Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2 . Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
4. Little Winter Stoneflies
New Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trout Food Series - Part 13
The Big "Match the Hatch" Mistake
Yesterday, I tried to make certain I was getting the point across about the
importance of knowing the difference in the behavior of, and in matching the
different types of nymphs, larvae and pupae that trout eat. I referred to not doing
such as the single biggest mistake made fly fishing for trout.
There are two thing to focus on about this big mistake. The first and slightly
lessor important of the two things, is matching the real nymphs, larvae or pupae with
flies that look and behave like the real ones. The second and most important part of
this big mistake is that anglers usually don't have a clue as to the type of nymph or
larvae they are trying to imitate and they make no distinction in where and how they
fish the fly. By that I mean the type of water - exactly where in the stream they fish
the fly and exactly how they present the fly. First, let me focus on the fly.
In general, when it comes to selecting flies for anything fished below the surface,
most everyone places far too little importance on the fly they use. The importance is
always placed on how well their dry flies look and match the naturals. Yesterday, I
pointed out that the big mistake isn't just made by beginners learning to fish, it's
also made by those that teach fly fishing, such as guides, and those that own and
run fly shops.
As simple as it may seem, I honestly believe the main reason for this is that anglers
can see their flies on top of the water quite well and can't see them when they are
beneath the water. They can see trout strike surface flies and can't see them strike
nymphs and larvae imitations. The sight element is at least one of the underlying
reasons that leads to the big mistake.
As a general rule, in the minds of many, hatches and the phrase "matching the
hatch" has only to do with the very short time interval ranging from the point the
insects emerge on the surface of the water to the time they depart the water to fly
away. The book "Matching the Hatch" is an excellent book that turned many anglers
on to matching hatching insects and fooling even the most selective trout. It centers
on the most exciting part of fly fishing for trout - dry fly fishing. Each season
everyone, including myself, impatiently await the hatches that are destined to occur.
Our minds are filled with visions of mayflies and other aquatic insects floating along
on the surface of the water with trout actively clobbering our dry flies that imitate
them on the surface. We can hardly wait to get our fly to drift over a hungry trout
eating these newly emerged insects. It's the highlight of many fly fishing trips. It's
just a fact that dry fly fishing is a lot of fun and a lot more fun that fishing for
something you can't see with a fly you can't see.
Matching the hatch was centered around dry fly fishing. The problem with the
book was it was so successful in making the point of matching the hatch
that many anglers, maybe even most anglers, ended up misunderstanding
and misapplying the most important aspects of a hatch.
You will find many, probably even most anglers, doing their best to come up with dry
flies that look like the real ones in size, physical features and color. During the past
years, the fly industry and anglers that tie their own flies, constantly tried to come up
with better and better imitations of the real full grown insects. Most all of their efforts
were made on dry flies. Also, for some reason, they limited most of their efforts to
mayflies. Only in recent years have caddisflies been paid very much attention and
even then, most of the attention has been placed on the adults or in the case of
imitations of them, dry flies. The book helped anglers correctly reason that
matching the size, color, and general appearance of these adult insects,
mostly mayfly duns, can be very important. This is true even though the natural
insects usually stay on the surface of the water for only a few seconds. Even then,
the ones that do get to the surface and hatch, still represent only a very small
percentage of all the aquatic insects in a given stream.
Comparatively little effort goes into to matching "what's about to hatch". In the
case of mayflies, this means the emerging nymphs. Comparatively little effort has
gone into matching larvae and pupae of the insects that undergo complete
metamorphosis. You can buy a dozen different Quill Gordon fly patterns for a Quill
Gordon Dun. You can buy fifty dozen different dry fly imitations of a Blue-winged
Olive dun and many versions of Blue Quill Duns and March Brown Duns. The fly
industry, fly tiers and anglers all tend to think matching many of the natural mayfly
duns with something that looks similar to the natural dun is important. What's
absolutely amazing, is that the same industry, fly tiers and anglers pay little
if any attention to matching the mayfly nymphs, emerging nymphs or the
spinners. The same is even more true of caddisfly larvae and pupae.
Why is this amazing?
The number one reason is that trout can see the nymphs far better and for a much
longer period of time and distance away than they can see the dun. The dun is
mostly invisible until it floats though a relatively small overhead window of vision.
Even then, the view the trout gets of a mayfly dun, real or fake, is crude to say the
least. Also, in fast pocket water streams they often get only a very short glimpse.
When the dun, or other adult fly is on the surface outside of that small window of
vision, the trout can only see the parts of the fly, natural or fake, that protrudes
below the surfaces skim. Outside of this window, it's impossible for them to see
ninety plus percent of your dry fly.
In comparison, trout can see nymphs, larvae and pupae clearly at a much farther
distance away and for a much longer duration of time. When the nymph is close to
the trout, unless the water is dingy, they see it in extremely clear focus. The
only time this happens with a fly on the surface is when the fly is directly overhead
of the trout in the center of the relatively small window of vision and then, the trout
only sees the bottom of the fly. When the fly is near the edges of the circle, it's out
of focus to the trout. It is greatly distorted. Leaving out all the complicated window
stuff, let's just say trout can see nymphs, larvae and pupae very well, and mayfly
duns and other adult insects on the surface of the water comparatively, very poorly.
It's far more important to have a good imitation of a nymph, larvae or pupae
than it is any dry fly.
The second amazing thing about it, is that the variation in the actual appearance of
the various species of mayfly nymphs is far greater than the variation in the duns of
the same species. In other words, mayfly duns of different species look far more like
each other than the nymphs of the same species. The appearance of the nymphs
can vary greatly from species to species. The different types of nymphs and larvae
vary in appearance a huge amount. Yes, I'm saying when it comes to what
anglers should be most concerned about, they usually get it just backwards.
The misconception or big mistake gets even worse. Of all mayflies that are eaten by
trout, my guess is less than one percent are mayfly duns. Whatever the percentage
is, trout eat far, far more mayfly nymphs and emerging nymphs (emergers)
than duns. Trout also eat far more stonefly nymphs than adult stoneflies. I
doubt as many as one out of a hundred stoneflies eaten by a trout are adults. The
same thing is true of caddisfleis. Trout eat far more caddisfly larvae and pupae
than they eat adult caddisflies, yet from a matching the insect's appearance and
behavior standpoint, most all the emphasis is placed on matching the duns and
adults, meaning a dry fly.
This entire process anglers normally use is exactly backwards to what it
should be my friends.
The Dawning Of A New Era:
You can talk about traditions all you want to and you can praise all those old timers
you want to phrase, but the truth is, just because something has been done for a
long time, doesn't mean it's done the best way it can be done. Most of us would
have a difficult time imagining anything that couldn't be improved, but when it comes
to trout flies, many of us fail to see that? I don't mean this in a way to lessen the
importance of tradition but the facts are, some people use tradition as an
excuse for what amounts to their own ignorance.
Anglers relate a hatch only to trout eating insects from the surface of the
water. Of course a hatch signals the beginning of the dry fly action for some
species, but in many cases, it doesn't. Many mayflies (Slate Drakes for example),
lots of different caddisflies and all stoneflies hatch out of the water. The only time
you imitate these insects with a dry fly is when they are depositing their eggs and in
the case of mayflies, that means imitating a spinner or stage of the mayflies life that
usually doesn't resemble the dun very much at all. Hatches signal the beginning of
dry fly fishing only for those species of insect that hatch on the surface of the water.
Of far more importance, is the fact it also indicates the other periods of
time trout can be easily caught or the pre-hatch and post-hatch times. It's
these other times that you have the best opportunities to catch trout.
Look at it like this. The period of time the duns or adults are on the surface of the
water amounts to seconds. The time mayfly nymphs are making their move in
preparation to hatch can last for days. In the case of stoneflies, caddisflies and
some mayflies, the hatch time signals the time the nymphs are moving to the banks
to crawl out and hatch. These nymphs are far more likely to be eaten by trout during
this time than any other time in their lifespan. Prior to hatching, most of these same
nymphs (clingers) are hidden down under or between the rocks, not available for
trout to eat. Most all stonefly nymphs are clingers. You chances of catching
trout when stoneflies nymphs are moving to the banks to hatch, versus just fishing a
imitation of the nymph when there's no hatch underway, is much, much greater. The
same is true of clinger mayflies. The same is true of all caddisfly pupae and adults
that crawl out of the water to hatch or after they have hatched. The swimming mayfly
nymphs are also good at hiding from the trout up until they begin to hatch. Fishing a
nymph that imitates these swimmers within a week or two prior to a hatch always
greatly increases the odds of success.
Part Two of the Big Mistake:
This is the other, even more important part of the problem with what I'm calling the
"Big Mistake". It has to do with exactly where and how the fly chosen to imitate the
nymph, larva or pupa is fished in the stream. If you don't know where the particular
type of nymphs, larvae or pupae live in the streams of the Smokies; where they
move to when they hatch (if they do move); and how they go about hatching (on the
bottom, mid water, crawl out on the bank, on the surface, etc); then you cannot
possible imitate them well enough to be consistently successful.
I will focus on this tomorrow.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh