08/31/10
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives (See Below)
2.    Mahogany Duns
3.    Little Yellow Stoneflies - Summer Stones
4.    Slate Drakes
5.    Needle Stoneflies
6.    Little Yellow Quills
7.    Ants
8.    Inchworms
9.    Beetles
10.  Grasshoppers
11.  Hellgrammite
12.  Craneflies
13.  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)


Back To The Basics - Hatches
The word "hatch" can be confusing, especially to someone unfamiliar with fly fishing
for trout. I really hadn't thought about it before Jerry Maslar asked me where the
term "hatch" came from several months ago. He was working on a lesson for his
"Trout University" website and wondered why the emergence of an aquatic insect
was called a hatch when that normally refers to the egg. For example, doesn't a
mayfly hatch when it changes from an egg to a nymph? The answer is "yes it does".
When you say a mayfly is hatching, to someone not familiar with fly fishing
terminology,  that may well mean the mayfly is hatching from an egg

Mayfly eggs take anywhere from one to three months to hatch. Most of them are
barely detectable with the naked eye. Unless I wear strong reading glasses, I'm
unable to see most of them. As small as they are, many of them have tiny hair-like
projections that help them stick to the bottom or objects in the water.

The mayfly's life consist of incomplete metamorphosis. They change from an egg, to
a nymph, to a subimago, and finally to an imago. Anglers call the subimago a dun
and the imago a spinner. The same is true of stoneflies. Caddisflies and midges
undergo complete metamorphosis or egg, larva, pupa and adult. In the sense
anglers refer to it, these insects hatch twice. They hatch from an egg and they
hatch again into a dun or adult.

So far, this probably seems highly technical and unimportant, so let's get right down
to what is important about a hatch. First of all, I am referring to the time the insect
hatches into an adult or fly, not from an egg.
The big problem anglers have with
a hatch is they only understand a small part of the significance of the
hatch.
They think if something is hatching, then they may need to match it with a
dry fly so they can catch the trout feeding on it. This is certainly one important
aspect of a hatch. If it hatches from or in the water, it does provide the trout a good
opportunity to take advantage of them. When they are struggling to change into the
adult stage of life, in most cases the trout can easy acquire them. You hear the
phrase all the time - "nothing is hatching, so you should use an attractor fly", or "it
really isn't important what fly you use".
This is probably the worse advice
anyone could possible get.
It insinuates the only time it's important to match an
aquatic insect is when it's in the process of changing from a nymph or pupae, into
an adult stage of life. It almost insinuates it's the only time trout feed on aquatic
insects. The rest of the time, which represents about 95% of the total, I guess they
think trout feed on hair and feathers, or maybe the Adam hatch.
To those of you that
are new to fly fishing, the last statement is meant as a joke, making fun of the way some anglers
think.

It ignores the most venerable time for the insect with regards to being eaten by a
trout - that is the time the nymph (in the case of mayflies and stoneflies) or pupae
(in the case of caddisflies and midges) is preparing to emerge. It disregards the fact
that the hatch times also tell you where a particular insect is located within the
stream at any given time and just how important it is as trout food at any given time.

I'll come back to this subject tomorrow. Right now I want to bring up another huge
misconception about hatches, and that's some completely false statements you will
commonly hear. You will hear statements like - "we only have a few insects in the
Smokies that hatch in any important quantities". That statement is completely false.
Another one is "all of our important hatches take place in the Spring". That
statement is completely false. Another is "These are the only insects that hatch in
quantities sufficient enough to get the trout's attention". That statement is
completely false.

I could go on and on providing examples of statements commonly made by anglers,
guides, fly shop salesman and even stated in most all the books that have been
written about fly fishing in the Smokies that are false. It all stems from a huge lack of
knowledge about aquatic insects.
As I often say, you will never hear such
statements coming from anyone that really knows much about aquatic
insects.
When anyone says the insects or hatches are not important in the
Smokies, it's always an excuse or cover up for their ignorance about the aquatic
insects. A few years ago, I had a guide tell me that he knew more about aquatic
insects than anyone that fished the Smokies. Within the next two minutes he told me
that all mayfly nymphs have three tails. In other words, though it is of little
importance, he really didn't even get started before I knew the guy hadn't finished
the first grade of trout food school.

First of all, insofar as being able to catch trout is concerned,
large hatches are
usually bad news for anglers.
Large hatches that blanket the water with insects
make it very difficult to catch trout. I could give hundreds of examples where large
hatches have occurred and anglers, including myself, had a very difficult time
catching trout. I've seen dozens of occasions where Salmonflies were hatching in
such large numbers, or laying eggs in such numbers, that the trout simply didn't find
your fly in the crowd. I have seen trout get so full of stoneflies they would just play
with the egg laying stoneflies as well as my fly. That happens often and on many
Western streams. You have to wait until the trout get over being gorged on the
nymphs to catch them on the dry fly egg laying imitations.

I have witnessed the same difficulty in catching trout on numerous mayfly hatches.
Just this last September, I worked myself into a bundle of nerves trying to catch
trout feeding on a large hatch of BWOs on the Madison River, when as many as ten
large trout at a time had their heads out of the water eating the little mayflies right
before my eyes. I have seen this same thing happen even more often on caddisfly
hatches that were in the egg laying stage. In fact, it's a common thing on many
streams. I have witnessed this on White Miller hatches, often on large Spotted
Sedges hatches, often on large Little Black Caddis (Mother's day) hatches, and on
both Cinnamon and Little Sister Caddis hatches on many tailwaters in the East and
West.

Anyone that has ever fished a Trico hatch will verify the fact that the larger the
hatch, the more difficult it is to catch trout. I've also seen this occur many times on
Speckled Wing Quills. It usually happens on White Drake hatches. It commonly
occurs on large Eastern Green Drake hatches. Anglers fishing Penn Creek witness
that happening every year. They have a difficult time catching trout even though the
water was covered with hatching Green Drakes or their spinners. I've also seen it
happen on Gray and Brown Drake spinner falls.

I have seen this same thing happen a few times on Quill Gordon hatches in the
Smokies, both during the emergence and the spinner fall. I have seen it happen
several times on large Blue Quill hatches. It's fairly common in the Smokies when
Little Yellow Stoneflies are hatching in large numbers. I've seen it happen a few
times on Little Black Caddis hatches in the Smokies, a very plentiful insect rarely
mentioned by the locals.

It doesn't take a large hatch of aquatic insects for the trout to feed on
them
. As just pointed out, sometimes large hatches can even make it difficult to
catch trout. Hatches start and progress right in the living room and on the front
porch of the trout's home. They see everything going on around them and their
survival requires they pay close attention to it. It's just a fact that trout feed on what
anglers call small hatches. Sometimes, the more isolated they are, the more the
trout concentrate or key in on them. The next time someone tells you we don't have
but a few hatches of importance in the Smokies, just look at them and smile. We
have about as many important hatches are most other freestone streams have. The
problem is few anglers recognize them and know how to fish them.

I skipped over a far more important factor about hatches than the size of the hatch
but I promised I would get back to that tomorrow. As a hint, if you will look at the list
of insects above, eliminating those that don't hatch in the water, you will find there
are only six that may hatch at this time. Most of them are probably not hatching at
the present time. There may not be any of them hatching at the present time. Of the
six, the ones that are most likely to hatch depends on the stream and even the
exact location on the stream. Selecting the ones most likely to hatch next at a given
location, and fishing an imitation of their nymphs at the right times of day and the
right places within the stream will provide the highest odds of catching trout.
Copyright 2010 James Marsh