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)
Importance of Terrestrial Insects?
It has always been my opinion that many anglers place far too much emphasis on terrestrial
insects. You've probably heard anglers say that during the summer months, terrestrial
insects become the main source of the trout's food supply. I have also read where the park
fishery managers contend the same thing but if so, I question if they have real proof of it. My
guess is it's based on more speculation than fact. Except for isolated circumstances, I doubt
that's ever the situation and it to is speculation but I do base it on hours of trying to catch
drifting terrestrials in the streams of the park.
There are many trout streams that are surrounded by grass fields or meadow streams with
high grass along the banks where terrestrial insects could be the main source of food but
even then, it is doubtful. Most of these type of streams are in the Mid-west or West. If you
place a drift net designed to catch free drifting insects in a stream in the Smokies and
measure the number of ants, beetles or grasshoppers caught, you will find out soon they are
few and far apart. The facts are under normal stream and weather conditions, there are just
not that many terrestrials that get in the water.
Now that I have written that, let me also mention that I do think there are times when lots of
terrestrial insects get in the water, including the streams of the Smokies. Those are the times
there are high winds, or heavy rainfall and high winds. Water is powerful and small insects
are not any match for it. I always try to fish terrestrial imitations when either of these
It isn't that the streams are void of aquatic insects during the summer months. Although
many of the mayflies and caddisflies have hatched for the year by summertime, there are still
lots of nymphs and larvae in the water for the trout to eat that haven't hatched. Every one of
the species that hasn't hatched are still in the water in their larval form. There are plenty of
Blue-winged Olives because most of them are bi-brooded. There are several species of Little
BWOs, and Small BWOs that haven't hatched. There are plenty of Little Yellow Quills,
Mahogany Duns, Slate Drakes, Cream Cahills, Great Autumn Brown Caddis, Needle
Stoneflies, Summer Stoneflies, and many other species of aquatic insects that haven't
There[s another factor and that is when a terrestrial insect does get in the water it is
completely helpless. It cannot escape the trout. Even so, except in cases of high water
washing in insects, I doubt there are many situations where the trout have actually seen
enough terrestrial that they get to th point they are looking for terrestrial insects. I have seen
selective feeding on terrestrials occur on some Western streams in large hayfields. I have
actually been able to spot trout near the banks looking for terrestrials. Now, I'm sure many of
you would question how I would know that. It is just based on common sense. When you see
several trout along the banks and you see some of them crashing insects that get in the
water, you could rightly assume that was the case.
I remember one afternoon on the Yellowstone River, where it was very obvious the trout were
looking for terrestrials. When the trout would normally be hidden and out of sight, they were
many out in open water cruising the banks. The wind was blowing hard and when I walked
down the bank, hundreds of grass hoppers would fly out from under my feet. If I tossed a real
hopper in the water, it would get consumed in a few seconds. Such a situation is not rare, but
certainly not all that common. I caught several trout in a short time on imitations of hoppers.
That same situation could exist when lots of ants are washed into the water from the
drainage of heavy rainfall.
Facts are, there is plenty of food in the streams of the Smokies, not to the point it grows the
trout large and fast but enough for them to grow,to their full, decent size in their short
lifetime. There are plenty of aquatic insects in the streams and in fact just as many as they
are in most any headwater stream in the nation during the Summer. Even the streams that
are high in acid content have a fair quantity of insects. In terms of species present, they do
differ from those in other more alkaline streams. .
I'm not at all suggesting that you shouldn't fish imitation of terrestrial insects during the
summer in the Smokies. The streams aren't void of aquatic insects by any means.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh