12/14/11
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2.    Midges
3.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

Fishing Cold Water - Part Five



Yesterday's Spotted Bass story took place around 1967 when I was an engineer with Ma Bell
when I could fish only on weekends and holidays. For the year or two after I started my
commercial construction business, I still didn't have much time to fish other than on weekends.
I was very busy getting my business going.

In the mid to late sixties, there was little information available on fishing except for a few
books, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield magazines. Ray Scott was just
starting Bass Anglers Sportsman Society. I read all the publications and books I could find on
fishing but other than Jason Lucas articles in Sports Afield, there was little worth reading. Most
outdoor writers were what I call "in house fisherman".

In the late sixties, I  was able to purchase a twin engine Beechcraft airplane. I had a pilot that
also helped out with our estimating. I usually had from a hundred up to three hundred
employees along with many subcontractors. We worked with many different architects and
engineering firms and I used the airplane not only to visit jobs I had going, but also to
entertain the associates just mentioned. The only way I knew to entertain anyone was to take
them fishing.

I made frequent fishing trips to the Gulf or Mexico, Florida Keys, East Atlantic Coast, Canada,
and the Bahamas. Later, in the early seventies, I obtained 50% ownership in a nine
passenger, super-charged Aero Commander in addition to the Beechcraft twin. That
increased our range and ability to travel under varying weather conditions.
I'm writing this
only to point out how I was able to fish many different places in my younger years. At
that time, I still wasn't thirty years old.

I was very fortunate.
My dad, who was in construction his entire life, had built many very
large and important construction projects. He was responsible for me having the opportunities
I had, even though he begged me not to go into the construction business. After realizing I
was just as hard headed as he was, he worked part time for me as well as the company that
helped get me started.

One of the things I did that will soon relate to this series I'm writing about fishing cold water
was fishing for large Florida spawning bass. Most of that took place on the St. John's River
and Lake George, Rodman Reservoir, the Big O, and other Florida lakes.
I will explain how
fishing for spawning bass relates to fishing cold water later.

In addition to bass, I often had run ins with cold fronts that affected my speckled and sea trout
fishing. More specifically, how cold weather related to the movement of the shrimp the inshore
species relied on. For those that may not know, Redfish were, for all practical purposes,
considered a trash fish in those days.

When I first started fishing for spawning bass, I hired a guide. I used the same elderly man
every time. He taught my wife and I both well. We probably fished with him a total of twenty
days or so. We would stay in Florida anywhere from three days to ten days at a time and
usually made a trip in late February, a couple of March trips and sometimes, the first week of
April, all depending on the weather. I fished the St. Johns River and its associated lakes most
of the time.

After a couple of years, I was able to catch a lot of large spawning bass poling my own boat. A
picture on my office wall reminds me of a week I caught 16 bass from 6 pounds up to 12
pounds 2 ounces, with most of them around 8 to 10 pounds.

I would study the spawning bass for hours, not fishing, just watching the spawning process in
the many springs that feed the St. Johns River area. Most of the time, after spotting the fish, i
anchored the boat and waded up close to them - right around some of the largest alligators in
the World. I have been within a few feet of some very large ones many times. I was never
afraid of them. Mr. Walker, the guide that taught me how to fish for spawning bass, also
taught me how to not make mistakes that would cause them to react the wrong way. .

I worked on designing a lure that would imitate the Bull Head minnow, a little two or three inch
long Caledonia minnow that ate the bass eggs in the St. Johns system.
The most valuable
thing I had for catching the fish was a thermometer
. I not only knew exactly when the
bass spawned, but just how the temperature related to each stage of the spawn. The entire
process is related to the temperature of the water more than anything else. By the way, this
can get down to one or two degrees. A guess within ten degrees is worthless.  

I knew when the males would start building the beds, find a female, where the fish resided until
they moved on the beds, how the beds were built, exactly how the males got a partner, how
each gender played their part at various stages of the spawn, what creatures ate the eggs,
how the water color affected the depth, and numerous other details about it. I learned the
most effective ways to find the beds, polling and marking the beds to return to. I could do it in
deep clear water, muddy water, and when the skies presented different viewing conditions. I
learned how to get the little minnows to do the exact same thing on the end of my line that
they did when stealing the eggs unattached to a line. I could tell by feeling the line exactly
when the bass would attack the  minnow. I even knew if it was going to be the little male or the
female. Still, by far the most important item I had for catching spawning bass was a
thermometer. At that time, I never met or heard of anyone that used a thermometer that fished
for spawning bass.
The biggest advantage I had on others was I was able to determine
exactly where the bass were spawning, just as importantly, where they wasn't
spawning, and almost exactly when they would spawn without waisting time poling
for them
. Everyone else guessed at everything and relied strictly on visually spotting the
bass. I was able to find productive spawning areas and eliminate areas of the huge river
system several times faster than others relying only on their eyes.   

I begin to use lures to fish for them instead of live Bull Heads. I even used my own designed
and handmade lures. It wasn't long before I could consistently catch them on artificial lures.
After the first few season of doing that, I gained a reputation around the many fish camps
along the river for being able to catch more large spawning bass than anyone, including the
guides.

I think I read every Bassmaster Magazine Ray Scott ever published in the late sixties and early
seventies. I knew they had one of the six professional bass tournaments held each year in
February or early March in Florida, and that one or two others were usually held on lakes
such as Toledo Bend Texas when bass were spawning. I wanted to fish them. The main
reason was
I thought I could beat anyone at catching spawning bass.

I knew the conditions of fishing with a partner would be a factor. I also knew the week long
event (three practice days and three tournament days) had to fall in line with just the right
weather conditions, but I felt sure I would have the opportunity to catch things right.

In 1975, I signed up and started fishing the national BASS tournaments. I wanted to get some
experience under my belt before the next tournament fell during a spawn time, hopefully
Florida. Guess what? Well, I'll get to that tomorrow.

Fly Fishing Strategies - What Fly To Use - Part 21, continued
The key is to imitate the insects and or other food that's most available and easiest for the
trout to acquire. If you haven't read the first parts of this series, please do so. It will help make
this article more meaningful.

Conditions for fishing in the park should have been very good yesterday. I doubt many were
fishing. I doubt if even a few were fishing but there may have been. I didn't get a chance to go
at all. We were still very busy getting Xmas orders shipped. Our DVDs, fly sets, and fly boxes
have been selling like Pigeon Forge hot cakes lately.

I'm not certain as to how the melting snow affected the water temperature but it should have
been at least in the high forties by yesterday afternoon. There was some cloud cover early in
the day, but most of it went away for the afternoon. There may have been some Blue-winged
Olive hatches take place. Without knowing the water temperature, and considering the melting
show, it's difficult to say. Since yesterday is gone, it doesn't make any difference anyway,
does it?

It's going to be very warm today, with a high near 65 in Gatlinburg. It didn't get very cold last
night and today may again present easier opportunities for catching trout. I don't see any
changes that should occur that would change the strategy I suggested yesterday. It's basically
the same strategy I've been suggesting for the last few weeks.

There will be fewer changes in strategies during the next couple of month than there will be
for the entire year. As you can see from the short list of trout food at the top of the page,
midges, BWOs, and minnows and baitfish represent the bulk of the food. The BWOs species
will change. There will be some Little Winter Stoneflies begin to hatch in January but other
than that, few changes will occur until the Blue Quill nymphs and Little Black Caddisfly larvae
begin to get active in late February.

Again, as I have previously pointed out several times, "available" is the key word. There will be
more nymphs and larvae in the streams for the next three months than there will be all next
year; however, most all the mayfly nymphs are clinger nymphs. All the stonefly nymphs are
clingers. With only rare exceptions, the clingers are very safe from the trout. :There's very few
crawler nymphs and they also stay well hidden, not to the extend the clingers do, but well
hidden. The comparatively few swimming nymphs are the Slate Drakes and BWOs.

None of these nymphs or caddisfly larvae are drifting in the water column like some anglers
may tend to think. How do I know that? I've check it many times with various types of aquatic
insect nets.
Behavioral drifts must have occurred during some outdoor writer's
dream. If the trout in the streams of the Smokies have to rely on free drifting
nymphs, they will all be dead within the next few weeks.

It will probably start raining again by tomorrow night. As usual, the amount of rain will be a big
factor is the outlook for the coming weekend. I had rather wait a day or two before buying into
the long range weather forecast but as of right now, things look very good for this weekend.
As long as it isn't too cold, and based on the forecast it shouldn't be, higher, stained water
would help make the catching easier. I'll probably update this within a day or two.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh
I'm not trying to write an autobiography. It's my way of explaining  how water temperature affects gamefish and
in the end, how it relates to trout. I think it's a greatly misunderstood subject by many, if not most anglers, and
my intent is to try to give those interested a better understanding of the subject.