Our latest fly tying video with Ben Baxter features a great caddis nymph pattern, the SPlatte Roller. Developed by Colorado tyer, Shea Gunkel, the SPlatte Roller was designed to imitate the bugs found on the Arkansas River, known for its Mother’s Day caddis hatch. But its usefulness is in no way limited to the Ark. In fact, caddis are one of the most widespread and prolific food sources of trout worldwide.
Encompassing more than 14,000 individual species, caddis are a big group of insects. And while there are a few noticeable differences, the life cycle of a caddis and their importance for anglers are essentially the same.
Living in both lakes and rivers, caddis are a unique aquatic insect. Unlike mayflies and stoneflies, which transition directly from their larval to adult stages, caddis have a third stage – the pupa. Without getting too far into the weeds, here’s a brief overview and why it matters to you as an angler.
Life for a caddis begins when an adult female lays eggs on or in the water. Some caddis drop their eggs on the surface, while some actually swim or crawl beneath the surface. An egg becomes a larva, and that’s where the story begins.
Caddis larva look a bit like grubs. They may be tan, olive or green. They are not strong swimmers and spend their time clinging to rocks on the streambed. Many caddis in their larval stage wrap themselves in silk and then attach pieces of sand, gravel, sticks or other substrate to create a protective case around themselves. If you look around the rocks in a river, you may notice these little tube-shaped cases.
Some types of caddis do not create cases. Others create a fixed case that they will leave and return to. But no matter the type of caddis larva, they represent a year-round food source for trout. Many caddis will live a year or more on the streambed in their larval stage. Because they are not active swimmers, dead-drifting larva patterns close to the bottom is an effective approach.
When caddis are ready for their transformation to a pupa, they completely enclose themselves in a case. Cased caddis will simply close the end of their tube. Then in a matter of days, they will emerge from the case as a pupa – nearly in their adult form, but wrapped in a protective membrane. A gas bubble forms within the membrane, allowing them to rise toward the surface and emerge as an adult.
This pupa stage and emergence is a key time for trout – and for anglers. Trout will often focus in on the bugs as they make their way upward and struggle to break free at the surface. Dead-drifting caddis pupa patterns can be effective, but this is also a good time to add movement to your presentation. Try swinging flies downstream. Or at the end of a drift, apply a slow, upward lift to imitate a pupa emerging toward the surface.
Adult caddis congregate on land or nearby vegetation to complete their mating cycle. Finally, females will return to the water, usually in the evenings, to lay their eggs. Once again, this becomes an opportunity for trout. When egg layers are on the water, try skating or hopping dry fly patterns along the surface. Dead drifting adult or cripple dry fly patterns is also effective. But like the pupa stage, this is another fun opportunity to add some movement to your presentations – imitating the adult caddis skittering along the water.
Gunkel’s SPlatte Roller
In this video, Ben Baxter gives us a step-by-step look at tying the SPlatte Roller from Umpqua Feather Merchants. You can purchase the SPlatte Roller here. Or review the materials list below.
Material List for the Gunkel's SPlatte Roller:
THREAD #2: Uni 8/0 or UTC 70 Denier - Black
LEGS: Fluoro Fibre - Black
THORAX: Ice Dub - Peacock Black
FINISH: Loon or Solarez
Contact Us with Questions
If you have questions about tying the SPlatte Roller or fishing the caddis hatch, please don’t hesitate to ask. Come see us at the fly shop in Littleton or give us a call at 303-794-1104. We’d love to help you with whatever you need at the vise or on the water!