Hecuba, October caddis and eager trout
It’s fall in Montana, not only in feel, but on the actual calendar now. There’s a lot of reasons to get upset with that knowledge because this summer, like all summers, went way too fast. The good news is this: fall offers the best trout fishing of the year, minus the massive pressure of summer and one of the best fall hatches is the Hecuba, which is also called the “fall drake” or Western Red Quill and the hatch gets some serious trout poking their snouts through the surface.
I used to see this bug a lot when I was guiding in western Montana and, later, when I moved to Sun Valley, Idaho and spent a lot of time on the Big Wood River and Silver Creek.
This fly really gets big trout looking up because it’s a meaty, thick-bodied creature that makes a nice late-season meal. They come off in the afternoon and you find them right out in the middle of a run, bobbing along in the flow. They are matched by a size-8 longshank hook.
Chuck Stranahan is a bug-freak who lives near the banks of the Bitterroot River and he finds this fly a bit amusing, while acknowledging that it provides great fishing opportunity. And it’s doing that right now.
“I’ve never seen a fall that has yielded so many large fish on dry flies (on the Bitterroot),” he said. “Each day I’m hearing of anglers who take fish in the 18-to 22-inch range on dries. We’ve had bumpy, broken weather and on the days it’s bright I suggest going underneath, but on the overcast days we’re seeing Hecuba and mahogany duns and a few Baetis, too.
“The Hecuba is the deal right now and that should continue for a week or two more,” Stranahan said. “They are a lazy fly and they start coming to the surface around 1 (p.m.) and they may continue to do so until four or even five. ON balmy days they ride to the surface and pop their wingcases open and say, ‘Ah, I’ll take a nice ride,’ and then it’s SLURP!
“You don’t see a lot of Hecuba on the water,” Stranahan continued, “but it doesn’t take many. You see a few rises but most of the time you fish patterns in a searching manner. If you do see a fish rise to a Hecuba and you put a Brindleshoot over it, they take on the first or second cast.”
Ah, the Brindleshoot, one of Stranahan’s best creations (and he’s created a lot of great patterns), a fly that Montana Fly Company is now producing, a fly that, likely, will find its way into a lot of trout shop fly bins over the next year. Right now, if you want one, you have to special order from Stranahan or walk right in the doors of his shop in Hamilton.
While you’re at it you may want to pick up some October caddis pupa because those bugs are just starting to be seen and, surely, there’s all sorts of chaos going on underneath the surface as the pupa get moving and prepare to negotiate the currents to become adults. You’ll see them on all the north Idaho streams, you’ll find them throughout western Montana, and you’ll even find them over by Yellowstone on such streams as the South Fork Snake. Be prepared with some October caddis pupa that, according to Stranahan, “doesn’t need to be glitzy. Just a drab orange coloration with a gray ostrich herl head. Tie it on a size 8 longshank hook and fish it with lead.”