Vail Valley fishing report: March of the caddis |

Vail Valley fishing report: March of the caddis

Alpine River Outfitters
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyAnglers can expect dry flies to work better each day that the water levels drop and clarity improves. Above: A fisherman holds a healthy Eagle River brown trout.

Runoff is here, the waters are getting muddy, wading the Eagle is starting to get sketchy and floating is now the best tactic for fishing. If you don’t have a boat, now is time to make some new friends or book a trip with your local guide service.

On the brighter side, dry fly fishing is here. The little known but amazingly prolific caddis fly hatch should be considered one of the Eagle River’s most spectacular events. This usually starts around Mothers Day and runs heavy through the first two or three weeks of runoff.

Caddis will continue to hatch all spring, summer and fall. But as we have had a cold and wet early spring it has delayed most of the hatches until the last four or five days.

As the various species of caddis native to the Eagle begin to hatch and you take notice, they like to hang out for a while. That is because caddis flies exhibit complete metamorphosis consisting of four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.

The cycle starts with fertilized eggs that are deposited on to the stream beds and eventually hatch into larva. Most species of larva build cases where they will live for about 30 weeks, typically being the longest part of their lives.

The next stage is the pupa. During this transformation the larva will become a fully developed adult contained in a pupa shuck. The pupa will spend a period of time on the river bottom, depending on species, before attempting to move to the surface.

Once the migration to surface begins, the flies become vulnerable. They reach the surface and begin climbing out of their shuck. If the caddis flies can’t hatch quickly they will be eaten or sink back to the bottom where each attempt becomes more difficult.

Successful emergers will typically spend a few days to a few weeks looking for mates before laying eggs and dying. Egg layers can be seen skating across the water surface. If you catch an egg layer you will notice a green egg sack attached to the lower end of the abdomen.

Even though the current water levels are rising and clarity is getting worse, the fish are eating dries. During the “power hour” or the last hour before dark the fishing really turns on and the dry fly is unstoppable.

While we begin to wait several weeks for water levels to recede and clarity to return to the Eagle, stripping streamers can be very productive. Fish will tend to move to the banks to achieve greater visibility in order to feed and to get relief from the high flows. Anglers can expect dry flies to work better each day that the water levels drop and clarity improves. Don’t give up on the dry flies during runoff. Fish will still eat if the opportunity is great enough.

For Gore Creek water levels have spiked from under 100 cfs to 224 cfs as of Wednesday. Water clarity is about as good as chocolate milk.

On the Eagle River flows are rising rapidly. Flows were sitting around 800 cfs and as of Wednesday jumped to 1200 cfs.

The same story for can be said for the Colorado. Flows have jumped from 800 cfs to 1200 as of Wednesday.

Stop by the shop for up to the date ideas on hot flies. While you’re here, sign up to win our brand new Sage fly rod with a Lamson reel. We’ll see you on the river!

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