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 Great Brown Autumn Sedge
7. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Cold Water Basics As It Relates To Midges
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a day during the month of November can be
very warm or very cold. The weather swings back and forth. This often continues on
into December. By the end of December the weather is usually colder than it is warm
but there's some years, except for short periods of cold spells, it can remain warm on
through the holidays. It isn't necessary for the weather and water to be cold to catch
trout on imitations of midges, but in very cold water, later on in the year, it just about
eliminates most everything else that you can expect to hatch ;with the possible
exception of a very few species of mayflies called BWOs and Winter Stoneflies.
Once it does get cold, most anglers allow their minds to trick them into
thinking trout are not going to rise to the surface to eat until Spring. Although
a few guys do fish the streams of the Smokies during the very cold weather, most
anglers, especially those that live a good distance from the park,often wait until late
February and early March. What's often comical about that is when they do usually
first show up, the water is just about as cold as it has been all winter.
It's just the fact fly shops start promoting the fishing in late February and anglers are
quick to get excited about the upcoming Spring season. They never realize that
conditions are usually not any better than they have been many during the late fall
and early Winter months. If you can catch a period of a few days with warm front
conditions during December, January or February, you can enjoy catching plenty of
trout and at times, you can do that on a dry fly. Most of the time, that dry fly should be
a BWO or an imitation of an adult nymph.
During this time, the stomachs of the trout most likely would have as many midge
larvae in them as anything. This may not be true in terms of bulk quantity but it
probably would be in terms of numbers. Baetis nymphs, maybe a few cased Little
Black Caddis, and possibly some small winter stonefly nymphs probably would
represent the other foods they have eaten.
The biggest mistake anglers make fishing tiny nymphs and/or midge larvae
imitations in the streams of the Smokies is they tend to do it the same way
they fish during the warmer months of the year. They also assume the trout are
in the deepest water in the stream down on the bottom and this is often the case but
not for the reasons they think. The water isn't any warmer down on the bottom
than it is anywhere else in the fast flowing freestone streams of the Smokies.
It's possible there's a tiny difference in the deep pools from the surface to the bottom,
but not such that it should be a consideration as where to fish.
Where the misconception comes into play is that the trout may very well be down on
the bottom, but not for purposes of being any warmer. To begin with, in layman terms,
fish could care less from a comfort standpoint such as humans experience. They are
cold blooded and feel just as comfortable in very cold water as they do in water in the
mid sixties, for example. The reason they are often found on the bottom is that's
where slow flowing water is usually found. Most of the time they are located on
the bottom of a deep run, they are in a hole where the rocks upstream of their
position blocks the current. The can be on the bottom of a very fast flowing deep run,
but it will be in water that's moving very slowly.
The reason for the preference (actually a requirement) from a temperature
standpoint, is because the trout's metabolism is low. They need very little food to
survive. They locate in water where there's little current to fight in order to survive. If
they didn't, they would have to take in more food for energy needed to remain in fast
water than they could acquire. Guess what? This same slow moving water is
exactly where midges are found. They don't live and can't survive in fast currents.
To make this as plain and simple as I can, don't think in terms of the water being
warmer down deep because it isn't. Think of areas on the bottom, mostly holes
and depressions, where the trout can hold in slow moving water that's out of
the faster currents.
By the way, these areas of slow moving water isn't alway in deep water. It can be in
shallow water, especially if the stream has slightly off-color water. The clearness of
the water has more to do with the depth the fish hold than anything else. This is
especially true on bright, clear days.
Most of the time during the winter the water is extremely clear. Cold water holds less
suspended particles than warmer water and the water gets very clear when it's cold
and at the same time, it hasn't rained in a long time. You can count on the trout being
in deeper water under these conditions. It will either be in the bottom of deeper
runs or the pools. They will not only will be deeper than normal, if it's very cold, they
will definitely be located in slow moving water.
Our New DVD Release "Stalking Appalachian Trout".
Copyright 2011 James Marsh