Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2. Little Black Winter Stoneflies
3. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish
Basics of Fly Fishing - Early Season Strategies
Not everyone, and especially those that are new to fly fishing for trout, have a good
idea of what to expect when they fish the late winter or early season. Just as soon
as I got that typed, it occurred to me that indicates those who have fished the
Smokies for a long time, already know what to do during this time. In fact, I have
found out many of them don't. Just because you have done anything for a long
period of time, doesn't mean you did it right or the best way. Repeating the same
mistakes is a common thing in fly fishing. After all, as long as there is an infinite list
of excuses to put up for the lack of success, that isn't likely to change. Those
excuse are not really deceivingly made up by anglers. Most of them actually believe
their excuses are justified.
For purposes of defining the time frame I am writing about, this article is intended to
cover only the next few days. When the water warms up, there will be an entirely
different situation and your strategies should change. Water temperature certainly
isn't the only factor involved, but at this time of year it is a very important one. I will
define it a little more specifically. This article is about late February when the water
temperatures range from freezing up to the high forties. During this time, the fish will
never become real active but there's a huge difference in the activity of the trout in
water that's 35 and water that is 42 degrees, for example. At thirty five degrees, the
cold blood of the trout is only three degrees from freezing. When it is in the low
forties, the fish may move around some and, presented the opportunity, will eat.
The trout doesn't need much food under those conditions because are not going to
expend very much energy. From 43 degrees to 49 degrees, the trout will increase
their activity and consequently, their need for food. This change in activity and the
need for food changes exponentially.
There is another factor that adds to the change. More food becomes available for
the trout. The amount of food doesn't really change, it just starts becoming
available to the trout. At least two species of stoneflies will move from their normal
locations beneath rocks on the streambed and move to the banks to hatch. In the
high forties, at least two different species of mayflies called Olue-winged Olives will
loose most of their normal caution and instead of hiding, they will move into a
position to hatch. In the high forties, Quill Gordon nymphs will begin to change their
locations in the stream to areas where they will hatch later. So will the Blue Quills.
All of the aquatic insects will become more active, similar to the trout.
Today and tomorrow, the air is going to warm up to the low fifties. Of course, it is
below freezing as I write this early in the morning. The water will have little chance to
make a big change but it will change some. Some snow will melt and help reverse
the sun's affect on the temperature of the water. It will feel nice and warm in the
sunshine. It did yesterday when I went into the park with Angie's new SLR camera
and took about 100 images of the snow and streams. It was beautiful. I looked at
them all on the camera replay feature. This morning, when I tried to download them
I goofed. Until she gets up and helps me out, I don't know if I erased them or what.
But back to the subject.
How does this affect the strategies you should use? Anglers will hit the water, it will
be warm and nice, and the fish won't act like they know anyone is there. Some will
tie on a dry fly and beat the riffles and runs. They may catch a trout but it will be
less than productive for sure. Most all of them, if there are any that go, will catch
none to few trout. The main reason is this. The warm sun and change to nice
weather gives everyone the felling things have changed. I learned years ago, when
lots of money was on the line competiting, or I was shooting a TV show with
expensive production crews, you cannot let your own feelings and comfort affect
your decisions. I learned I was not a cold blooded fish but rather a warm blooded
human. By sticking my hand in the water, I learned there was a huge difference in
the temperatures of air and water. This was true fishing for any species of fish.
Allowing your own comfort, or discomfort, to affect how you fish is a
mistake. As my long time friend Tom Mann used to put it, you need to learn to think
like a fish.
How does what I have written about so far affect your specific strategies for the
current conditions in the streams of the Smokies? Find out tomorrow.