Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2 . Green Sedges (Caddis)
3. Cinnamon Caddis (mostly Abrams Creek)
4. Little Sister Caddis (mostly Abrams Creek)
5. LIght Cahills
6. Little Short-horned Sedges
7. American March Browns
8. Eastern Pale Evening Duns
10. Little Yellow Stoneflies
11. Giant Black Stoneflies
12. Golden Stoneflies
13. Streamers (Sculpin, Minnows)
14. Inch Worms
Does "Opportunistic Feeding" Have You Brainwashed ?
There's not many days that go by that I don't hear or read where the trout in the
Smokies feed opportunistically. Yes, trout feed opportunistically in the Smokies.
Trout feed opportunistically anywhere in the United States. All fish are
opportunistic feeders. That simply means if it's available, they may eat more
than one single item of food.
This is all well and fine except that if it's interpreted the wrong way, this
oversimplification of how a trout feed can create a big problem for you. This
statement is often interpreted to mean that the particular fly you use isn't important.
Those that make that mistake are usually the same ones that like to contend that
the presentation of the fly is far more important than the fly itself. To say the
presentation of a fly is more important than the fly itself is like saying the engines of
a jet airplane are more important than the wings. Both are important. If your fishing
correctly, the fly is the only thing the trout should be able to see. Just in case you
have forgotten, the fly's sole purpose is to fool the trout into taking it for a real
aquatic insect or other item of food trout eat.
Grasping the following won't earn you a PhD, but it will advance you
from about the ninth grade of fly fishing to at least the college
There's another phrase commonly used in fly fishing that's usually interpreted to
mean just the opposite of opportunistic feeding and that's "selective feeding". A
trout is said to be feeding selectively when it's preferring one insect over another. In
a broad sense, there are times trout can be said to be feeding selectively, but in a
more meaningful sense, trout never feed entirely selectively. They don't
rationalize their eating habits like humans. They don't have that capability or
degree of intelligence.
Put in pure layman terms, a trout doesn't think to him or herself, "I'm only eating the
Sulphurs because they taste better and provide more energy than the little
Blue-winged olives that are mixed in with them". Their pea size brains aren't
capable of such reasoning.
If a trout is feeding in a certain area, feeding lane or zone of water, and both a
BWO and a Sulphur comes downstream, one after the other, and appear right
before its eyes, the trout may very well eat either one of the insects. It will probably
eat both of them if it can react that quickly. It will not be selective in the sense it will
choose the one over the other.
As long as trout are in a particular fast water feeding zone, eating insects, they will
probably eat whatever insects come down that same feeding line or zone. This
feeding zone, area or line I'm referring to also relates to depth. It includes the
surface or a certain portion the column of water as relates to depth. It could only
include the bottom. If a black ant comes down that same feeding line, the trout will
probably eat it along with the aquatic insects.
The problem with this hypothetical scenario is it's
The scenario I just outlined doesn't really exist. A trout doesn't get into a certain
feeding lane to find a little of everything coming downstream in such a manner as it
can just pick off whatever type of insect or other food it desires. This only happens
when there's a enough food drifting downstream in that particular location to
occupy the trout's attention. About the only time this happens is during a the hatch
of a particular aquatic insect. Furthermore, it isn't all aquatic insect hatches, its only
a portion of them. Many aquatic insects hatch in areas of the stream where they
never get caught in the fast current. Some of them crawl out of the water to hatch.
All stoneflies for example, hatch out of the water. In other words, when this is
happening, there's usually just one insect involved. Trout won't hold in fast current
waiting on random bits of food to drift downstream. If they did, they will use more
energy than they could possible take in.
The location of whatever is most available and most plentiful for the trout
to eat in a stream at any given time varies greatly. The different aquatic
insects and other trout foods live, feed, hatch and fall dead in different sections
(horizontal and vertical) of the stream depending on the particular species of
This isn't the only problem with the completely unrealistic scenario. The various
species of fish, Brown, Brook and Rainbow trout, each have different
feeding habitats and preferences. Brown trout don't feed the same way the
rainbows do, etc.
What Is Important
Although the trout in the hypothetical scenario isn't being selective as to particular
food it's eating, it may well be very selective as to exactly where in the
stream it's eating. This is nature's way of letting them feed efficiently. This allows
them to use less energy and take in more food. If trout use more energy than the
food they can provide, they will soon die.
The fallacy in the scenario is that trout get into a certain fast water feeding zone,
line or lane and hold there only when there's a substantial amount of food
coming its way. You may well be able to imagine various nymphs, larvae and
other food drifting downstream at random but such a situation rarely, if ever, exist. If
you do, you may really be brainwashed.
As long as there's an adequate amount of food coming down that same feeding
line, the trout won't move to another area of water, or seek another depth to feed.
In such cases it's almost always one and only one insect.
Aquatic insect nymphs don't survive drifting freely downstream. On numerous
occasions, we have placed drift nets of various types in the streams of the Smokies
for hours at a time only to discover an empty net.
New Crayfish Fly:
We have added a new crayfish fly to our selection called the "Brown Crayfish with
Dumbbell Eyes". It was added for fishing deeper water of lakes and streams where
the added weight of the dumbbell type eyes helps get the fly down quickly.
2011 James Marsh