Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little)
3. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Little Summer Stones)
4. Slate Drakes
6. Mahogany Duns
7. Little Yellow Quills
8. Needle Stoneflies
Most available/ Other types of food:
7. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
8. Inch Worm (moth larva)
My Private Brook Trout Stream
I promised I would show some pictures I captured of Mr. Breck Davis fishing this past Saturday. Just
keep in mind that I'm not about to identify the brook trout stream that I allowed him to fish. I blind
folded Breck before I took him to the stream. It made it difficult for him to drive his new Ford truck
from Lenoir City Ford but since he's a new Troutfest contributor, he wanted to use it. You see, I
consider WCP my own private waters. The well hidden stream is about a fifteen mile hike
from downtown Gatlinburg. I don't want anyone else to have the opportunity to fish there. It's
not on any maps, not even the best of the best, Saint Clair Maps. It isn't on any of the dozens of
digitized maps you can download on a GPS receiver. Satellite imagery cannot be taken of it. I put
mirrors on the ground to blind the guys flying them satellites. It's not shown on Google earth and it
cannot be downloaded to your GPS receiver like every other location in the United States -
including your own home. Even though it is located inside the park, It's my own personal brook
trout stream. I spend years crawling though thick undergrowth in the mountains to find it and I'll be
dang if I'm going to allow anyone else the opportunity to fish it. Now as long as you understand
that, I will show some pictures of it.
Fly Fishing Strategies - Which Fly To Use - Basics
I hope you read yesterday's article prior to reading this one. If you haven't, please go back and do
so. On many of the past year's strategy articles I started with this:
"The key is to imitate the insects and or other food that's most available and easiest for the trout to
That written, how do you go about determining what the most plentiful and easiest to acquire food
there is? In the articles on strategy during the past year, I did that for you and by doing so, I don't
think it was clear as to how I determined that. Some of you may have thought the insects
mentioned were just my idea of what was most available and plentiful. It wasn't. There was always a
very firm and reliable basis for making that determination. To illustrate how I go about it, let me go
though the process of determining what's most available and plentiful for the trout to eat this
coming week. Much of it is a matter of elimination.
In order to do this, you have to have a basic knowledge of the foods and especially the aquatic
insects. Although that may seem intimidating at first, it isn't. It isn't complicated or highly involved. It
does take a little time and study to learn what you need to know. To just to give you a rough idea,
the average tenth grade level student could do so within a three or four months time period by
spending an hour a day, five days a week on the subject. This will probably never be a high school
class by any means. I'm only mentioning it in that respect to give you some idea as to what's
Notice the above list of foods that's currently available. I came up with that from a detailed hatch
chart I made for the streams of the Smokies a few years ago. This information is available for
anyone to use and is very accurate. Hatch charts are not only good for pinpointing hatch periods
of time, they are good for knowing what's available that hasn't hatched and what has already
hatched. Imitating what hasn't yet hatched is just as or even more important than imitating what is
hatching. This chart has been tested now for several years and slight modifications made in the
times based on average weather conditions. It was derived from extensive work done over a two
year period from acquiring samples of the insects from all the major streams in the park.
Look at the third week of August on the chart. That's where the above list of insects and other
foods came from although I know them off hand without having to look at the chart.
Now, the question you may have may well be "what about the nymphs and larvae of the other
aquatic insects that exist in the streams". The trout can eat them just as well as those that may be
hatching, right? Yes, but lets first look at the overall status of the insects before we get into those
that will hatch later on in the year.
The majority of the mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies hatched back during the late winter, spring
and early summer of this year. All but a few have a one-year life span from the time they are an
egg until the time they die as adults. A very few species have a two or a three year life span.
These are the larger stonefly species- the Giant Blacks and Golden stoneflies. A very few species,
mostly baetis mayflies that we call blue-winged olives, are bi-brooded. That means they hatch twice
a year. All of those insects that hatched from January through early July are still only tiny nymphs
or larvae. The exact size depends on exactly how long they have been hatched from the egg stage
of their life. None of them are over half their normal fully grown size and the majority of them are
smaller than that. Most of them are mayflies and stoneflies that are clinger nymphs. They stay well
hidden underneath rocks on the bottom and are not readily available for trout to eat. A few are still
very tiny eggs. The bottom line is that most of the other species of aquatic insects that live in the
stream are tiny and the majority of them stay well hidden. The one and two year old stonefly
nymphs of the larger species also stay underneath the rocks on the bottom well hidden and out of
the reach of the trout. The do become exposed when they crawl around searching for food. This is
done mostly at night.
Look back at the hatch chart to see what is near fully grown and hasn't yet hatched. You will find it
consist of the above list of aquatic insects and a very few other species that hatch in the Fall.
Other than those listed above there are two more species of stoneflies that we call Yellow Sallies
that will hatch later on (well hidden at the time); the Great Brown Autumn Sedges (which are in
large stick cases at this time); craneflies that are plentiful but not the top choice of food for the
trout, and the second hatch of baetis mayflies (Blue-winged Olives). These are swimming nymphs
that are almost fully grown and that do not always stay well hidden from hungry trout. I do show
some long-horned caddisflies on the chart but they are not plentiful and only have a one star
The only other types of foods are the baitfish, sculpin, crayfish and minnows. They exist in the
streams year round. There are also midges that exist year-round and of course, there are the
terrestrial insects that only get into the water accidentally. Without going into detail, the baitfish,
sculpin, crayfish and minnows are best imitated when low light conditions exist or the water is
stained from rain. Midges are eaten by the trout year-round but are for the most part only
important to imitate as a food when the water is very cold and they are the major aquatic insect
that are exposed to trout to eat. For the most part, terrestrials are only available in quantities after
heavy rainfall and strong winds. As I often say, If you sit down and watch the water, you will most
likely go to sleep before you spot the first terrestrial insect drifting downstream. You should have
imitations of the baitfish, minnows, sculpin, crayfish and terrestrial insects on hand but only fish
them when stream and weather conditions warrant doing so.
What is in the streams that's near grown sizes are either shown on the list above or those yet to
hatch I just mentioned. Out of all those insects, it's obvious that the most plentiful ones and the
most available ones for the trout to eat are the swimming and crawler mayfly nymphs. The
swimmers are the Slate Drakes (about half of which have already hatched) and the Little
Blue-winged olive species hatching at the present time along with the larger baetis nymphs that
hatch in good quantities later on. Next to that in terms of quantities and availability are the
Mahogany Duns which are crawler nymphs. They are easy for the trout to acquire but they don't
exist in quantities as large as the BWOs. That's why I don't recommend imitating their nymphs in
priority to the BWOs unless you know they are in the process of hatching. It's the same situations
with the Slate Drakes. They don't measure up in terms of quantities to the various species of
BWOs that haven't hatched yet and consequently, they aren't the top priority.
The above knowledge gives me a firm basis for recommending a small size 18 or 20 BWO nymph
over anything else unless and until something begins to hatch, or it's late in the day and spinners
begin to fall and/or egg laying activity is occurring. Later on in the year, I will change the
recommendation to a size 16 BWO nymph to imitate the Fall hatch of baetis mayflies. They exist in
the streams now but they are not as exposed as the Little BWO nymphs that are hatching.
Now keep in mind that this recommendation is to give you the very highest odds you can have in
terms of catching numbers of trout. What I recommend could also depend on the stream you
are fishing. If your fishing small, high elevation brook trout streams, I would suggest using a Little
Yellow Quill mayfly nymph over the BWO because there are more of them in the lower pH water
than Little BWOs which may not even be present.
I'm not telling you that your nuts fishing a dry fly early in the morning. There's nothing wrong with
that if that's what you prefer. You will probably catch a few trout. What I can assure you of is that if
you fish the Little BWO nymphs I suggest correctly, do other basic things that are necessary to
catch trout reasonably well, you will catch more trout than you will on the dry fly.
I use this same approach to arrive at what my highest odds of success would be in terms of what fly
i should be using at any given time. Notice I did not get into what I would fish if something was
hatching. That's yet another subject. I would be changing flies from nymphs to an emerger and
pupae patterns, depending on the type of insect, or to duns to other dry fly adult imitations and or
spinners and egg laying patterns later in the day. To get into the specifics of this, I would have to
get into the details of the particular insect that was hatching.
Never forget that having the right fly is important but just having the right fly doesn't mean success.
It has to be presented at the right time of day and presented in the right type of water in the stream
in such a way as to mimic the behavior of the real insect you are imitating.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh
I forgot to mention that although it's only a 15 mile hike from Gatlinburg, it's much easier to just drive up there on highway #441. I never
fish where I can't see the road. I don't want to be caught in thick underbrush in the event I encounter a killer bear. The open space of the road
will give me a better shot at it as well as time to get my old 45 out of the holster.
I hate those people who post pictures of trout streams and then actually provide the name of the stream. They are sure not one of us stupid
redneck idiots. They have a lot of guts posting names of trout streams on the Internet. I don't like people who use GPS units, people who read
maps, or anyone with an education. Stay away from my personal brook trout stream. I don't even allow the Walkers to camp on my prong.
Built my own bridge across the stream
so it would be easy to get started.
My best brook trout yet, but there's bigger
ones in the creek and I'll catch one to
prove it one day as long as no one else
finds my spot. It did taste wonderful.
Smaller pictures are thumbnails: click