01/12/12

Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Midges
2.    Little Winter Stoneflies
3.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

Midges - Part Two
Before I continue with midges, I wanted to mention something that I think confuses many anglers
about the little flies. Midges hatch throughout the year, not just during cold weather. I've already
mentioned that there are over 10,000 species World-wide, but I'll also mention that there are over
10,000 of them known to exist in the U.S. It's not known exactly how many of these are in cold
water trout streams but it's thought to be in the low thousands. Each of these different species
normally hatch more than once a year. They are multi-brooded and hatch at different water
temperatures. The reason they become more important during cold weather is because there are
few other insects that hatch when the water is very cold. Midges can provides enough food for
trout to survive at the time their metabolism is low.

Also keep in mind, that just because the trout's metabolism is low doesn't mean they stop eating.  
Trout don't stop eating when the water gets cold, they just eat less They just get out of
the current (expend less energy) and require less food to survive. They don't stop eating by any
stretch of the imagination. The reason many anglers think they stop eating is because they
become more difficult to catch, not as a direct results of eating less, but because they stay in
slower water in isolated areas of the stream. The methods required to catch them are completely
different and take a longer amount of time to perform than the methods used during the times
they are more active and much easier to find. When midges hatch, the trout can remain in slow
current and eat emerging midges with ease using little to no effort. .

The bloodworm and glassworm species are free- swimming larvae. These larvae develop into the
pupae stage of life and emerge by assenting to the surface of the water where they hatch into the
full grown adults. This emerging process usually takes anywhere from several seconds to a
minute or two. Depending upon the species, the adults live for an hour or two, up to a couple of
months. Those that live a long time can make you think they are hatching when they are not.

It's not easy to detect that trout are feeding on midges even when they are doing it selectively at
the exclusion of everything else. You may spot midges on the water and simply not be able to see
trout taking them. It's even more difficult to spot trout taking the emerging midges and almost
impossible to see them taking the larvae.   

Trout feeding on adult midges tend to hold beneath the surface where they can easily sip the
midges. They make very subtle rise forms and are usually fairly easily spooked since they are
holding shallow. Bad presentations can easily spook them and well as your presence and motions
made casting. Even wakes made from wading will spook trout feeding on midges in slow moving
water.

Midges can hatch anytime of the day from early in the morning to late in the evening. They don't
follow the normal mayfly and caddisfly patterns regarding the times they hatch. Snow, wind and
rain seem to have little effect on the hatch times. There are some clues that may and keep in
mind I'm saying may help select the best fishing times. Like many other aquatic insects, midge
emergence is greatest during periods of low atmospheric pressure, or cloudy, overcast day. This
is when the hatches seem to be the most concentrated and the heaviest. Now that I wrote that, let
me say that you may also find midges hatching on bright days. I don't know if this is a species
thing or what, but they can and do hatch during clear days at times. The hatches just don't seem
to be as prolific as hatches that take place during low light conditions.

It also seems that the calmer the water, the heavier the hatch, but this may just be a factor in how
well you can see them. Dark, overcast, days also aid you in getting closer to the fish feeding on
midges and makes it easier for you to fool them with an imitation. It takes a lot of midges to supply
the necessary energy trout expend even in cold water during the winter season when their
metabolism is the lowest. That means trout usually feed on midges for a long period of time, even
hours, in order to get enough of them.

Bad weather conditions, especially cold air temperatures, can slow down the emerging process
considerably. The freshly hatched midges will remain on the surface much longer drying and
exercising their wings. They will become very inactive when exposed to air that is below freezing
temperatures.

Because most anglers prefer fishing dry flies, let me touch on the problems of catching trout on
dry fly or pupae imitations of midges in the surface skim. In slow moving water such as pools,
midges will often be drifting in the surface film in scum lines or current seams where bubbles are
present. The emerging midge pupae aren't visible and your only clues are the slight bulges made
by a sipping trout  A good dead drift is required to keep from spooking the fish under these
conditions.

You should get as close to a rising fish, or the spot you expect trout to be sipping midge pupae,
as possible. It's necessary that your fly be presented right in front of a trout’s mouth because
they are simply not going to expend much energy moving about chasing down a single minute
size midge pupa.

Another reason your presentation must be in the immediate area of feeding is that the trout are
usually holding just under the surface and the area they can spot drifting midges is very small.
When trout are holding close to the surface of the water, they will not see your fly drifting several
feet away. In fact, they won't even see it a foot away if they are only a couple of inches under the
water. If they holding a foot deep, they won't see it if the fly is over a couple of feet right or left of
the trout. It's impossible for them to do so.

A long leader is usually required, Start with at least a ten feet long leader and preferable twelve.  
Six or seven X tippets are usually required. Slow action rods are generally preferred over fast
action rods because they allow the flex to protect the light tippets needed when you set the hook
and fight the fish.

It's of course, very difficult to see the adult midges on the water, real or fake. One way to help
determine exactly where your fly is, is to cast far above where you suspect the trout are and when
you think your fly is approaching the area, pull the fly a few inches to create a slight v wake. This
will let you know where your fly is. Align it above the fish as best you can before it gets close
enough for the trout to notice what is going on. This way your fly will be in line to drift over the fish
and you can just about time when it will be there. You may have to make several cast to
determine exactly what effect the slow current is having on the fly and to get the cast and
subsequent v drag in line to drift the fly right over the fish.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh