May on Vancouver Island brings with it almost every insect hatch that occurs on the island. March and April see the midges (chironomids) start and they are still going gangbusters on the lakes and ponds. April also brings with it the mayfly hatches, and the caddisflies begin hatching later in May to join them in both the rivers and the lakes. Mixed in with the early hatches is the odd stonefly hatch on several of our rivers. Thus April through early June produces a plethora of dry fly and nymphing opportunities throughout each day.
Larva Lace Bloodworm
The chironomid hatch on the island lakes can be profuse, and trout rise readily to feed on these tiny midge pupae. To start the hatch though, the midges first start out as bloodworms on the muddy bottom. My Larva Lace bloodworm pattern works well when fishing the very early season.
Hook: #12 or 14 Mustad 9672
Thread: Black monocord
Tail: Short black marabou feather
Underbody: White floss
Overbody: Red larva lace (clear red plastic lacing)
Head: Black monocord
- Attach the thread to the hook shank and tie in, at the butt, a very short tail of black marabou. Don’t make it too thick, as you want it to flow freely and impart motion to the fly.
- Then tie in a length of red larva lace and then a length of bright white floss.
- Wrap the floss to the head of the fly ensuring you cover the entire shank of the hook and tie off.
- Wrap the larva lace to the head of the fly ensuring you do not overlap the wraps. Tie off.
- Create a black head by wrapping the thread around the shank behind the eye until you achieve a small smooth head.
- Whip finish and cement.
As the water warms the bloodworms pupate and they rise to the surface as chironomids. The most common (and accurate) colour combinations to imitate them are copper and brown, or gold and green patterns. Silver and black holds its own as well, but I have found the best producer by far to be the copper and brown. To tie it, follow these steps:
Hook: Daiichi 1130 #12 – 18 or Mustad 94840
Thread: Brown waxed
Tail: None or short marabou to match body colour
Rib: Fine copper wire
Abdomen: Brown floss or Spanflex
Thorax: Brown floss or Spanflex
Shellback: Pheasant tail fibres
Gills: White ostrich herl
Head: None, or brass or black glass bead
- Tie in the thread and tie in a sparse, short tail of brown marabou.
- Tie in the wire and then the floss or Spanflex at the butt of the hook.
- Wrap the floss to a point midway between the hook point and the eye and secure. Do not cut it off.
- Wrap the wire in the opposite direction to the direction you wrapped the floss, to form a rib to the same point along the shank. Tie it off and cut.
- Tie in the pheasant tail fibres on top of the hook shank.
- Wrap the remaining length of thorax with the floss, building up a small bulge to form the thorax. Tie off and cut at the head.
- Tie in one strand of white ostrich herl at the head and wrap once to form the gills. Tie off and cut.
- Pull the pheasant tail fibres over the back and over the herl. Tie off to form the wing case or shellback. Trim off the excess
- Whip finish and cement
To tie the other colour patterns simply change the body and wire colours.
Pheasant Tail Nymph
As April progresses and the waters get warmer the mayflies start hatching. The most common mayfly hatch on the island is the Western March Brown. For the nymph I like to use a Pheasant Tail nymph pattern and for the adult an all-hackle March Brown pattern as shown below:
Hook: Tiemco 2302 #12-20
Thread: Brown 8/0
Tail: Pheasant tail fibres
Rib: Copper wire
Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibres
Thorax: Peacock herl
Wingcase: Pheasant tail fibres
Legs: Pheasant tail fibres
- Wrap on tying thread at the eye of the hook. Wind down to the butt.
- Secure the tail in place, then attach the copper wire and the pheasant fibres for the abdomen.
- Wrap the thread back halfway up the hook shank.
- Wrap the pheasant fibres forward to form the abdomen. Stop halfway up the shank. Tie off and trim excess.
- Wrap the copper wire forward to form a rib. Wrap in the opposite direction to the way you wrapped the pheasant fibres. Stop halfway up the shank. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in the pheasant fibres to be used for the wingcase, and then tie in the peacock herl.
- Wrap the herl forward to the head of the fly, forming the thorax. Tie off and trim excess.
- Pull the pheasant fibres over the back to form the wingcase. Tie down and trim the excess.
- Tie in a wing of pheasant tail about shank length. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in two to four strands of pheasant fibres on each side of the thorax to form the legs. They should reach to about the hook point. Trim the excess. Form the head with the thread.
- Whip finish the head and cement.
Western March Brown
This pattern is an ‘all hackle’ pattern; it contains no ‘wing’ as such. The steps to tying it are as follows:
Hook: Mustad 94840 #12 Ð 14
Thread: Black pre-waxed
Tail: Two light horse mane hairs
Body: Dubbed light brown antron
Wing: One long (variant length) ginger and one short (standard length) furnace hackle
- Tie in the thread and then the horse mane hairs. Cut the tail fibre off at about twice the hook shank length (mayfly tails are very long).
- Dub a loop of light brown or tan antron and wrap to a point midway between the hook point and the eye of the hook. Tie it off and cut.
- Tie in the hackles tip first, first the short furnace and then the long ginger.
- Wrap the long hackle quite thick and heavy. Tie off and cut the excess.
- Trim off the bottom side of the ginger hackles you just wrapped so that only the top third of the hackles remains.
- Wrap the furnace hackle forward to standard density to form the legs and thorax. Tie off and trim the excess.
- Whip finish and cement.
Some of you may not know what a ‘variant’ is. The standard dry fly hackle length is determined by the gap between the hook shank and the hook point. In a standard dry fly, the feather barbules (hackle fibres) are just barely longer than that distance. In a variant the barbules are about half again as long. So, the ginger hackle in this pattern sits about half again as high as the furnace hackle, thus forming the illusion of a wing.
Mohair Caddis Larva
The most numerous caddisflies on the island seem to be of two different species and colour patterns. There is an all brown adult similar to but darker than the Cinnamon Sedge and there is also a brown wing, olive-bodied adult. Both are about the same size although the all brown seems to be a bit smaller. The nymphs are both case-builders and can be imitated well with the following pattern:
Hook: Mustad 9671 #6 – #14 (Can be weighted)
Thread: Black or green monocord
Abdomen: Mohair dubbed onto silver sparkle chenille
Thorax: Green or black wool
Hackle: Sparse black hen hackle
- Tie on the thread and wrap to the butt of the hook. Tie in the lead if you plan to weight the fly.
- Tie in the silver chenille.
- Dub onto the chenille strands of mohair. Wrap the chenille forward two-thirds of the way up the shank. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in the green wool. Wrap to the head. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in, at the tip, one black hen hackle. Wrap two or three turns. Tie off and trim the excess.
- Whip finish the head and cement.
Nation’s Green Sedge
To match the caddis pupa, I like to use the following pattern:
Hook: Mustad 9671 #6 – 14
Thread: Green or black monocord
Tail: None or red quill
Ribbing: None or oval silver tinsel
Body: Dubbed olive wool, seal, or antron yarn
Wing: Mallard flank
Hackle: Badger (long)
- Tie in the thread and wrap to the butt.
- Tie in the tinsel (if you want a rib).
- Form a dubbing loop and dub on the olive body material. Wrap forward to the head forming a fairly fat body. Tie off and trim excess.
- Wrap tinsel forward to form the ribbing. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in the mallard flank overwing about one-and-a-half times as long as the hook shank. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in one long fibre badger hackle. Wrap two to three times and tie off. Trim excess.
- Whip finish the head and cement.
Elk Hair Caddis
For the adult caddisflies I tie up an Elk Hair Caddis:
Hook: Mustad 94840 #6 Ð 16
Thread: To match natural body colour
Body: Dubbed wool or spun deer hair dyed to colour
Rib: None or palmered furnace or ginger hackle
Hackle: Ginger or furnace
Wing: Deer or elk hair (one-and-a-half times the body length)
- Tie in thread. Wrap to butt. Tie in hackle by the tip.
- Form a dubbing loop. Dub on the body material and wrap forward to head forming fairly fat body. Tie off and trim excess.
- Palmer the hackle forward over the body. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in the deer hair wing. Avoid flaring it too much. Wing should lie tent-like over the back of the fly. Tie off and trim excess.
- Tie in the ginger hackle by the tip and wrap to form a hackle throat. Tie off and trim excess.
- Whip finish and cement the head.
Other patterns that work well as adult caddisfly imitations are the Mikaluk Sedge (although it tends to fall on its side) and the Goddard Caddis.
Spring on Vancouver Island offers many fly fishing opportunities and you need to stock your fly box with an array of spring patterns so that you can take advantage of all that you might encounter. The preceding patterns are standards that I carry in my fly boxes all the time and use on a regular basis. You should tie up at least half a dozen of each and never venture out to fish in the spring without them.
- Bill Luscombe
- May 31, 2018
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