11/30/08

Fishing Cold Water in the Great Smoky Mountains - Midges - Part Six

So far, i have only discussed fishing cold water when no hatches are occurring.
Everything has been to do with getting a nymph or larvae imitation in water that is
moving slowly. Hatches can and do take place in cold water.

Midges can and do hatch in water that is in mid to high thirties, in terms of degrees
Fahrenheit.. Winter stoneflies (of two different families) can and do hatch in water in
the low forties. Some of these are wingless. They look a lot like ants. If there is
snow on the banks and rocks in the stream, you can usually see the dark adult
stoneflies crawling around. Like all stoneflies, these crawl out of the water to hatch.
When they do crawl out of their normal hiding place and migrate to the banks to
hatch, the trout know it. The third type of insects to hatch in cold water are some
species of Blue-winged olives. They can and do hatch when the water is between
forty-five and fifty degrees.

I will discuss fishing each of these hatches starting with midges. The first couple of
years that I fished Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the winter, I
ignored the midges. I certainly wasn't in a minority. I think most anglers ignore them
in the smokies, even the ones that swear by them in the tailwater streams. Anglers
have very good success with midge imitations fishing the local Tennessee and
North Carolina tailwaters because, with the exception of the wild brown trout in the
South Holston River, all of these tailwaters are stocked. Stocked trout will eat just
about anything that resembles food. It seems the flasher and more colorful the fly
is, the better they will take it.

Midge patterns are tied and sold that don't even resemble a midge. Most of the
commercially available midge patterns are colorful and flashy to attract the angler,
rather than the trout. If anglers fished any of these types of flies in spring creeks,
for example, or anywhere there are only wild trout, they would find the results would
be completely different. Midges are not flashy and colorful. They are none that are
two toned either. In fact most of them are dull colors of cream and light greens.
There are also red ones that imitate the blood worms but even they are dull red.  

There is a factor involved that does add what could be considered flashy, I
suppose. Midge pupae reach the surface of the water to hatch with gas that
provides buoyancy. They can't swim as such. The tiny bubbles from this gas
appears to make the pupae glitter.

Some of the midge larvae and pupae found in the Smokies, and elsewhere for that
matter, appears segmented. By that I mean they have alternate shades of light
greens and darker greens, or light creams and light browns. The segmentation is
so subdued it is often difficult to see it with the naked eye. It is never highly
contrasting colors that provide the segmented appearance. The most difficult to
match midge larvae, and some pupae, are clear alternating with either light green
or light cream colors. Clear is a difficult color, or I guess you should say, lack of
color, to match.

The midge pupae are not much different from the larvae in appearance. They differ
only because they have developed a small wing pad or fat looking darker colored
section near their head.  They are the most important stage of life to imitate
because this is what the trout focus on during a hatch. The larvae of most midge
species spend their short life in the soft bottom, sand or decaying leaves and
vegetation on the bottom. Trout will eat the adults on the surface, but nothing to
compare with the number of pupae they eat during a hatch. I will continue with the
midge tomorrow.

Copyright 2008 James Marsh