Mothers Day Caddis Hatch – the Ultimate Guide

Mothers Day Caddis Hatch – the Ultimate Guide

“The Mothers Day Caddis hatch has started on the Yellowstone River!” Words that send chills up every anglers neck.  Call in sick, use up some vacation time and get on the water sometime between mid-April and the first week of May.  This can be some of the best fishing of the season with the bonus of eager trout, and very few anglers on the water. In light of what should be one of the best Mothers Day Caddis hatches in the past few years we thought we’d give you the ultimate guide to why this hatch fills so many anglers with anticipation.

What’s the big deal with Mothers Day Caddis hatch?

Good question.  Many of our anglers have never experienced how good the spring fishing is in Montana.  The vast majority of anglers focus on the peak summer months, and usually with good reason.  However, image a trout who’s spent all winter surviving the cold Montana winter, subsisting on mostly midges.  Now water temperatures are on the rise, the trout’s metabolism is up and ready to eat everything that drifts nearby.  The spring hatches start with Baetis (Blue Wing Olives) and March Browns finally culminating with the Mothers Day Caddis hatch.  This is an important time for trout to put on some much-needed weight which will sustain them through the annual spring run-off. Of course, our local anglers know this well and have eagerly awaited those warmer water temperatures knowing that the trout will eat with abandon during any spring hatch, especially the Mothers Day Caddis hatch.

What are the keys to a good Mothers Day Caddis hatch?

A full-blown Mothers Day Caddis hatch involves several components, especially on the Yellowstone River. Water temperature is the primary catalyst for a blizzard hatch.  While a trickle of bugs will hatch prior to the magic water temperature a full hatch needs to hit 54 degrees.  Fifty-four that’s the magic number, burn that one into your brain.

Another key to a full blown hatch is weather. If the weather gets too warm the mountain snows will melt and blow the river out too early and ruin the fish-ability of the hatch.  Too cold and the water temperature will never hit the magic 54-degree water temperatures and anglers will never see a full blown hatch. Fortunately, if the Yellowstone River blows out the Madison River is a tailwater and tends to keep some clarity.

Finally devoting some time to fish is probably the most important key.  While this seems obvious many anglers only allow one or two days to “hit the hatch”.  As our locals know Montana weather rarely plays fairly and a spring blizzard can certainly lower the water temps and delay the hatch.  Fortunately, there are usually remnant Baetis and March Browns around that still bring the trout to the surface. Along those lines make sure to get out on the river several hours before the hatch. When this hatch hit full, epic proportions it’s nearly impossible to catch the gorged trout, let alone see which fly is yours!

Why is Mothers Day Caddis hatch so fly fishing friendly?

Warning Scientific information to follow… Caddis are ubiquitous through out the United States, there are many species and most have an intense, short lived emergence – typically in the evenings. Fortunately for fly anglers Brachycentrus occidentallis (Mothers Day Caddis) has a prolonged emergence which can last many hours during mid-day and additionally last many days.  Not only is the emergence prolonged, but the actual time it takes for an individual fly to transition from pupae to adult is elongated. Adding to this already favorable advantage to anglers is when the females oviposit (lay eggs) they land on the water’s surface resting for a period while dropping eggs, often succumbing to the waters surface tension and unable to fly away.

In short, the Mothers Day Caddis hatch is a prolonged hatch lasting several days (or weeks) that has individual bugs with extended times in and on the water, making them susceptible to surface feeding trout.  Or simply put its a fly fisher’s dream hatch!

What’s your Favorite Mothers Day Caddis hatch pattern?

Phew – that’s a tricky one.  Let’s start with the subsurface flies as you’ll be out fishing prior to the hatch anyway… right? As you can see from the image above the Mothers Day Caddis is a case building caddis with an obvious dark head and bright green abdomen. Here’s a list of some of our favorite imitations (clockwise from large image). Sizes are from 12 -14.

Sub Surface Imitations:

  • Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle
  • Glass House Caddis
  • Jig Pheasant Tail
  • ZCaddis
  • Pheasant Tail Flash Back


Dry Fly / Film Imitations:

  • Adams’ Modified Everything Emerger
  • Elk Hair Caddis Olive
  • Goddard Caddis
  • Snowshoe Caddis
  • Translucent Pupa

All fly images from Solitude Fly Company except Adams’ Modified Everything Emerger which is the authors take on the famed Scott Sanchez Everything Emerger.


Are there Special Techniques for Mothers Day Caddis Hatch?

There are a few helpful hints when fishing the Mothers Day Caddis hatch. Start your day fishing with a short lease rig. This light nymph rig is set up with two weighted flies with the lead fly between 2 and 4 feet from a small indicator, and no additional weight added to the leader.  Focus on seam lines where a lot of caddis pupa would concentrate.  Seam lines off point barbs, rip-rap, and log jams are common examples.

As the day progresses and the water temperatures warm switch to a dry rigged with a short dropper of 12-18″.  Our personal favorite is a #14 Adams’ Modified Everything Emerger with a 12″ dropper to a Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle.  At this early stage of the hatch keep your eye out for subtle rises.  These are often the larger trout and more often than not they will prefer the Soft Hackle dropper to the dry fly.

When fishing the dry/dropper rig or any subsurface set up take care when recasting the flies.  Caddis pupa swims to the surface prior to emergence and a soft lift of the rod tip before recasting will often illicit violent strikes. This technique is mostly lost to new anglers but is time tested method well known to the wet fly anglers of the past. If you’d like to learn more about this technique search “Leisenring Lift”, consult Gary Lafontaine’s Caddisflies or Dave Hughes Wet Flies.

Bonus Technique… If the Mothers Day Caddis hatch goes to epic proportions fishing becomes almost futile. As you can see from the photo above there are so many caddis on the water that caddis dry flies and even normal sized indicators become invisible. We always carry several large dry flies (size 4-6) or big indicators (Thingamabobber) and tie a single large Prince Nymph or King Prince 15″ from the dry/indicator.  Concentrate your fishing to back eddies and foam holes. Trout will see mats of caddis floating on the surface and take mouthfuls of caddis in a single bite,  almost like someone grabbing a handful of popcorn.  While you’ll have a mass of natural caddis as competition the large flashy nymph will often illicit a strike.

Concluding thoughts on Mothers Day Caddis…

Springtime will always excite anglers with thoughts of warming days, organizing fly boxes, and the glimpse of the first hatches of the year.  The Mothers Day Caddis hatch in Montana is often the final hatch before the inevitable spring run-off. This may add to why so many anglers hold it in such high regard – one last hatch before the rivers flood. The particular hatches on the Yellowstone and Madison Rivers are some of the most prolific anywhere. We highly suggest you take some time and find out for yourself why so many anglers favor this hatch above all others.

About the Author:
Eric Adams’ passion for all things fishing began at an early age and he continues to pursue fish on fly around the world. He owns Montana Fly Fishing Guides, a well-established Montana Outfitting service located in Livingston, Montana.


Big Trout Montana Summer 2013

Montana Fly Fishing Tripschoose All Inclusive Inset

Big Trout Prediction Comes True

Big Trout in Montana is what we predicted way back in June of 2013. We know it’s hard to recall that after a busy summer, but if you followed us on Facebook and Twitter you can still find it.  We don’t like to make too many predictions, but this comes after years of experience and every once in a while it proves us right.  With an about average snow pack, but an early run-off we had lower water levels than normal.  In essence low water is good as long as it stays cool, which for most of the summer it did.  This allows anglers to reach big trout that might otherwise just be in too deep a water to effectively fly fish. While we don’t concern ourselves with just the big trout it is nice to see some hogs. If we’re being honest who doesn’t love to see big trout?  Check out the gallery below and see for yourself.

Want a more details summary of our 2013 Montana fly fishing season?

Big Trout Gallery of 2013

Didn’t see your photo in the gallery?

Then make sure to Contact Us and we’ll let you know how you can get your big trout photo posted.

Which photo do you think is the big trout of 2013? Comment below…

Montana Fishing Summary 2013

Montana Fishing Summary 2013

Montana Fishing Summary

If we had to summarize our Montana fishing season for 2013 it would involve descriptors such as; schizophrenic, dichotomous, incredible, frustrating, fantastic, and exceptional.  You’ll notice dichotomous might be the best qualifier as one week was nothing but lot’s of big trout and the next was tough fishing and being rewarded with mostly little guys.  Regardless it’s fishing – what are you going to do not go?

As fly fishing guides we spend well over 100 days of the season chasing trout so we have the advantage of getting into the rhythm of feeding behavior, weather patterns, and hatches.  While this is an advantage overall some days are certainly better than others. It’s easy to feed happy trout, but when the are off the bite it’s hard to force them to eat.  Years of experience will separate the truly fishy guides and anglers from every-once-in-a-whiles.  Here’s our take from this past Montana fly fishing season…

Montana Fishing – Spring

This is probably the most consistent season year after year and also the most uncrowded and the same held true for this season.  While we tout these bonuses every year, anglers rarely take advantage of the Montana fly fishing available in the Spring. See our previous blog post Montana Spring Fling OK enough of the soap-box.

Spring was typical great fishing when the weather was cooperative, which was pretty steady in terms of the past few years.  The occasional northern cold front would make fishing tough, but was quickly followed by gorgeous weather and fishing would return to it’s uncrowded bliss.  Eager trout looking to pile on the calories ate March Brown’s, Blue-wing Olives (baetis), midges and Caddis.  Highlights definitely included some great days on the Missouri River, Yellowstone River and DePuy Spring Creek.

Montana Fishing – Early Summer

May, June, and early July were exceptionally good this past season.  We started up on the Missouri River with low water due to early season run-off so we had warmer than average water temperatures.  Not too warm, but warm enough to get those early season hatches of PMD’s (Pale Morning Duns) and Summer Caddis popping.  Fishing was plain and simple fantastic during these months.  Woulda-coulda-shoulda has been here – amazing.

Armstrong Spring Creek and DePuy Spring Creek had their typically consistent hatches of PMD’s.  The bonus there was the exceptional quality, frequency, and longevity of the hatches on DePuy’s.  Not to mention the number and size of the trout that steadily rose to our flies day after day.

Even the Yellowstone River was low enough to fish by the 3rd week of June and Salmon Fly fishing was as good as it’s been in recent memory.  While we normally don’t condone such a risky timeframe, as the Yellowstone historically doesn’t become fishable until closer to the 4th of July, anglers taking the risk certainly had some amazing fishing for big trout with big dry flies and streamers.  See out Big Trout Photo Gallery to see some of the better quality trout caught during this timeframe.

Montana Fishing – Mid/Late Summer

OK here’s where the fishing got totally schizo.  Low water in early summer means a high probability of warm water temperatures later in the season.  While there were river is Montana that faced fishing closures due to these higher temperatures, such as the Madison, Jefferson, and Bighole, the Yellowstone, Boulder, Stillwater, and others remained within safe water temperatures.  While water temperatures where a factor in good one day / bad the next fishing the real issue was the severe weather that repeatedly pounded localized areas of these rivers.  The summer of 2013 in Montana experienced a 21% increase in severe weather.  It’s typical to get strong thunderstorms, hail, and heavy downpours this time of year, but the frequency was incredible.  This affected the fishing due to heavy rains washing mud into the rivers.  With lower than average river flows and consistent mud plugs it was hard to find good quality, clear, fishable water.

Nearly every week we had to deal with the running from mud scenario.  One of our guides said, “It’s the summer of mud” – He wasn’t wrong.

Which makes it hard for trout and guides alike to get into a rhythm. This scattered pattern of fishing started in late July and lasted until about early September.  As mentally tough as this part of the season as we still managed to find quality fishing each and every week. We pulled some amazing tricks out of our back pockets to do that, but let’s all hope that we don’t have to deal with that again for a few years or ever again.

Montana Fishing – Fall

Our fishing this Fall was pretty good for the most part.  The weather was less volatile/cold than normal and made for some great fishing on the Missouri River, Yellowstone River, and the Spring Creeks.  While the normal hatches of Blue-wing Olives were less than stellar on the Yellowstone River the other water had good hatches with consistently eager trout.  The Yellowstone however, fished quite well with streamers and big fish were a common occurrence.  The same low water scenario that added to our late summer fishing boded well for Fall.  Lower, cool water allows trout to be active and anglers to be able to reach those bigger trout without going to the extremes of shooting heads, full sinking lines and the like.

General Summary

It’s pretty hard to summarize a whole season in one sentence, but overall we would say fewer trout to the net, but the quality of trout was higher than average.  The great thing about Montana fly fishing is the absolute dizzying array of waters we have to fish.  While we prefer certain waters at certain times of the year when they aren’t fishing well we can move to a more productive fishery.  We’d also point out that every year is different, just like everyday fishing is different from the last.  Even as professional experienced guides we rarely can forecast the quality of fishing – that’s why we hit the water every day to find out.

We’ll look forward to seeing you next season and hopefully you’ll be part of the best of Montana’s fly fishing 2014.

Yellowstone River Hatch Chart

The following Yellowstone River  hatch chart represents a sampling of the major hatches that occur on the Yellowstone River and many of the smaller tributaries in the upper Yellowstone River drainage.  Montana has a wide variety of rivers, streams and lakes. The Yellowstone River has some of the most prolific hatches in the western United States. As the longest free flowing (non-damed) river in the continental U.S. it has a wide variety of water. Anglers can expect extremely localized insect emergences even during the course of a day or several mile stretch of water. Also, as seasonal and weather conditions effect insect emergence the represented timeframes may vary slightly.

Yellowstone River Hatch Chart

While this Yellowstone River hatch chart represent the majority of major insect emergences on the Yellowstone River anglers should be prepared with a variety of sizes and patterns for the insects above. Also, a wide variety of attractor patterns are always a good option to have in your arsenal.

For the latest information on current hatches visit our Montana Fly Fishing Guides Facebook Page and make sure to “Like Us” or “Share” our Yellowstone River hatch chart with your fishing buddies.