Insects and other foods the trout
should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little BWOs)
3. Little Winter Stoneflies
4. Little Brown Stoneflies
5. Quill Gordons
6. Blue Quills
7. Little Black Caddis
Most available - Other types of food:
8. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Getting Started - More On Little Black Caddis
I'm cheating a little because I wrote this a few years ago but thought it would be appropriate to re-run. Last
week's article continues about fishing the Grannom Caddis hatch that occurs on the Arkansas River in
Colorado each April. It also occurs in most all of the streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park but at
that point in time, ten or so years ago, we hadn't heard anything about it in the Smokies.
When the hatch started just above Cannon City on the Arkansas River, all we knew about fishing it is what
we had read about the hatch in general in several of our fly fishing entomology books, and what we found on
the web about the Arkansas River hatch. We stopped by a couple of fly shops, talked about the hatch with
the locals and purchased several flies. Most all of the flies were dry flies that imitated the adults. We didn't
find any imitations of the pupae, only the adults.
The hatch starts during the warmest part of the day, which in Colorado in April is mid-afternoon. The water
temperature ranges from about forty-five to fifty degrees when they first start hatching. When the hatch
starts, it's a sight to see. There are thousands of caddisflies in the bushes and in the air. The hatch is
massive and the trout respond to it very well. Fishing anything other than a caddisfly imitation during
the hatch is a waste of time.
The pupae swim to the surface of the water and hatch into adults. The water, being fairly cold, keeps them
from departing the water very quickly. They usually ride the surface drying their wings for a good distance.
That is why the adult imitation or dry fly works great during this hatch.
In the early mornings the air temperature was cold, in the high thirties and low forties. We would find
thousands of the caddisflies on rocks, bushes and on the ground. You could just pick them up. They
wouldn't and probably couldn't fly. The air had to warm up before they would start flying. We usually fished
streamers up until the hatch started but with very little results.
About the time the hatch was getting close to ending or maybe at least half over for the day, the adults from
previous day hatches would start returning to the water to deposit their eggs. For about an hour, you would
have both hatching caddisflies and egg laying caddisflies on the water. The trout would keep the water
boiling taking both the egg layers and the newly hatched adults. It gets dark fairly early in the day in
Colorado during the month of April. About two hours before dark, the caddis would stop hatching and only
the egg layers would be on the water. The egg laying last until after dark.
Most of the caddisflies dip down and touch the water to deposit their eggs but when they are finished, they
fall in the water and die. Caddis are different from mayflies in that they may make several attempts to deposit
their eggs and may fly back and forth to the bushes. The caddisflies that die can be found at the heads of
the pools and in the eddies. Some eddies and pockets behind the boulders in the river were completely
covered with caddisflies. We could catch trout until it was too dark to see anything going on. We fished the
hatch following it upstream for about ten days. We ended up fishing near Leadville where the river is only
about twenty feet wide.
The second or third day there, we started fishing the generic pupa imitations we had brought with us about
the time the hatch was starting to take place. We discovered we could catch two or three times as
many trout on the pupa imitation as we could the adult flies. We tried several different adult patterns.
Of course the Elk Hair caddis was one of them but the best flies we found were tied locally and looked more
like the real adults. Those flies, which had a foam body, influenced the design of our on "Perfect Fly" Little
The air was thick with caddisflies. We caught an average of about thirty brown trout, and a few rainbow trout,
each day during the afternoon hatch.
How this influenced our fishing in Great Smoky Mountains.
One year when the weather stayed a little too cold for the Quill Gordons to hatch very well, we caught lots of
trout from Little River while everyone else was catching few trout, if anything. They just complained about the
Quill Gordon hatch. One afternoon, in full view of the large off-road parking lot just below the turn to
Elkmont, we caught around fifteen trout out of one stretch of the stream that is not much longer than the
parking lot. That next day, all of the fishing reports went like this - "No Quill Gordons yet, only a few fish on
nymphs being caught, but the fishing will be good any day now". This went on for over a week because the
water stayed between forty-five to just under fifty degrees. We caught several trout every afternoon during
that period of time. In fact, we caught as many or more trout from the Grannom hatch as we did the Quill
Gordon hatch after it did start. The best thing about it was that we caught about half of them on a dry fly. We
have done the same thing several times during the past few years.
Until this day, it still amazes me as to why you never hear anyone talking about the early season caddisfly
hatch in the Smokies. All you hear about it the Blue Quills and Quill Gordon mayflies. I can contribute that
only to one of two things. Anglers are either just copying older, traditional fishing methods, or they know very
little about caddisflies.
Notice, I called this hatch the Grannom Caddis hatch which probably just adds to the confusion always
caused by common names. I did that after deciding some years ago to always call it the Little Black Caddis
hatch. The reason I did is that is how two of the last books written on caddisflies refer to the hatch. The
Grannom, Stripped Grannom, Americqan Grannom, Dark Grannom, Little Black Caddis, Black Caddis, Apple
Caddis, Mother's Day hatch, and Brachycentrus caddis hatch, all refer to the same genus of caddisflies.
There is very, very little difference in the species in this group.
Upon returning from fishing the Arkansas River the year I have been writing about, the hatch was over in the
Smokies. In fact, it was over before we left for Colorado and like everyone else, we didn't fish it. We knew we
had seen the chimney case caddis before and wondered how many the streams in the Smokies had. The
following year, during January or February, we started checking the streams making note of these
caddisflies and found all of the streams had a population of them. The Little River has a lot of them. Around
the end of February, we noticed they became much more visible. You could see the chimney cases attached
to the rocks in the stream, dangling in the current almost anywhere you looked carefully.
These caddis larvae are scrapers. They attach their cases to the rock and then eat algae from the rocks.
They can extend their legs out of the cases and catch both plant and animal particles to feed on. Like some
of the non-cased caddis, they can extend out on a white silk line and move along the bottom like a mountain
climber attached by a rope. Because of this, it is thought that trout eat a lot of the dangling larvae, case and
all. There have been several fly patterns developed for these chimney cased caddis. So far, we have had
little success fishing any of them. That's why I have never developed my own Perfect Fly pattern for them. I
could be wrong, of course, but I just don't see it as a productive method of fishing.
The pupae are an entirely different thing. Trout eat them and the pupae have no defensively measures to
prevent it. When they hatch, they swim to the surface of the water using their two middle legs that are
fringed enough to act like a paddle. When they reach the surface, they pop out of the pupa skin, shake their
wings and fly off.
They usually drift on the surface ten or twenty feet doing this, depending on the current. This is what makes
for the excellent dry fly fishing they provide. Unlike many caddisflies, these hatch on the surface during the
day, and return later during the day to deposit their eggs on the surface. This provides two opportunities for
you to catch trout during the hatch. Tha's why I came up with this imitation of the pupa.
The following year after our first Colorado trip, we purchased some of LaFontaine's Deep Sparkle
Pupa and Emergent Sparkle Pupa flies and were ready to fish the hatch in the Smokies. The pupae
imitations worked even better than the dry fly imitations of the adults but either one would catch trout during
the hatch. The little foam bodied dry fly imitations we brought back from Colorado were the dry flies we first
used in the Smokies. It wasn't until a few years later that we came out with our own flies that are far superior
to anything else for fishing the LIttle Black Caddis hatch.
The problem is, when these caddisflies are hatching, few anglers notice it. Thats because for the
most part, the trout are eating the pupae as they accent to the surface. It is much easier for the trout
to do that than it is for them to take them from the surface. All you may notice is a flash of a trout. They don't
crash the surface of the water making a highly visible disturbance. I think that is why it is overlooked. Anglers
are looking for Quill Gordons and don't notice the Little Black Caddis until they see the adults (two or three
days later) returning to the stream to deposit their eggs. This occurs late in the afternoon after the Quill
Gordon hatch should have taken place. At that time most anglers have already left the streams. If they
stayed late in the afternoons they would notice the egg laying activity if they looked carefully at the water in
the dimming winter light. It is usually pretty cold by then and everyone has already departed. In fact, what I
have just described is typical for most caddisfly hatches. Anglers don't recognize the hatch until it is too late
to do them much good. They only catch the egg laying part of it and that happens during the evenings with
many other families of caddisflies.
The streams of Great Smoky Mountains National Park does not have a huge caddisfly population. It has a
diverse population consisting of many different species, but the density of the larvae is usually fairly low.
That is because caddisflies eat algae. The higher than normal acidic water doesn't offer much food for the
net-spinning variety. Some of the cased varieties, such as the Little Black Caddis do very well, however.
If you pay attention to this hatch you will likely catch as many or even more trout than you will catch fishing
the Quill Gordon hatch. It will only last about a week in any one section of the stream as it moves upstream
to higher elevations, but if you watch for it, you can enjoy great fishing from about 2:00 PM until near dark.
I should point out that there's another caddisfly hatch that will occur near the same time period and they too,
are little black caddis. So far, we have not found an effective way to fish it. It's the Chimmara hatch or what
we call the Tiny Black Caddis. They crawl up the rocks to hatch and crawl down the rocks to deposit their
eggs. So far, my rock crawling fly imitation attempts are lacking in all respects.
Copyright 2013 James Marsh
New Schedule of Daily
Mondays: Weather and Stream
Conditions Forecast - Coming Week
Tuesdays: Fly Fishing Strategies -
Which Flies To Use - Coming Week
Wednesday: Fishing Tales
Thursday: Smoky Mountains Fishing
Friday: Getting Started
Saturday: Fly Fishing School
Sunday: This Week's Featured Trout
More Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us with the dates you will be
fishing the park and we will send
you a list of our fly suggestions.
Please allow up to 24 hours for a
2. Call us at 800-594-4726 and we
will help you decide which flies you
3. Call or email us with a budget for
flies and we will select them and get
them to you in time for your trip.
Shipping is free in the U. S. for all
orders of any size. Orders over $50
are shipped free via Priority Mail.