06/25/09

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 12

In some anglers minds, there is just something about a nymph, and in this case I am
referring to a fly not an insect, that seems to make it less significant than a dry fly.
They worry a little about how their dry fly matches the real things sometimes but pay
little attention to how much their nymphs looks and acts like real ones. They say
things like "I just like my nymphs real buggy". Yesterday, I mentioned that this could
be because anglers think that since they fish the nymphs underwater the trout can't
see the fly all that well. I went on to say that facts are trout can see nymphs and
larvae under water better than they can see duns or adult flies on the surface. I
don't want to get off subject into how trout see things, but I will say that unless the
water is stained or off color, they can see nymphs and other underwater food items
very well. Their eyes were designed to do that That is where they eat most all of
their food. How well a trout sees a dry fly on top of the water depends on what part
of the fly protrudes under the water, what part is above the water and several other
factors. The important point here is that trout can see your fly underwater very well.

I mentioned the Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph yesterday. It is a very good generic
imitation of many mayfly nymphs. They catch trout and work great at times. I wasn't
degrading the fly. I have used them many times and caught a lot of trout on them.
The problem is theres s lot of nymphs they don't imitate well at all. Their light shade
of color doesn't imitate any of the darker nymphs. They don't even imitate clinger
nymphs very well because clinger nymphs are flat, not round shaped. They don't
even come close to looking or acting like a burrower nymph. They are much to fat
and bulky to look like any of the swimming nymphs. They do imitate many crawler
nymphs that are about the same color quite well. They work best in streams that
have a lot of light colored crawler nymphs.

The Prince Nymph is also a great fly. It is a good generic imitation of a stonefly
nymph. However, there are many stonefly nymphs that the Prince Nymph does a
very poor job of imitating. It doesn't imitate any of the Giant Stonefly nymphs even
in similar sizes. It doesn't imitate any of the skinny Needle Fly nymphs. It does a fair
job of imitating the Little Yellow and Little Green stonefly nymphs.

When it comes to generic dry flies, the Parachute Adams is hard to beat. They
imitate some of the gray colored mayfly duns very well. The parachute method of
applying the hackle allows the hackle to spread out and look much more like real
mayfly legs than vertically wound hackle on many dry flies. If your stretch your
imagination, the post may even give the appearance of the wings. I think it is the
best generic imitation of a mayfly there is. I have probably fished the fly more than
any other fly. I like the parachute style hackle so well, we use it on all of our "Perfect
Fly" mayfly duns. Instead of the plain gray dubbed body of the Parachute Adams,
we use goose and turkey biots of the same color of the naturals to show the
segmentation of the abdomen and two split upright feather wings that not only look
like real mayfly wings, but also serve to help make the fly more visible. Instead of
the Adams clump of hair for the tail, we use either two or three, split microfibbet
tails. The Parachute Adams influenced the design of our Perfect Fly Mayfly duns
more than anything.

Now I guess it is time that I stopped and said, that since learning a lot more about
the food trout eat, for the past three years, I haven't used any of the generic
imitations I mentioned above including the Parachute Adams. For the past six or
seven years I have used them far less than I did for the first few years. You are
probably already thinking that in the streams of Great Smoky Mountains National
Park, the particular fly you use doesn't make any difference. You have probably
heard that from other anglers more than once although I doubt seriously that you
have ever heard it from anyone who really knows a lot about the aquatic insects in
the Smokies. I have had a few indicate that they knew their insects as well as
anyone only to later find out later that was a gross exaggeration. So why wouldn't I
use them fishing the Smokies? The answer is simple. It does make a difference. In
some cases it doesn't make much difference; it some cases it makes a big
difference; and in some cases, it makes the difference in catching trout or not
catching trout.

The local held theory that all you need for the Smokies is generic imitations or
attractor flies has been passed down over the years by several generations. It is a
fact that at times you can catch a lot of trout using attractor and generic flies. That
fact makes it very difficult to know when you are at a disadvantage using generic or
attractor flies. Fisherman have always had a tendency to copy what others do.
Thats how the "what did you catch them on" question originated. Even today, the
most frequent question you will hear asked is "what fly did you use". It is a fact that
fishing high floating, bushy attractor flies has been passed down for years, but it is
also a fact that it came from many old timers that didn't know one insect from
another. Even more importantly, they knew little if anything about the behavior of
the aquatic insects. They tend to fish the flies the same way - in the faster water of
the runs and riffles. They managed to catch a lot of trout at times using only
traditional attractor flies. When they didn't, they were always content to use the
standard alibi  "the fishing isn't very good right now". Even today, anytime the trout
aren't eating an anglers generic flies, according to them, the fishing just isn't good.
In a sense, they alway get that part right. When that happens, the fishing isn't good
for them. Thats for certain. If they are satisfied at being what I call a mediocre
angler, then that is fine. But if they want to catch more trout and they want to catch
trout when others aren't catching trout, then they need to learn more about the
insects and other foods the trout survive on.

To begin with, the streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are not really
very different from any other mountain, freestone stream in the United States. Its
headwater streams are actually quite similar to the headwater streams in California
or Colorado. Anywhere you have fast moving pocket water, trout can be fooled with
flies that kinda, sorta, nearly, in some ways, and almost looks like the real things. It
doesn't matter if it is a Smoky Mountain National Park trout stream or a Rocky
Mountain National Park trout stream. The reason is very simple. The trout have little
time to examine the fly. They are only getting a glimpse of the fly in fast moving
water. There are a lot of problems with this. Number one is that when the water is
cold, and that is about three months out of the year, the trout don't hold or feed in
fast moving water. Even when aquatic insects are hatching, many species of
mayflies, caddisflies and stoneflies don't eat the emerging nymph or duns in the fast
water. Many of these insects move to calmer, slower moving water to hatch. All of
the stoneflies crawl out of the water in moderate to slow moving edges, pocket and
the quieter water along the banks. Some of the clinger mayflies hatch in the faster
water, but even they move to slow water adjacent to the fast water, and then get
caught up in the currents.

You will hear anglers say that you should not fish the pools. The reason is that if
you use generic imitations, you want catch very many trout if any, because the trout
can get a good look at the fly. The surface of the water is smoother and it is moving
slower. Look at it this way. Often when you are fishing fast water, your fly is caught
up in slower or moderately moving water at the edge of the current seams and the
trout do get a good view of the fly, even though it may only be a few seconds. In
that situation, you will see a lot of those trout turn away or what is called "refuse"
your fly. The question becomes, even when conditions are prime and generics do
catch trout, how many fish could you have caught using imitations that more closely
match the looks and behavior of the most prevalent insects or the ones most
available for the trout to eat at the time. I am not only taking about dry flies. I am
also talking about nymphs, larvae and pupae.

Why is it that the same anglers who contend generics are the answer, change to a
different fly during the Quill Gordons hatch. Why do they prefer a yellow fly when
the Yellow Sallies are hatching. Why do they use a grasshopper or ant during
terrestrial season. If the fly doesn't make any difference, why don't they just use a
Royal Wulff for the rest of their life and stop worrying about the fly. Why do they
waste time changing flies? Why are their fly boxes full of different flies? If the fly
doesn't make any difference , it doesn't make any difference.

The statements and contentions I have made above didn't just come about
overnight. They came after studying aquatic insects for several years. We
captured, video taped and studied the behavior of insects from coast to coast. We
fished over 300 different trout streams across the nation. I could go on, but starting
tomorrow I will start explaining how I came to these conclusions. I will resume
recalling different experiences and discoveries that lead me to make the
conclusions I have made.

Copyright James Marsh 2009