Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. Little BWOs
2. Green Sedges (Caddisflies)
3. Cinnamon Caddis (Mostly Abrams Creek)
4. Light Cahills
5. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Yellow Sally)
7. Slate Drakes
8. Golden Stoneflies
9. Little Green Stoneflies
Most available/ Other types of food:
10. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
11. Inch Worm (moth larva)
Terrestrial Insects, Take Two:
I'm not in jail today because the city of Pigeon Forge picked up the two stray dogs and
delivered them to the pound yesterday. I was able to feed them another good meal and was
told the county feeds them very well at the pound. The city street worker that normally picks
up stray dogs was busy putting back up street signs that were torn down the day before. I
guess some kids decided they wanted to destroy something. The street signs are more
important than picking up stray dogs because the 911 system relies on them. I certainly hope
someone sees the dogs at the pound and gives them a good home.
For the past couple of days, the weather has simply been beautiful and if anything, for a
change, the weather has been a little cooler than normal. I heard the synchronous fireflies
did their thing early this year, catching many people off guard. I do know the ants (which I
haven't yet listed as being a factor in the above insect list), grasshoppers, beetles and moth
larvae progressed earlier than normal, it shouldn't have been a surprise that the fireflies did
their mating early.
Angie woke me up last night and demanded I come out on the front porch to see the
lightning bugs. I hope everyone either has or will be able to see them this year. There were
large numbers of them in our yard and woods that surround the house. Getting out of bed
irritated me at first, but when I saw the huge number of lightning bugs, I was glad she woke
me up. They were beautiful. It reminded me of catching them when I was a kid. We would put
them in a glass fruit jar and watch them light up. Nature is amazing. The closer you observe
it, the more amazing it becomes.
This is a re-run of an 2009 article I wrote about terrestrial insects in the Smokies.
Some anglers think that the trout in the streams of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
feed heavily on terrestrials during the late spring, summer and early fall months. Because
there's so much emphasis placed on fishing imitations of land born insects, they tend to think
the ants, beetles, grass hoppers, moth larva and crickets make up a big part of the trout's
diet. That may be true in terms of percentages but the facts are, they don't always get all the
food they need during the warmer months of the year. As with economics, percentages can
be deceptive. If ninety percent of the trout's diet is terrestrial insects (and I am not
insinuating it is) then it may still be only a little amount of food. I don't think for a split second
that ninety percent of the food trout eat during the summer months is terrestrial insects but
some anglers have indicated they think it is. As a matter of fact, I disagree with the park
fishery managers on this but I won't get into that now.
When you look at the surface of a trout stream in the Smokies, you won't see very many
terrestrial insects floating down the stream. There are probably more than you could
possible see, but my point is there are never many of them. You may look for a long time and
not see the first one. These insects only get in the water by accident. That's not their normal
home. Most of them get into the water during high winds or heavy rain.
I have been dealing with a young lady from Steamboat Springs, Colorado that writes for
Backpacker Magazine. She had contacted us wanting to feature a short hike during a light
rain for fishing purposes but the magazine delayed that segment for another time. The article
she is writing about on hiking in the Smokies is already long enough without that segment.
Living near the Yampa River and other great trout streams in Colorado and being familiar
with trout fishing, she thought that accessing an area of a stream where the rain was forcing
insects into the water would be a good reason to make a short hike in the Smokies. She is, of
course, correct. Whether you have to hike in or not, fishing areas of a stream with tiny feeder
streams and water draining surrounding terrain that don't normally drain into the stream, is
an excellent place to fish an imitation of a terrestrial insect.
You may see a lot of moth larvae hanging down from the tree limbs and leaves but normally
only a relatively few actually fall into the water. Let the wind blow hard and there may be
quite a few of them that fall into a stream.
We always think of grasshoppers when we think of terrestrial fishing. In reality, the Smoky
Mountain streams have only a relatively few hoppers that actually get in the water. There's
not much grass around the streams. Most streams are in the forest. There are some open
areas with plenty of grass and weeds, but they are not plentiful. It doesn't necessarily take
grass to have grasshoppers but you will find more where there's more grass as a general
There are a lot of crickets. There are probably more crickets than grasshoppers in the
Smokies. Actually, I think a cricket is a form of grasshopper, or in the same group of insects.
They tend to exist in wooded areas more than the grasshoppers.
What is very, very plentiful in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are beetles. They are so
many different species of them it's almost unbelievable. There are some that live no where
else in the World but in the Smokies. My point is beetles probably deserve more attention
than they get.
Craig Lancaster, our Headwaters specialist, wrote today wanting more of our "Perfect Fly"
Japanese Beetles. He said the trout ate them up last year at this time. He has a new article
coming any day now about a trip he took recently and I look forward to reading it.
I am just coming off the top of my head with a lot of thoughts that crossed my mind and I am
sorry for rambling. I just want to get you fired up for the terrestrial season. We all love the
flies because we know what they represent and we can easily see the larger flies on the
water. That's worth a lot in many guy's book.
Tomorrow I will spend some time on the beetles.
Added thought: (still from the article of 2009)
I used to think that trout would never become selective on terrestrial insects but I changed
my mind after fishing the Yellowstone River one day. The wind was blowing hard on the
grassy banks of the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley and the trout were actually lined up
along the banks looking for them. You could see them from the high banks of the stream.
You could see the trout shoot to the hopper fly when one landed on the water. You could
actually sight fish for them.
On another occasion, on a windy day on the Missouri River below Holter Dam, a farmer was
cutting hay one afternoon. Hoppers by the hundreds would jump in the water each pass he
made near the river. I guess I looked pretty stupid trying to follow a hay mower with a fly rod.
Once the guy saw what I was trying to do, he cut a line of hay close to the river. He waived at
me and was happy to help me out. I caught one trout after another along that bank.
Trout don't normally become 100% selective on any one food item. It's a matter of
percentages. Writers have labeled "selective" feeding as if is were completely a black and
white situation. Trout rarely completely stop eating everything but one certain insect or other
food. They simply focus on the food that's most available and easiest to acquire.
They do this because that's how they get the most food with the least amount of effort or
expense of energy.
By the way, trout are not the only fish species to feed selectively. Many other fresh and
saltwater fish do. I learned that years ago the hard way in saltwater fishing tournaments
when money was on the line.
If you want to consistently catch trout and improve your catch, fish imitations of the food
that's most available and easiest for the trout to acquire at the time. The better job
you do of imitating the appearance and behavior of the natural foods the trout are focusing
on at the time, the better your results will be.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh