Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Little Eastern BWOs)
2. Mahogany Duns
3. Cream Cahills
4. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Little Summer Stones)
5. Little Green Stoneflies
6. Slate Drakes
7. . Sculpin, Minnows (streamers)
8. Inch Worms
13. Flying Ants
Needlefly (Stonefly ) - Nymphs
It has always amazed me, that some aquatic insects have fifty or a few hundred fly
patterns yet others, including those of major families of stoneflies with many species,
don't. Quite frankly, it comes from a lack of understanding or more specifically, lack of
education regarding the insects in trout streams. In the case of the Leuctridae family
of stoneflies, called Needleflies, I think it's only because the nymphs and adults of the
family are small compared to other stoneflies. Considering everything ever written
about aquatic insects in the Southeastern United States. including the Smokes,
whether specifically or just in a general book or article on fly fishing, I have yet to see
anything about these stoneflies. On the other hand, If you check anything written
about stoneflies otherwise, such as any aquatic insect book, you will always find the
Leuctridae family included and well covered.
I mention this to point out that just because you don't hear about these stoneflies in a
fly shop, or from a guide or another angler, doesn't mean they don't exist, or that they
are not an important insect trout feed on. I hate to admit it but It's only an example of
the lack of information and education regarding the food trout eat in this part of the
nation. If you check, out of a few hundred of books written on aquatic insects on fly
fishing, not one single book has ever been written on the insects of the trout
streams of the Southeastern United States. You will find some anglers that will try
to tell you that the trout in the Southern Appalachians are different from those
elsewhere in the country; however, if you check closely, you will always find it's the
same guys that know little to nothing about what the trout eat locally much less
The nymphs of the Needle Stoneflies are tiny, slim nymphs. Like all stoneflies, they
stay hidden down under and between the small pebbles and rocks on the bottom of
the fast water streams. The way we discovered them was to simply rake up a inch
deep section of bottom sand and gravel and put it in a white pan. Using a process
kind of like you would use panning for gold, we have always been able to find plenty
of them, especially in the headwaters or smaller streams at the higher elevations in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When fully grown, these nymphs are about a
hook size 18. There can be hundreds of them in a square yard area of bottom. This
includes the low pH streams where insects are said to be few and far between.
I am not sure how many of the nymphs are eaten by trout. I just know they are very
plentiful in the small, high elevation streams as well as most mid-elevation streams.
They seem to be less plentiful in the low elevation streams where the water slows
down. I am certain the brook and rainbow trout eat them as a regular part of their diet.
We developed our "Perfect Fly" Needlefly Nymph imitation to look and behave like the
real Needlefly nymphs we have found in streams from Maine to Georgia. Our
customers have reported very good success using them.
We fish the nymph without an indicator by adding a small amount of weight (split shot)
about six inches above the fly. We use a short, up and slightly across presentation
and just watch our leader for indications of a take. This way you can search the
bottom at any depth from the shallow end of the riffles to the deeper sections of the
As with any stonefly, the nymphs are the most important stage of life in respect to
what the trout consume. After all, they are in the water for almost a complete year
versus the adults that are only on the water for a few seconds or minutes at the most.
Of course, the Little Needle Stonefly nymphs stay hidden down under the rocks most
of the time or otherwise, the trout would probably eat them all before they hatched.
Just prior to the hatch, they become easy prey for the trout because they must
expose themselves for their wing pads to expand and for their trip to the banks and
large rocks to crawl out of the water to hatch into adults. That's also when imitating
the little nymphs is most effective.
This activity starts taking place in low light conditions. In some of the heavily shaded
streams such as most of the smaller streams in the mid to high elevations, this
occurs much earlier in the day than it normally would. Low light conditions may also
be on heavily overcast days and as early as 4:00 PM later on in the year. The trout
become used to seeing the nymphs and a fly imitating them usually works fairly well
throughout the day, although not as good as it does during the late hours.
You can determine when this activity is taking place fairly easy. If you see an adult
Needle Stonefly the hatch has started. Unless it's later in the season, the hatch is
most likely still continuing. Of course, you could be seeing the last of the adults to
hatch and all of the nymphs could have already crawled out of the water and hatched.
If this activity occurs during the most or two, most likely the hatch is underway. If the
activity occurs later in October, the hatch could very well have already ended.
Stoneflies live a relatively long time out of the water. There's an alternative solution.
You can imitate the egg laying females and still catch trout late in the day. We will get
to that tomorrow.
The key to fishing any stonefly nymph is to keep it on the bottom. Sure, you may
catch a trout with it drifting as a dropper fly or under an indicator, but I am referring
to how you increase the odds of success. This gets down to the most confusing part
of any type of fishing. You can usually catch some fish doing just about
anything that's half way reasonable but if you're not careful, doing so can
greatly distort your idea of what works best.
If you apply that to this particular situation and it means you should keep the fly
imitating the nymphs on the bottom of the stream where the real ones are when they
crawl to the bank. By the way, this applies to fishing imitations of any stonefly nymph.
Doing so will increase your odds of fooling the trout.
By the way, even those of us that fell off of a turnip green truck are probably smart
enough to realize that using a fly that looks like the real nymphs, also helps a lot.
Perfect Fly "Needle Stonefly Nymph"
Copyright 2011 James Marsh