5 Tips for Fly Fishing the Tan Caddis Hatch

Photo by David Short

-Tip #1 How many rises do you see?

When you see thousands of Tan Caddis flying at dusk in Montana, the thought is tie one on and get to catching fish. But many times you’ll find the water almost devoid of rise forms, despite the abundance of food. That says the fish are feeding SUB-SURFACE! Just because the water seems to be alive with adults swarming, if the rises are infrequent, put on a pupa. That’s where the fish are. Down below chowing on the pupae coming to the surface. Go where the fish are, despite the eye candy of so many adults.

-Tip #2 Great Searching Pattern

While the evening rise might not always be the steadiest fly fishing, the Tan caddis is one of the best searching patterns in Montana. The adults will appear throughout the day, and the fish recognize them at all times. If you’re not 100% sure what to tie on, and you want to fish a dry, tie on a Tan caddis- it’s a very productive fly in Missoula.

-Tip #3 Move That Fly!

Caddis are very active on the water. They seem to dance across it. So the trout are used to seeing the caddis move a bit on the surface. Give your caddis a bit of a twitch now and then. Not a 3 foot drag across the surface, but just a little movement. Make about a 1 foot circle with the tip of your rod. That will activate the fly enough to give it some action, but not move it too far. Let the trout tell you if they want it moving or dead drifted. How do you know? If you’re lifting your fly to start a new cast, and a fish takes a shot at it, then you know they want it moving.

-Tip #4 The Cutthroat Drag

If you’re Fly fishing on a stream or river in Montana with a strong cutthroat population, fish your Caddis out the complete length of your cast. What that means is let the fly swing below you and dance on the water directly below you for a couple of seconds. You’ll be stunned at how many cutthroat will hit your caddis on the “dangle.” This seems to be irresistible to them, and if you’re taking cutthroat, allowing your fly to fish the entire way out will take a lot more.

-Tip #5 Bring Scissors

Sometimes, a smaller Caddis will fish better without hackle. If you don’t tie your own flies, then a pair of scissors will come in handy. You can cut the hackle flush with the body for a low riding fly, which changes the silhouette of the Caddis on the water. Sometimes the trout want a low rider. And if you want to skate the fly, cut the hackle off flat at the hook point. A flat hackle across the hook point allows a fly to skate along the top much better than a circular hackle. A pair of scissors will take your Caddis game to a different level. Additionally, a size 12 Tan Caddis with the hackle cut flush to the body works great for a Spruce Moth pattern if you find yourself in a situation where you need them but don’t have them.

Additional Tan Caddis Resources