Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Little Eastern BWOs)
2. Little Sister Caddis (mostly Abrams Creek)
3. Cream Cahills
4. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Little Summer Stones)
5. Little Green Stoneflies
6. Slate Drakes
7. . Sculpin, Minnows (streamers)
8. Inch Worms
What Fly To Use - Part 2
I had a couple of email letters regarding yesterday's article. I had a feeling I would be
asked the questions both of the gentlemen ask.
Before I get to that, I want to correct a couple of things I had wrong about what I wrote
about the Russell Cave National Monument, not that it made any difference in the
subject, but just to correct the record. The little creek I was referring to flows into the
cave from a big spring just outside of the cave and then flows through the cave for
about a mile and a half. It doesn't flow out of the mouth of the cave.
Here's the summary of yesterday's article in case you missed it.
There are two ways most anglers, fly fishing for trout, or fishing for anything else from blue marlin to
bream, select their flies and/or lures or bait. One, is to use their favorite flies/lure/bait and the other
is to randomly select them from their boxes and use the trail and error method determining which
one seems to work best.
Neither of these two methods is the best method. The best method is to determine what is the
most available and preferred food the fish are feeding on, and either using the real thing, or
imitating it with an imitation of the real thing. With the exception of those cases where fish are acting
aggressively, protecting their beds/redds from predators, or striking something as an instinctive
reaction, using or imitating what the fish are eating is by far the best strategy.
When you take any other approach to fly/lure/bait selection, your using less than the most effective
method of determining, in the case of fly fishing for trout, "what fly to use".
The questions I received simply asked "how do you determine what is the most
available and preferred food the fish are feeding on is"?. It's a good question the
answer of which is what separates the top anglers from those that are average
or mediocre anglers. It does require knowing a few things about the food the trout
eat, and more particularly, the food the trout may be eating in the stream you are
Everyday, I list the foods that the trout in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are
most likely feeding on at the top of the page of the article I write for that day. Notice, I
don't list flies, I list insects, baitfish, crustaceans, etc, or the actual food. Of course
there are many other items of food that the fish may possibly eat on any given day,
but the list represents those that are most available and eaten by the trout.
For example, looking at the above list, there are probably a very few Little Sister
caddisflies hatching in some streams other than Abrams Creek, where I show them
still hatching. There may be a few Spotted or Cinnamon net-spinning caddis hatching
in Abrams and other streams I don't show but they will be few and far between. I could
mention others that you shouldn't focus on. They are not insects plentiful enough for
you to be matching with a fly in the Smokies at the particular time.
I'll also mention one other very important point. Many anglers call this "matching the
hatch". That's only partially correct. It's only correct during the time an insect is
hatching, which on the average, is less than 5 percent of the total number of days any
species of aquatic insect lives. For example, a mayfly that lives a year, usually only
hatches during a period of a week to three weeks in any one given stream, although
this varies greatly from stream to stream and species to species. What you need to
match isn't just the hatch, it's the insect it's entire life (from the time it
changes from an egg to a the larvae stage of life, which in the case of a
mayfly, is a nymph) until a few hours after it dies. You need to match it's death,
or the insect when it dies on the water depositing eggs for future generations. These
spinners, in the case of mayflies, are usually eaten by trout. So keep in mind, when I
am referring to matching the foods trout eat, I'm not just referring to "matching
the hatch", I'm referring to matching the entire life span of the insect
including a short time after it dies.
Back to the question "how do I determine what is the most available and preferred
food the fish are feeding on is". The answer always varies with time. Not just the
particular day or month, but also the particular time of day your fishing. The answer
also varies with the water and weather conditions, such as stream levels, water clarity,
water temperature, oxygen content, pH level and the particular area of the stream
your fishing. This sounds like it is getting complicated when it really shouldn't. These
are fairly easy things to be aware of, PROVIDED you know a few of the basics about
the food the trout eat. After all, that's the purpose of the fly. The fly and the exact
way you present it, should imitate the food the trout is eating.
During the year, the available food for the trout varies considerably. At any one time,
the different foods and species of insects varies, ranging from a few major items up to
several major items. Right now, notice there are only a few items shown on the above
list. It consist of terrestrial insects and just a few aquatic insects. The baitfish and
sculpin are available throughout the year. This coming March and April, you will find
the list increases to about twice that number.
Starting tomorrow, I will go through the list of foods that I show available and
condense everything down to an easy to follow, common sense way to determine the
flies you should be using. I will do this weekly, so that any changes that may have
occurred, are covered.
Once you begin to see how I go about determining the strategy to use at the
particular time, and the particular flies I would use to imitate that food in order of
priority, you will see that it isn't really complicated at all. After all, success doesn't
depend on just having the right fly. Just as important is knowing where, when and how
to present it.
If you will follow this series of weekly articles, you will soon be able to do the same
thing for yourself. You will soon be able to easily determine what the most available
and preferred foods the fish are feeding on is without my help.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh