07/01/09

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 17
Continued from Day Before Yesterday's article

At some point, about two years after we started fly fishing for trout. I realized that
the information one needed on how to go about analysing a trout stream and
determining the strategies needed to fish it was just not available in any organized
format. I had viewed most every video on fly fishing and read many of the hundreds
of books about it, but all I could manage to find helpful existed as bits and pieces
found here and there. Some of the books on aquatic insects were written more from
an entomology standpoint than from an anglers standpoint. How you go about fly
fishing for trout varied greatly from one end of the spectrum to the other. It just
depends on who's opinion you wanted to accept. Much of the information was just
repeated from one author to another ones writings.

At first, I would do like many others guys did and accept what information I could get
from the fly shops as the best information available. When we would visit a new
stream, I would research it from books, maps, the web and get all the info I could
about it before going there. Then we would visit the local fly shops. As I learned
more about trout, I begin to realize that a lot of the info I was getting from the shops
was coming from guys who really knew very little about what they were talking
about. Many of them were actually in the shop, day in and day out, and didn't even
fish. They would quote what the guides told them. Having fished all my life and
having spent several years in television and producing fishing videos, that was
downright scary to me. In addition to getting second hand information often
stretched to always mean the fishing was good, they would also naturally be
inclined to try to sell you flies and gear whether you needed it or not. After all, that
is their job. Since this is beginning to sound like fly shops are all bad, let me say
that some fly shops were staffed with some very knowledgeable and straight
shooting guys.

Speaking of guides, I also found them to be a lot like the fly shops and range from
the good end of the spectrum to the other end. Some guides were college kids out
for the summer who knew little about fly fishing or trout. Some of the Western
guides were ski instructors guiding fly anglers when the snow melted. Some guides
were professional, and very knowledgeable and others knew relatively nothing
about what they were doing. After all, there are no requirements for being a guide
other than purchasing a business license. I was already well aware this could be a
problem because I had experienced twenty years of saltwater fishing where I had
encountered the same thing with fishing charter boat captains. Some guys would
study enough to pass the Coast Guard's licensing examine, which has nothing to do
with fishing, finance a boat and start taking people fishing. Some of them didn't
know a grouper from a snapper. To be pure blunt, many of them in essence, justed
ripped people off. At least they knew some of the safety requirements of boating.  
There are a lot of well deserving charter boat captains and fishing guides, so don't
take this to mean I am knocking charter boat captains or fishing guides. On the
other hand people should be aware of the fact that all of them are not what they  
should be. There is an old joke about guides in the keys that has a lot of truth to it.
The question would be "Do you know what  you call a Florida Keys fishing guide
who doesn't have a wife or girlfriend. The answer is "homeless". There are a lot of
guys who love the idea of making a living fishing.

All things considered, we decided to come up with a series of fly fishing DVDs that
covered the scope of the subject the way it should be covered. I had produced
eighty television shows on fishing and I had forty-six instructional videos on
saltwater fishing, so I figured I was capable of doing that. It turned out to be much,
much more difficult than I first thought. Learning to catch trout in different types of
water consistently proved more difficult than I first thought. I had caught three
sailfish on the fly in one day. I had fished in Alaska for huge rainbow trout for ten
days. Since I was a kid I had fished for bass and panfish with a fly rod. I had caught
several other saltwater species on the fly rod and it wasn't like I had never picked
one up. The big problem was that when I used the same approach I had used for
years with other species of fish (meaning learn all about the things the fish ate and
then how to either use it for bait or imitate it), I found that trout had a very
complicated, diverse diet of food that varied depended on many factors. I could find
list of and information on most all of the insects, crustaceans, baitfish, etc., but
where the food existed and when and how you went about imitating it, varied
considerably. Getting good, reliable information depended greatly on where you
were getting it from. The available verbal or written information was uually lacking
and always very inconsistent.

Each and every group, meaning family and genus (sub-family member), of insect
has many different species. Some of those species are so similar to one another, it
takes a microscope to tell the difference. Scientist didn't classify them according to
how anglers need to imitate them. When it came to some insects, mainly caddisflies,
there was very little information. Since there was very little known about them, they
were always just lumped together as brown, green, black, etc. caddisflies by
anglers, fly tyers, fly dealers, writters, etc. There was almost no information on the
behavior of the caddisflies. Even worse, they were considered as being almost
unimportant. All the mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies and other insects needed to be
classified according to how they should be imitated. This meant not only by the
insect's appearance, size, etc. It also meant by how one imitated the behavior of
that particular insect. It also meant trying to sort out all the many common names
and determine which went with which insect. It required knowing the scientific names
or otherwise, it would be totally impossible to communicate information with anglers
around the country. The scientific names, which are in Latin, turned out to be easy.
Sorting out all of the common names and knowing what insect different people were
really talking or writing about was difficult.

It didn't take long for me to figure out that the only way I was going to really know
what I was doing, would be for me to capture the insects; study their behavior;
determined which streams the existed in; determine which insects needed separate,
specific imitations; and to actually catch fish using imitations of their larvae, nymphal
and adults stages of their life. First of all, this meant traveling all over the nation
and being at the right place at the right time. This meant fly fishing many, many
days over a very long period of time. I thought about it and I decided as tough as it
was going to be, someone had to do it. I figured it might as well be Angie and I.

We obtained a BioTech catalog and ordered a few thousand dollars worth of bug
catching equipment. We got micro lenses for our production cameras. If we couldn't
buy something, we made it. Some of the light traps, kick nets, etc. were built from
scratch. During the next several years we fished (I am not certain of the number
yet) at least three-hundred different trout streams. We also purchased and/or
obtained most all of the relevant entomologist publications on aquatic insects.

When we fished a stream, we would catch the insects and video and capture
images of them. If it were legal to do so, we would store them in special solutions for
later study. We would use all the tactics we could come up with to fish the imitation
we could find of each one of them. Each time we could find a new insect, we would
go back and study everything we could find written about it. We would talk to any
knowledgeable local person we could find about the bug or hatch. In some cases
we were pleasantly surprised and got excellent information. In some cases, we knew
more about the insects than the locals when we first arrived. By the way, we found
one error after another regarding what had be written about some of them. I have
since produced a two-hour
DVD on mayflies, and a one-hour DVD on stoneflies.
We are working on completing our midge and caddisfly programs this year. We
have also developed over
two-hundred specific imitations or trout flies that can be
used to imitate most all of them.

Continued

Copyright James Marsh 2009