11/16/11
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     Great Brown Autumn Sedge
6.    Midges
7.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

Fly Fishing Strategies Article:
I'm delaying the strategy article for an additional day. The early morning forecast I
looked at yesterday has been updated and the National Weather Service is now
saying there's a hundred percent chance it's going to rain today and tonight. Except
for a few locals out beating up on (abusing) the spawning brown trout, there's few if
any anglers fishing this week, or at least that was the case yesterday as far as I could
determine.

Strategies for fishing today and tomorrow should be quite different. For that reason I
will wait until tomorrow morning so I can determine the amount of rainfall before I write
the article. The front will pass tonight and the current unseasonably warm weather will
change back to normal. They are predicting about an inch of rain for today and
tonight at Gatlinburg. That's a big guess and conditions may be very different in the
higher elevations. As of now at 4:30 AM (I still haven't got used to the time change),
according to the precipitation map there has already been an average of between
three-quarters of an inch and an inch of rain in the park.

Midge Fishing Summary - Part Two
Just to highlight the importance of fishing midge imitations during the winter,
remember that midges often hatch when nothing else is hatching. Although this is
certainly a true statement, it seems to underrate the importance of midges in the
sense it implies that if anything else was hatching, midges would be unimportant. This
isn't the case either. Midges can produce just as many and just as large of trout as
any insect. That's difficult for some anglers to accept but those that won't accept it just
haven't experienced what the tiny flies can actually produce.

It isn't just dealing with small flies that's the big problem in fishing imitations of midges.
Trout that feed on emerging midges are much like trout rising to spinners. They just
sip the insects from the surface skim leaving a tiny ring if anything. Sometimes their
fins will bread the surface of the water, but they usually won't. The only good thing
about trout rising to midges, is that like spinners, they tend to rise in a timed pattern
or with a certain rhythm. They almost always rise in quite water or water that is flowing
calmly and smoothly. They don't just reach the surface and fly away within seconds
like mayflies hatching in warm water. They tend to ride just under the skim a long time
and distance, depending on the current. That's why the trout take them with gentle
sips. They have little reason to rush. They can just pick the completely helpless
midges off with ease.

In some cases the current tends to group a bunch of them together. This makes it
even easier for the trout to eat them. They usually end up at the edges of the stream,
in current seams and in eddies. You can skim the surface of the water with a small
seine to find them. I use a fine mesh one made to slip over my landing net. It's the
same one I use for spinners. This will quickly and easily show you what's drifting in the
surface skim. Since you really cannot see much drifting in the skim with the naked
eye, you will often be surprised. Not only will midges show up, you may also find some
larger size spent wing mayflies and caddisflies drifting in the current. These are
almost impossible to see without skimming the water with a seine..

If you find the trout eating midges in the flat, calm water in pools or pockets or
anywhere the water is slick, try using a down and across presentation. Let the fly sink
and rise to the surface at the end of the drift in the area the trout are feeding. This is
the same method commonly used for caddis pupae imitations. If you can get the fly to
rise to the surface right in front of a feeding trout, without seeing you of course, you
will have a good chance of catching it. It doesn't necessarily require a dead-drift
presentation to catch trout on emerging midge pupae.

You have to be very careful when your casting to trout that are sipping midges in
shallow water. Stay low as possible and use sidearm cast. Move slowly and be as
sneaky as you can. You have to get the fly in the right area of water to drift over the
fish. Remember, trout feeding near the surface have a very small window of vision.
This makes it necessary to get the fly very near them or they can't see it. The small
window also offers an advantage. It lets you get closer to the trout without it seeing
you. The deeper the trout, the larger the window of vision and the easier it is for them
to see your approach.

It's best to use a medium or slow action fly rod. That doesn't mean you can't use a
fast action. It just means you have to be far more careful setting the hook. When your
using 6X and 7X tippet, you need to make a gentle hook set, lifting the tip of the rod
easily. The tiny hooks of midge imitations doesn't require a Bill Dance worm hook set.
You can set the hook by just slowly raising the tip of the rod. Trout don't tend to spit
out the small flies like they would a heavy nymph, for example. By the way, if a trout
rises in the immediate area you think your fly is drifting, slowly lift the rod tip to see if it
took your fly. Often the trout will have the tiny fly in its mouth and be just upstream of
where you think your fly is. If you do this right, and the trout ate a real midge instead
of your fly, you won't put the fish down. You will have more opportunities.

One final point. The small hook size 20 and 22 midge imitations usually hook the trout
just under the skin of its mouth or lip. It's very easy to pull the hook. In fact, its usually
easier to pull the hook than it is to break the light tippet. The slow, steady sweep of
the rod tip will also prevent pulling the hook as well as breaking the light tippet. You
can land large fish on a small fly and a light tippet. I have taken several brown trout in
the San Juan River on hook size 22 and even 24 midge larva imitations that were over
twenty inches and one that was over 26 inches. You just let the drag do its work and
take your time. The problem usually comes when the fish sees you. They normally
make several longer runs before they tire and you can get the net on them.

I'm writing this as it relates to fishing our local tailwaters as well as the Smokies. What
I've written about fighting the fish hooked on light tippet and small flies won't
necessarily work in the small streams of the Smokies. The larger brown trout can run
under a rock or boulder, as well as run downstream a long ways. The biggest problem
you have in streams like we have in the Smokies is the fast, strong current. Once a
larger fish gets in the current, your fighting the current more than the trout. A large
trout can dump the backing on a reel in a very short time. I have had to chase a few
downstream to land them and keep from being dumped and I have also lost several
using very small flies and very light tippet. I've also managed to land some nice ones I
wouldn't have otherwise hooked. I have also caught some good numbers and sizes of
trout in the Smokies during the mid wintertime in very cold water when I was probably
the only one in the park fishing.

Our New DVD Release "Stalking Appalachian Trout".

Copyright 2011 James Marsh