07/16/09

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 3
Now that I have provided you with part of a thought process I would go through to
fish the streams in the Smokies at this time of year (current time), let me summarize
it by putting it all together and making a game plan for fishing.

First of all, I would not choose a stream that was lower than 2000 feet because the
water temperatures have been rather warm lately. If the weather forecast is correct,
the temperature will probably drop and it may be less of a factor than it has been.

If I started very early, or just after sunrise, I would start out with a streamer that
imitated a sculpin. If the water was stained from rain, I would continue to use it for a
while even after the water was partially lit by sunlight. You want the trout to be able
to see the fly, of course, but not very well - just enough for them to think it was a
sculpin. I would add weight a few inches above the fly to help keep it on the bottom,
depending on the particular fly I was using.

If I started later on in the morning, around 8:00 o'clock after the sun was up, I would
start out using an imitation of the Slate Drake nymph. I would fish it in an upstream
direction, making short up and up and across cast, placing the fly in all the likely
holds for these nymphs such as pockets and moderately flowing water on the slow
side of the current seams. I would not fish it in the fast water runs and riffles. I would
not use an indicator. I would add just enough weight to keep the fly near the bottom.

Now here comes the part I would do differently than almost everyone else. I would
not change flies until it was at least 10:00 or 11:00 o'clock. If it was cloudy or
overcast, I may fish it even longer. The number of fish I caught would not have any
effect on my decision to continue to fish the same fly. I may change the
presentation some; vary the depth of water I fished; vary the amount of weight
added to the Slate Drake nymph; and even change streams, but I would not change
flies. I know the Slate Drake nymphs are more readily available and more active
than any other nymph or larvae at this time of year. If I failed to catch trout, I would
be well aware that the reason had nothing to do with the fly I was using.

Around 11:00 AM, depending on the results I was having with the nymph, I would
change to a terrestrial imitation. Naturally, If I was catching plenty of trout, I wouldn't
change flies. I would continue fishing the same way. If the results was less than very
good, I would change to a terrestrial. I would select the particular insect to imitate
based on the particular stream I was fishing. If the banks of the stream had lots of
grass, I would use a grasshopper imitation. If I was in the forest where little grass
grew, i would fish an ant or beetle imitation. If I saw moth larvae hanging from the
trees, I would fish an imitation of them. I would change to a different type of
terrestrial fly only if I changed the type of places I was fishing. I may alternate
between ants and beetles on the same water but that would be the only fly change I
would make. I wouldn't change from using a terrestrial imitation until I saw that I was
catching less trout than I was catching on the Slate Drake Nymph. The only reason I
would change methods (from terrestrials to the Slate Drake nymph) before late
afternoon would be if, and only if, one method was substantially out preforming the
other. The only reason I would change methods any earlier would be if I
encountered a hatch as described below.

The Little Yellow Stoneflies are now Summer Stones and not nearly as plentiful as
the early species of Little Yellow Stoneflies have been. They are not very reliable at
any one location. The Little Green Stoneflies could hatch in certain types of water,
but they are not reliable at all. I would have flies imitating the nymphs and adults of
both the Little Yellow and Little Green Stoneflies, but I would not tie one on unless I
stumbled into a hatch of them. If I encountered the egg layers late in the afternoon
or early evening, I would fish an adult imitation of the (Yellow or Green) particular
stonefly. I would also make certain that I fished an imitation of the nymph the
afternoon of the following day. I wouldn't overly rely on it being effective because I
am fully aware that any egg layers I may encounter could be from the tail end of the
hatch. In other words, all of the nymphs may have already hatched at that location.

I would use the exact same procedure regarding the mayflies that I just outlined for
the stoneflies. If I encountered a large hatch (or spinner fall) of the Little
Blue-winged Olives, or the larger Eastern Blue-winged Olives, I would fish imitations
of the emergers, duns and spinners, depending on the stage of the hatch that was
occurring at the time. I would use the exact procedure for the Slate Drakes and
Cream Cahills. If I encountered a hatch (or spinner fall), I would change flies and
methods of fishing as applicable.. Each of these mayflies hatch in different types of
water and during the time I was fishing a stream, I would always be on the outlook
for either of the four species of mayflies. However, I would only fish imitations of
them, if and only if, I encountered the hatch.

In other words, unless I encountered a hatch of one of the two stoneflies, or one of
the four mayflies listed above, on a clear day, I would use the Slate Drake Nymph
and or terrestrials (ant, beetle, moth larvae, or hopper) until around 7:00 PM. If the
sky was heavily overcast or dark with cloud cover, I would change methods as early
as 5:00 PM. The only change I would make at that time (depending on the light
conditions) would be to stop fishing the terrestrial imitations. I would continue using
only the Slate Drake Nymph. If I choose to fish as late as the park rules permit (up
until 30 minutes after official sunset), and the nymph wasn't producing as well as I
would like for it to, I may change back to the streamer. That would be the only
changes I would make the entire day.

Some of you may be wondering how I can just rule out everything else from
happening, such as a hatch of insects I haven't mentioned. Well, assuming I wasn't
fishing Abrams Creek, I am well aware I would not encounter another major hatch.
You may find a few mayflies and caddisflies scattered here and there but you will
not find any major hatches underway. Other than what I have mentioned, you will
not find any hatches substaintial enough for the trout to focus on them. Most of the
mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies have already hatched. What hasn't hatched are
mostly small, undeveloped BWOs, a few clinger mayflies consisting mostly of Little
Yellow Quills hidden under the rocks, some large Fall caddisflies well protected in
their large cases, and some tiny Needle Stonefly nymphs hidden under the rocks.

If I stayed above the 2000 foot elevation level, or higher if the water was warm
(plus/minus 62 degrees), and I stuck with the game plan I just outlined, I would
probably catch a lot of trout. If I fished the entire day, from daylight to dark, I would
expect to catch a lot. I don't like the numbers game but I will say that if I didn't catch
over 30-40 trout fishing the entire 14-15 hour day, I would be very disappointed. If
there were many brooks mixed in, I would expect even more. I should also mention
that the early and late streamer fishing could produce some nice trout, especially if
the stream I choose had some brown trout. The Slate Drake nymph, hook size 10 or
12, may produce some larger trout.

If the stream I was fishing had brooks mixed in with the rainbows, or a very unlikely
combo of rainbows, brown and brook, I would fish the way I just described. If I were
fishing a stream that contained only brook trout, i would do things completely
different, not so much due to the trout, but more so due to the available aquatic
insects in the brook trout streams. I want go into that here. Maybe later but for now,
fishing strictly for brook trout is off the subject I am trying to present.

The last two days and today, I have actually gone through a process I use to
determine how, where and when to fish for trout anywhere in the nation at any time
of the year. I focused on the park and fishing at the present time with the example I
gave but the principals would be the same. Once you fish a day using the strategy
you developed, and you alter it to adapt to any water or weather conditions,  you
will most likely have to make only a few changes the following days.  If you fish the
following days, you want have to start all over from scratch. You will only need to
change methods it if water and weather conditions or the hatches change.

The key is confidence. You must have confidence in knowing you are fully aware
of what is going on. The more you change flies, places to fish or methods of fishing,
the lower your odds become.  
However, that confidence must be based on
knowledge.
If you are not knowledgeable about the foods the trout eat, and/or you
don't know the behavior of the trout very well, then you have some work to do. You
must not only know which insects are most available, you must know and
understand their behavior. You can't imitate them very well if you don't.

A game plan on how you are going to fish is no different from the game plan for any
other sport. You may need to alter it some but you shouldn't change it unless you
realize you made a big mistake in knowing what is going on at the time. The more
you know about the trout and the food they eat, the less likely it is you will make a
mistake. Once you are able to accomplish this, catching the trout will soon become
far more to do with how well you execute the game plan than anything else,
including luck. If you rely on trial and error, favorite flies, what Joe Blow did and
other mediocre type tactics, then that is exactly what you should expect to achieve  
- mediocre success.

Now please understand that I don't mean to degrade anyone's way of fishing or
judge anyone on the number or size of fish they may catch. Fishing should first and
foremost be fun. If it isn't fun, something is wrong. There have been many, many
days I have spent fishing a dry fly knowing very well  I could catch far more trout
fishing a nymph. Furthermore, about the only time I would consider fishing all day
would be when I was out of town fishing a new destination or someone out of town
fishing with me wanted to fish all day. What I have outlined above is a procedure I
would use and that I am suggesting others use to maximize their catch. It is the best
way to increase your catch regardless of how long you are going to fish. It is the
best way to go about maximizing your odds of catching fish. On most days, it also
means you will be fishing a lot more subsurface flies than dry flies. However you go
about it, you will never be able to catch a wild trout on every cast and even if you
could, it wouldn't be fun doing so very long. I just hope the things I have tried to
outline helps you improve your success.