THE OZARKS shrug off the somber coat of winter every year in a hurry, almost like there isn’t enough time to get things growing
Trees bud, the voices of migrating birds return, and for the fly fisher the first Caddis start to pop.
Caddis fishing brings an end to the grind of winter. Heavy clothing can be shed, away go the big sticks and out come convention trout weights: 5 weight and their neighbors. There is a giddy dive for the necessities: flies not used for a year, mono tippet, dry shake, small bobbers etc. Caddis time is chance to ease back the throttle, mend arms and backs tired from rowing the big water and and have some fun.
It’s the equivalent of Spring Break for college kids: guides and their clients with goofy grins of anticipation. The Caddis are coming and Caddis be crazy. Even the trout seem to think so: for years we have expounded a theory that the green flavoring of our Caddis is something like catnip for trout. You won’t find our fish as hard running, crazy leaping, and generally loony at any other time of year.
While lacking the iconic status of the Arkansas River Mother’s Day Caddis, the Green Drakes on the Henrys Fork, Salmonflies on the Madison or the Hexes on the Au Sable, word is out in surrounding State’s at least.
If you want your choice of guide for mid-April to mid-May you would do well to book a year ahead, it’s that good. Caddis is the great equilizer, bringing trophy brown trout within the reach of most. Good rod skills, soft hands and a slice might have you in range of truly fish of a lifetime.
The first caddis will usually be spotted in early March, depending on the flows. Low water, which generally arrives with spring’s mild temperatures, allows the river bottom to warm faster triggering the bugs to pop and take wing.
The profile of an adult caddis could be be caricatured as an enormous set of tent shaped wings and long, plump abdomen about as graceful as a 747 on takeoff. In flight they seem well to by just working too damn hard.
The Caddis the light, ethereal dance of the mayfly. If a caddis were an aircraft you would think the cockpit is permanently full of red flashing lights and stall alarms.
In flight the wings are deceptive, rotating forward from that distinctive folded delta wing seen at repose. You will find the slatey gray wings, and some of the palest light duns you can imagine.
It fishes well on high-water and spectacularly well on low flows, and seems to be getting stronger and longer every year. Once the caddis hatch was a down river affair, now the caddis are relatively common even under Bull Shoals Dams. As an eco-system the White River system is in its infancy, barely 50 years old birthed by the cold water releases from the USACE Dam
Turn some rocks on the river bottom and there are caddis cases everywhere, if you have been fishing over the winter you probably have been picking up grannom cases on your hookpoint like we were.
There are some 200 species of caddisflies in Arkansas, including 5 found nowhere else. NB: If you want to learn a bit more about Caddisflies generally, or in particular the Brachycentrus and Rhycophilia Caddis so important here check out the links to Troutnut.com. Jason has some stunning images. Orvis has a solid article on the Grannom’s as well
Roll on to discussion on fishing subsurface and on top for the Caddis.