Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives - mostly Little BWO - Isolated hatches
2. Giant Black Stoneflies - hatching
3. Cinnamon Caddis - Mostly Abrams Creek
4 Light Cahills - hatching
5. Midges - hatching in isolated locations
6. Little Short-horned Sedges - should hatch randomly for 2-3 months
7. American March Browns - hatching but randomly in isolated locations
8. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish
9. Little Yellow Stoneflies - hatching
10. Green Sedges - hatching
11. Little Sister Caddisflies - Mostly Abrams Creek
12. Eastern Pale Evening Duns - (called Sulfurs by some)
13. Sulphurs - hatching in isolated areas
14. Golden Stonefly - hatching
15. Little Green Stonefly - hatching
16. Slate Drakes - hatching
Some anglers think that the trout in the streams of Great Smoky Mountains National
Park feed heavily on terrestrials during the late spring, summer and early fall
months. Because there is so much emphasis placed on fishing imitations of land
born insects they tend to think the ants, beetles, grass hoppers, moth larva and
crickets make up a big part of the trout's diet. That may be true in terms of
percentages but the facts are, they don't always get all the food they need during
the warmer months of the year. As with economics, percentages can be confusing.
If ninety percent of the trout's diet is terrestrial insects (and I am not insinuating it is)
then it may still be only a little amount of food.
When you look at the surface of a trout stream in the Smokies, you do not see very
many terrestrial insects floating down the stream. There are probably more than
you could possible see, but my point is there are never many of them. You may look
for a long time and not see the first one. These insects only get in the water by
accident. That is not their normal home. Most of them get into the water during high
winds or heavy rain.
I have been dealing with a young lady from Steamboat Spring Colorado that writes
for Backpacker Magazine. She had contacted us wanting to feature a short hike
during a light rain for fishing purposes but the magazine delayed that segment for
another time. Their article she is writing on hiking in the Smokies is already long
enough without that segment. She, living near the Yampa River and other great
trout streams and being familiar with trout fishing, thought that accessing an area of
a stream where the rain was forcing insects into the water would be a good reason
to make a short hike in the Smokies. She is of course, correct. Whether you have to
hike in or not, fishing areas of a stream with tiny feeder streams, and water draining
surrounding terrain that don't normally drain into the stream, is an excellent place to
fish an imitation of a terrestrial insects.
You see a lot of moth larvae hanging down from the tree limbs and leaves but
normally only a relatively few actually fall into the water. Let the wind blow hard and
there may be quite a few of them fall into a stream.
We always think of grasshoppers when we think of terrestrial fishing. In reality, the
Smoky Mountain streams have a relatively few that get into the water. There is not
much grass around the streams. Most streams are in the forest. There are some
open areas with lots of grass and weeds, but they are not plentiful.
There are a lot of cricket. In fact that will be our next "Perfect Fly" pattern
introduced but not in time for this summer season. There are probably more
crickets than grasshoppers in the Smokies. Actually, I think a cricket is a form of
hopper or in the same group of insects. They tend to exist in wooded areas more
than the grass hoppers.
What is very, very plentiful in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the beetles.
They are so many different species of them it is almost unbelievable. There are
some that live no where else in the World but in the Smokies. I think I am right on
that and I don't intend to look it up this minute. My point is beetles are a plentiful
insect in the Smokies and probably deserve more attention than they get.
Craig Lancaster, our Headwaters specialist, wrote today wanting more of our
"Perfect Fly" Japanese Beetles. He said the trout ate them up last year at this time.
He has a new article coming any day now about a trip he took recently and I look
forward to reading it.
I am just coming off the top of my head with a lot of thoughts that crossed my mind
and I am sorry for rambling. I just want to get you fired up for the terrestrial season.
We all love the flies because we know what they represent and we can easily see
the larger flies on the water. That is worth a lot in many guys book.
Tomorrow I will spend some time on the beetles.
I used to think that trout would never become selective on terrestrial insects but I
changed my mind after fishing the Yellowstone River one day. The wind was
blowing hard on the grassy banks of the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley and
the trout were actually lined up along the banks looking for them. You could see
them from the high banks of the stream. You could see the trout shoot to the
hopper fly when it hit the water. You could actually sight fish for them.
On another occasion, on windy day on the Missouri River below Holter Dam, a
farmer was cutting hay one afternoon. Hoppers by the hundreds would jump in the
water each pass he made near the river. I guess I looked pretty stupid trying to
follow a hay mower with a fly rod. Once the guy saw what I was trying to do, he cut a
line of hay close to the river. He waived at me and was happy to help me out. I
caught one trout after another along that bank.
Trout don't normally ever become 100% selective on any one food item. It is a
matter of percentages. Writers have labeled "selective" feeding as it is were
completely a black and white situation. Trout rarely completely stop eating
everything but one certain insect or food. They simply focus on the food that is
most available and easiest to acquire. They will always do this. They do it
because that because that is how they get the most food with the least amount of
effort or energy.
And by the way, trout are not the only fish species to feed selectively. Many other
fresh and saltwater fish do. I learned that years ago the hard way in saltwater
fishing tournaments when money was on the line.
If you want to consistently catch trout and improve your catch, fish imitations of
the food that is most available and easiest for the trout to acquire at the
time. The better you imitate the looks and behavior of the food, the better your
results will be.
Copyright James Marsh 2009