Caddisflies hatches prolific on Truckee

One of the most prolific hatches on the Truckee River is the caddisfly, or order Trichoptera. Since we started fishing the river in the 1970s, we have always had dependable caddisfly hatches in the Truckee.

They are aquatic insects from one-tenth of an inch to more than a half-inch in length. October Caddis is the exception and it is around an inch or more in length.

Caddisflies are easily recognized by the two long antennae and tent-shaped wing at rest. They tend to fly erratically so anglers find them easily distinguishable from other hatching insects. Colors vary from brown, cream, gray and olive. The October Caddis is a creamy orange color.

In 1981, the late Gary LaFontaine wrote the definitive book on caddisflies, called simply and appropriately, “Caddisflies.” He was one of the first to study the caddisfly from underwater. From below the water he was able to develop a series of flies that imitate the various developmental stages of the insect.

One of my favorite techniques during the year is to use two flies in tandem: an adult caddisfly and an emerging pupa imitation that trails behind the adult.

He incorporated the use of antron yarn into the fly-tying process. He discovered that caddisflies were translucent and that the antron yarn would imitate this quality well.

Caddisflies have a complete metamorphosis. Their life cycle starts with an egg and progresses to larval stage, pupa and adult. Adults then start the process over by returning to the water to lay eggs.

The caddisfly is an abundant food source for the local trout in the Truckee. One of my favorite techniques during the year is to use two flies in tandem: an adult caddisfly and an emerging pupa imitation that trails behind the adult. This is a deadly technique particularly when the fish are showing splashy rise forms that would generally indicate they are taking pupating caddis.

You can dead drift the fly to imitate the adult and let the fly swing or skate at the end of the drift. The beauty of fishing both is that there is no bad way to fish it.

If you have not read this great book by LaFontaine and have not incorporated his flies into your arsenal, you are missing the boat. Sadly, we lost him in 2002 to Lou Gehrig’s disease at the young age of 56.

I had the good fortune to meet him at the Northern California Council of the Federation of Fly Fishers conclave in Kings Beach in 1991 during my demonstration fly-tying career. He was the featured guest during that conclave. His entry in my signed copy of his book was an invitation to fish with him if I ever got to Deer Lodge, Mont. Sadly that did not happen.


Boca Reservoir | The road over the dam is closed until further notice. Inflow is at 108 cfs and the outflow is 112 cfs. Powerbait, nightcrawlers and lures are all working. Fly-fishers have been catching some fish near the inlet with nymphs, streamers and dries.

Donner Lake | Fishing has been fair to good. Kokanee fishing has been fair to good. Nightcrawlers and Powerbait seem to be the main bait. Mackinaw fishing has been good. Fly-fishers are catching some fish with streamers.

Lake Tahoe | All tributaries are open to all fishing until Sept. 30. Fishing has been fair to good for mackinaw. A guide is highly recommended if you are fishing for mackinaw for the first time. Toplining and shore fishing is fair. Most shore anglers use inflated nightcrawlers.

Little Truckee River | The flow is at 108 cfs. This flow is up slightly from last week. Nymphing and dries should both work at this level. Dry dropper rigs are also recommended. Hatches are similar to the main Truckee.

Martis Lake | Zero kill. Catch and release only with barbless artificial lures or flies. Fishing is best early in the season and the fall. Smallmouth bass are part of the fishery.

Prosser Reservoir | Fishing has been fair. Anglers using bait, lures and flies have all caught fish. Fly-fishers have done well near the inlet areas. Bass fishing should improve as the water warms.

Stampede Reservoir | The road will be closed over the dam for construction this season and next. Access to the boat ramp will be through the Hobart Mills side. Fishing has been fair from shore. Nightcrawlers, Powerbait and lures have all produced from shore. Fly-fishers have been doing well near the inlets with nymphs and streamers. The kokanee fishing is still producing for those in the know. Smallmouth bass fishing should improve as the water warms.

Truckee River | The flow out of the dam in Tahoe City is at 71 cfs. The flows through Truckee are at 148 cfs. The flows are now very fishable and low. Fishing has been fair for those working hard. Best area to target now is below where Prosser Creek comes into the river downstream to the state line. Lots of bugs now. Caddis, PMD and Little Yellow stones are on the menu. Water temperatures have climbed. Carry a thermometer and quit fishing when the water temps get around 66 to 68 degrees F. This water is special regulation, artificial only with barbless hook. Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged, but an angler may keep two fish with a minimum size of 14 inches during the regular trout season.

Davis and Frenchman lakes | Both are full. Boat, shore and fly anglers are catching fish. Reports from Davis are only fair at best. I suggest not fishing at either until the waters cool.

Bruce Ajari

Bruce Ajari is a long-time area fly-fisherman and past president of Tahoe Truckee Fly Fishers.