06/19/09

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

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The Learning Process - Part 6
I am continuing with yesterday's article, so if you haven't done so already, you need
to read it or this article won't make very much sense.

At the time, I didn't know what was happening. I knew I caught most of the fish,
quickly, just before dark and I knew I got most of them on a spinner fly about the
size of a Quill Gordon. I didn't have a clue why I (and no one else I met) couldn't
catch them on a dry fly imitation of the dun in the early afternoon during the time
they hatched. It took me two or three more years to confirm for certain what over
time I began to expect was the problem not only that year, but the next two years.

I knew why I could only catch two or three trout that may have come from the Blue
Quill hatch. That was very obvious. The Blue Quill flies I had purchased from a local
fly shop salesman were not even close to matching the Blue Quills. They were a
different shade of color and much larger, almost twice the size of the real Blue
Quills. Within the next two or three years I also found out another big problem I was
having with the Blue Quill hatch. I was fishing the Blue Quill flies in the wrong
places. The Blue Quills hatch in calm water in pockets, edges and shallow water
along the banks and the tails of pools. They don't hatch in the runs and riffles. The
fish feeding on them spook very easily. You have to make longer, more careful
presentations in calmer, shallower water or otherwise you will spook the trout
feeding on them. I was fishing the Blue Quill hatch the same as the Quill Gordons.

Back to the Quill Gordons. I had continued to research mayflies and read every
book ever written about them usually two or three times. Although I had read it
several times, at some point it registered on my tiny brain, that the Quill Gordons
didn't hatch on the surface. They change to a dun on the bottom or somewhere in
the water column. When they reach the surface they are already a full grown dun.
The trout can eat them much easier with less effort when they are emerging from
their nymphal shucks changing to a dun. They are completely helpless at that point.
When they reach the surface and dry their wings, they are soon airborne. The trout
have to grab them fairly soon after they reach the surface or they will fly away. That
occurs most often when the water is fairly warm or from about 50 to 55 degrees.
However, these mayflies first start hatching when the water first reaches about 50
degrees. Even if the water temperature goes back down some those mayflies that
are fully developed and have begun to hatch will go ahead and hatch within the
next couple of days. If the water continues to warm and the trout become a little
more active, they will eat the Quill Gordons both ways, under the water and on the
surface. Thats when anglers rave about the great Quill Gordon hatch.

When the water is barely 50 degrees or cooler, the trout's metabolism is fairly low
and they want go to the trouble to eat them off the surface when they can get them
much easier under the water during the time the duns are escaping from their
nymphal shucks. That was happening several years ago during the days I wrote
about in yesterday's article. That took place during the very first part of the hatch
when the water was barely marginal for the Quill Gordons to hatch. The water would
range from about 46 in the mornings to 50 degrees in the middle of the afternoons.
When the Quill Gordons are hatching, yet few trout are caught on the dry fly, most
anglers say things like "the trout are not used to eating on the surface". "Give them
a day or two". Or some say "the trout are not looking up yet", even though trout
look up all the time. They can't avoid looking up. They don't see things the way
humans do. The trout are simply eating the emerging duns on the bottom or in the
water column as the accent to the surface.

About three years after the time frame of yesterday's article, I begin to use wet flies
to match the emerging Quill Gordons. I found some soft hackle flies that worked
every once in a while, much better than the dry fly dun. Under the cold water early
hatch conditions, they would catch twice what I could manage to catch on a dry fly.
A couple of years ago, I developed a
"Perfect Fly" Emerging Adult wet fly
specifically for the Quill Gordon emerging duns. It resembles a Quill Gordon dun
with the wings folded back, only partially open. It is fished exactly like a wet fly. You
get it down on the bottom in the calm pockets where the mayfly nymphs congregate
before they hatch and bring it back to the surface. The trout hit the fly on the rise.
For the last two years we have been able to catch several times the number of trout
we could on a dry fly during the first part of the hatch or when the Quill Gordons
first start to hatch in a given area. We caught trout many days other anglers were
reporting seeing Quill Gordons but were not catching trout.

I am not trying to boast about figuring out a problem with the Quill Gordon hatch. I
am trying to explain a process I have used all my life when fishing. I don't accept
catching or not catching fish as luck. When I fail to catch fish, I don't come up with
convenient reasons to justify my failure. I just work on what I failed to accomplish. If
you started at the first of this series, you got a clear picture of the procedure I
always use. I focus on the food the fish eat. In the early seventies, fishing
professional BASS tournaments across the country, I learned that someone was
going to catch a lot of fish anywhere and anytime, regardless of the conditions.

Sidebar Article:
For a few years after the tournaments first begin, BASS would not allow a
professional guide to fish a tournament on the lakes they guided on. They thought
that would give the guides an unfair advantage. Everyone had three practice days
to fish and three tournament days to fish the national tournaments, or a total of six
days to fish but they no one could fish the lake within two weeks of the tournament.
At every lake BASS went to, the guides would make fun of the anglers in the
tournament and boast about what they could do if they were in the tournament.
After enough regular tournament anglers got feed up with that, they went to Ray
Scott and asked for the rules to be changed to allow the guides to fish the
tournaments. He did just that.

During the next few years, in over ninety percent of the cases where guides entered
the tournaments on the lakes where they guided, they didn't average making the
top 40 paying positions. The guides had never been tied down to times they could
and must fish. They never started fishing well after the sun was up and they didn't
stop fishing early in the afternoons. They didn't guide during extremely cold weather
or when it poured down raining every day for a week. They never fished during
adverse conditions that often happened during some of the early season
tournaments. If the water in the lake was six feet high and muddy, they didn't fish.
The bottom line to this is that they didn't average near as well as the regular guys
fishing the tour. In defense of some guides I will mention that some, maybe one out
of a hundred entering the tournaments, did very well. Two that I remember well were
Harold Allen and Tommy Martin of Texas. Both stopped guiding on Toledo Bend
and made a career of fishing tournaments. It turned out that guides really didn't
have an advantage. They had never fished under conditions they had no control
over. They just thought their honey holes were special places. The pros found them
and in most cases, many other ones that turned out to be much better. The real
problem was that they had become complacent with what they were doing. They
fished the same basic places day in and day out, the same way. In other words,
they thought they knew most everything there was to know and they had stopped
learning. They found out they just thought they were great and just thought they
knew a lake and how to fish it. The "I've been fishing this lake for fifty years" attitude
only proved they were set in their ways, and were legends only in their own minds.

Adverse conditions made the guides performance even worse. I remember one
February tournament held on the St. John River when the temperature never went
above freezing. Florida had a huge orange tree kill. The guides on our rods froze
up and the Florida largemouth bass got lock jaw big time. Over 100 anglers out of
250, didn't catch a single measuring bass in three days. It was won with a three day,
7 fish limit of almost 50 pounds. Over forty guys weighed in over 25 pounds under
those conditions. I could give many other examples of bass and saltwater
tournaments I fished where fish were caught under conditions when normally no
one in their right mind would go fishing. I fished one of Port Saint Lucie Florida in
my 25 foot boat when the seas didn't get under twelve feet during the entire
tournament. Most of us regular guys that fished the saltwater tournament circuit
caught plenty of fish.  Most of the local Captains that entered the tournament failed
to catch a single weighing fish. Excuses are not accepted and you don't collect prize
money on who has the most excuses.

It is very easy to fall into a rut where anglers thinks they have everything figured
out. I have seen it happen for thirty years traveling around the country. I learned to
catch sailfish from kites in South Florida. For years, no one on the Northern Gulf
used them at that time but when tournaments started, they quickly found out they
should have been using them. I learned to catch large king 30-40 pound king
mackerel on downriggers trolling large menhaden on the North Carolina Coast. No
one in the Northern Gulf ever used that method. They do now. I want bore you but I
could go on and on.

The bottom line is that I learned very quickly when I went to a new lake for a
national bass tournament or a new part of the world for a saltwater tournament, to
avoid talking to or listening to advice from the locals. Their advice is usually well
intended but one is far better off ignoring the local advice regarding methods and
locations to fish. After all, if the local experts had it all figured out, they would be in
the tournament taking everyone else's money.

I know some of you may think this doesn't relate to fly fishing for trout. There are
very few tournaments on fly fishing for trout and I personally hope it stays that way. I
know I want be entering one of them. However, I can assure you that if serious
money was at stake you would find that there would be a few guys that could and
would manage to catch plenty of trout and get a big check regardless of when and
where the event was held and what the conditions were. As usual, the average guys
would probably end up with nothing but excuses. It isn't a matter of who gets lucky
either. Luck is always a welcomed advantage, but It would come down to being a
matter of who had and applied the most knowledge and skill.

Copyright James Marsh 2009