Seated on the padded engine compartment of my anchored jet boat, I watched the boils in the soft, smooth flows caused by rhythmic feeding of a Deschutes redside trout. About fifty yards upstream from where the boat was nosed into the densely vegetated bank, there was an island that pinched the currents into a shallow side-channel. Under the boat the water was more than four feet deep and very slow. But the flow through the small channel made a tongue of slightly faster water that condensed all the floating insects both live and dead into a narrow ribbon. This trout was centered in the middle of this conveyer of goodies, feeding actively.
However, the longer that I watched the more it became apparent that this fish was not eating everything that floated through its feeding lane. It was being very selective. My Leopold 9-power binoculars gave me the perfect picture of how this fish was feeding. The water was littered with insects. There were many tiny mayflies, a few midges and even fewer caddis. After careful study it became apparent the mayflies were all emerging duns, as were the midges, and there were two species of caddis. Most of the caddis were tiny and black, and dead. The other caddis species was size 16/18 with mottled brown wings. Most were emerging from the current tongue and were walking across the surface of the water to the nearest bank. The trout simply ignored all of these types of insects. But, a few of the mottled wing caddis were obviously injured or crippled, and it seemed that those were the insects that the fish was targeting. The trout was observed for about fifteen minutes to confirm my suspicions.
Then a size-18 tan X-Caddis was knotted to the end of my 6X tippet. I left the boat, and crouched in a strategic position along the bank. The first cast landed the X-Caddis in the center of the fish's feeding lane. The fish ate the fly and was landed, simple as that. Careful observation and having the right fly were the essential ingredients to that successful adventure. Two more trout fell for the same trick in quick succession.
When caddis hatch, most species leave the stream bed and rise to the surface of the water where they shed their pupal skin and become winged adults. The pupal skin is then called a shuck. Some unfortunate individuals are not able to leave the shuck completely. They are trapped at the surface of the water with the partially discarded shuck trailing from the rear of their abdomen. Most caddis are unable to lift the heavily waterlogged shuck from the water. Trout know that these individual flies are crippled. Some trout will target these cripples nearly exclusively. Most trout will rise quicker to a caddis that is crippled than one that is not. Species of caddis that create dense hatches are more prone to produce higher numbers of trailing shuck cripples. The X-Caddis series mimics these trailing shuck cripples. Having a full selection of X-Caddis flies in your box can make your trout fishing much more productive.