07/17/09

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 4
Yesterday, I mentioned that if I were fishing a stream that only had brook trout, or I
was focusing on brook trout only in a stream that had both rainbows and brook trout
I would not use the same strategy as I would for brown and rainbow trout. There is a
difference in the way the trout feed.

I mentioned recently that brook trout tend to stay near the ends of the fast water
runs and riffles and in the pools. They generally want hold in the fast water like the
rainbows. In the small brook trout streams that have rainbows present, such as
Walker's Camp Prong, you will usually find the brook trout striking slightly
downstream of the rainbows. If you toss your fly at the head of a small run or riffles
where the water is flowing into a small pool, most often the rainbows will take the fly
first and it is usually from the faster water. The brook trout tend to take the fly
nearer the ends of the fast water and even in the slow water of the pools or edges
of the fast water.

The brook trout are usually not nearly as picky as the rainbows. They tend to feed
more opportunistically. The small headwater streams they exist in are usually highly
acidic and the population of aquatic insects is different from the lower and
mid-elevation streams. The species of insects tend to be mostly clingers with few
crawlers, swimmers and certainly no burrower mayflies. You normally will find plenty
of stoneflies but the caddisflies will be few and far between because most of them
feed on algae. There is little to no algae in the brook trout streams of Great Smoky
Mountain National Park.

Now keep in mind when I say "brook trout" streams that at one time the brook trout
were in all the streams in the park and even in the lower elevations. Introduction of
the exotic species of rainbow and brown trout as well as many other things like the
cutting of timber, etc., changed that. As a general rule, the brook trout are now
found only in the streams above about 2500 or higher. That is changing with the
park's recent program of removing the rainbow and brook trout from streams and
restocking only brook trout, but that is getting off subject.

Back to the strategy used for the brook trout as of the time and date of yesterday
and my game plan for fishing, let me point out these differences I would make. I
would not use the Slate Drake Nymph or Streamer if I did start early in the morning.
By the way, I would probably not start early. There would be little use in it. Slate
Drakes generally don't frequent the small, high elevation headwaters. Neither do
the Little BWOs and certainly not the Eastern BWOs. There are plenty of Cream
Cahills there. That would be the only mayfly hatch I may expect at this time. You
may also encounter a hatch of Little Green or Little Summer Stones (Little Yellow
stoneflies) but that would not be nearly as likely as it would in the mid to lower
elevations.

Terrestrial imitations will work but not as well as in the lower and mid elevations.
They are not really plentiful at the high elevations or I should say not nearly as
plentiful as they are in the lower elevations. The brook trout will eat them simply
because they are highly opportunistic feeders. Many think the brook trout in these
high elevation streams do not have the quantity of aquatic insects that the lower
streams do. I have read over and over that the reason the brook trout will eat just
about any fly is that there are few insects in the water. That is simply false. I know
this will stir up many opinions from guys but it is a fact I can prove. Lets take
Walkers Camp Prong for example. When we were capturing insects for photos
using our kick nets and different skimming nets, etc., we found a very good
population of stoneflies and clinger mayflies. We found a huge number of Little
Yellow Quills (
Leucrocuta) that have never been mentioned by anyone (as far as
we know) to even exist in the park. When we ran test, we found that there is
little
difference in the number of larvae and nymphs per square yard of bottom
in the high elevation streams than there is in the low elevations.
Although
this offers little real proof, we have several hours of video of some huge hatches of
Needle Stoneflies, Cream Cahills, Little Yellow Quills and other insects. There are
even some species of caddisflies that feed on other insects that exist in the little
streams. The brook trout have about as much to eat as the other species of fish in
the park do.

The reason the brook trout are highly opportunistic is not because of the lack of
food. It is because they are just that way. We have caught hundreds from the West
Coast to New England and even Canada. Where they exist in streams that are not
acidic and in fact, even in streams where there is lots of algae, you will still find the
brook trout will eat just about any fly you present to them. They are almost never
totally selective on any one insect. Attractor flies work for the brook trout in the
streams will a low Ph just as well as they do in the acidic water of the high elevations
streams of the Smokies. Anglers even use attractor flies for the huge brook trout in
Canadian lakes where the brook trout feed mostly on other fish.

Back to the strategy, if I were fishing a high elevation brook trout stream at this date
and time in the Smokies, I would start out with a small size 16 or less dry fly,
probably a Cream Cahill Dun. The reason would be only because I would want to
catch them on a dry fly. It is just more fun. If I was having a very difficult time, and I
would doubt that would be the case, I would change to a size 20 Needle Stonefly
Nymph. That always works. I also use small size hoppers, beetles and ants. They
work also even though there are fewer terrestrials in the high elevations. About any
attractor fly will work.

I also want to point out that they are not picky on the size of the fly either. You can
use a larger fly than I mentioned above. It is just that you will hook and catch a lot
more trout if you use a small fly. That is only true if you can see the little fly well. If
you are unable to see the fly well, you may miss some takes and in that event, do
better with a larger, more visible fly.