04/01/09

Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Baetis) - sparse hatches
2. Blue Quills - hatching
3. Quill Gordons - hatching
4. Hendricksons - could start any day now - nymphs are important
5. Little Black Caddis - hatching
6. Little Brown Stoneflies - hatching
7. Midges - hatching in isolated locations
8. Little Short-horned Sedges - should hatch off and on for 2-3 months
9. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish

Little Short-horned Sedges:
I am sure that many of you reading this will be wondering why I would write about
such a little caddisfly as the Little Short-horned Sedge. The females are usually a
hook size 20 and the males even smaller or a size 22. It probably just doesn't make
any sense to you why you should worry about such a small fly when there are other
much larger ones available for the fish to eat. My reason is simple. I don't like to
have to put up excuses for not catching trout. I had rather catch them and not
blame a cold front, high or low water or a hundred other excuses I could come up
with.

Apparently everyone was worried about the weather up until yesterday. We didn't
spot the first person fishing in the park Sunday or Monday. The temperature
dropped to near freezing Saturday night with highs in the fifties on Sunday. Monday
was perfect but the night before was cold again and the air temperatures dropped
into the thirties. Sunday brought clear skies and the hatches were short lived but
the fishing was easy enough for Angie and I to catch eight trout is less than an hour
and a half of fishing. Half of the trout came on a dry fly. Monday brought even
easier fishing conditions. The hatches were plentiful and we caught half that many
more in about three hours of fishing the Little Pigeon River in the mid-elevations. In
other words, conditions won't get much better. The water temperatures ranged from
the low-forties to fifty degrees depending on where and exactly when you took the
temperature.

Now this would be the perfect story for the Little Short-horned sedges "if" we had
caught the trout on imitations of them, but that was not the case. However, last year
about the same time, or around the first of April, it was the case. That is how we
caught a lot of trout when everyone was complaining about the fishing and the cold
fronts. In fact, I had to revise my hatch chart for the park because we found these
little short-horned caddis hatching at a time that I didn't show them to be hatching.

The Little Short-Horned Sedges are one of the most plentiful caddisflies in the
Smoky Mountains National Park.
Glossosoma nigrior is probably the most
common species in the park but there are others. I'm sure that anyone who has
fished the streams of the Smokies has seen these caddisflies in both their larva and
adult stages of life. Most anglers would pay them little attention because they are
so small. The adults are tiny caddisflies with short horns (antennae) as their name
implies. The thing that makes them worthy of imitating is the fact that they can
hatch in very large quantities.

These are saddle case larvae caddisflies, so named for their saddle looking cases.
The larvae get under the saddles rather than on top of them. These are small
domed cases with openings at each end. When they are not bothered, they tend to
stick their heads and legs out of the case. These little cases stick to the rocks very
well and I wonder if the trout ever attempt to eat them when they are in the cases.
They can and do move around on the rocks to feed even though they are difficult
to remove from them. The various species will hatch for the next three months
randomly in isolated locations throughout the park.

Although I have read in every fly fishing book that mentions caddisflies that the
larvae of these caddisflies are important in the behavioral drift, I cannot verify
that. I know they come out of their cases and build larger ones and are probably
caught in the currents when they do that. Even though we have taken stream
samples of the drift many times, I have not found any of the little cream looking
worms or larvae of the Little Short-horned Sedges in the samples. For that
reason and the fact that I don't know whether or not the trout eat them in their
cases from the rocks, I cannot personally suggest that you fish imitations of the
larvae. We did not develop a Perfect Fly pattern for them. Tomorrow I will get into
the details of how you fish this hatch.



Copyright 2009 James Marsh