The Mother’s Day Caddis hatch is a fly fishing event not to be missed in Colorado. Anglers from all over the country and seasoned local fly fishermen wait all winter for the incredible dry fly action this hatch brings. We all hope that the right conditions develop for the perfect storm of clouds of caddis and rising trout. Some years early spring runoff and high, muddy water coincides with the Mother’s Day caddis hatch rendering rivers unfishable. But in years where streams flow clear and spring temperatures are ideal the hatch can occur well before the Mother’s Day holiday.
This year, this is the case and the hatch is on! Because these insects hatch after ski season and before the crowds of summer arrive, anglers can expect to find rivers that aren’t elbow to elbow with other fly fishermen. Wade fishermen can do very well during the caddis emergence but float fishermen will be able to put their flies over more rising trout during the course of the day.
While the Arkansas River is perhaps the best-known river for the Mother’s Day caddis hatch and the fishing is excellent there, there are a couple of other Colorado trout fisheries that experience fishing that is on par or better than the Arkansas. The lower Colorado River from Glenwood Canyon down to Rifle sees the first bugs as early as mid-April. Water clarity is the key here as often the river is already muddy by the time the bugs show up. Luckily this year the water clarity is still good. Shortly after the caddis emerge on the Colorado they make the turn up the Gold Medal stretch of the Roaring Fork between Basalt and Glenwood Springs. Blizzards of dark bodied-caddis fill the air and large trout take notice. Perhaps a week later, the hatch predictably begins on Vail Valley Anglers’ home water, the Eagle River. Swinging soft-hackle wet flies and skittering high-floating caddis dry flies in riffles and pocket water will keep anglers happy with bent rods.
Fishing the Mother’s Day Hatch
While nymphing in the weeks prior to the hatch with caddis larvae can be productive, this hatch is more about emerger patterns and dry flies. Because the caddis are enclose in their cases for a period time while they pupate and develop into adults, the real action doesn’t happen until the insects crawl free and swim actively to the surface. This is when swinging soft hackles and caddis emergers works very well. Favorite patterns at Vail Valley Anglers include the Guide’s Choice in olive in #14 and #16, Barr’s Graphic Caddis and beadles Prince Nymphs or Western Coachmens. Because caddis are very active swimmers, often at this time, anglers will witness aggressive, slashing rise that are actually trout chasing emgergers to the surface rather than fish slurping adults flying off the water.
When the adults break the surface, dry flies will begin to outfish subsurface patterns. Also, floating patterns work the best later in the day when female caddis return to the water to lay eggs. Watch for caddis bouncing up and down on the surface or skating across the water. The Mother’s Day Caddis are a dark-bodied bug so savvy anglers will focus on using colors that mimic this color scheme. Peacock, black and dark olive are good choices. We like the Puterbaugh’s Black Foam Caddis, Peacock Stimulators, Peacock PMX and Black Elk Hair Caddis in #14-16. Don’t be afraid to impart a little action and movement into your presentation since a dead-drifted dry fly will often be ignored with so many real insects on the water. Another trick is to upsize your dry fly to #12 or even bigger to help the trout take notice.
To experience Colorado’s Mother’s Day Caddis hatch, book a fly fishing trip with one of our experienced guides.
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer