Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
2. Little Winter Stoneflies
3. Blue-winged Ollives (Baetis brunnicolor) and Little BWOs
4. Blue Quills
5. Quill Gordons
6. Little Black Caddis (Brachycentrus)
7. Little Brown Stoneflies
Most available/ Near hatching and/or other types of available food:
8. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
"K.I.S.S. A Bug" Series - Caddisflies
The Most Underrated and Misunderstood Aquatic Insect
So far in the series, I have covered two mayflies, both of which have already started to hatch in
the lower elevations of the Smokies. This is the first article about caddisflies, a completely
different type of aquatic insect. The caddisfly is by far the most underrated and misunderstood
aquatic insect and here's why.
Why the lack of attention for Caddisflies:
I've mentioned before that I have about every book that's ever been written about aquatic insects
that trout eat, and this includes books from both a scientific and a fishing standpoint. Even from a
scientific standpoint, research and information about aquatic insects doesn't compare to the non-
aquatic insects. The reason is that entomologist don't have much of an after school practical
application for knowledge of aquatic insects as they do the other insects. By that I mean, as an
example, things like coming up with an effective poison for the boll weevil, an insect that was
destroying all the cotton in the South was more important than determining what species of
caddisflies existed in trout streams. That's something Dr. Kirby Hays, a distant cousin of mine, did
of utmost importance during his years at Auburn University back in the 1960's,
Until a fly fisherman named Gary LaFontaine came along, caddisflies were almost insignificant
from a fly fishing standpoint and usually just called "downwings".They were considered
insignificant in comparison to mayflies, or stoneflies and to a large degree, still are. LaFontaine, a
guide and amateur entomologist from Montana, did intensive research on caddisflies from a fly
fishing standpoint. He wrote the first fishing book that was solely about them. The only problem
was Caddisflies was so detailed and so involved that most of those purchasing the book basically
just looked at its cover and the few pictures within it. I've probably read the book in its entirety
three or four times and I have used it from a research standpoint hundreds of times. It's still the
angler's caddisfly bible.
Since then, there's been a few other books written on the subject but it's obvious that most of the
information in them was taken from Gary's book. On the other hand, I have dozens of books
written solely about mayflies. Unfortunately, Gary died at an early age in life or I feel certain we
would know even more about them.
Look at any hatch chart you can find on Google or in any book you may have on fly fishing for
trout. Most all of them (other than our Perfect fly hatch charts), list specific species of mayflies,
but only list caddisflies by color. There's just as much or more difference in the various species of
caddisflies trout eat as there are mayflies, yet no one list mayflies as a brown one, a green one,
etc. A Great Olive Wing Sedge looks about as much like a Cinnamon Sedge as a buffalo looks
like a house cat. They both live in different types of water, hatch, deposit their eggs and die
entirely differently. The two caddisflies I just mentioned as examples both exist in the streams of
The adult Little Black Caddis, called Grannoms, Mothers Day caddis and a dozen other common
names, aren't really black, especially from the trout's view point. Their bodies are green. Some
species are so green they are called Apple Caddis.
Trout eat far more caddisfly pupae than adults, yet the Little Black Caddis pupae are green with
only a touch of black to them. I'll shorten everything and put it like this. Most anglers haven't
finished caddisfly kindergarten.
Although Little Black Caddis, Grannoms, or whatever you want to call Brachycentrus species of
caddisflies are plentiful in the streams of the Smokies, and although they are a very popular
hatch anglers are familiar with in many western, mid-western and eastern trout streams, most
anglers that fish the Smokies ignore them and haven't a clue as to how to imitate them. This is
true even though when hatching, imitating them can often produce more trout in less time than
either the Quill Gordon or the Blue Quill mayfly hatches. They are in all respects, just as
important a hatch in the streams of the Smokies as any mayfly.
Caddisflies Versus Mayflies:
When I first started with the Quill Gordon, I didn't go into mayflies in general, rather straight into
the Quill Gordon species of mayfly. I wanted to wait until I got to the first important caddisfly to
explain a big difference in aquatic insects that many, if not even most anglers don't realize.
There are two basic types of aquatic insects. The first type includes those that undergo simple
metamorphosis and the other type includes those that undergo complete metamorphosis.
Now, if your not familiar with the big words (taught in middle school science class) don't click the
mouse just yet. Metamorphosis means change. That simply means the "complete"
metamorphosis type goes through a pupa stage of life and the "incomplete" type doesn't. .
Mayflies have 3 stages of life - they start out as an egg, hatch into a nymph and then emerge
into an adult. Now, to stop any confusion that may come about, remember the mayfly dun (which
scientist call the subimago) is just an immature stage of the adult that changes into a spinner
(which scientist call the imago). Both the dun and the spinner mayflies are adults.
Caddisflies have 4 stages of life - they start out as an egg, hatch into a larva, change into a
pupa, and emerge into an adult.
From a fishing standpoint, this means trout eat two different stages of the mayflies life - the
nymph and the adult, versus three stages of the caddisflies life - the larva, pupa and adult.
For those who may not understand, I'll use the butterfly as a common example of an insect that
goes through complete metamorphosis.
1. The butterfly starts out as an egg, then hatches into a larva called the Caterpillar. The
Caddisfly starts out as an egg, then hatches into a larva usually called a larva, or like the
caterpillar, a little worm-like insect.
2. The Caterpillars of some butterfly species change into a pupa (pupate) in a shelter it forms
called a Cocoon. Likewise, some species of caddisflies pupate in shelters or cases.
Some butterfly species change into a pupa (pupate) without the aid of a cocoon. They rely on
camouflage to protect themselves from being eaten by predators. Likewise, some species of
caddisflies pupate without a shelter or case. They have little protection against predators.
3. The butterfly changes from its pupa stage of life (those with cocoons and those without
cocoons) into the beautiful adult butterfly with wings that can fly that we are all familiar with.
Likewise, the caddisfly changes from its pupa stage of life (those with shelters or cases and those
without shelters or cases) into an adult caddisfly with wings that can fly.
Just so I don't have to go through this again as we continue with the different species of aquatic
insects that exist in the streams of the Smokies, let me point out that in addition to mayflies,
stoneflies go through simple metamorphosis. Like caddisflies, midges go through complete
metamorphosis. This means you will hear about stonefly nymphs and adults only, but in the case
of midges, you will hear reference to midge pupae, larvae and adults.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh