Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Little BWOs)
2. Mahogany Duns
3. Little Yellow Quills (Heptagenia Group)
4. Little Yellow Stoneflies
5. Needle Stoneflies
6. Slate Drakes
7. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
9. Ants (includes Flying Ants)
12. Great Brown Autumn Sedge
An Answer To An Email About Yesterday's Strategy Article
I received an email from a moderately experienced angler with some very good
questions that I probably need to answer for many other anglers. He has fished the
Smokies a few times for the last couple of years but unlike many, is smart enough to
admit he's still new enough at the sport to want to learn more. His questions don't
relate to strategy in a direct sense, rather to technique more than anything. He
wanted to know the methods I use to fish nymphs, and especially exactly how I fished
the small nymphs in the low water conditions as relates to my yesterday's article. I've
really never thought about it much, but I probably do fish nymphs quite differently than
most anglers that fish the Smokies. I say the Smokies, because some of the
techniques I use are commonly used in many other areas of the nation. None of them
are James Marsh techniques. They're all common methods that have been written
about and used by others for years.
Exactly what I mean by saying I fish the nymph differently from most anglers in the
Smokies is that the anglers I have fished with and observed is that I use the same
basic techniques but apply them quite differently. I fish specific imitations of
nymphs rather than generic nymphs like a hare's ear nymph, for example,
even though I consider it the best generic nymph there is. I fished them for a
few years, but for the last few years, I have only fished my own specific fly patterns.
The big difference in how I fish goes far beyond the flies I use. I fish the nymph
to imitate the behavior of the specific insect I'm attempting to imitate. In order words, I
fish the specific nymph imitation in the exact same place in the streams the particular
nymph I'm attempting to imitate would be found at the time. It's also true that from a
technique standpoint, I fish a nymph using a strike indicator, or as a tandem
rig far less than most anglers.
In order to get into the details of just how to fish the nymphs to imitate the behavior of
the various species of the real insects would require content that's more appropriate
for a book than an article. It would have to deal with each of the different types of
nymphs and in the case of midges and caddisflies, each of the different types of
larvae. I have written about the various species of insects in the larval stage of life in
past articles throughout the previous years. I cannot possible do that within the
content of this article, or even the next several articles.
What the gentlemen was questioning also had to do specifically with the gear, line,
leaders, tippet and rigging of the fly. It also had to do with the type of methods I use,
high stick'in, sight casting, Czech nymphing, etc. Getting into all the details of either
method is far too involved for this one article, or even several articles. That would
require another book. What I will point out is some things I think differs from what
some may call normal and is specific to what the gentleman is really wanting to know.
In the case of Sunday's short trip written about in yesterday's strategy article, and my
last two or three trips for that matter, is with few exceptions, I used a regular short,
upstream, or up and across presentation most of the time. I did make a few
downstream presentations but only a very few.
I used the same method fishing the stonefly nymphs I fished a few days ago for a
short time, as I outlined in an article just two or three days ago. I didn't do any high
stick'in but that is the method I use for nymphs most often. I didn't recently
because of the low water level.
I fish the small nymphs (or would have large nymphs, for that matter), on a 6X tippet,
and a overall 9 foot leader/tippet length. I used a 5 weight fly rod, a proto type of a the
new ones I will be releasing in the near future. It's a 4 piece, 9 foot, medium-fast
action. I made rather long cast for the Smokies in some cases, but I spent a lot more
time getting into the best position to cast than I did casting. Staying hidden was the
main key. I hurt my back, knees and everything else sneaking around staying low but
I used the boulders and trees for cover as much as possible. This takes time but when
you cast, it usually pays big dividends. I also know when a fish is likely to spot me and
pretty much exactly what I can and can't get by with. I understand the trout's
window of vision. I understand the refraction of light or glare, and how high I
can be at different casting distances. I also understand how that relates to
the depth of water the trout are in. Quite frankly, most anglers don't understand
how a trout sees their fly on the surface or under the water. Few anglers understand
what the trout can and cannot see as relates to the trout seeing them.
I detect strikes by watching my line and leader. This is admittedly, very
demanding fishing. It isn't a matter of just relaxing and casually waiting on an
opportunistically feeding trout to strike viscously enough to wake up a daydreaming
angler. You have to concentrate and practice closely watching your line and leader.
That's why many anglers are better off just using a strike indicator or a dropper rig.
They end up catching more fish than they would otherwise because (a) they don't
know how to fish without a "Float", or (b) they are not willing to devote the amount of
concentration required. In all due respect, the correct definition of a strike
indicator is a "Float".. There are times I use strike indicators. We even sell them,
but I rarely use one in the Smokies. The same thing goes for beadhead nymphs, by
the way. They work for those that don't go to the trouble to adjust the weight properly
using split shot because the bead adds weight to the fly. Tungsten beadhead nymphs
proved that point very well. To put it simple, it helps keep the fly down deep where it
belongs. If your fishing for stocked trout, they work great because it makea no
difference if the fly resembles real nymphs or not, and the flash of a bright beadhead
may even help . If you are fishing for wild trout, it reduces the effectiveness of
the nymph. It results in fewer hookups but if and only if a good non-bead
head nymph terminal rig is properly weighted and presented by mending the
line in such a manner to keep the fly down on or very near the bottom.
Real nymphs are almost NEVER found drifting above the bottom. If they are
not down between or under the rocks on the bottom, they are directly on the bottom,
not mid-stream. That's where trout see them day in and day out, and that's where
your fly should be. Again, if you want to take the shortcut and still catch some trout,
use a beadhead nymph. The advantages of the added weight of the beadhead
often offsets the disadvantages of the poorer imitation of the real nymphs.
You will never see one in my fly box because I've never seen a nymph with a
beadhead and neither have the trout. Fast water and various light conditions can
change the beadhead nymphs appearance each and every cast and each and every
second of time that transpires. They will often fool trout in fast water and when they
do, often fool anglers in thinking they have been very successful because they are
using beadhead nymphs. You will always be better off fishing a good non-beadhead
imitation, but only if you keep the fly down on the bottom. I should again add, or fish
for stockers where it may even help attract the dough ball eaters.
In some situations I feel the fish take the fly. This requires line control and much
concentration. It also takes practice. The more you catch by feel, the more you
discover what you think is a fish, isn't a fish and the more you become proficient at it.
You can learn to tell the difference in a rock or stick and a fish with practice in 90
percent of more cases.
I use tiny split shot about 8 inches above the fly and I keep the fly on the bottom. I
hang up quite often. I will say that again. I keep the fly on the bottom.
Remember, the big difference in what most anglers do and what I do, and did this past
Sunday, is I fish areas of the stream most anglers don't fish. I know where the
nymphs should be and that's where I place the fly. I also know where the trout
are holding, not always, but most of the time. Often the difference in where the fly is
placed is only a few inches. Basically, with many variations, it's the slow water close to
fast water. Fish have holding and feeding lies and in low water, that's often less than a
foot of difference. When I say a foot, I'm not only referring to horizontally, I'm also
referring to depth. I sometimes cast the fly in fast water (referring to the BWO nymph
and or Mahogany Dun nymph) near slower water where I can see with my polarized
glasses an obvious holding spot where there's slow moving water. To make this
clearer, a hole in the stream's bottom where the water is moving slowly or even calm,
or a pocket behind a rock. I'm getting into hydraulics but that's something that's very,
very important. Fish won't expend more energy than they can take in. They won't hold
in fast water unless there plenty of food for them to eat drifting in it. All the fish I
caught on the two referenced nymphs came from marginal water, or slow
water near fast water, or slow water below fast water.
I hope this helps you with your nymph fishing. I'm certain many will not agree with what
I have written and that's certainly your right to do so. Also, keep in mind that I only
touched on some subjects and left other worthwhile points completely out, so I may
write some more on the subject. By the way, fishing nymphs effectively as it can be
done, is more difficult that dry fly fishing. The trout can see the nymphs, far better
than any dry fly.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh