One of the most compelling forms of fishing with a Trout Spey is skating a Caddis across the surface in front of rising trout. Just on dusk this is extremely effective and helped improve my cast because I was forced to be accurate without having visual cues that I get in the daily that get me adjusting my casting stroke.
I started out using a Deer Hair Caddis, a fly that I had used for years although not that much as I fish the mayfly hatch on the Tukituki far more than the caddis hatch. The Tuki pools are long and slow and are flat calm in the evening so a fly doesn’t need to float particularly well to work.
This changes when fishing rough water, and it appears to change when fishing with a Trout Spey. Deer Hair Caddis, no matter how much floatant applied, will sink rather than skate. They will skate for the first few casts after floatant is applied, but not for much longer than that.
When fishing on the swing having a fly that skates is pretty crucial for accuracy. Unless you can see the fly skating you don’t know where it is in relation to the fish, especially in rough water. An accurate cast skated across the front of the fish will usually get a take, while an inaccurate cast will not.
A rainbow that hit the skated caddis.
This is the likely scenario when fishing the caddis hatch on the Tongariro. The fish will often be in broken water, so a fly that isn’t floating well is very hard to see.
This lead me to experiment with foam flies that float much higher. My initial hand cut caddis bodies were not that flash, so I bought a Size 14 River Road Creations caddis cutter. This makes getting the shape right far easier, although the caddis bodies are better on a 12 than a 14.
I started out with the recommended 2mm foam. This was pretty disappointing as it did not seem to stand up to the rigours of spey casting and went sub surface after a few casts. Experimenting with foam tubes cut in half and 5mm foam sheets created a fly that could be cast repeatedly without treatment.
These flies skate really well. They are extremely visible so I am able to see exactly where they are in relation to the rise form, and adjust my cast accordingly.
The initial designs of the fly included a thread body. This turned out to be unnecessary as it did not impact on the fly’s motion in the water. What was crucial was a buoyant fly that skated after many casts and many fish.
The pattern that works best is very simple.
Hook: Kamasan B175 #12
Thread: Veevus 6/0 Black (this is a strong thread that copes with extra pressure when tying in the fly)
Body: Black Foam (8mm Foam Tube cut in half or 5mm foam sheet)
Hackle: Brown Saddle
A selection of Trout Spey Caddis. Note they are bulky and large. They are not designed to imitate a natural, they are designed to skate like a caddis and stimulate takes. They still work presented upstream to a rising fish even though they are considerably bigger than the naturals in Hawkes Bay.
Foam Caddis Wing
- Cut the wing with the caddis cutter
- Trim front to make it a bit shorter.
- Turn the foam onto its size and trim diagonally to reduce the front end to make it easier to tie in.
- Slit the under side of the foam so the hook beds in the foam.
- Tie in thread and tie on the foam making sure the hook stays at a 90 degree angle to the bottom of the foam. Use thread wraps to compress the foam where the hackle will go.
- Tie in the hackle and dress it heavily to aid buoyancy.
- Tie off and glue. Glue both the thread and the hook in the slit in the foam body.
Do not be too concerned about how the fly turns out. The fish take it because it is behaving like a caddis, not because it looks like one. They react to the skating fly in low light so almost certainly cannot see the colour.
A skating caddis at the Ngaruroro in Hawkes Bay. Immediately after I stopped the video a bow wave appeared behind the fly and a wee rainbow nailed it.
This fly is best fished with a floating head. I am using a 5ft Airflo floating head on my Rio Trout Spey line as the Rio Spey Versileader 10ft floater doesn’t really cast well in combination with the line, and Rio do not make a shorter floater.
I usually fish the caddis with a Hare & Copper #16 with a 2mm tungsten bead training about 400-500mm behind the caddis. This is longer than I use when fishing the mayfly hatch, and is necessary to keep the Hare & Copper sub surface on the swing.
The real art to catching fish is making an accurate cast at rise forms. Fish rising to sedge can be aggressive, splashing and leaping out of the water and not holding station. This means get your first cast to the rise form as quickly as possible, and if you don’t get a take first cast give it a few more casts.
The swing should be relatively short. I aim for no more than 2 metres, and often less. Long, accurate swings are hard to make, and take longer to get to the fish. Getting the fly to the fish quickly improves the chances of getting a take.
Fish will sometimes chase the caddis like a GT chasing a popper, and even when there isn’t a bow wave of a fish attacking the fly the take is very aggressive. There is no need to strike.