Our Man In Canada
April 3rd, 2000

The Blue-Ribbon Grand - Part 4
Hatches and Flies

By Scott E. Smith

The single most significant species of insect in the tailwater section of the Grand River are net-building or filtering caddis. The abundance of algae in the river make it ideal habitat for these insects. According to Ian Martin, an entomology professor and author of Fly Fishing the Grand River, the three most important caddis genera on the Grand are the spotted sedge (Hydopsyche), the speckled sedge, (Cheumatopsyche), and the little black caddis (Chimarra). The caseless, net-spinning larval stage of these caddis are best imitated by several variations of the caddis larvae nymph pattern in varying shades of green, with or without a bead head. Fishing larvae patterns on smaller hooks, such as size 12-24 TMC 2487, 2457 or Daiichi 1130, is your best bet. The Elk Hair Caddis, Goddard's Caddis and other basic caddis dries in varying colours and in sizes 18 through 12 are good representations of these insects in their adult stage. Hatches of caddis occur from early June through to the end of September, with the largest adults coming off the water earliest in the season and reaching their peak in June.

Caddis Larva Nymphs

I witnessed the sheer preponderance of these insects first-hand one evening in June while fishing the low-level stretch (section 3) with Barney Jones. We had been nymphing a group of large browns that we could see flashing in a nice run between some flats and a large pool. I was about 8:00 p.m. and some caddis could be seen flying around, but the hatch really hadn't come into fruition - at least the fish weren't rising yet. I was busy tying on yet another small nymph when Barney said, "Take a look at your waders." I looked down to see swarms of caddis crawling up the legs of my waders. The entire surface of which, from my thighs to the water level about kneww high, was solidly covered with insects. If I wasn't a fly angler, I would have thought I was in a scene from a Hitchcock flick and gone running up the bank thinking my fate had been somehow horridly sealed. I realized after, that these caddis were not hatching at all, but in the process of laying eggs. We noticed that our wading boots were covered in caddis eggs when we changed at the car later that evening.

Really Grand Brown

In order of abundance, isopods (sowbug) represent the next food group for the browns. These are crustaceans, or shrimp-like organisms that do not hatch into flying insects as caddis, mayblies and stoneflies do. They vary in size from approximately size 22 to size 12, but are opaque in colour in contrast to the bright green hues of caddis larvae. Scud patterns using plastic or rubber backs are good prepresentations of the isopod, as are general-utility nymphs such as the Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph.

One morning on the Grand in June, I began poking around on a small rock island in the river just after the morning bite had subsided. I had noticed several browns flashing in the shallows at daybreak, so I began turning over stones in this particular area. On the bottom of a single soft-ball-sized stone I observed two or three bright green caddis larvae, the same number of sowbugs, and one Hendrickson nymph. I photographed some of them, but couldn't get them all of them, but couldn't get them all as they were scrambling about in the bright morning light trying to back into the water. This gave me an instant appreciation of the abundance of food sources in the river.

For the dry-fly aficionado this stream is made-to-measure. The best dry-fly fishing starts around mid-May and continues through July, until the algae bloom reduces visibility. At this point some anglers turn to fishing large crayfish streamers in the coloured water, while dry-fly anglers stick to their guns and fish early morning Trico hatches and spinner falls. I fished the Grand in August and enjoyed some productive mornings during this hatch. My daughter Erin and I picked up several smaller browns on size 18 Griffith's Gnats fishing below the low-level bridge (Section 3).

To follow the hatch chronologically, the festivities begin in mid-May with Hendricksons (Ephemerella), especially in the lower portion of the tailwater. This is followed by the brown drakes in mid-June, with the foxes and cahills (Stenonema), Isonychiaand Baetis, coming off through June and July. In addition, a number of stonefly species that were believed to be absent from this stream are now being found in the river. This may be attributed to the ever increasing quality of the water in the system.

Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide

To arm yourself properly to conquer the Grand, here are the flies that John Valk recommends as meat-and-potato dry flies for the river: Hendricksons, Cahills, March Browns and Quill Gordons (orange-tinted hackle) in size 12-16; Blue-Winged Olives in size 12 - 20; Deer Hair, Elk Hair; and Henryville Special Caddis in sizes 12 to 20; Brown and Green Drake patterns in size 8 - 12, and Tricos and Griffith's Gnats in 16 - 22. ~ Scott E. Smith

From: Ontario Blue-Ribbon Fly Fishing Guide.We thank Frank Amato Publications, Inc. for re-print permission!

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