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Actively Presenting the Winter/Summer Caddis by Pat Torrey

If you find yourself on the river with fish rising everywhere but you can’t fathom what they are feeding on, welcome to the Farmington.The culprit most likely a little black avenger dressed in dark colors and measuring slightly longer than a size 20 or 22 hook. I am referring, of course, to our famous (or infamous) Winter/Summer Caddis (dolophilodes distinctus). This little insect favors cooler, cloudy days, usually in the morning but can hatch any time and in every season. It is noted for an interesting form of behavior: it likes to swim across the river as fast as its little legs will take it in a frantic effort to make the other shore without being eaten.

Now how do we catch the trout that swim after it like marathon runners and are difficult to see?The answer – not easily and not with passive tactics.While it is always wise to start off with the normal dead drift approach, when that is not working, it is time for more action.Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a relatively short but stout leader, about 7 ½ feet in length with a heavy butt section and as strong a tippet that will fit through the eye of a 20 or 22 hook – certainly no thinner than 6x.Grease the entire leader with the exception of the last few inches of the tippet.
  • Present the fly with an underpowered cast that straightens out but does not kick back and create unwanted slack. This is key because the fly cannot move until all slack is removed. You want to start your retrieve as soon as the fly hits the water.
  • Move the fly back to your position so that it moves downward and as straight across stream as you can.Keep in mind that insects, especially small ones, move with the current and not against it.
  • The speed of your retrieval and the length of each line strip should mimic as closely as possible the movements of the caddis. You don’t have to match the exact movements of the natural – close is often good enough.

Pat Torrey has been guiding on the Farmington for 25 years and is a master of dry fly presentations and the classic short line nymphing techinques. He may be contacted for a day on the water from our Guide Services page. Winter/Summer Caddis for Pat's active techiniques can be found in UpCountry's fly bins.

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