When trout and salmon gently sip floating insects off the surface, it often means that they are feeding on hatching aquatic insects that are dead-drifting with the current or just sitting on still water — typical behavior for mayflies.

When splashing, energetic rises occur, though, astute fly rodders quickly suspect that caddises are emerging. Many genera and species of caddises behave like this, too. They swim rapidly from bottom before bursting through the surface film and flying ashore to hide in foliage.

Typically, when a trout chases a fast-fleeing caddis from bottom and catches it just below the surface, the momentum of the pursuit sometimes causes the fish to break the meniscus, making a commotion, a clue to a caddis hatch. Of course, exceptions exist to this rule, because some mayfly and stonefly species also behave like this, but it’s somewhat uncommon with the latter two families.

Fly rodders can catch salmonids galore during fast emerging caddis hatches once they master the presentation technique for dealing with them. With tips and experience folks can enjoy consistent success, but first they must determine the colors and size of the hatching caddis, which can be a problem.

These caddises pop out of the water and flee to shore so rapidly that it’s difficult to see them, and really tough to catch one to scrutinize.

Once fly fishers choose an imitation that matches the natural, though, they soak the fly in water to sink it and then cast quartering across and downstream. The fly must swing in an arc on a tight line before it’s retrieved with short line strips to imitate a swimming caddis, fighting the current.

This quartering-across, downstream presentation easily fools foraging salmonids chasing caddises. Also, because of the tight-line presentation, fish hook themselves, making it a great time to introduce children to fly-fishing.

I cannot emphasize enough how difficult it can be to distinguish colors on fast escaping caddises,, but three tips help novices with the goal:

A perfect example of the first one occurred on the Solon stretch of the Kennebec River a few years ago, while I was fishing with two writers, William Clunie of Dixfield and Bill Sheldon of Rhode Island.

Browns and occasional brookies were making splashy rises to caddis, but distinguishing color proved problematic. With the sun at my back to aid vision, I stared at the sky in hopes of seeing colors on a flying caddis. (In my humble opinion, body color is ultra-important for matching the natural.)

After several minutes, my eyes spotted a cream-colored caddis. After tying on a size 16 cream Elk Hair Caddis, I soaked it in water to sink it and then cast, quartering across and downstream. Trout climbed all over this submerged fly that looked as if it were fighting the current.

(An Elk Hair Caddis — a dry-fly pattern — works well during these caddis hatches, when fly rodders choose the right color and size and fish it wet.)

A second tip helps. Fly fishers can go ashore and look at bugs under shrubs beside the water. The most prevalent caddis might be the critter hatching then, and if not, it surely begins the process of elimination.

The third tactic works well, and it can begin in the previous day or three before a hatch kicks off — a neat trick I learned in my late teens.

For several May days in a row, I accessed my home river on the same gravel bar, and each day noticed clear gravel in the slack current behind the bar — nothing else.

One evening, myriad little twigs half the length of a wooden match collected behind the bar, making me ask aloud, “Where’d they come from?”

Puzzled, I picked up one of the “sticks” and noticed a little head and two legs sticking out of one end, a caddis larva. A case made from tiny twigs and bits of bark housed the worm-like critter, so I unpeeled the covering to find a light, almost white worm with a gray head.

Evidently, these caddises had crawled toward shore from the stronger current in preparation to hatch in the slacker water. When this caddis species emerged in the following days, a light-cream caddis with down-wings worked superbly, fished quartering across and downstream.

June produces caddis hatches galore. Many emerge quickly, while other caddises float on the surface film like mayflies, though they are less abundant.

Elk Hair Caddis fished wet take plenty of fish, and why not? They’re a miniature Muddler Minnow, one of the better fish takers ever invented.

Another favorite caddis imitation came from the late Ed Reif of Bangor — the West Branch (or W.B.) Caddis. It can be fished dry or wet.

Coincidentally, I was fishing the West Branch of the Penobscot below Ripogenus Dam in the early 1970s when Reif first developed this pattern. We’d bump into one another on the river, and he’d push this fly.

The popular W.B. Caddis pattern has a rust body, ultra-sparse dark-ginger collar and down-wing from one or two brown mallard throat feathers with white tips, curving down.

He also tied it in other color combinations to match naturals, including the cream caddis that I just mentioned above.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

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