Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2 . Green Sedges (Caddis)
3. Cinnamon Caddis (mostly Abrams Creek)
4. Little Sister Caddis (mostly Abrams Creek)
5. LIght Cahills
6. Little Short-horned Sedges
7. American March Browns
8. Eastern Pale Evening Duns
10. Little Yellow Stoneflies
11. Giant Black Stoneflies
12. Golden Stoneflies
13. Streamers (Sculpin, Minnows)
14. Inch Worms
Does "Opportunistic Feeding" Have You Brainwashed - Part 2
If you didn't read yesterday's article, this one will probably make little sense. I ended
at the point I was explaining that during the times trout are lined up in a particular
lane, line or zone of water feeding in a fast water riffle or run, they are there
because of a concentration of food. This food almost always consist of one and
only one insect. It's rare two or more different aquatic insects are hatching at the
same time that are caught up in fast water current seams. Why? Because less than
a third of all aquatic insects that exist in the streams of Great Smoky Mountains
National Park hatch in areas where they easily get caught in the fast water. Most of
them are able to depart the water and fly away from calm to moderate areas of flow.
About a third or more of them do not even hatch in the water. They crawl out on the
banks and hatch. This includes a few mayflies, several caddisflies and all stoneflies.
Most of the insects that are hatching that do get caught in fast water are clinger
mayflies and even they move from their normal fast water habitat to slower flowing
water to hatch. They just happen to easily get caught in the seams between the
slow and fast water and be channeled downstream in the fast water.
All of this amounts to one simple thing. When trout are feeding in fast water areas,
zones or lines, they are almost always feeding on one particular insect that is
hatching in quantities sufficient enough to warrant the trout being there
holding in the fast water feeding on them. There's almost never enough free
drifting nymphs, larvae, terrestrial insects or any other form of food in the fast water
at any one time to warrant trout holding in faster currents to feed on them. They
would expend far more energy than they could possible replace with food. I can
think of a few exceptions, such as inlets created by high water that's washing
terrestrial insects and other food into fast water areas, or maybe high winds blowing
large numbers of terrestrials in fast water. Other than that, when there is lots of
food drifting downstream in fast water current, you can bet you last dollar there's a
In case your thinking about larvae or nymphs getting caught in the fast water runs
and riffles, drifting downstream to hungry trout holding in position to eat them, I'll go
back and repeat what I wrote yesterday. This just doesn't happen. Yes, there may
be a behavioral drift, although we have tested this at night on several occasions
only to come up blank. If there is such a thing in the Smokies, it exist at night and
it's illegal to fish at night. Of course, a nymph or larvae can become dislodged and
drift downstream but not in quantities sufficient for trout to hold in the fast water
waiting on this to happen. If they did, every trout in the Smokies would be
dead within a few weeks. That would require far too much energy for only a little
Here's one of the points I am getting to. When an insect is hatching and becoming
caught up in the fast water runs and riffles and trout are feeding on them, which
had you rather have tied on - a fly that imitated the hatching insect, or one that
imitated something that wasn't even present?
When trout are concentrating on and eating a certain food in a certain area of
water, zone or line, doesn't it make sense that using something that imitates the
food the trout's eating would be more productive than using something that didn't?
Being an opportunistic feeder, even though the trout may well eat something else,
which do you think would be the most productive imitation - one that matched the
naturals drifting downstream the trout was there to feed on, or a fly that didn't.
Now this also brings up this question. Why do certain generic and attractor
flies that don't necessarily match the naturals often work in the fast water?
Why will trout sometimes take a gray body Parachute Adams dry fly when yellow
Light Cahills are hatching. The answer lies in the speed of the water, or the time the
trout has to examine the fly. It gets down to fractions of seconds and other things
many anglers are unaware of. One is the trout's small window of vision when it's
feeding near the surface. To shortcut the physics of light refraction and the window
of vision, let me just say a trout is only able to see a part of the fly that's above the
surface for a split second. Even so, you will often see flashes where trout detect
something was unnatural and rejected the fly at the last split second. Often these
are passed off as misses. The trout missed your fly alright - deliberately.
Don't you think that even though a Royal Wulff dry fly (that imitates strawberry
shortcake and ice cream better than a mayfly) may catch a trout every once in a
while that was feeding on the insect in this particular scenario, a fly that looked and
acted like the real natural insect would be more productive? If your IQ is over 60,
you shouldn't have much problem figuring that out. Throw the Royal Wulff in a pool
with slow moving water and see how many trout come up and eat it.
There's no doubt that the more a fly looks and behaves like the real thing the trout
are focusing on, the better you chances of fooling them. Even in fast water
situations like I just described, you will find better imitations results in a higher
percentage of hookups.
When it gets down to imitating those other two-thirds or more of the insects that
either hatch and depart the water from the slow to moderate sections of the pocket
water streams in the Smokies, fished correctly, better imitations of the naturals
will greatly increase your odds of success.
In cases where the nymphs of the insects are crawling out of the water to hatch, like
the stoneflies, having a good imitation of the naturals is a huge advantage. They
climb out of the water in calmer to moderate sections of the stream, not fast water.
Furthermore, and I won't get off into this subject yet, the trout can see the
nymphs underwater far better and far longer than any insect on the
surface of the water.
By now, many of you are probably wondering. If James Marsh is right, and better
imitations of the naturals will outproduce the generic, attractor and many of the old
fifty-year old flies that are often recommended by guides, fly shops and other
anglers, how could they not be aware of it.
In my opinion, there's two main reasons for it. One is the fact that at times, you
can catch a good number of trout from the fast water on the poorer
imitations, generic, attractor and ancient flies. I just stated why. This success
can be very deceiving. If one passes off the times he or she fails to catch several
trout as "the fishing is slow or poor", they can easily be tricked into believing the
trout just were not feeding. It's very, very easy to accept the "fishing is poor"
excuse and it's also easy to come up with dozens of excuses why it is.
The other reason is that many (in fact most) guides, fly shop sales people
and anglers simply know very little about the insects trout eat in the
Smokies. Oh, they may be able to name a half dozen insects and tell you the
approximate time they hatch but that's about it. Most of them don't know one
caddisfly from another or even half of the mayflies that exist in the streams, much
less when, where and how they hatch.
The big key is "where" in the streams they hatch. Remember, I said in
yesterday's article the trout most likely are not feeding selectively, but they are
always very selective in exactly where they feed. They feed where the insects
are concentrated and hatching and that often isn't the fast water.
Please don't take this the wrong way. I'm not trying to bash anyone. I am only trying
to point out facts. The traditional way of fishing the Smokies is to basically
imitate everything in the fast water runs and riffles. Why? It's simple. It's the
only place the relatively poor imitations used by most anglers will fool the trout.
2011 James Marsh