04/08/10
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives
2.   Little Black Winter Stoneflies
3.   Quill Gordon Mayflies
4.   Blue Quill Mayflies
5.   Little Brown Stoneflies
6.   Little Black Caddis (American Grannoms)
7.   Hendricksons and Red Quills
8.   Little Short Horned Sedges
9.   Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
10  Midges

Tailwaters - Part 6 - Clinch River

The Clinch River's most abundant and plentiful aquatic insect is the midge. When I
first fished the Clinch, I thought a midge was any tiny fly. I had just started fly fishing
for trout, although I had done it off and on for years, even in Alaska. I was told
midges were the key flies to use and that is what I used. We drifted size 18 midge
flies but that is about all I can remember. We caught about ten, 8 inch long brown
trout that couldn't have been stocked very long.

That brings up the main point I want to make. Any time you hear anglers talking
about the number of trout they have caught on the Clinch, you almost never hear
the size mentioned or whether any were large holdover trout or not. You will hear
them refer to nice, healthy fat rainbows every once in a while. Then they will argue
about the details of the fly, which ones are more productive, etc. Well, quite frankly,
it doesn't much matter. If it is fairly small, like a size 16 or 18, anything else doesn't
matter much. I would say the darker shades of colors probably outdo the lighter
shades but that would be about the only difference. The reason is the stockers
aren't that picky, even after they have been stocked for a few months.

We fished the Clinch several times after that first trip and each time we were fairly
successful using small nymphs. I bought the book "The Mighty Midge" (I think that is
the name) and studied how they fished midge imitations in the Pennsylvania Spring
Creeks. After about two years of trying, we finally were able to consistently catch
larger wild brown trout from the spring creeks in Pennsylvania and Montana. When
we visited the San Juan River for the first time, we really learned how to fish midge
imitations. We caught several trout over 18 inches on hook size 20 and 22 midges. I
caught a few over 20 inches, all wild trout, on the two occasions we fished the river
since then. This isn't bragging for the San Juan. That is the usual catch of those
who know how to midge fish. By the way, there isn't such a thing as a hook size 16
midge. They don't exist.

About our fifth year of fishing the Clinch, we finally discovered how we could catch
some larger brown trout on midge imitations from the Clinch. We caught some, up to
18 inches, but none of the true huge browns. We haven't tried over a dozen times,
so I doubt those statics means much.

We collected hundreds of samples of the real midge larvae and some pupae from
the Clinch. It was a big factor is our deciding which colors and hook sizes to make
our "Perfect Fly" midge patterns in, along with many other streams including the San
Juan. The San Juan has lots of blood worm midges, or red midges, but that isn't true
of the Clinch, although there are a few there. Most of them are a darker olive in the
Clinch. They average a hook size 22 but size 20 midge larvae exist there. The
bottom line is this. Although you can catch stockers all day on hook size 16 and 18
nymphs and midge larvae imitations,  you want be very successful on the large hold
over trout.

Continued............