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Wisconsin Hatches

Important Insects for the Fly Fisherman

Mayflies

When most people think of fly fishing insects, they immediately think of mayflies. Many people plan trips around the predicted hatching dates of certain mayflies. Wisconsin hosts many great hatches and being in between the East and the West, we get hatches associated with both areas. The following table is just small listing of some of the more predictable mayfly hatches.

Common Name

Scientific Name

Hatch Date

Hook Size

Patterns

Rivers of Note

Hendrickson

Ephemerella subvaria

early April-mid June

14

Parachutes, Thorax's, Sparkle Duns

Mecan, Brule, Black Earth

Sulphurs

Ephemerella Invaria and
Ephemerella dorothea

mid May-mid July

16-18

Sparkle Duns, CDC duns, Parachutes, and Thoraxes

Timber Coulee, Wolf River, West Fork

Brown Drake

Ephemera simulans

mid June

10

Close Carpet Fly, Hair Wing Adams

Wolf, Prairie, Brule

March Brown

Stenonema vicarium

mid May-mid June

10-12

Catskill, Sparkle Dun, Close Carpet Fly, Hair Wing Adams

Brule, West Fork, Wolf, Prairie

Gray Drake

Siphlonurus sp.

late May-early June

12

Parachute, Thorax

Wolf

Light Cahill

Stenocron canadense

early June-mid August

14

Catskill, Parachute, Thorax, spinner

West Fork, Black Earth

Hex

Hexagenia limbata

mid June-mid July

6

Para-Drake, Emerger, spinner

Black Earth, Mecan, White Rivers

Blue Wing Olives

Baetis, Psuedocloeon among others

all Season

14-26

Thorax, Sparkle duns, parachutes, emergers

Most streams

Trico

Tricorythodes sp

late July-early October

20-24

Spinners, Emergers, Sparkle Duns

Timber Coulee, Kinnickinnic, Willow

White Fly

Ephoron leukon

early August-late September

14

Close Carpet Fly, Parachute, Sparkle Duns

Wolf, Prairie, Tomorrow/Waupaca

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Caddisflies

Few people, myself included, know the Latin names for caddisflies like they do for mayflies but the can be very important for the fly fisherman. Many streams hold phenomenal numbers of caddis and they are often the most important insect to imitate. My stream sampling has shown that caddis flies are often the most numerous insects on many Wisconsin streams. The simplest way to imitate caddis is to tie Elk Hair Caddis and variations of the EHC in many sizes and colors. Most common colors are olive, tan, cinnamon, gray, green. For larvae, tie simple flies with dubbed or peacock bodies. The following is a brief outline of patterns that imitate caddis flies.

Black Caddis

Stage

Type

Immitation

Notes

Larvae

Veggitative-Cased

Peeking Caddis

These are incredibly numerous. I have found many of the larvae to be a bright green

 

Rock-Cased

Peeking caddis (light dubbing over silver flash chenille)

Believe it or not, trout will eat a caddis living in a rock enclosed case. Give it a try!

 

Net Spinning

Simple Larval Patterns

They spin net to catch food and have leave the security of their shelter to eat. This makes them vulverable in moderate to fast riffles.

 

Free-Living

Simple caddis "Worm" patterns

Green Rock Worms are probably the most common free living caddis and are a common trout food

Pupa

All

Sparkle pupa
soft hackles
and various pupal patterns

I will group all pupa together as they are all similar in appearance. Most common colors are: Yellow, Brown, Orange, Green, Gray, and Black. Pupal colors aren't always the same as the adult coloration.

Adults

Emerging

  • Sparkle Pupa
  • X-caddis
  • Iris Caddis

This is when the caddis is between being a pupa or an adult. Many patterns use zelon to immitate the shuck of the emerging caddis.

 

Adults

  • Elk Hair Caddis
  • X-Caddis and many other adult patterns

Try elk Hair caddis both with and without palmered hackle. Many of the emerging patterns also work as low floating adult immitations. Caddis often hatch quickly, leaving fish little opportunity to feed on the adults.

 

Egg-Laying

  • Hackled EHC
  • Diving patterns

As caddis return to the water to lay eggs, they often excite the trout into splashy rises. Some caddis dive underwater to lay egg, the secret is to encapsulate air bubbles in you patterns

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Midges

Chrinomidges are what we fly fishermen call "midges" and they are a family within the Diptera (True Flies) Order. Many fishermen make the mistake of calling all small flies midges. Midges will hatch almost all year. Most of them are small but I have seen them up to #16's. Most of my midge patterns are very simple because there isn't a lot of hook shank to work with. The larva, pupa and adult stages are all important in midge fishing but the pupa is probably the most important stage to imitate because this is when they are most vulnerable.

Stage

Patterns

Notes

Larvae

  • Fur Larva
  • Krystal Flash Larva
  • Brassies

Larva are very small and simple patterns. There isn't much more to tying them than making a slender "worm" body. I rarely fish them alone but like to use them on droppers behind a larger nymph.

Pupa

  • Kimball's Emerger
  • WD 40
  • Small Humpies

The adult is slow to emerge from the pupal shuck, this makes them very vulnerable. The pupa also rise to the surface making them available to the trout through out the water column.

Adults

  • Griffith's Gnat
  • Simple One Hackle

Midge adults often float for a long time before taking flight. Griffith's gnat is a cluster pattern that immitates a matting bunch of midges or you can immitate individual adults with simple patterns. Best colors are cream, gray, black, olive, and tan.

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Stoneflies

Stoneflies are mostly swift water insects and are not as important as many other insects but Yellow Sallies and Early Black Stones can provide some excellent fishing on Wisconsin's spring creeks. Stoneflies are likely much more important on Northern Wisconsin's freestone rivers but I haven't experienced a real hatch there.

 

Stage

Patterns

Notes

Nymph

  • Kaufmann Stones
  • GRHE nymphs

Nymphs make good searching patterns. Black and yellow are important in smaller sizes and Black is larger sizes.

Adults

  • Stimulators
  • Elk Hair Caddis

Black stones in #16-18 are important early and Yellow Sallies are sizes 12-14 and are a dependable summer hatch. Salmonflies are not a fishable hatch here, though I have found the nymphs.

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Terrestrials

 

 

Time of year

Notes

Grasshoppers

Mid-July to end of season

The most used terrestrial and some of the most explosive fishing of the year. I prefer foam flies (particularly my "Featherweight Foam Hopper") though many commercial patterns work well.

Crickets

Late June to end of season

Overlooked by most but a very consistent "hatch". They make a great searching pattern on our spring creeks. Any foam fly works well for me.

Ants

May to end of season

Trout love ants! Foam or fur ants fished below trees, bushes and over hanging grasses are deadly. Also a killer fly during a heavy hatch.

Beetles

May to end of season

Another underutilized pattern. Simple foam flies are great searching patterns. Fish them below trees, bushes, and overhanging grass.

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