Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fishing Cold Water - Part 11
About six months after I quit the TV business, I begin to host and produce programs for Fins
'n Tales, Inc., a company I owned half interest in. The company was sold to my partner in
1987. During that year and a half period, I did some fly fishing, although none of it involved
fishing cold water. One of my fly fishing accomplishment that comes to mind was catching
three sailfish in one day in the Yucatan Channel off the island of Cozumel, Mexico. I wasn't at
all impressed with what many consider the ultimate fly fishing achievement. It would be better
described as hooking and landing teased-up sailfish on a fly rod.
During the next few years, I caught several different species of saltwater fish on the fly
including Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, redfish, bonefish, small landlocked tarpon in the
Cayman Islands, bluefish, bonita, dolphin and a few other species. I caught a lot of large, wild
rainbow trout on the fly, along with salmon and grayling on a ten day trip to Alaska's Kvichak
River..I don't know what the water temperature was but the air temperature was below freezing
each morning. As mentioned before, fly fishing wasn't new to me. I had caught bass and
bream on the fly from a very early age and had even done a few TV shows fly fishing for
largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike and bream.
For the next twelve years up until 1999, I host and produced instructional fishing videos under
a joint venture arrangement with Bennett Marine Video in California. I still continued to
produce for them but not exclusively. They are not involved with our fly fishing videos. During
that time, I traveled extensively fishing the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico and many foreign
countries. I produced a total of 46 instructional fishing programs. Except for four freshwater
programs, all featured saltwater fishing using conventional tackle. I also produced 26
instructional boating videos and many instructional programs on using sonar equipment
(fishfinders), marine radar, Loran-C and GPS navigation equipment, all of which were related
to fishing. More of my saltwater fishing videos, including both VHS and DVD versions, have
been sold than any anyone's in the World. They are still sold by Bennett.
From 1992 until 1998, in addition to producing the just mentioned fishing and related videos, I
fished numerous saltwater tournaments including the SKA King Mackerel Circuit, SAA
saltwater fishing circuit and numerous offshore, big game tournaments. During that time I was
sponsored by Ranger Boat Company, promoting their new line of saltwater fishing boats. I
fished year-round and it often involved fishing in cold water, but as mentioned before, I
wanted to transgress up to the time Angie and I started fly fishing for trout.
We first fished in the Smokies in 1999. The following year, 2000, we made four trips to the
park and begin video taping our fly fishing. In 2001-2002, we produced two videos on fly
fishing featuring Ian and Charity Rutter, local Smoky Mountain area guides. During that time
when we were back home in Panama City Beach, Florida, we fly fished almost exclusively for
both fresh and saltwater species.
In 2003, we moved to Gatlinburg. All of our fly fishing, with the exception of the last few
months, has been recorded on video. I have made some very recent trips to the park alone
only because Angle has had to stay home and help take care of her mother who lives with us
at the time.
The first time we fished the Smokies during cold weather was in 2001. We came up to fish at
that time because I wanted video of us fishing in the snow. We didn't attempt to travel inside
the park in our two-wheel drive vehicle. The only fishing we did in the park was with Charity
and Ian Rutter, using their more appropriately equipped vehicle. They took us to Abrams
Creek in Cades Cove where Ian caught a trout within the first five minutes of fishing. There
was about a foot of snow on the ground, but the upper end of Abrams Creek consist mostly of
underground water that remains an almost constant temperature. Angie and I ended up
catching a few stocked trout in Little River at Townsend on that trip. According to our video
logs, the water temperature was forty degrees in Little River. I didn't record the water
temperature in Abrams Creek.
In 2001, we made two more trips to the Smokies in the first part of the year - March and again
in April. We made our first trip out West to fish for trout that year. We fished Yellowstone
Country and several western states from June 24th until August 9th. From August 16th until
the last week of September, we fished the northeast and New England area. The last days of
September we again stopped to fish the Smokies for a few days. We returned again in
October. Except for the snow trip, none of the fishing was done in very cold water.
In 2002, we made our first trip to Colorado to fish. We arrived the first day of April and fished
until the second day of May or just over a month. We have made three other trips in different
years to Colorado during the month of April, staying from ten days to two weeks each of those
trips. On all four of those trips we were always fishing water below fifty degrees with one
exception. There was about a three day period when the water was in the low fifties on one of
the later trips. Other than that, we never recorded a water temperature of over 50 degrees.
Usually the water reached the mid to high forties by mid afternoon. There were eleven days
we noted less than a 40 degree readings on our daily journal. We didn't keep track of the
water temperature for purposes of knowing when we could or couldn't catch trout.
We always caught trout regardless of the water temperature. We recorded the
temperature so that we could determine when the aquatic insects would hatch -
mostly the Brachycentrus Caddis (Little Black Caddis). Most often this hatch took place from
mid April until the first week of May. Other than that, only one species of Western March
Brown and Baetis tricaudatus Blue-winged Olive mayflies were about the only hatches that
occur in Colorado streams during the month of April.
According to our video tape logs, fishing only one at a time, we caught a total of 1353 trout
during those four trips to Colorado. We never fished where trout were stocked. They were all
wild trout, mostly rainbows and browns with a few cutthroat and a few brook trout included
from a few streams. We have fished a total of 29 different trout streams in the state of
Colorado, but not all of them in April. There were 8 days that we were completely snowed in
and didn't get to fish at all.
Little Black Caddis hatch when the water gets around 46 to 50 degrees. Most of the time the
water was colder than that. My guess is that the water probably averages around 45 degrees
in April when it reaches its highest temperature usually at mid afternoon. It's usually in the low
forties or high thirties in the early mornings. According to our logs, snow was on the ground a
total of 21 days of that time, counting all four trips. Most all of the trout we caught came on
nymphs or larvae, but some came on dry flies during the Little Black Caddis hatches. It's far
easier to miss the hatch than it is to catch it. You must be at the right place at the right time.
Although we never questioned it, that was enough evidence for us to prove that you can catch
plenty of trout in cold water, That's only our Colorado experiences with cold water. I have
many other documentations of cold water fishing, including several in the Smokies, that I will
be writing about.
I will also mention that some anglers will also try to tell you that trout in different areas will
respond differently in cold water. That's simply not true. There's no difference in the fish
themselves. They all go though the slack period when the temperature changes drastically
and that can make it seem that they react differently at times.
The most noticeable difference in how the trout react comes with varying amounts of food
available for the trout to eat. To put it in simple terms, when there's plenty of food readily
available, the trout will eat even in water in the high thirties. They will respond to a Little Black
Caddis hatch, Blue winged Olive hatch or Western March Brown hatch in water in the mid
forties just like they will respond to a hatch that takes place in water that's in the low fifties. I
will continue tomorrow with more cold water fishing.
As mentioned before, when nothing is hatching or readily available to the trout
about to hatch, it is more difficult to locate trout. They stay out of the current in isolated
locations that not only are not easy to find, but also are not easy to fish. By that I mean it's not
usually easy to control the speed of the presentation. These areas are often beneath fast
moving water behind underwater obstructions that block the current. I will get to that later in
the series. You also have to put the fly close to the fish. They won't chase down a fly in very
cold water. These things make it more difficult to find and catch trout, but by the same token,
when you do find them and establish a pattern as to how to catch them, you can sometimes
catch more than you can when the water temperature is optimum, smack in the middle of
what's sometimes incorrectly called the trout's comfort zone. The lack of success in catching
trout in cold water is a result of the lack of knowledge and ability of angler, not the water
Copyright 2011 James Marsh