Picabo Angler

Pee-Ka-Boo is a Native American word meaning "Shining Waters."

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June 13, 2016

June 13, 2016

Return of the White Miller Caddis!

          This morning I returned to The Pond expecting that Callibaetis would be the dominant hatch given the sunny, warm weather and dwindling wind. However, I encountered a substantial flight of “White Miller” Caddis. You either love them or hate them. This morning the trout seemed enamored by them. So, I developed a crush on them as well, but not after an hour of frustrated casting. Eventually, I spied a rather large bulge on the water directly to my left and up against the bank of The Pond’s north channel. At the time of this observation my fly was along the island in the middle of The Pond. As my back cast pulled the line off the water, I pivoted 180 degrees I shot the fly towards the fish. I immediately regretted not laying the line down midway and measuring a separate cast, as my pivot cast is rarely accurate on a 180 degree basis. But, to my surprise, my #14 Callibaetis Hatch Matcher landed 2 feet in front of the trout. A monster rise ensued and the fight was on. It turned out to be the only fish I landed, a beautiful Rainbow which taped out at 20.5 inches, my largest fish of the young season. The wind came up rather strongly so I decided to end the float on a good note. 

          Of late I have been noticing that the White Miller Flights have been growing in numbers and are occurring both morning and evening. I’ve been waiting for the trout to show interest in the evening, as last season on four consecutive nights I landed 21, 17, 19 and 31 fish during the two hours before dark. It is going to happen soon. For the first hour, swimming my #10 Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle across the creek would account for half the evening’s catch. When the trout lost interest in my subsurface offering I would switch over to my #14 Callibaetis Hatch Matcher and landed the other half.

The term “White Miller Caddis” is a label applied to a family of caddis flies featuring antennae that are unusually long for a caddis fly. For that reason, the White Miller Caddis is colloquially known as the “Long Horned” Caddis.  The species we encounter early season on Silver Creek is Oecetis.  A similar species distributed all over Yellowstone National Park and nearby waters is the Nectopsyche.    

On Silver Creek the initial hatches of the White Miller usually occur during the second week of June but may be present on Opening Day if Spring arrives early.  The conventional wisdom at Point of Rocks is that the Brown Drake hatch will start 4 or 5 days after the onset of the White Miller emergence.  A hot afternoon winding down into a warm evening is the prescription for a dense White Miller hatch.  One will see swarms of White Millers dancing over the creek surface in the morning, often before the day’s mayfly hatch.  In the morning and evening on the Double R Ranch field water at that time of year, there is often a blizzard hatch blanketing the creek from bank to bank. 

Historically, your Stream Keeper found the White Miller to be one of the most difficult caddis to bring to the dry fly, particularly in the morning.  In the past I had only sporadic success with standard caddis patterns such as the X Caddis, the EZ Caddis or the Elk Hair Caddis.  Blue Ribbon Flies of West Yellowstone has been touting a new dry pattern which is constructed much like a Stimulator but in a blond shade; tying instructions are available on the web site.  

Over the years on the Double R Ranch field water I had much better success running a #10 Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle subsurface under egg laying flights of White Miller caddis. A #10 soft hackled fly tied with a body of “peacock” Diamond Braid, a thorax of red dyed peacock herl and a grouse hackle collar also produced well, particularly when the setting sun had passed over which makes the pattern sparkle.

Consistently hooking trout on a dry caddis pattern had been rather elusive, although I have had limited success with a #14 Light Cahill if it had been tied sparsely. I have invented several patterns directed at this problem. However, it was not until the 2015 season that I lucked into a solution. One evening during a dense flight of White Millers I tied on, of all things, a #14 Callibaetis Hatch Matcher that had been left on my fly patch from a prior session. I promptly landed a dozen trout, including a 22 inch Brown, my largest trout of the season. I suspect that any sparsely tied light tan dry pattern would produce, but I see no reason to continue to experiment.

Doug Andres, Stream Keeper, Double Ranch