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
Please note that if you read yesterday's article, and you used the "articles" page to link to it rather
than the front page "new article" link, you read the wrong article. I linked the "article" link to a future
article about flies that I'm working on. It should have been "Part Two of the Big Mistake - Clinger
Nymphs". Sorry. I have since corrected the linkage.
New Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trout Food Series - Part 15
The Crawler Nymphs
The crawler nymphs are less plentiful than the clingers in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park because they prefer more moderately flowing water. They
cannot live and survive in fast water as such. This statement can be deceptive,
however, because they can live in fast water streams, just not directly in the fast
water like the clinger nymphs can. Crawler nymphs are less streamlined and shaped
much more rounded. They cannot hold onto rocks in fast water like the clingers.
They also can survive in water with much less oxygen than the clingers. Their gills
are usually very large and they don't have to have nearly as high of a dissolved
oxygen content to acquire enough to survive. By the way, that's why we put two
Emu feathers on all of our Perfect Fly crawler nymphs. We do so to imitate the
larger, more prominent gills on the crawler nymphs. The gills on crawler nymphs are
easy to see and continually and very obviously move. The ultra sensitive Emu
feathers also move, even when the nymph is lying on the bottom.
Most crawler nymphs do not resemble the flat, clinger nymphs at all. Neither do the
crawlers look anything like the streamlined, thin swimming nymphs. That's why
different flies are needed to imitate the different types of nymphs. We
prefer to have specific imitations of the different species simply because there's a
great difference in their appearance and behavior. I will again stress the
important point that trout can see nymphs far better than duns, yet anglers
place all the emphasis on making sure their duns match the naturals. This is
something carried over by the fly industry and prominent fly tiers that's simply
cannot be justified.
In the streams of the Smokies, the crawler nymphs consist mostly of the Sulphurs,
Eastern Pale Evening Duns, Blue Quills, Eastern Blue-winged Olives (Drunella sp),
Hendricksons and Red Quills, Mahogany Duns and a few other not as common
species. If you find any large hatches of these occurring, it will only be in isolated
areas of the streams where there is slow to moderate water. The others that live in
the streams are very isolated and confined to calmer areas of the fast water
streams. This doesn't mean they are not as important as the more plentiful
clingers. They are actually more important because of the three types of nymphs,
the crawlers get eaten by trout more often during the non-hatch times. This
is because they cannot hide from the trout as well as the clingers. They are far
more exposed during non-hatch times.
Of all the mayfly nymphs that live in trout streams in general, crawler nymphs are
the most common. You will find them very plentiful in most tailwaters. The lower ends
of freestone streams that have less decline and slower moving water will also hold a
good number, provided the stream meets the other needed criteria. In the streams
of the Smokies, you will find far more crawlers in the lower sections of the streams
than you will the mid to high elevations where the streams are normally falling at a
steeper decline and the water flows faster. Crawlers can exist in the mid and even
high elevation streams to some extent but they will only be found in isolated areas in
the slower water sections of the stream such as the eddies, pockets behind
boulders, pockets along the banks and tail ends of pools where the water flows slow
to moderately. If you happen to be looking at the bottom of a stream and spot a
nymph, most likely it's a crawler. That's because they don't stay hidden as well as
the clingers or swimmers. You will sometimes spot a swimmer out in the open but
they have the ability to get back into cover very quickly. They are more like minnows
and can dart around and quickly hide from the trout. Crawlers cannot do that.
Crawlers cannot swim.
Of the many hundreds of times Angie and I have caught samples of aquatic insects
from the various streams in the Smokies, we have always found a larger number of
crawlers in our kick nets even though they are not as plentiful as the clingers.
Swimmers nymphs don't get caught very well at all because they can quickly escape
by swimming out of the net much like a minnow. When we netted an area of
moderate water (something easy to do compared to netting fast water) we come up
with plenty of crawler nymphs. To get more clingers, we have to net the fast water.
Some species, like the Quill Gordons are not easy to get because they live under
the rocks in deeper, faster water at the bottom of runs and deeper riffles. In other
words, we were in about the same position as the trout. Catching and
photographing crawlers is fairly easy, but it's not so easy to get the clingers
although it can be done. It requires uprooting the bottom to dislodge clingers that
are underneath the rocks, something a trout isn't capable of except for very small
What is important about all of this to you? It tells you where and how to fish
imitations of the crawler nymphs. It also tells you that during non-hatch times,
crawler nymphs are much more prone to be eaten by trout than clingers or
swimmers. If your searching for trout, an imitation of a crawler nymph works better
than an imitation of the other types. That's one reason the popular Hares Ear
Nymph works well. They are shaped like crawlers, not like clingers or swimmers.
When they don't work so well is when most of the crawler nymphs available for the
trout to eat are a different color from the Hare's Ear Nymph. For example, they
aren't that great at imitating Blue Quills or Mahogany Duns. They work quite well for
the Eastern Blue-winged Olives and Hendricksons, the naturals of which are a
similar color to the Hare's Ear Nymph. Keep in mind I said they match the crawler
nymphs I just listed quite well. They don't match the clinger or swimmer
nymphs at all because their shaped entirely different.
Also keep in mind, an Eastern Blue-winged Olive doesn't mean a BWOs that exist in
the East. The name refers to species of only the Drunella genus (crawler) mayflies
that exist in the East. Unfortunately, the common name Blue-winged Olive is so
cluttered and messed up with a huge number of species of mayflies,
including the Eastern BWOs, (which are not even swimmers like 96% of all the other
mayflies called BWOs) saying much of anything about a BWO is a waste of time
unless you qualify the species you are referring to.
In the stream of the Smokies, during those times when there isn't anything hatching,
if you are going to imitate a mayfly nymph, you are better off using an imitation of a
crawler nymph than the clingers or swimmers. When I say "when there's isn't
anything hatching", I'm not referring to the time of day that something isn't
hatching. If something is going to hatch within a week or two of, or at a certain time
during any given day, you are far better off imitating those nymphs than the ones
that will not be hatching. Even If it's within a week or two of the beginning of a hatch,
you are far better off imitating those particular type of nymphs than anything else.
That's what the trout will be concentrating on. The trout can see what's
happening. They don't have any trouble figuring this out like you do. I'm not
saying they won't eat anything else during that time period. I am saying they will
focus on those nymphs that are exposed and available to easily acquired. Imitating
those nymphs will greatly increase your odds of success.
The Bottom Line:
To put this in plain, simple easy to understand terms, let me just say that using the
strategy I just went over for your nymph fishing, you may get twenty or thirty trout
within a half day's fishing, versus five or ten relying on hit and miss, opportunistically
feeding trout. A better way to say that is "relying on pure blind luck'. You can beat
your brains out fishing the wrong type of nymph imitation, and maybe even
fishing it in the wrong areas of the stream, or you can fish an imitation of
what the trout are primarily focused on eating by keeping an imitation of
that particular nymph in the areas of the streams those nymphs exist. That's
where the trout will be looking for them. It's that simple.
Down and Dirty (some are clean) Tips and Recommendations for Fly
Fishing Destinations -
Just keep in mind that it is strictly one opinion that happens to be mine. The intent is to hopefully
give those interested a general idea of what to expect. Most likely every guide, affiliated business
entity and local angler will have a different opinion. These streams also have full coverage on our
Perfect Fly Stream Section.
Continued tomorrow I promise
Copyright 2011 James Marsh
the Emu feathers
just behind the
thorax. This one's