to see the fine nylon, and my hands were shaking. “Andy!   Look behind you”, my wife shouted from the shore. “To hell with behind me” I muttered. The fish had practically been splashing water into the canoe for the last hour. “I Know!” I said politely. “Yes, but that fish is just rolling around on the surface continually” she said. Said she had never seen anything like it. My hands shook. I finally got both ants on, tossed the tippet spools in the hull, and threw the team out. This leader was sinking. I had treated the other one. I pulled it in, and went scrambling through the junk in the boat searching for the silicone paste.  Fish started porpoising again, and my ants went unnoticed.  I rigged the other rod with a big black DDD, and a few minutes later I cast that, and then changed the small ant on the point to a little black emerger. Threw the ant in the boat. Pulled in the DDD . Tossed the ant team. Fish were in the air again. I stood on the sun cream. Sweat ran down my neck. My line wrapped around a discarded croc. I kicked it away and I retrieved and threw again. My feet burned. Fish rose. The sun baked.

And then it happened.

To the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” , sung by a choir of a hundred maidens, and with an orchestra in grandiose accompaniment playing in my mind, a small and gracious rainbow, porpoised over my large ant in slow motion. I raised the rod in celebration, the hook set, and the knot held.  My wife videoed from the shore. I took a photo.

The fish swam off. And the rise was over.

I paddled back, and tipped all the junk out of the boat to sort out later, and crawled gasping to the willow tree, croaking “water!”.  The lake  returned to the lifeless state of the past three days, The sun beat down hard,  and I sat under the tree, took off my sweaty hat and shook my head in disbelief.   

I wonder if this is what Isaak Walton had in mind when he said to “be quiet and go a angling”…


a Caddis Caper

CDC G & H Sedge (1 of 1)-3

CDC G & H Sedge (1 of 1)

CDC G & H Sedge (1 of 1)-2


Photo of the moment (114)

I saw this somewhere on the net…the G & H Sedge done in CDC. Simple, light, casts with less air resistance. Can’t wait to give it a try!

CDC Caddis (1 of 1)


Adult Caddis

Every now and then I develop a minor obsession with some or other pattern, or rig, or method.

Lately it has been adult caddis patterns. Here is a sample from my vice:

Adult Caddis-5Adult caddisflies SM-1-2Adult caddisflies SM-1-8Adult caddisflies-5Adult caddisflies-11caddis & DDD-1Puterbaugh Caddis (3 of 7)Puterbaugh Caddis (1 of 1)

G & H Sedge-2


A case for the caddis

I am keyed into these little house builders at the moment. I guess I am just seeing a lot of them around in our stillwaters.  Almost without exception, they have built their houses of either weed fragments, or small pieces of grass stem.cased caddis-1-2

cased caddis-2cased caddis-1-3cased caddis-1

In his book “Presentation”, Gary Borger says that he “has had superb lake fishing” with caddis larva patterns, but amongst the  American literature in my library there doesn’t seem to be more than a passing references to these caddis dwelling in pieces of weed fibre and grass.

In “The nymph fly tyers manual” by Randall Kaufman, one finds dressings for cased caddis that involve wound material.  In “The Caddis and the Angler” (Solomon & Leiser) one finds this picture of a caddis which has used both sticks and stones, and comes close, but is not like what I would call our “weed caddis.

IMG_20181009_201545 (1)

 

Turning to the South African literature, In Dean Riphagen’s first book (The South African Flyfishing handbook), he concentrates on stream dwelling cased caddis, and refers to two American patterns for these. But in his second book , Stillwater Trout, you will find what we are looking for. On page 45 is a series of six photos of weed dwelling caddis.  The text of that book goes on to describe everything you need to know about cased caddis in stillwaters, how they live predominantly in weed, but how they can be found in open water etc. 

In the patterns directory (page 181) you find ‘The weed caddis’, a good looking pattern attributed to Tom Sutcliffe.  That pattern uses tuff chenille marked at the tip with a black marker, and the weed is represented by “Two trimmed green dyed partridge feathers”.

IMG_20181009_205742

I like this pattern a lot, but I was keen to try to imitate the smooth surface of weed strands.

In that respect, these conventional peeping caddis, while they have the smooth body I was after, fail to imitate the long sticklike characteristics of what we typically see on the stillwaters.

peeping caddis (1 of 1)-2

 

In an attempt to imitate the smooth surfaced pieces of weed and grass, last season I tied up several patterns in which I used biots to get the stick/stem like feature incorporated into the pattern.  Goose biots proved a bit short, but Turkey biots on a #10 pattern provided ample length.

weed caddis-1-2

You will see that I used a chartreuse yarn.  While I caught quite a few fish on these, I realised from my observation, that most of the caddis were in fact closer to white in colour.

So I have now tied up these:

IMG_20181009_195326

The other aspect that occurs to me is that these things often drift close to the surface. Mine tend to sink a bit too fast.  I have tried fishing them under a dry ( a DDD) , in order to keep them up high, but it occurred to me to take the deer hair of the dry fly, which in its un-trimmed state is also strand-like in character, and incorporate it into the pattern.

IMG_20181009_195459

Nice and messy aren’t they!

I look forward to throwing these out into the shallows.  It is generally out in the shallows where one finds them, but as Dean Riphagen points out, they can be found in open water too.

In his book “Caddisflies”, Gary Lafontaine writes about Catastrophic drift, in which he describes events that dislodge caddis and set them adrift in open water.  On a recent trip to a large stillwater, it was clearly evident that the previous day’s berg wind was just such a catasrophic event, because there were helpless weed caddis drifting about all over the place.

cased caddis-3-2

As for the size fly to use:  These were a full two and a half inches in length (6cms).  According to LaFontaine this is “possibly to keep other insects or small fish from swallowing the case whole”. It is clearly a lot longer than the worm that lives inside it, which gives some weight (or is it length?)  to that theory.   I am using a #10 long shanked hook for most of my imitations.

cased caddis-5

In speaking of the fact that Mystacides caddis seem to add long sticks to their houses, LaFontain suggests that you can “put a long stripped hackle quill lengthwise in his imitation to match this feature”  That is something I plan to add to the biots in future.

Now to turn to the action that you are trying to imitate. Here is the tricky part.  These things are often hanging dead still, but the “worm” is doing this:

 

Good luck imitating that!


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Photo of the moment (91)

G & H Sedge


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Photo of the moment (51)

Cased Caddis (4 of 4)


The Haberdashery Caddis

I strolled into a haberdashery yesterday while my son had his hair cut. The woman behind the counter viewed me with suspicion over the top of her bifocals. I was an uncommon sight for her I suppose.

She seemed happy enough when I bought a few things however. One of those things was a small reel of glistening green material, with no name on it. While she was ringing it up I converted it into a Caddis pupa in my minds eye. After dinner I converted it into a Caddis pupa in my vice.

caddis exp 1-1-5

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