06/28/09

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 15
When I first started this series, I made a point of saying anglers tend to place far
more importance on the fully grown flies (adults and duns) than they did the
nymphs and larvae. I even went so far as to speculate that was because they just
assumed the trout couldn't see the fly as well below the surface. I pointed out that
was right opposite of what was reality. Unless the water isn't clear, trout can see
underwater objects better than dry flies on the surface. I also mentioned that trout
eat far more food below the surface than they do from the surface. Even so, so far I
have only written about situations where we were trying to match or imitate mayfly
duns or adult caddisflies on the surface of the water. These situations occurred
during the first year or two we started fly fishing for trout on more or less an
exclusive basis. I have only mentioned a very few of many, many situations where
we were learning to fool trout into taking our flies for the real things.

It is one thing to see a hatch taking place; catch one of the insects; observe it and
then try to match it with a fly. It is obvious what the trout are eating in many
situations, especially if the hatch is a large one. Under those conditions it is fairly
easy to determine what the trout are eating. When you are fishing any given
stream, information about what is hatching can be found on hatch charts, fly shops,
from other anglers, website blogs, and many other place. As I just mentioned, you
can also physically observe the hatches.
The problem with all of this is that it is
concentrating on only one thing - hatches.
Aquatic insect hatches take place
only one day out of from one to three years of the insects life span.

Thanks to Mr. Schwiebert's great book, when "Match the Hatch" first became a
common phrase, anglers begin to try to do just that - match the hatch. In situations
where hatches are sparse and insects don't blanket the water (which is usually the
case in the Smokies) the process is more difficult to recognize and accomplish.
When there is no hatch to match, it isn't a factor at all. The solution to this lies in
how you match whats "not hatching".
Instead of "match the hatch", most of the
time it should be "match what isn't hatching".
The immediate problem with this
is that you can't see whats not hatching. It is on the bottom or even under the rocks
on the bottom. Depending on the stream, it may be in thick vegetation or even down
in the mud or soft soil on the bottom.

Now if we accept the fact that trout eat most of their food below the surface, it
becomes very obvious that this becomes a big guessing game to many. Most
anglers will fish a Hares Ear Nymph (an excellent imitation of some mayfly nymphs)
or a Prince Nymph (an excellent imitation of some stonefly nymphs) and other
generic flies.

Years ago, when it was becoming very clear to us that the fly could and did make a
big difference in many situations, it was fairly easy to find a fly to handle the
situation. In the PMD situations I mentioned, we were able to purchase flies
intended to imitate the Pale Morning Duns. In the Sulphur situation I wrote about
yesterday, we were able to purchase imitations or the Sulphur mayfly to solve the
problem. We started noticing that there were flies available for a majority of the
most noted hatches. You could find Blue-winged olive duns, Quill Gordons duns,
Blue Quill duns, Hendrickson Duns (usually called light and dark hendricksons with
no explanation), March Brown duns, Light Cahill duns, Trico duns, and a few other
specific imitations of popular mayflies. When it came to caddisflies, there were no
specific imitations, just black ones, green ones, etc. We didn't understand why. Now
I know it was just due to the fact that few anglers knew anything about caddisflies.

About our second year of fishing a couple of hundred days a year, we were
beginning to catch on to the "match the hatch" thing. We were out West for the
second time for the summer and found out from local hatch charts posted outside of
fly shops on chalk boards that the Flavs were going to start hatching any day on
the Henry's Fork. For those that don't know, that is a little version of the Western
Green Drake. In fact, it would be almost impossible to tell the Flav duns from the
Green Drake duns if it were not for the size difference. Knowing this was about to
happen and knowing that nymphs became active and lose a lot of their normal
caution just before a hatch starts, we figured it would be wise to fish an imitation of
the Flav nymphs while everyone was waiting on the hatch to occur. We figured it
would also be wise to fish such a fly during the mornings before they hatched in the
afternoon. So, my next move was to get some flies that imitated the Flav nymphs.
I
quickly found out there was no such thing.

The local fly shops were full of dry flies that matched the Small Western Green
Drake (Flav) duns but they had no imitations of the nymphs. Off hand you would
think that matching the duns with a close imitation was critically important but
matching the nymphs was not important. We soon found out that was the case with
most mayflies, most stoneflies and in the case of caddisflies, both the larvae and
the adults. There were no specific imitations of any caddisflies. I guess anglers and
fly companies thought the trout could detect the difference if it was a mayfly dun on
the surface of the water but not if it was a mayfly nymph under the water. In reality,
it is quite the opposite of that. If all that was necessary was black, green and tan
caddisflies, why wouldn't black, green and tan mayfly duns be adequate? The entire
fly business made little sense to us. Out of the thousands of trout flies you could
purchase, most trout flies were named stupid names that had nothing to do with
what they imitated, and only a few select insects had specific flies to match them. It
didn't take me long to conclude
the fly business was a complete mess.

continued tomorrow

Copyright James Marsh 2009