Caddis vs. Mayflies

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Entomology' started by William, Apr 18, 2009.

  1. Last year was my first year fly fishing. I only fished the Tilton River outside Morton, WA using Orange Stimulator.
    I am hoping to expand where I fish and also to expand my fly collection to other than the orange stimulator; however, I am confused to whether I use caddis flies or mayflies.
    I don't want to go over board and purchase 50 different flies, but would like to get a starter of 3 to 5 types of flies I should get. When I do the research, it just too confusing as to what I should focus on for fishing in Washington rivers.
    Any suggestion would be great!
  2. William it can be a bit daunting when you first begin to learn the many insect trout eat however it doesn't have to be. Let me suggest that you take that endeavor by "season".
    For example start with summer, choose your body of water, (river or lake) and check out which insects are active and hatching during that time. Each family of insects has a life cycle and are quite seasonal in each body/type of water. You can purchase a hatching guide (Western Hatches/Rick Haefle) for the area that you live/fish that will help you. A great book to get started with is "A guide to aquatic trout foods" by Dave Whitlock. This book is easy to read with great pictures that will help you identify the different insects and how to fish the flies that represent them. Taking this learning curve one step at a time will give you confidence, increase your catch rate, and it won't seem so big a task. Flyfishing for most of us is a lifetime pursuit.
    For the Tilton R. check out stoneflies first (which are imitated by the stimulators), caddis and mayflies come second as the water warms and the flows settle down after snow melt, generally speaking. The more you learn about trout foods, the more flies you will collect so you can be prepared to offer the fish whatever they're feeding on at the time you're fishing. If you can find someone to fish with that knows the river, you will learn a lot this season.
  3. mayflies and caddis flies hatch at different times (for the most part) so one day caddis flies could be the ticket and they may only touch a mayfly the next. once you figure out which they are eating size and color are very important factors as well, it could be hard to do with 3-5 flies.
    you need to find a local fly shop or someone who knows the river to fill you in on what hatches go off when and then pick a selection of flies, obviously with more flies you will have a better chance at success.

    till then read up on mayflys and caddis flys and what temps, seasons, times, and areas in the river they are going to hatch all that info can be found on the net.
  4. Being fairly new to the PNW I know how you feel. There is so much information out there it is easy to be overwhelmed.

    In addition to the above suggestions I would pick up a copy of Flies of the Northwest. This book does a good job of breaking down the major catagories (mayflies, caddis, stone...) gives a good general description of each, techniques, and finally shows some of the more popular patterns.
  5. William-

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with your approach. You already have winged stoneflies covered with your Stimulator. For winged caddisflies, it's hard to beat an an Elk Hair Caddis, and for winged mayflies, a Royal Wulff would be a good choice.

    I would suggest rounding out your pattern selection with some nymphs, perhaps a Bead Head Prince Nymph which is a good generalized stonefly nymph imitation, and a Copper John which would be a good generalized mayfly nymph imitation in smaller sizes, and for a caddisfly pupa imitation, a Soft Hackle would be a good choice.

    Have fun.
  6. If you're just starting out, you should have a stock of fundamentals for rivers (your butter, milk, eggs, bread of the flyfishing pantry); the list would be a bit different for lakes. You can do this without breaking the bank. First, half a dozen wooly buggers, size 8 to 4, half black and half brown. A dozen bead-head hare's ears (size 14 & 12, in a few colors) and a dozen bead-head pheasant tails (size 16, 14, 12). On the dry side, I would have a dozen parachute adams (size 14, 16, and 18). Like Taxon, I would suggest elk hair caddis, another dozen (size 14 and 16) in tan, brown, and green bodies. That's about 50 flies. If you click on Hill's Discount Flies, a site supporter, you could purchase those flies for well less than $100. That is six styles of flies. I'm a packmule when flyfishing; I'm usually carrying 6 fly boxes with over 400 to 600 flies flies if I were heading to the Tilton. I would probably only use three or four patterns, but I would feel "undressed" with fewer.

    It is best to have duplicate flies in each size and color. There is nothing more frustrating to find you have the hot fly, but your only one just got wrapped around a tree limb 20' above you during a bad backcast. Over time, you can purchase patterns that are a better match to the naturals. Remember, the Tilton River is one of the few rivers stocked with trout in the state; you've mostly been catching naive hatchery trout. Most Yakima River trout would be hugging the bottom laughing at these generic patterns (though, even there, there are always a few trout that will take a generic pattern presented at the right place at the right time.).

    You're beginning the journey. Enjoy.

  7. Far be it for me to disagree with Roger, but I would suggest an Adams rather than a Royal Wulff for a mayfly imitation. The rather neutral colors of the Adams are what makes it such an effective imitation, giving it a close resemblance to many genera and species of mayflies. This is also true, for instance, of the Elk Hair Caddis; while many caddis may have darker or lighter wings than the typical EHC, the rather neutral, gray-tan color of elk hair is similar to the color of the wings of a great many varieties. A tan or olive bodied EHC will probably be serviceable for most caddis hatches. From there, when you become more familiar with the specific insect you are trying to imitate, and particularly if you start tying your own flies, you can make your own modifications to create more specific imitations
  8. Preston,

    You make an excellent point about the Adams concerning its close resemblance to many mayflies, and it is certainly among my favorite mayfly patterns. Perhaps I should have suggested it, rather the Royal Wulff, which is more of an attractor pattern. However, in smaller W. WA rivers like the S. Fork of the Snoqualmie in King County, or the Deschutes in Thurston County, the latter has actually been a better producer for me. Anyway, see you Tuesday, my good friend.
  9. I would also through in a few humpies with verering coloring.
  10. I'm completely unfamiliar with the Tilton, but looking at it on a map, it seems like might be your standard Cascade mountain stream. If that's the case, the trout don't see enough bugs where they can afford to be too particular. Especially during the summer, they'll eat anything that looks like food if you can put it in front of them and it's presented well.

    I'd say grab a couple of attractor dries and attractor nymphs in size 12-16 in classic patterns. They're classics for a reason.

    For the dries, an Elk Hair Caddis and an Adams work well. I'm fond of the Adams tied parachute. The body rides a little lower in the water so it could be mistaken for an adult or an emerger.

    For nymphs, a gold ribbed hare's ear and a pheasant tail nymph will round out your fly box.

    I'm sure the Tilton isn't some technical tailwater or spring creek with spooky fish that won't eat anything that doesn't look perfect. So keep it simple, keep it fun, catch some fish. You'd be surprised how well that philosophy works in a lot of places.

    That's actually one of the cool things about fly fishing. You can make it exactly as complicated as you want. If you want to don scuba gear and spend your life studying the entomology and trout feeding patterns of a single strech of a single river, fly fishing allows for that. If you want to head up to the creek with 4 EHCs stuck in your cap, fly fishing allows for that too.
  11. I carry elk hair caddis sizes from 10 - 16 and for mayflies I love the Adams in various sizes 12 - 16. You'll do well most of the time with those flies and in those sizes.

    My favorite go to fly is the wright's royal. Its a Royal Coachman with a caddis wing. Seems to work well for caddis and mayflies.

  12. There have been may good suggestions. If you are new to flyfishing, the 5 dries I suggest are elk hair caddis (sze 10-18), parachute adams (sze 12-18), various stimulaters (humpy's, etc (sze 8-18), BWO's (sze 16-22) and PMD/PED's (sze 12-18). Ok, so with the multiple stimulators category it might be 6 or 7 patterns :thumb:.

    For nymphs I would go with pheasant tail nymphs (beaded and unbeaded in sz 12-18), double beaded stonefly nymps (sz 8-14), hares ears (sz 12-18), copper johns (various colors sz 16-22), and wooley buggers (various colors -sz 6-12, beadhead and not). The wooley bugger is nice because it can be fished as a streamer or nymph.

    Since you are new, use one of the discount fly shops online. Alot of these patterns are basic and many times you can find them for 69-99 cents a piece. The quality is not great but you could fill a flybox with about 50 bucks and it would give you an opportunity to try different patterns. Many times confidence plays a big role in the pattern that works for you. Especially, when you are talking attractor patterns. Once you figure out what works for you, upgrade to a higher quality fly. In the long run it will be worth the money (or learn to tire your own).
  13. My best advice for the proper selection of flies as well practical locations to use them, aside form the numerous publications on that subject, would be to visit your local fly shops and develop a relationship with them - maybe even buy a few things from them! They will be your most trusted & reliable source of information AND equipment and you will be supporting your local resources as well.

    My 0.2 cents....


  14. 6 fly starter kit:

    1. Elk Hair caddis-tan size 14
    2. Parachute Adams size 16
    3. Royal Stimulator size 12

    1. Copper John- red size 14 or 16
    2. Red San Juan worm- size 8
    3. Pats rubberlegs- size 8
  15. william.......dont worry, this question for you wont last long

    Soon it will many flies is TOO many....

    then, and then alone, will you say to yourself....NEVER
  16. Don't forget a few woolly buggers; black and olive. Some medium sizes and some bigger sizes. Big fishes like big streamers.

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