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Caddis Flies, Stoneflies, and Mayflies

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Photographer Billings MT, Caddis Flies, Stoneflies, and Mayflies

As the temperatures rise, melting away the remnants of last winter’s snowfall, our rivers are once again running clear and fishable. The rivers color will veer from brown to dark green and eventually run clear. While fish can and do feed in muddy water, the increase in clarity allows for some of the summer seasons most productive fishing days. And, with the rise in both air and water temperature, the hatches of insects from both spring and summer cause the air to buzz with a combined dissonance of caddis, mayfly, and stonefly wings. So, this post is dedicated to those “big three” summer hatches: caddis flies, stoneflies, and mayflies.

Caddis Flies, Caddis Flies, Stoneflies, and Mayflies

Caddis Flies:
Every fisherman who has fished in warmer weather has seen a caddis. The caddis is the smaller fly, usually in the color of brown, olive, or black, depending on the season and the species; it has tent like wings; and, it seems to fly without reason, rising and falling recklessly over the surface of the water or between the leaves of a tree. In our area, the black caddis is the hatch to watch for on the Bighorn River, and the hatch typically will begin in the middle of the summer. The Stillwater River, the Rosebud Creeks, and Rock creek all will have hatches of caddis throughout the summer. If you do encounter caddis on the Freestone Rivers, especially if the currents of the river are swift, try a standard elk hair caddis. The profile of the fly allows fish that are looking up through the white caps of turbulent water to see the fly, and the wider loftier tie of this pattern allows it to float quite well, regardless of the roughness of the water.


The Stonefly is a long, brawny insect that crawls from the boulders under the waters surface, bumbles up onto the rocks or grasses of the bank and hatches into a large fluttering bug, and when compared to other insects that hatch on the typical trout stream, is the semi truck to the Toyota Prius. Stoneflies, especially Goldens, Salmonflies and Nocturnals can bring the big trout to the surface even without a hatch present. Fishing a pattern that mimics the silhouette of a Stonefly brings about big takes, splashing water, and lots of fun.

While numerous mayflies hatch throughout the year, the warm weather of June and July bring out the most colorful of the species that can be found in Montana: Pale Morning Duns. The Pale Morning Dun, or PMD for short, is a delicate little insect with a body that various from a bright shade of yellow to a vivid lime green, and the insects have bright white, translucent wings. While the caddis fly and the stonefly are flutterers in the air, the PMD is as graceful as the prima ballerina in a performance of “Swan Lake”. And, equally as beautiful, is the rhythmic rises of the trout, poking their beaks through the surface of the water to eat these tiny flies.

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