Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little)
2. Cream Cahills
3. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Little Summer Stones)
4. Slate Drakes
5. Little Green Stoneflies
6. Mahogany Duns
Most available/ Other types of food:
7. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
8. Inch Worm (moth larva)
Strategy For This Coming Week
I'm a little slow this morning thanks to some lightning and thunder. I shut things down and never
depend on the so called "lightning protection" devices I have. That way I don't have to stay scared
I'm going to lose months of work until it's over.
If you have been keeping up with my articles, you already know that I have decided to continue the
Fly Fishing Strategy articles for the coming year. The series started just over a year ago. It seems
like the articles from last year are right on target for this year but as I have mentioned before, that
will change drastically near the first of next year. We really had an unusually warm early season
that continued far ahead of normal schedule until about the end of May. That's the main reason I
wanted to continue it for another year. I don't think the strategy I provided for the first few months
of this year will serve of much use for future years. Hopefully, the beginning of next year will be
more normal, or who knows, we may have another very unusual year. There's one thing you
should always keep in mind. Although the timing of aquatic insect hatches may vary from
year to year in a given location, the order in which the insects hatch doesn't change.
They may hatch earlier some years than others or later some years than others, but the order in
which they hatch stays the same.
In case you aren't following that, let me use the following for example. In the Smokies, looking at
the following mayflies, you will find this is the order of the hatches. Starting with the Blue Quills and
Quill Gordons, which begin hatching very near the same time, you will find them followed by the
Hendricksons, then the American March Browns, then the Light Cahills, etc. Even though the
hatches may begin a month or two early, you will find the order doesn't change. The early season
warm temperatures will speed up the emergence of all the mayfly nymphs, or do just the opposite if
it is unseasonably cold during the first part of the season. The same thing is true of the other
aquatic species such as caddisflies, stoneflies, midges, etc. The point of my mentioning this, is that
at anyone point in time, if you are prepared with imitations of the insects scheduled to hatch in the
near future, you should always have what you need irregardless of changes in seasonal
Also, don't forget that the main importance of the hatches is that the emergence (hatch) of the
insects (changing from their nymphal stage of life into their fully developed stage of life) puts the
insects into a very exposed, completely unprotected position where they become very subject to
being eaten by the trout. Emerging insects have no protection from the trout and the trout are well
aware of it. It would be similar to us humans having the kitchen table setup with a fully prepared
meal versus having to dig through the cabinets, pantry and refrigerator to find something to eat.
The larvae are sitting ducks when they are struggling to emerge from their nymphal shucks. They
are fully exposed and readily available. The dinner table is set in the trout's dinning room.
Here's last year's Strategy article:
Remember: The key is to imitate the insects and or other food that is most
available and easiest for the trout to acquire.
There are some changes that have been made in the above list of foods the trout
may be eating. Our hatch chart shows the Cream Cahills should have all hatched, so I
removed them from the list. The Little Green Stoneflies should have all hatched and
have been removed from the list. Although I saw quite a few last week, i didn't see any
on the water Saturday and Sunday. The Little Yellow Stoneflies, which are Little
Summer Stones, continue to hatch sparsely. The Perlodidae (Yellow Sallies) species
won't begin to hatch again until September. You can imitate both groups with the Little
Yellow Stonefly nymph and adult imitations. Imitate the adults only if you see egg
laying activity taking place. The Little Needleflies haven't started hatching but could
As far as mayflies go, there's still plenty of Little Blue-winged Olives but that's about it.
As mentioned in last week's strategy article, the Slate Drakes are still hatching but
they are in the middle of their hatch period. In the case of Slate Drakes, that means
they are hatching very sparsely. Let me explain. Slate Drakes (Isonychia bicolor) are
completely different from most mayflies in that they hatch in larger numbers when the
hatch first begins, then slow down and hatch sparsely, and then increases in quantity
near the end of their long hatch period. It almost seems they are bi-brooded, meaning
they hatch twice a year, but that isn't the case. It's just a very long hatch period that
varies in intensity.
We added two new mayflies on the list. The Mahogany Duns that should have started
near the first of this month, and the Little Yellow Quills that should start any day now. I
didn't see either one this weekend but they will begin to appear soon. My guess is the
recent cooling tend will bring these two hatches about in the mid to high elevations in
the near future. Right now, they have relatively low odds of occurring and the nymphs
are well hidden. Although you should be prepared for these mayflies by having
imitations of them with you, at this time the most available and plentiful of the mayflies
continues to be the Little Blue-winged Olives. Keep in mind, these are small, hook size
18 and 20 mayflies consisting of swimmers and crawlers, not the fall baetis, but the
nymphs of the baetis are plentiful especially in the mid to lower elevation streams.
Unless a hatch is taking place, imitating the BWO nymph will continue to bring your
highest odds of success.
When available, the trout will continue to feed opportunistically on terrestrial insects.
Notice I have added flying ants to the ant entry on the list. That's because your odds
of encountering flying ants are much greater during the last part of August and
September than they are otherwise. Although the odds are low, you should have
some imitations of them with you just in case you find them on the water.
Regarding terrestrials, I would still use the same strategy I pointed out in the first
articles. The only other change in terrestrials, is per our hatch chart, we have
removed moth larvae (inch worms) from the list. I haven't noticed any inch worms
during the past two weeks.
As mentioned before, I would place far more emphasis on terrestrials during or just
after strong winds or heavy rainfall. I would select ants and beetles when fishing tree
covered streams, and hoppers when around open areas with plenty of grass and
weeds. Early and late in the day, or any time you notice trout feeding in the shallow
water on craneflies, you should give an imitation of the adults a try.
I repeat, your highest odds remains imitating the Little Blue-winged Olives. There are
still plenty of nymphs in the streams, including the fall baetis species yet to hatch. If
you encounter hatches of Little Yellow Quills or Mahogany Duns, you should by all
means switch to imitations of the appropriate stage of life at the time. That means
nymphs up and until the hatch begins; emergers and duns during the hatch; and
spinners during the spinner falls. If you see any Slate Drake shucks on the rocks and
boulders, keep an eye out for the spinners to fall from sunset to dark. If there are
substantial numbers of them, late in the day you should switch from the BWO nymph
to the Slate Drake nymph.
As mentioned in the first three articles, if you are fishing very early in the mornings,
you may want to start out with a streamer. That has proven to be very productive for
the last two weeks but only very early. Otherwise, you should stick with the small size
BWO nymph imitation.
Remember, I'm pointing out your highest odds of catching trout. There's nothing
wrong with fishing a dry fly imitation of an aquatic or terrestrial anytime you chose to
do so. Just keep in mind, that unless your imitating a hatch that's occurring, you are
lowering your odds by doing so. If you stick with the above strategy, and use good
fishing techniques staying hidden, making good presentations, etc., you should be
able to catch about as many trout as you can anytime of the year.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh
Back to 2012:
I mentioned in last years article that I had added the Little Yellow Quills to the list of insects at the
top of the page. I haven't done that yet this year. The hatch chart shows them starting around the
15th of August, so I will be added them shortly. I did mention that until a week or two prior to them
starting to hatch, they will remain well hidden from the trout. They are clinger nymphs.
The Mahogany Duns are crawlers and do become exposed but they are not as plentiful and not as
available as the swimming nymphs of the Little Blue-winged Olives. Right now there's more size 18
and 20 hook size BWO nymphs along with the larger baetis size 18 and 16 nymphs (Fall, or
second part of the bi-brooded hatch) in the water than anything. Yes, there's still the last part of
the Slate Drake hatch coming and those nymphs are also swimmers that are available but your
highest odds of imitating the most plentiful and available nymphs and larvae remains the BWOs.
As stated above for last year, for your highest odds of catching large numbers of trout, stick with
the small size BWO nymph imitation. I prefer the size 20 although you do need a light tippet.
Change to a dry fly imitation only when you see something hatching on the water or later in the
day, when you see egg laying activity.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh