07/15/09

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    Little Sister Caddisflies - Mostly Abrams Creek
4.   Midges - hatching in isolated locations
5.   Little Yellow Stoneflies - hatching (Little Summer Stones)
6.   Slate Drakes - hatching
7.   Little Green Stonefly - hatching
8.   Cream Cahills - hatching in Isolated locations
9.   Beetles
10. Grasshoppers
11. Ants
12. Inch Worms
13. Crane Flies
14. Helligramite
15. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish

Determining the Best Strategy - Part 2
Yesterday, I went through the above six aquatic insects (all except the two shown
for Abrams Creek) and tried to explain when they may and may not be a factor. The
other food found in the water consist mostly of sculpin, baitfish (minnows), and
crayfish. Many think of crayfish as smallmouth food and correctly so, but they are
also eaten by brown trout. The small crayfish, and there are a lot of them, are also
eaten by the rainbow and brook trout. These food items are imitated with various
streamer flies. There are many other items of food that may be eaten in small
amounts not mentioned but they are rather insignificant. Theres also Damsel Fly
nymphs and adults and Dragonfly nymphs and adults that may be eaten, but not to
any appreciable extent.

The terrestrial insects don't belong in the water. They get there through acts of
mother nature or mistakes (I guess I could say) made on the part of the insects.
Wind and rain can blow and wash terrestrial insects in the water. Its during times of
strong wind and heavy rains that I think imitations of the terrestrials become real
important.
Many anglers make the mistake of thinking the terrestrial insects
provide the largest part of what the trout have to eat during the summer
and early autumn months. That is far from being accurate. They only
provide a small amount of the total food eaten by trout.

This misleading information comes from writers that spend a lot more time writing
about fishing than fishing. I have read over and over in books and magazines as
well as on the web that terrestrial insects become a big part, even the major part of
the trout's diet during the summer. The terrestrials do get eaten by trout in the
Smokies and they do tend to help sustain the diet of the fish but it is only a small
portion of the total amount of food consumed by the trout. Sit down on one of the
streams and let me know how long it takes you see a beetle, hoper or ant pass by
in the water. We have never found a terrestrial insect in any of our nets including
skim nets, set nets and kick nets we used to capture the insects and photo them..
Rain can wash ants and beetles into the water. Hopper can make the mistake of
jumping into the water and the wind can blow them into the water. Moth larvae can
fall off of tree limbs in the water. When it is windy, lots of them probably fall into the
water.

Now don't misunderstand my intent. Imitations of terrestrials will catch
trout and plenty of them at times.
I will have a fly box full of Perfect Fly imitations
of them for sure. My point is, they don't represent a large part of the trout's diet.
The trout primarily rely on the aquatic insects for food during the so called
"terrestrial" season. Trout eats the nymphs and larvae that are in the early stages
of development at this time of the year. There are still many that haven't hatched
and are full grown. The bi-brooded insects have only hatched once and the nymphs
and larvae for the second hatch are fairly large. The baitfish, sculpin and
crustaceans are in the streams year-round. There is still plenty of food in the water
for the trout. When a free meal comes along, fluttering on the surface, or sinking
down from the surface, the trout will usually eat them. It takes a lot of food to keep
trout happy in water that is in the high fifties and low to mid-sixties. They expend a
lot of energy and it takes a lot of food to replenish it.
If the trout had to totally
rely on terrestrial insects, they would soon starve to death.

Although you should use terrestrial insect imitations, especially when it rains and/or
the wind blows, you shouldn't ignore the other sources of food. Tomorrow, I will go
through more of the strategies I use to determine when, where and how to fish in
the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at the current time of year. It should be
fairly obvious that I would use a combination of the aquatic imitations, terrestrials
and streamers but the question is when, where and why. I will also mention what I
wouldn't do. I wouldn't catch a few trout on a certain fly and begin to think, "man,
this is a hot fly". "I'm using that from now on". If I did, I wouldn't have any business
telling you what I would do. I would fall into the typical "favorite fly" category of
angler that  relied purely on luck.
Years of fishing where my livelihood was at
stake, either in tournaments or making videos or TV shows, taught me
better.