Cased Caddis

In my early fly fishing life in the 70s, I was pretty obsessed and was gobbling up all the available wisdom. Fortunately, this was before every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a GoPro was pumping out YouTube videos and claiming to be an expert. There were certainly some bonafide experts around and they were putting out informative books based on extensive research and experience. And I was buying them.

Among them is Gary LaFontaine‘s epic tome, Caddisflies. It is arguably the definitive work on these aquatic insects from a fly fishing perspective. Of course, there are two types of caddis in their larval stage. One that is “free living” among the rocks and vegetation often capturing their food in woven nets and then there are “cased” caddis, who build a protective home out of materials in the stream. I learned in this book that trout will feed on cased caddis, because at some point they learned there is a larva inside.

In spite of Mr. LaFontaine’s acknowledged expertise on this subject, I was doubtful it was worth imitating and fishing a cased caddis. However, not wanting to let any stone go unturned, I took a stab at tying cased caddis imitations many years ago when I fished the Rochester, NY home water, Oatka Creek. I never identified the species of caddis, but observed they made their cases from tiny pebbles. One day in my lab at Eastman Kodak, I realized that the vermiculite we used might be a good material to make a caddis case imitation. Now, 40 years later, I can’t recall how I fashioned bits of vermiculite on a nymph hook, but I managed and put a few in my fly box. Probably due to my initial skepticism I only fished them a couple times and likely not for long. Never touched them again.

Recently as I scrolled through some fly tying videos on YouTube looking for inspiration and one on the “Day Drifter Caddis” on a channel called Troutracker caught my eye. It also referred to the Peeping (a.k.a. Peeking) Caddis. Unlike many fly tying videos on that platform, Troutracker provided a good deal of entomological background on the natural basis for the pattern and when it should be fished. A lot of information I was unaware of on the latter topic. There a many months during the year aside from around hatching time that are appropriate to fish these flies. I should mention this pattern is relevant to the Brachycentrus occidentalis or Mother’s Day Caddis for its mid-May emergence. The Yakima River has an abundance of these caddis and the hatches are prolific.

This caddis larva lives on the stream bottom tethered to a rock by a silk thread. They will extend the thread to allow themselves to move away from the rocks when gathering tiny food items from the flow, then reel themselves back to the protection of the rocks. To do this they have to extend part of their body out of the case (peeking out) and extend their legs to capture food or materials for their case. Every so often they release themselves from the tether to drift down stream to a new location. Hence the term “Day Drifter”.

Intrigued but not really thrilled with Troutracker’s pattern I started looking for others and quickly came across another video by well known fly tier and author, Kelly Galloup, on his TheSlideInn channel. In his video Kelly ties the case portion of the fly with clipped hackle over a dubbed body. I’m a fan of clipped hackle bodies, which I have used on successful for the bodies of adult caddis dry flies in New York. So that is the approach I took. Note that this fly is tied “backwards” with the head and legs at the bend of the hook. Also, the clipped hackle is a great way to use up the mounting of odd sized and poor quality hackle most tiers have laying around.

  • Hook: 1X long nymph hook #12 & 14
  • Thread: 8/0 Danville in dark brown
  • Legs: Black Krystle Flash
  • Head: Black Superfine dubbing
  • Body: Caddis green blend – 3/2 Insect green Superfine and 1/3 light green Antron dubbing
  • Under case: Olive rabbit dubbing
  • Case: Black hackle – clipped

I think they’ll fish…

2 thoughts on “Cased Caddis

  1. Donna Gavette, oldest sister March 10, 2023 — 10:29 am

    You are such an artist, Steve! I envy your prowess in all things fly tying!

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