Caddis Hatches of Wisconsin Spring Creeks

 While few anglers ever bother to memorize the Latin names and hatch dates of caddis hatches, they are often more important and more dependable than the famed mayfly hatches. Until recently, the Elk Hair Caddis was considered to be the only fly needed for the caddis hatch. Now there are a plethora of different patterns, many designed particularly for hard to fool spring creek fish.

 Caddis hatches on Wisconsin's spring creeks can be very heavy and often last for months providing some of the best and most dependable fishing of the year. The other great thing is they'll often hatch during the middle of the day, creating a nice bit of dry fly angling while waiting for that evening mayfly hatch.

Insect Hatch Dates Size Streams Notes
Little Black


Early April to Early May 16-18
  • Timber Coulee
  • Blue River
  • West Fork
A slender bodied fly that can produce some very heavy hatches. I've not often seen its emergence but a black fly work great when you spot them dancing over riffles or on streamside vegetation.
American Grannom


Most of May 16
  • Timber Coulee
  • Big Green
Often a phenomenal hatch. I caught it one one of the first days of the hatch and landed 50 fish on the Timber Coulee system.
Green Rock Worm


Mid May to Mid June 14-16
  • Timber Coulee
  • Big Green
  • West Fork
  • Black Earth
Probably one of the most commonly seen caddis and is a free living caddis making the larva especially important for the nympher. A simple peacock herl body with a little coarse dubbing makes a great imitation.
Tan Caddis June thru August 14
  • Timber Coulee
  • West Fork
This was 1997's mid-summer savior on the West Fork and Timber Coulee. Hatches lasted for months and provided consistently good evening fishing.
Gray Caddis June 14-18
  • Big Green
I've only witnessed this hatch once but it was a spectacular day fishing over larger, selective fish which had a hard time refusing the X-Caddis when presented correctly.

Favorite Patterns

Larva Type Imitation Notes:
Vegetative Cased Peeking Caddis Dubbing to match case color, a small dubbed larval body and a coarsely dubbed leg section finished with a small head.
Rock Cased Peeking Caddis A simple but effective pattern is to lightly dub a "case" over silver tinsel chenille. This will give a nice sparkly body which has proven to be a real winner. Finish the "worm" body and legs to match the naturals.
Net Spinning Simple larva or "worm" patterns These caddis build a small net which they use to trap drifting food. They must leave the shelter of their "home" to clean the case making them vulnerable in the current. There are many simple "worm" patterns, sample the streams you fish to determine what colors seem to prevail. Tan, off-white, olive, and browns often dominate.
Free Living Simple "worm" patterns Green rock worms are the most common of this type and can easily be imitated with a tightly dubbed body and a small coarsely dubbed thorax section which is normally darker than the rest of the body.
Imitation Notes:
Soft Hackles Best tied sparsely! When we say sparsely we do mean it!! Fished dead drift or on a traditional wet fly swing. These are elegant flies and are still incredibly effective though somewhat "out of style".
Wet Flies Many tradition wet flies do a great job of imitating the emerging caddis particularly when swung in the classic wet fly manner. Many "emergences" can be imitated in a single swing.
Sparkle Pupa A Gary LaFontaine creation that has become another time-tested favorite. Tied both as an emergent and a deep sparkle pupa they can be deadly. The secret is to create the "halo" around the "worm".
Stage Imitations Notes
  • Sparkle Pupa
  • X-caddis
  • Iris Caddis
The sparkle pupa is a great fly for this stage but the X-Caddis and Iris Caddis are probably my two favorites. These flies were designed to catch fish during heavy hatches when the become selective to the more obtainable stillborn or emerging caddis. The X-caddis is quite simply an Elk Hair Caddis without hackle but with a trailing shuck to imitate the pupal shed. The Iris caddis is a loosely dubbed antron body, trailing shuck and an antron wing tied as a horizontal loop.
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Woodchuck Caddis
  • Henryville Special
All of these are classic dry flies and a variety of sizes and color should be in everyone's flyboxes. The Elk Hair Caddis can be tied with or without hackle depending upon the type of water fished. The Chuck Caddis should be tied so that the hackle and the tip of the tail are all that touch the tying bench. This makes the fly easily skateable and is a key to triggering strikes.
  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • Woodchuck Caddis
  • Diving Caddis
  • Spent wing or Delta Caddis
Heavily hackled Elk Hair Caddis and Woodchuck Caddis can be skated across the surface to imitate the active egg-layers. Many caddis also dive to lay their eggs and this is somewhat difficult to imitate effectively. The spent wing patterns are much akin to the mayfly spinner patterns though not nearly as commonly used though they can be quite effective.

Jason Freund, 1998 for Bob Blumreich and Silver Doctor Fly Fishing