06/13/09

Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives - mostly Little BWO - Isolated hatches
2.   Cinnamon Caddis - Mostly Abrams Creek
3    Light Cahills - hatching
4.   Midges - hatching in isolated locations
5.   Little Short-horned Sedges - should hatch randomly for 2-3 months
6.   Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish
7.   Little Yellow Stoneflies - hatching
8. Green Sedges - hatching
9. Little Sister Caddisflies - Mostly Abrams Creek
10. Eastern Pale Evening Duns - (called Sulfurs by some)
11. Sulphurs - hatching in isolated areas
12. Golden Stonefly - hatching
13. Little Green Stonefly - hatching
14. Slate Drakes - hatching
15. Beetles
16. Grasshoppers

The Learning Process

I want to go further back before I ever fished a tournament. Before any of you get
bored because this starts out about bass fishing, please just read it and hang on. I
have a point to make that also involves fly-fishing for trout.

My favorite thing back in the late 1960s was catching large spawning bass off the
beds in Central Florida. I would time my trips for the spawn at the St. John's River,
Ocala National Forest Lakes and other Central and South Florida locations. In
those years, it was very popular for anglers to come to Florida from all over the
nation and shiner fish for big bass. Large 6 to 10 inch long Golden Shiners were
used to catch bass during the pre-spawn period. That was too easy for me. I didn't
like sitting and watching a large float drift around with a shiner towing it, waiting for a
bass to eat it. I could catch plenty of large bass doing that prior to the time they
went on the beds, but there was little skill involved. I liked poling a boat around in
the shallow water, spotting the beds and then setting up and catching the large
females. I enjoyed fooling them into thinking I was stealing their eggs off the bed.

I did as good as anyone with that. I used little bull-head (
Fundulus grandis)
minnows that are about two to three inches long. They are the natural enemy of the
spawning bass in the St. John River. They will steal the eggs. After the male
(usually a small one or two pound bass) builds the bed by nosing out the soil and
sand, the female will come on the bed. By the way, they get a lot of encouragement
from the little males who run into their sides with their nose trying to force them on
the beds or show they are head of the household. Most often, you have to catch
the little male from the bed or otherwise, the female will not come on the bed. She
hangs out in the nearby grass. If the timing is right, and you catch the male, the big
female bass will return to the bed. Basically, the little male is more difficult to catch
than the female. He can grab the bullhead minnow and blow it out of the bed before
you know what happened. The bass won't eat the minnows. They just chop down on
them just behind the head and in a split second blow them out. They will take the
scales off the little minnows just behind the gills. Once they leave their mark on the
little minnows you have to get a new live one because they always die when moved
off the bed by a bass.

An over simple description of how you do this is you cast over the bed, let the line
settle down and slowly inch the minnow out of the ell grass into the clear bed. You
can fell the minnow thump, held by the lead weight, trying to get out of the bed. The
bass will start making figure eights around the minnow and when it is close to the
eggs,  grab it and blow it out of the bed.

One day in Silver Glenn Springs, a little spring creek that enters Lake George, I
happen to get into the perfect situation to watch the entire process take place. With
my polarized glasses on, I laid down on the front of the boat and for hours watched
the little bullheads circle a bed stealing eggs. When the bass protecting the bed
would turn its back on one to look at another one, the unseen minnow would shoot
in and grab an egg. The minnows moved in only an inch at a time as they
approached the bed. The eggs are only in one small space that is about the size of
a cereal bowl and slightly deeper than the much larger cleared area. They never
just swim into the cleared area. They will move an inch, the bass will turn and look
at another one, and then one or more minnows the bass aren't looking at would
move another inch closer. The bass knows if he or she charges to get one, the
others will steal eggs in the few short seconds it is occupied.

The bottom line to all of this is that I learned exactly what happened during the
entire process by taking hours and studying the process in clear springs. I went to
Silver Springs in Ocala (not in the park) and studied them. They bed much deeper
in clear water but they act identical to the bass in the lakes and rivers. Once I
learned exactly what was took place, I was able to imitate the entire process using
at first, the real little bullhead minnows.  Even in shallow, dingy water or the tea
colored tanic acid water of the St. Johns, I could tell you exactly where both the
male and the female were at any time. I never cast until I knew. When the bass
moved I would make the minnow did what the real ones did. I would move it an inch
at a time.
I could catch almost every bass from every bed I could find. I
caught lots of ten to twelve pound bass, sometimes, several of them in a day. I put
most of them back and kept only the largest ones simply because I caught so many.

Later I begin to modify sinking Rapalas lures and do the same thing with what was
in essence were little artificial bullheads. I would paint them to match the bullheads
and put the hooks on differently to work around the grass. I moved the Rapala in
the beds an inch at a time and watched the water movement to know where the
bass were without being able to actually see the fish.

Years later (approximately 2000) I did the same thing at Lake George with flies I tied
to look just like the bullhead minnows.  I caught big bass on my fly rod doing the
same thing. Once I proved to myself I could do that, I stopped and promised myself I
would never repeat it.

This is one of hundreds of examples that I can give of
the importance of knowing
exactly what is going on
when you are fishing. Since the early 1970s, I have
approached fishing that same way, not just with spawning bass, but anything I tried
to catch. I learned early, the key to catching fish was knowing the details. I follow no
rules but rather made an effort to learn everything about what I am doing down to
the fine details. In the late 1960s, when I went back to the lodge on the St. Johns
(after releasing several bass) with more bigger bass than the entire camp all put
together, day after day, i knew why I could always succeed and why they had to rely
mainly on luck. Of course I learned a lot of things about fishing the hard way. I also
learned from other guys who were just like me. Since 1980, I have fished, always
with a camera crew, throughout most of the Eastern Hemsiphere with the best of the
best. I have made my entire living from fishing and closely related outdoor sports
since 1980 without guiding or chartering my boats.

I spent many days fishing with Jerry Dunaway, the man who held more world
records on big game fishing than anyone in the world. I fished many, many days
with Frank Johnson, still one of my best friends and owner of Mold-Craft Products,
largest big game lure company in the world. I fished with many of the most noted
captains, mates and anglers in the world, far too many to list. I fished with many of
the best bass fisherman in the World, far to many to list but a few you may of heard
of are Paul Elias, Billy Westmoreland (noted Kentucky smallmouth expert), Jack
Hains, Roland Marlin, Glenn Lau (Big Mouth film), Darrell Lowrance, Lowrance
Electronics, Tom Mann, Gary Klien, and many others. I fished over a hundred
saltwater fishing tournaments. I have fished all of the states but one and in over a
dozen countries. I could go on but I am sure it is beginning to sound like i am
bragging and I don't intend it for that purpose.

Over the next few days, I plan on giving some other examples of my fishing
experience over the years, much of it for trout, that probably makes me think
differently from most anglers. There is a huge difference in just tying on a fly, lure
or bait hoping a fish will eat it; changing it to another fly, lure or bait if they don't,
and  someone that first tries to figure out everything about the fish, what they are
eating, where they are and eventually, how to fool them into thinking a fly or lure is
the real thing. After all, except to protect an area or spawning redd or bed,
a fish
never takes your fly or lure without thinking
(being under the impression) he
or she is getting something to eat.
If you can figure out what the fish are eating,
how, when and where they find and eat that food, you can always catch them. The
difficult part is learning the details of endless different situations involving the fish,
their habitat and the food they eat. Once you do, catching the fish is usually fairly
easy. Of course you can't always figure everything out but that is the main thing
that keeps me going and enjoying the challenges involved with fishing.

My purpose is to try to convince you the importance of knowing everything you
can about what is actually going on when you are fishing for trout and how the little
details can make the big difference. I believe the old saying that "luck comes when
opportunity meets preparation" is true. That has always been the case for me.

Copyright James Marsh 2009