Summer, at last: Caddis hatch upon Vail Valley |

Summer, at last: Caddis hatch upon Vail Valley

Ray Kyle
Special to the Daily

Caddis, caddis, caddis.

If you walk into any fly shop in the Vail Valley right now, then I’m sure you will hear the same thing from all of the guides and shop-dogs mouths. The caddisfly hatch is the Eagle River’s best known hatch.

We all wait patiently every spring for these moth-like flies to pop off in numbers that produce waves of bugs in the sky. We also know that the fish will be going bonkers regarding this hatch. When the caddis start hatching, it feels like the unofficial kick off to summer fishing is here. There are a lot of different caddis patterns out there and I know some of you have your own favorite patterns.

Here are my favorite three:

Elk-hair caddis

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The elk-hair caddis is a pattern that has a spot in every angler’s fly box. It is one of the most used and traditional flies out there. The wings are made out of hollow elk hair, which makes it float better and longer on the surface of the water. The body is hackled (a way of tying feathers in to make them stick out) to make the fly sit even higher on the surface.

This pattern can be skated or skittered across the water to replicate the natural movements of this mothy bug. The elk hair caddis is also a pretty easy fly for beginner fly tyers to create.

X2 caddis

This is a low profile caddis pattern that will produce when the elk-hair caddis is struggling to get the trout’s attention. This fly can be fished alone, however I find it easier to see when it is fished in tandem with a larger caddis fly as the lead. I like to treat the X2 caddis with floatant when I first tie it onto the hook bend of my lead fly. I usually will not treat the fly with floatant again. This pattern fishes great in the foam, slightly below the surface of the water. It is supposed to replicate a caddisfly struggling to get out of its shuck, making it an easy target for hungry fish.

Pulsating caddis pupa

When the fish are not targeting the flies on the surface or slightly below the surface, the pulsating caddis pupa is the first fly I go to. This pattern can be fished behind a large attractor fly, such as a Parachute Madam X, or fished under an indicator below some split shot weight. I tend to fish it deeper in the morning when the natural bugs are beginning to become active. As the day and the summer heat progresses, I fish this fly at the mid level of the river. This fly is deadly in the evening fished slightly below the surface, tied behind a size fourteen elk-hair caddis.

Fishing Report

The Eagle River is beginning to get back to the conditions we know and love. The peak of the runoff has come and gone. We are seeing the river drop almost everyday. With the drop in the water level, the river clarity is coming back and the bug activity is at its best. The yellow sallies and caddis flies are hatching throughout the day, with the evenings boasting the largest hatches. The water is still a bit high, so use caution when wading.

The Colorado River has seen a large drop in water flows this past week. It’s at a great flow to float fish in all sections. The water clarity has returned and like the Eagle, the bug and fish activity are at the peak of the season. Stoneflies, caddis, and red quills are the insects to focus on when fishing the Upper Colorado.

Gore Creek has also returned to form after the runoff. It is still running a bit faster than what is ideal, however the fishing has been great. I always like to move around when I fish the Gore, finding the best holes and spending time fishing them. I usually use a large attractor fly as an indicator with a beadhead fly dropped beneath it. This reduces the splash on the water that a bubble indicator would create. The more ninja-like you are on the Gore, the more fish it will produce for you.

Guide Tip of the Week

The rivers are starting to get very busy. River etiquette is something that can be easily overlooked during these busy times. We all want to have the “best spot” on the river, however during the summer month in the Vail Valley, those “best spots” are usually full of trucks with rod racks and loads of anglers. There are plenty of great spots on the river. Typically the ones that get passed by, are the ones that fish the best. Go out and explore the river, find your own “best spot.” If you find yourself in a crowded area of the river, then give the anglers around you plenty of space and always fish below someone that is already there.

Ray Kyle is the shop supervisor and guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 and

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