Caddis Magic: The Bouncing Caddis Technique

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So what’s the big deal with fishing caddis in the first place? Isn’t this just another hatch that allows for some fun dry fly fishing?

This a loaded question for sure, but to answer, I dare say that fish eat caddis adults with more ferocity and aggression than any other insect. The reason for this is simple, caddis adults are constantly spazzing out. They never hold still! Fish watch them escape over and over again, and they’ve learned that in order to capture them they have to match or even surpass the aggression of the insect. The fish get all wound up like a kid devouring his Halloween candy the night of trick-or-treating.

This results in super splashy rises, and oftentimes fish jumping way out of the water to eat their prey. There are no casual sippers, only pure adrenalized eats! And as an angler, this can present some of the most exciting fishing of the year.

Most of us have heard of, or even experienced, skating a caddis dry fly right before dusk and well into the night. This is a super fun way to entice aggressive trout looking to feed on hyperactive summertime caddis. However, would you believe me if I told you there was a more realistic way to present a caddis dry fly? It might sound a little strange at first, but allow me to introduce you to “bouncing” your caddis dry fly to better imitate the way ovipositing female caddis behave when returning to the water’s surface.

Let me give you some quick reasoning as to why this is a more realistic approach when fishing caddis dries. First and foremost, the majority of adult caddis that are consumed by fish occurs when female caddis return to the river and begin dancing and dipping above and on the water’s surface.

During a thick hatch event, there will be thousands of caddis performing this same action. On the flip side, every now and again you’ll see a caddis adult motoring across the water’s surface which is what skating a caddis imitates. If I had to make a guess I’d say the ratio of actual caddis adults bouncing vs skating is probably 1000:1. This isn’t good science, just mere observations from years of fishing this hatch.

Before diving head first into this technique, I’d like to mention that this was taught to me by my friends and fellow anglers Devin Olsen and Lance Egan. After watching them rail on fish with this technique while filming our instructional film “Modern Nymphing Elevated” I knew I needed to master it myself. Needless to say, for the past three or four years, this has been my go-to technique for targeting fish when caddis adults are abundant.

The Bouncing Caddis Technique:

Now let’s jump into what it takes to bounce a caddis dry. This can be done with any dry dropper setup, but when fished on a Euro nymphing leader with a long Euro rod (10’ – 10’6”) the results are far better. The long rod gives us greater reach, and the long, light Euro leader allows our flies to stay in the drift longer. We also fish our dry fly on a dropper tag which helps it move and dance more freely. The weighted nymph down below is heavy enough to help cast the Euro leader, but not too heavy that it continually drowns the dry fly. After that, the purpose of the nymph is to give us something to pull against.

Drawing courtesy of Garrison Doctor of Rep Your Water.

As we slightly wiggle our rod tip it pulls against the weighted nymph back and forth. This allows us to slightly raise and lower our dry fly creating the “bouncing” motion while still keeping our flies out in the river.

Tips for Bouncing Caddis:

A couple of additional tips, you’ll need to wade close to your target area since keeping your entire leader off the water is a must. The Max distance is probably 30 feet. Make your cast directly across from you, or perpendicular to the opposite bank. You’ll need to be in contact with your flies to bounce them as they drift. This is more easily achieved when your flies are down and across from you with the water tension helping to keep them tight.

Lastly, try not to raise your dry fly more than 3-4 inches off the water’s surface. Any more than this and they either won’t see it, or if they try to eat your fly, it will likely be out of their reach and they will miss.

This is such a fun way to fish, and the visual takes are second to none. It’s hard to beat watching trout of all sizes leap out of the river to catch your fly mid-air above the water’s surface. Give it a shot this Summer when the banks are lined with caddis adults. It’s sure to startle, surprise, and even excite you when it all comes together and fish are literally leaving the water to eat your fly.

To see this technique in practice, check out the award-winning short film “Caddis Magic” by Gilbert Rowley and Phil Tuttle below.

Article, videos, and photos by Gilbert Rowley, follow his YouTube channel HERE. Additional photos and videos by Phil Tuttle. 

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