06/24/09

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 - Part 11

When we first started fly fishing exclusively about ten years ago, one of the first
things I noticed was that unlike most other types of fishing, fly fishing for trout was
mostly done on the surface. Of course it didn't take long to figure out why. Its just a
lot more fun to catch trout on the dry fly than on nymphs. Notice the two ways I just
listed how to catch trout on the fly. Of course there are streamers and I didn't list it. I
said dry flies and nymphs. I will never forget the first time I ask a fly shop owner
about purchasing some of his flies. He ask if I wanted nymphs or dry flies. I
answered by saying I wanted a little of both. I though that is simple enough - fish
nymphs or dry flies.

Later on, when I begin to study the food trout eat and discovered midges and
caddisflies, I found out that they do not have "nymphs". They have larvae and
another stage of life that mayflies and stoneflies don't have - pupae. I tried to put
that into perspective with how the fly shops sold flies as either dry flies or nymphs. I
wondered where the larvae and pupae fit into to those two categories. Another time
in a fly shop, I asked that question. I was told that when it comes to trout flies,
caddisfly and midge larvae (he couldn't say the word) were considered "nymphs".
He proceeded to tell me that they were of little importance. I didn't know then just
how stupid he actually was.

I started looking at online stores and catalogs and found out he was right on one
thing. The very few caddisfly larva imitations and pupae were usually listed under
"nymphs". I started asking "why" at every opportunity and no one seemed to know.
Some thought they were the same thing and didn't know the difference. It took me a
year or so to figure out the entire fly industry (I guess you could call it) was not
organized correctly. I found out the "fly industry" knew little about complete
metamorphism. Most any ninth grade high school student should know there aren't
any caddisfly nymphs. If you will notice, even today, there are still many fly shops
and online stores selling flies that don't know or care about the difference. Many
have reclassified their flies during the last few years.

I also determined why anglers didn't seem to care. Most everyone's line of thinking
is that if they are going to fish below the surface, or what they refer to as "nymph
fishing", it doesn't much matter which fly you use.  A Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph
(I liked to have never learned to say all that in one sentence) or a Prince Nymph
was all you needed. I noticed there were several dry flies that represented specific
insects but almost no nymphs. I found blue-winged olives, gray drakes, green
drakes, blue quills, etc. "dry flies" but few or no gray drake nymphs, blue quill
nymphs, blue-winged olive nymphs, etc. I got the impression that when it came to
nymphs, it didn't make much difference.

I started looking at pictures and studying the different types of nymphs (swimmers,
crawlers, burrowers and clingers) and quickly determined that there were more
differences in the nymphs than there were in the duns. I came up with the saying
that a burrower nymph looks as much like a clinger nymph as a buffalo looks like an
antelope. It was clear anglers paid little attention to nymphs. They focused mostly
on dry flies. It seemed to me they thought that if the fly went under the surface, the
trout couldn't see it very well and it didn't matter much what it looked like. It didn't
even matter if it was a caddis fly larva or pupa, or a mayfly nymph. It was just a
"nymph". I soon discovered as I expected, the trout can see the nymphs under
water much better than they can see the dry flies on the surface. Considering that
trout can see nymphs just and good or better than they can duns or adult flies on
the surface, and that since nymphs look just or even more differently from one
another than duns and adult caddis do, can anyone explain to me why there are a
lot of specific imitations of mayfly duns but almost no specific imitations of mayfly
nymphs on the market. The shorten this, just let me say I found out the fly industry
(for lack of a better word) was a complete unorganized mess.

I knew from the numerous other types of fishing I had done that fishing on the
surface offered the most fun regardless of the species. I knew early in life that
catching a bass on a top water plug was more fun than catching one on a plastic
worm. I learned that catching Cobia on the surface was a lot more fun than catching
them on live bait fifty feet deep. I also learned that regardless of the species of fish,
you usually caught a lot less fish on the surface than below the surface. When it
came to trout, I found out there was no difference in them than most of the other
species of fish. You could still usually catch a lot more below the surface of the
water than you could on top.

The reason is very simple. Fish eat several times as much food below the surface
as they eat from the surface. We could have a life long debate as to just how much
more trout eat underwater than they do on the surface, but I doubt anyone would
contend it is the opposite of that. I don't know if it is twice as much, or a hundred
times as much, but I do know trout eat a lot more nymphs, larvae and pupae than
they do dun and adult flies from the surface. If I had to guess, I would probably say
they eat fifty times more below the surface than they do on the surface. Of course
that would vary greatly from stream to stream and species to species. If you don't
believe me, then please consider just how many brown trout over sixteen inches
you catch on a dry fly in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Now please understand that I would be the last person standing to condemn
anyone for fishing dry flies. I did an entire four hour long, 2 disc DVD on fly fishing
the Smokies just on dry fly fishing. I understand why is a lot of fun but I also
understand there are a lot of anglers who had rather catch some trout than no
trout. I can tell you that in most situations, like maybe 95% of the time, your odds of
catching trout on the fly are greater fishing below the surface than on the surface.

Tomorrow:
I will continue with my learning process about nymphs and why I eventually
developed different specific fly patterns for aquatic insects in their nymph or larva
stage of life.

Copyright James Marsh 2009