The Caddis fly, especially here in Maine, accounts for a huge percentage of the diet for trout and salmon. Around this time of year (late spring/early summer) caddis start to make an appearance. The first signs of caddis that I usually see in the rivers are the Northern Casemaker. These caddis are leaf shredding, stick/gravel/debris collecting, larvae. They make their portable homes out of whatever is around them. The most common of these is from the genus Pycnopsyche which can be seen every spring along the bottom and on rocks in most rivers/streams around Maine and northern New England. These pictures were taken about a month ago when these caddis were very prevent in a northern Maine river.
In most situations, these caddis are found in relatively slower water. They are not very mobile and rely on staying in deeper pockets or simply areas of slow moving water. Rarely will you see these hanging on for dear life in fast water. As the water warms up approaching summer, you will find that Casemakers will then try and move towards cooler water. Whether it’s near a spring or feeder-stream, they will even start to move under rocks to find the cold water. This is why many are not seen in the dead of summer's heat.
Although not the most appetizing looking meal, covered in its “natural apparel,” fish DO in fact eat them! They are easy prey for fish. They move slowly in water, or not at all, and fish can simply pluck them off rocks or grab them while they clunk around the river bottom or float helplessly in the current. Fishing using a Casemaker imitation can be effective, but only if done correctly. There is little to no “retrieve” while fishing a Casemaker fly. Most times a simple dead drift on a nymph rig with an ample hang-time at the end of the drift is all that’s needed. Make sure that fly is on the bottom! Or, some find success in getting that larvae deep on the bottom and slowly creeping it along at essentially a “snails pace.”
So next time you are out fishing, especially during early spring, keep an eye out for these Casemakers as they can be a great sign of a healthy water-system and also a perfect offering for a big brook trout or landlocked salmon here in Maine!
Words + Photos by: Josh Thelin