Considered to be the next best time of the year , after autumn , to pursue our finned freshwater quarries , spring can be a confusing season with fishing rallying from terrible to brilliant and back again. In my neck of the woods the birth of the new season is never a straight forward affair with perfect sunny days , blossoming flowers and bubbling streams. Instead you have to dodge cold fronts which have a habit of sweeping across the Highveld with strong dry & dusty winds, drying up the land even more, resulting in water extraction at an alarming rate. Fronts also have a habit of knocking the fish of their feet a bit and wind will put an end to any dry fly action. This at a time of the year when the tempo of the aquatic world just starts to pick up. So my springtime fishing never really blossoms forth but instead is a slow birth as a result of rising temperatures, the last of the daylight BWO hatches and low streams that forces you to your knees.
But then in a matter of a week the Jacaranda trees blossom and your fishing also hits a purple patch. You could say it is because the water temps has finally reach the mark, some rain has increased the flow to ideal and the spawn is finally over, but I tend to think it is because the spring time caddis hatches has started in earnest. You know its caddis time when you skulk around the bankside vegetatation with a caddis halo above your head. The impact of caddis on my waters is significant and clearly evident when in early spring the fish would show a clear preference to the caddis during a compound hatch with BWO’s. The hatch often delivers a surprise towards the end of a demanding spring day, spent crawling into position on thin pool heads.
Even though I’m a sucker for the delicate mayfly hatches, caddis sure brings an element of excitement to the game. For a start, it’s a pacey affair, as the hatch is short lived and intense with both fish and fisherman racing against time. The fish trying to maximize on the sudden bounty and the fisherman trying to squeeze in as much fishing as possible before the darkness puts a halt to it all. The bugs are big which is a blessing in disguise, as tiny dries and failing light is a challenge to aging eyesight. Macrostenum Capense adults are the equivalent of a floating super sized Big Mac and the balance of the Hydropsychidae species can pass for a #14. Also, dusk offers the fish a chance to concern themselves less with predation while suspending sub surface and concentrate more with stuffing themselves with emerging pupae and spent egg layers, which allows the angler a bit of a windfall in terms presentation. The result of all these factors is pure dry fly bliss.
The best part of this hatch is that it leads you to the point where you end up often in the middle of nowhere in pitch black darkness – a situation that can cause some anxiety, hell even fear (depending where you are) once you stop gunning for risers in the gloom. You end up hiking out in the beam of your headlamp, shrouded in the cool blackness with jackals crying in the distance and every time you cross the water you are reminded of the pleasures of this hatch by a gazillion of caddis moths crowding into the light in front of your face.