10/18/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2.    Little Yellow Quills (
Heptagenia Group)
3.    Needle Stoneflies
4     Slate Drakes
5     Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
6.    Grasshoppers
7.    Ants
8.    Beetles
9  .  Craneflies
10.  Great Brown Autumn Sedge

I Always Wonder When To Put The Terrestrials Up For The
Season
I always wonder when the trout stop focusing on the terrestrial insects, like
grasshoppers, ants, beetles, etc., and then it dawns on me that in the Smokies I don't
think they really ever get used to seeing them. I say that because other than those
times when high wind and/or high water draining back into the streams puts them in
the water through no choice of their own, you could go blind staring at the water trying
to spot one drifting downstream.

At one point in time, we concluded from experimentation (throwing them in the water)
that these insects don't float but for a very short time and that there was probably lots
more of them in the water than we thought. To see if this was the case, we set some
small drift nets to collect what was in the drift in several areas of different streams.
After hours of trying, we didn't catch the first ant, beetle or grasshopper, and if there
had been any drifting downstream, we would have caught them. They couldn't have
escaped. This took place a few years ago when we had a permit to do that and during
the prime time anglers think terrestrials is what the trout eat. We had read that the
stomachs of trout in the late summer in the Smokies were full of terrestrial insects. I
can't prove that right or wrong because I haven't killed any trout to see or pumped
any stomachs of the fish. Quite frankly, I doubt it. I would have to be shown because I
am certain, with the exceptions I mentioned above, there are very few terrestrial
insects that get in the water. This is excluding the moth larvae - inch worms. They can
be lots of them that drop or blow into the water at times.

If trout had to solely rely on terrestrials for food very long, they would starve to death.
I say that, yet during times of high water that drains back into the stream, it's obvious
that lots of ants and beetles get washed into the streams. It's also obvious that high
wind blows some grasshopper in the streams where there's good populations of them.

I've changed our Smoky Mountain Hatch Chart several times to modify my thoughts on
when terrestrials are no longer important and each time I do, I later have different
thoughts about it. It's just a fact that excepting rare occasions, trout in the Smokies
would never become totally selective on them. They may begin to see a few of them
and then continue to look for more at times, but all things considered, I think anytime
a trout in these streams eats a terrestrial insect, it's purely opportunistic feeding.

What brought this to my attention today, is that I've noticed a sudden decrease in the
number of ants, beetles and grasshoppers around our home in Pigeon Forge. Just a
week or two ago, there was always lots of larger size black ants crawling around on
the landscaping rocks and our walk and driveway. They are now gone. I also had a
log in the yard that has had carpenter ants crawling around on it all summer and they
are gone. By that I mean they have gone underground or more likely inside the tree,
wherever Carpenter ants go when it starts getting cold at night.

There's a small plot of grass directly across the street where we sometimes see wild
turkeys. Up until recently, when I have walked through the area there have been lots
of very big grasshoppers flying out from under my feet. They reminded me of quail
singles after you have scatter a covey of birds. All of a sudden they have disappeared.

Now, I will add some more confusion to the terrestrial insect puzzle. When trout have
seen a few of them throughout the summer, they may possibly get used to seeing
them and at least according to some angler's theories, they will eat an imitation of
them for long after they are gone. I know from bass fishing experience on catching
fish released from previous tournament days, this isn't true because of the fish's
memory, learning experience, or other type of behavior, if I may express this in
layman's terms. I won't go into the details to explain that but it's a proven fact that
released bass will readily fall for the same fake lure the next day after they have been
caught and released and sometimes, even sooner than that. In other words, they
seem to all have a bad case of dementia. Of course, there's other factors that relate
to this, but most of it lies in the angler's imagination.

On western streams where there's lots of grasshoppers along the banks during the
summer, I noticed that after the insects are gone, the trout will continue to take
imitations of them for a certain period of time. Streams surrounded by hay fields, are
good examples. This happens even after there's been a foot of snow on the ground.
Then when you think you have it all figured out, all of a sudden as if someone clued
them in on the fact there no more hoppers, they completely stop taking your imitations
of terrestrials.  At that point, you could toss a hopper at them all day long and not get
the first taker. Whether that's true in the Smokies or not, I'll probably never know
because I stop fishing them about this time of the year. Nevertheless, I'm leaving the
terrestrials on the hatch chart until the first of November, right or wrong. Oh, by the
way, they certainly don't continue to hatch until then. I should say  I'll leave them on
the trout's menu until then.

Copyright 2011 James Marsh