Vancouver Island’s Spring Hatches
by Bill Luscombe
May on Vancouver Island brings with it every hatch that occurs on the island. March and April saw the midges (chironomids) start and they are still going gangbusters on the lakes and ponds. April brought with it the mayfly hatches, and the caddisflies will begin hatching later in May to join them in both the rivers and the lakes. Mixed in with the early hatches is the odd stonefly hatch on several of our rivers. Thus May and early June produce a plethora of dry fly and nymphing opportunities throughout each day.
The chironomid hatch on the island lakes can be profuse and trout rise readily to feed on these tiny midge pupa. To start the hatch though, the midges first start out as a bloodworm on the muddy bottom. My Larva Lace bloodworm pattern works well when fishing the very early season.
Larva Lace Bloodworm:
Hook: #12 or 14 Mustad 9672
Thread: Black monocord
Overbody: Red larva lace (clear red plastic lacing)
Head: Black monocord
As the water warms the bloodworms pupate and they rise to the surface as chironomids. The most common (and accurate) colour patterns to imitate them are copper and brown, or gold and green chironomids. Silver and black holds its own as well, but I have found the best producer by far to be the copper and brown.
Thread: Brown waxed
Tail: None or short marabou to match body colour
Rib: Fine copper wire
Underbody: White floss
Abdomen: Brown floss or Spanflex
Shellback: Pheasant tail fibres
Gills: White ostrich herl
Head: None, or brass or black glass bead
To tie the other colour patterns simply change the body and wire colours.
As April progresses and the waters get warmer the mayflies start hatching. The most common mayfly hatch on the island is the Western March Brown. For the nymph I like to use a Pheasant Tail nymph pattern and for the adult an all-hackle March Brown pattern as shown below:
Pheasant Tail Nymph:
Hook: Tiemco 2302 #12-20
Thread: Brown 8/0
Tail: Pheasant tail fibres
Rib: Copper wire
Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibres
Thorax: Peacock herl
Wingcase: Pheasant tail fibres
Legs: Pheasant tail fibres
Western March Brown:
Hook: Mustad 94840 #12 – 14
Tail: Two light horse mane hairs
Body: Dubbed light brown antron
Wing: 1 long (variant length) ginger and 1 short (standard length) furnace hackle
This pattern is an "all hackle" pattern; it contains no "wing" as such. The steps to tying it are as follows:
Some of you may not know what a "variant" is. The standard dry fly hackle length is determined by the gap between the hook shank and the hook point. In a standard dry fly the feather barbules (hackle fibres) are just barely longer than that distance. In a variant the barbules are about 1/2 again as long. So the ginger hackle in this pattern sits about 1/2 again as high as the furnace hackle, thus forming the illusion of a wing.
The most numerous caddisflies on the island seem to be of two different species and colour patterns. There is an all brown adult similar to but darker than the Cinnamon Sedge and there is also an olive-bodied adult. Both are about the same size although the all brown seems to be a bit smaller. The nymphs are both case-builders and can be imitated well with the following pattern:
Mohair Caddis Larva:
Hook: Mustad 9671 #6 - 14 (Can be weighted)
Thread: Black or green monocord
Abdomen: Mohair dubbed onto silver sparkle chenille
Thorax: Green or black wool
Hackle: Sparse black hen hackle
To match the caddis pupa I like to use the following pattern:
Nation’s Green Sedge:
Hook: Mustad 9671 #6 - 14
Thread: Green or black monocord
Tail: None or red quill
Ribbing: None or oval silver tinsel
Body: Dubbed olive wool, seal, or antron yarn
Wing: Mallard flank
For the adult caddisflies I tie up an Elk Hair Caddis:
Elk Hair Caddis:
Hook: Mustad 94840 #6 – 16
Thread: To match natural body colour
Body: Dubbed wool or spun deer hair dyed to colour
Rib: None or palmered furnace or ginger hackle
Hackle: Ginger or furnace
Wing: Deer or elk hair (11/2 times the body length)
Other patterns that work well as adult caddisfly imitations are the Mikaluk Sedge (although it tends to fall on its side) and the Goddard Caddis.
Spring on Vancouver Island offers many opportunities and you need to stock your fly box with an array of spring patterns so that you can take advantage of all that you might encounter. The preceding patterns are standards that I carry in my fly boxes all the time and use on a regular basis. You should tie up at least half a dozen of each and never venture out to fish in the spring without them.
Bill Luscombe has been hunting and fishing for most of his 42 years. He has been flyfishing for 20 years. He instructs flyfishing, and has done so for the past 12 years. He also instructs the federal FSET firearms course and the BC CORE hunter training course. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and has been writing freelance since 1987. He has been published in BC Sport Fishing Magazine, Outdoor Edge, BC Outdoors, Western Sportsman, Island Fish Finder, and the BC Hunting Guide.
Bill Luscombe was born an army brat and raised in Ladner (Delta, BC) where he was raised hunting waterfowl and pheasants. He presently resides in North Cowichan on southern Vancouver Island where he has lived and worked full time as a professional forester since 1982.
He presently works in Nanaimo for the BC Forest Service and continue to write the fly-fishing column for BC Sport Fishing Magazine as well as contributing articles freelance to various outdoor magazines in western Canada. Bill Luscombe is also a BC Director of the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association.
"Catching fish is not hard. You simply need to understand what makes them tick. If you think like a fish, you will catch fish. It’s as simple as that."<< Back to list page | Email this Page