12/08/10
Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Great Autumn Brown Caddisfly
4.    Midges

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Part Seven - Adult Caddisflies and Midges
New Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trout Food Series

I don't really have any idea why caddisflies were almost completely ignored by
anglers for so many years. Prior to Gary LaFontaine's 1989 book "Caddisflies",
there was little information available about them. Even after the book, few anglers  
understood them, because to be perfectly frank, the book is quite complicated - far
to complicated for the average angler to have enough patients to read. The first
time I read the book, or let me back up and say, the first attempt to read it. I finished
it knowing little more than I did before it read it. I used the word "attempt" because
my speed reading failed on this one. I jumped around and didn't comprehend much
of anything. During a period of about five years from the time I first purchased the
book in 1998,  I believe I have probably read the book at least five times. To be
more accurate, I read some parts of it maybe once or twice, and other parts of it as
many as twenty times. I finally begin to grasp what the book is really worth to fly
fishing. The more Angie and I were able to find the various species on the streams
we fished, the more sense the book made.
It finally begin to dawn on me just
what a genus Gary LaFontaine really was
. It's a shame he had to leave this
World so young.

Soon after his book was published, there were a few more books written on
caddisflies. Although the authors didn't say so, I could almost sense they were
written to try to simplify what Gary had written. Most of them just repeated, in
different words, what he had already written. Some did a good job and a couple
almost insulted the caddisfly. Well known authors like Charlie Meek ignored the
caddisfly and murdered it when they did write about it. They wrote one book after
the other detailing every minute aspect of mayflies just mentioning the lowly
caddisfly. I have noticed the later books Meek has written give them much more
respect than some of the earlier ones. He calls them the downwings and drops their
name out as if, "oh yea, this stream also has a few downwings". Yes, Charlie, in
case you haven't noticed, the Pennsylvania streams have just as many downwings
as mayflies and the trout eat them just as well.

Like the mayflies, we collected and video tapped caddisflies from coast to coast. I
still lack capturing about three important species in the adult stage from the
mid-west. One of these days, I will get around to finishing up the editing of a video
we have worked on for years about caddisflies that will show all of them and how
you can catch trout fishing the many hatches. The more we worked with caddisflies,
the easier they became to understand.
In reality, they are less complicated
than the mayflies.
While most anglers can name a few species of mayflies and
some stoneflies on almost any stream in the nation, most of them still call the
caddisflies a brown one, tan one, green one and black one, always revealing how
little they know about them. To begin with, the colors they use always
refers to the
adults.
Trout eat ten larvae, and probably twenty pupae for every one adult
caddisflies. Worse than that, when they refer to the color, it usually refers to the top
side of the fly, or wings, when the trout mostly see the body, which is usually a
complete different color. It's not just the anglers. It's also most all of the fly shops
and guides. Several of the large shops that sell fiies, such as Cabelas, just for
example, have within the past few years started identifying and categorizing them as
caddis larvae flies, caddis pupa flies and caddis adult flies, etc. Even so, they still
only have fly patterns for just a few of the major caddisfly species. One reason is
that the two largest wholesalers to fly shops, which I won't name, don't know a
caddisfly larvae from a crow and neither do their foreign fly tiers. I can't finish this
without mentioning, and hopefully without boasting, that I have developed specific fly
patterns for most all of the important caddisfly species (Perfect Fly) and for each
important stage of their life. They are selling great and at a rapidly increasing rate
for a company less than two years old.

To be plain and simple about this, I believe from coast to coast and all trout waters
included,
caddisflies are as large as, or maybe even a larger part of a trout's
diet than mayflies.
This isn't true for the Smokies and it isn't true for most any
headwater, freestone stream the majority of which, East and West, have low pH
levels. When you have high pH levels, you always have high concentrations of
caddisflies. That's because low pH levels eliminate most all of the net-spinning ones
which, as I have mentioned in this series, represent about 70 percent of all
caddisflies in cold water. It leaves mostly those that eat leaves and animals (mostly
other insects). Abrams Creek is the big exception to this. It has several species of
net spinning caddis. All the streams in the park have a few species of net spinners.
It's just that the quantities of them are very low. You will find them hatching in all the
streams along with the free living variety, but in low quantities. I have already
warned about overlooking low quantities of insects during a hatch. It doesn't take a
lot of insects to interest the trout or to get their attention. I have already called this a
huge mistake not just a few, but most anglers make.

I can only guess that because caddisflies aren't the major aquatic insect in the
Smokies, that's the main reason they are so overlooked. The other reason these
insects are overlooked is because of the overall lack of knowledge about aquatic
insects, especially caddisflies. It's a fact that although caddisflies are not the top two
insects in the park, when the trout are keying in on them, you can catch lots of trout
fishing the hatches correctly.

Adult Midges
I don't intend to leave out the mighty midge. As I mentioned earlier in the series,
midges are certainly not the most important aquatic insect in the park but they are a
part of the trout's diet, and you can catch trout on imitations of midge larvae, pupae
and adults. We have done it many times. They can be important when nothing else
is hatching and especially when the water is very cold. They will catch trout anytime,
including warmer water, but most anglers, including myself, had rather fish a larger
fly when they can catch trout.

Now this may come as a surprise to many of you, and also understand I haven't any
scientific way of proving this, but I would bet my last dollar that there are more
midges (including midge larve, pupae and adults) than any other of the four major
aquatic insects (related to fly fishing) in the Smokies. That said, in general, I  would
say the streams of the Smokies have far fewer midges than most other types of
water trout live in, such as tailwaters, for example. The reason for this is that within a
square foot of bottom there can be thousands of midge larvae.

Now concerning dry flies. I'm not going to place a lot of emphasis on fishing
imitations of adult midges. They will catch trout and trout will eat them on the
surface. It's just that your success fishing a midge larva imitation will out produce the
adult probably ten to one or more. When there's a hatch on, the imitations of the
pupae will out produce them both. It can be fun and occasionally rewarding, fishing
imitations of the adult. For just a side note, we have found that anglers are buying
our dry fly midge imitations and using them during Little Blue-winged Olive hatches.
Some of the little olives can be as small as a 20 to a 24 hook size and they probably
work quite well.

Copyright 2010 James Marsh
This program focuses on the four
main species of trout, rainbow, brown,
brook and cutthroat and goes into the
habitat, behavior and distribution of
each one. It was shot East to West on
many different streams in the U. S.

It compares the species and
discusses the different methods,
strategies and techniques used to
catch each of them. It also goes into
the differences in wild, native and
stocked trout.