02/07/12

Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
Hatching:
1.    Midges
2.    Little Winter Stoneflies

Most available/ Near hatching and other types of available food:
3.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
4.    Blue Quills  (Nymphs)     
5.    Blue-winged Olives (Nymphs)

Fly Fishing Strategies - What Fly To Use - 29
(Some Hatch Basics)
If you had been in the Smokies near the end of last week, you would have thought Spring was
already here. Of course, the unusually warm weather wasn't confined to the Great Smoky
Mountains, it was much warmer than usual throughout much of the entire nation. The
Pennsylvania groundhog day event of last Thursday was interesting in that although it was
unseasonable warm, the groundhog did see its shadow, and according to the belief of some,
there will be six more weeks of Winter. What made it interesting was the high temperature in the
lower elevations of the Smokies on Groundhog Day was near 60 degrees as well as last Friday
and Saturday. It just didn't make sense that six more weeks of Winter was going to occur because
so far, the first six weeks of Winter hadn't occurred.

The particular water temperature at which an aquatic insect hatch is suppose to occur
can be deceptive.
Hatches aren't actually directly related to the water temperature at any one
point in time. It's the overall average water temperature during the insects larva stage of life that's
the most important factor. If the water temperatures average lower than normal during the  
development of the larvae and nymphs, the growth and development of the insects takes a little
longer and the hatches take place a little later than normal.

Conversely, if the average water temperatures are higher than normal during the development of
the larvae and nymphs, the insects mature at a faster rate and the hatches take place earlier
than normal. You will see corresponding water temperatures listed for different species of insects
that are suppose to represent the temperatures at which they hatch, but you should keep in mind
that they are only guidelines. It isn't the temperature of the water at any one point in time that
controls the time of emergence of an aquatic insect, It's the status of the development of the
nymphs and larvae.

Last year, when  we experienced a cold Winter, the hatches took place about a week or two later
than normal. When the water temperature hit 50 degrees for three or four days in a row, the Quill
Gordons, Blue Quills and Little Black Brachycentrus caddis (which all hatch near the same time)
begin to emerge. All the early Spring hatches ran a little later than normal.

In the northeastern part of the country, in Pennsylvania and New York, where the same hatches
normally occur about a month later than they do in the Smokies, I continued to get reports from
customers purchasing our flies that the hatches were running late. When the same hatches finally
did start taking place, the water temperatures at which the hatches occurred was much lower than
normal. The Quill Gordons, Blue Quills and Little Black Caddis hatches occurred in water that was
still in he mid-forties, well below the normal temperatures at which they normally occur.

That same thing happened a few years before that when Angie and I was fishing in the Catskills.
The same insects were hatching in large numbers in water much colder than they are suppose to
hatch.
In other words, when the insects are fully developed, they will hatch irregardless
of the water temperature at that particular time. It doesn't matter if the insects are in
north Georgia or Maine.
We have also seen this same thing occur in the Western states with
different species of insects. The point is, the water temperature at a particular time isn't the actual
triggering factor. It's only a general guideline.

Here's another often confusing hatch fact. When some insects first start emerging, and the
water temperature drops down much colder than it was when the emergence first started, the
hatch often continues in spite of the colder water. That's because the insects are fully developed
and again, because the hatches aren't directly related to the current water temperature.

On the other hand, insects in the same stream at a higher elevation that were not fully developed
because of average lower water temperatures, won't begin to hatch. It may be a week or so later
before the same species of insects begin to hatch in the same stream.

In other words, the hatches can stop and then start again at a later date on the same
stream.
So, it's common for hatches to continue in any one given area of a stream even though
the temperature drops, and it's also common for the same hatches on the same stream in a
different area of the stream to be delayed.

It's a fact the nymphs and larvae in the streams of the Smokies have developed a little faster than
normal due to the abnormally warm weather we have had so far this Winter. Normally, the Quill
Gordons, Blue Quills, Blue-winged Olives (
Baetis brunneicolor) and Little Black Caddis start
hatching around the first week of March. Our
hatch chart for the Smokies shows them beginning
at the end of the second and third weeks in February but that's intended to provides a little
cushion. I am fairly certain, if the long range forecast is correct and the weather warms up again a
week from now, we will see hatches occurring a couple of weeks in advance of normal or by the
middle of this month. After today and tomorrow, for at least the next few days though, get ready
for some cold weather.

Upcoming Weather Conditions:
Right now it's 30 degrees in Pigeon Forge. Thank goodness, the wind is calm. I went in the park
yesterday afternoon to fish for an hour or so, and it was very windy and felt very cold. It felt
altogether different than it has for the past few days. I didn't make the first cast because I wasn't
dressed for it.

Today and tomorrow will feel a little warmer with calm winds and highs near 55 and lows near 30.
Thursday's and Friday's weather will be back to normal for the month of February. The highs in
Gatlinburg will range from 47 to 50 with lows 27 to 29. That means the water temperature will be
in the low to mid forties at the highest again. We could even get some snow.

The temperatures expected for Saturday and Sunday will be even colder, with highs around 43
and lows down to 24. The good news is that there's only a small chance of rain on Wednesday
and wading conditions should be good.  

I will continue with strategies tomorrow.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh