Every dedicated outdoorsman knows that fall is too short. There are too many good options at this time of year and not enough time to do them all. Fishing for cutthroats. Fishing for steelhead. Hunting birds. Hunting big game. All are appealing options and all are viable with relatively short drives from my house in Montana. So each day I wake up and deliberate: work or the outdoors?
I’ve never demonstrated much will power so I hit the highway on Sunday and then worked through a labyrinth of dirt roads to access some remote cutthroat waters. I knew the October caddis would be active at this time of the year, and that activity should continue late into the month. I also knew I’d see some grouse along the way and that promise held true, too.
If you want to find fish rising to October caddis now is the time to do so. And you have plenty of options: all the north Idaho rivers and streams offer these caddis right now and there are literally dozens of waters to choose from. And most of western Montana’s rivers and streams have caddis going off right now, too. Whether you choose the big rivers, such as the Bitterroot and Clark Fork, or smaller streams, like Rock Creek and the St. Joe, you’ll find lots of good cutthroats rising for big flies.
How to match them? You don’t have to be too specific. If you fish underneath in the mornings try a fall caddis pupa or a cream colored Serendipity. When the sun rises over the mountains and the air warms the big bugs take to the air and you’ll start seeing splashy rises as the cutthroats get after them. Excellent adult fall caddis patterns include size 10 Elk-Hairs, Morrish’s October Caddis, and even orange Stimulators. You can dead drift these flies, dap them, or skate them. And if you’re going to skate them you might want to try that off a switch rod. Could be a blast.
After you hook these cutthroats don’t be surprised if bull trout take a swipe at them. There are plenty of bulls holding in the same pools as these cutthroats. You can’t specifically fish for bulls in Montana, but you can in Idaho. So you may want to pack a few streamers with you, although these bulls will take October caddis pupa, too. I’ve attached an article on October caddis below. And I’ve attached some images from Sunday. Hope you enjoy. Now get out there!
By Greg Thomas
This big, widely-dispersed bug is ignored by many fly anglers. Trout don’t make the same mistake. Find out the best pattens and tactics.
Call it what you like–fall caddis, October caddis, giant orange sedge–this I know: during September and October large trout key on that insect (genus Dicosmoecus) wherever it is present.
Where and When to Find Them
In the West, you’ll find October caddis in most freestone streams and some tailwaters with strong current and rocky bottoms. You won’t find them in spring creeks due to their grassy bottoms and moderate flow.
October caddis begin hatching in early September, and adults are available to trout through October. Activity peaks around the last week of September and the first couple weeks of October.
Even when October caddis are present in small numbers, trout take notice, and fishing with large, bulky patterns can be rewarding. You can’t blame the fish for their eager attitude toward those bushy flies: an October caddis is a big meal.
The October caddis hatch doesn’t resemble a big mayfly or early-season caddis hatch; you are not going to see clouds of them hovering over the water. Instead, you may only see a few caddis in the shoreline brush and, possibly, a few skittering across the water. But trout know when the October caddis is about, and they do not hesitate to pound a likely-looking pattern.
Flies and Tactics
When fishing an October caddis, you needn’t worry about specific match-the-hatch situations like you might when imitating Baetis mayflies. Rather than worrying about nymphs, emergers, duns, and spinners, all you need is one dry fly and, if you insist, one nymph.
Top dry fly offerings include an orange or cream Stimulator and the Elk Hair October Caddis (an Elk Hair Caddis tied with a pale-orange or pale-yellow body). If you choose to probe the depths, try a size-8 or 10 pale-orange or pale-yellow bodied Serendipity.
This wet fly was created by Craig Mathews, who lives in West Yellowstone, Montana. Originally intended to imitate size-18 to 24 midge larvae, it crosses over as a nice caddis larva imitation when tied on larger hooks.
When fishing orange Serendipities, work them through the bottom of medium-depth runs, and swing them through the tailouts of pools. Usually, trout hit as the fly begins its rise to the surface, an event that mimics the insect’s most vulnerable moment.