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Bug of the Month: Brachycentrus Caddis

The Brachycentrus Caddis is our May Bug of the Month, not only because of the famous “Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch”, but because this is the time of year this remarkable insect begins to play a much larger role as a food source for trout in both its adult and immature stages. 

Lifestages of the Caddis

The Brachycentrus Caddis is a fascinating bug that plays a vital role in the ecosystems of the South Platte and Arkansas Rivers. This caddis is commonly found in clean, well-oxygenated streams and rivers due to their sensitivity to water quality. Their presence indicates a healthy environment which is a welcome sight to anglers. 

This caddis has a relatively average lifespan ranging from several months to a year.. The larvae have slender, elongated, distinctly segmented bodies with strong jaws to feed on algae and other organic matter. Their color ranges from tan to olive, and in our waters, often look nearly neon green.

Unlike some other caddisfly species, Brachycentrus larvae construct portable homes made of their own silk and nearby stones and/or debris. These cases provide them with both protection and camouflage and help clue us anglers into their presence when attached to submerged sticks and stones. They then go through several molts, gradually enlarging their cases and then pupating within them before they emerge.

 In their emergence stage, these insects actively swim to the surface, much like a water boatman, rather than floating passively like some other aquatic insects. Adults have slim bodies and intricate wing patterns and appear in shades of brown, tan, and olive. The adult stage of this caddis is easy to spot as its flight pattern is erratic and moth-like, eliciting aggressive, opportunistic takes from trout. 

Fishing with Caddis

Fishing to trout using caddis patterns doesn’t require perfect, intricate rigging, but a few things are important to keep in mind. First, make sure the size and color of your fly match the real thing. Using a seine can be a great way to compare the real thing with your imitations. You can also pick up nearby submerged sticks to check out any caddis casings and the larvae inside them. 

When rigging, focus on the lifecycle stage you see the trout keying in on. If the trout you can see are hugging the bottom of the water column, a larva or pupa pattern is best, fished with a beadhead pattern or with heavy split shot.

If you’re seeing trout hanging out in the middle or upper sections of the water column, focus on pupae patterns and caddis emergers, either on a nymph rig (with either an indicator or dry fly used as an indicator), or dead drifted without weight or floatant. If fishing emergers, be sure to allow your fly to swing below you until your line and leader straighten out, to simulate a rising pupa. This simple trick only takes a few extra seconds, but the payoff can be huge. 

Fishing the adult stage is arguably the most fun out of all the stages. Because of the erratic flight of the adult caddis, trout must be opportunistic -and quick- in their feeding. This means there’s no need for a perfect, delicate presentation, but a simple plop of your fly and drag-free drift in the feeding lane is very effective. 

Favorite Patterns: Kryptonite Caddis, Buckskin Caddis, Graphic Caddis, Sparkle Pupa, Elf Hair Caddis

Tying the Caddis

One of the most unique caddis patterns is Hopper Juan’s Kryptonite Caddis. Check out the video below to learn how to tie your own or come in the shop and grab a few!

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