Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Little Eastern BWOs)
2. Mahogany Duns
3. Cream Cahills
4. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Little Summer Stones)
5. Little Green Stoneflies
6. Slate Drakes
7. . Sculpin, Minnows (streamers)
8. Inch Worms
13. Flying Ants
"New" Fly Fishing Strategy Series (What Fly To Use) - Part 2
Remember: The key is to imitate the insects and or other food that is most available
and easiest for the trout to acquire.
Your going to find my recommendations quite different from most anglers and even
most guides. The reason is that I learned years ago from making my living from
catching fish for TV, video and in tournaments, not to get impatient and start changing
strategies that you know are right. It gets down to a matter of confidence, a huge
factor in success.
Let's look at the above list in detail. There are three basic types of food listed.
1. Aquatic Insects (Insect that are born and live in the water most of their life) Items 1-6
2. Sculpin, minnows, baitfish (marine species you imitate with streamers) Item 7
3. Terrestrial Insects (insects that live on land and get into the water accidentally or by
strong wind and water from heavy rain. Items 8-13
Some General Notes:
The most available foods are the aquatic insects. The sculpin, minnow and baitfish
are plentiful but they are not the easiest to acquire. They are also more difficult to
imitate. You need to fish the imitating streamers in low light conditions, like early and
late in the day or during heavy cloud cover. The terrestrials are plentiful (on land) but
not in the water. You should focus on them after or during windy times or after heavy
rain where water may wash them into the streams. An exception is when you see lots
of moth larvae (green worms or larvae) hanging from trees over the water that
eventually fall into the water.
Now lets look at the Summer hatch chart for the Smokies: Weather conditions are
normal for August. If weather conditions were not normal, and it was unusually cooler
or warmer, things could be a week or two off schedule, but things are normal. You
should always keep that in mind when using a hatch chart and especially in the
Winter, Spring and Fall months.
Now, stop and think about this. Most of the aquatic insects have already hatched this
year. The Quill Gordons, March Browns, Blue Quills, Hendricksons, Little Brown
stoneflies, Winter stoneflies etc and many other aquatic insects., have already
hatched and are either eggs or tiny nymphs that are mostly well hidden. The
remaining aquatic insects that are grown and in the water at this time of year are
those listed above along with the Little Yellow Quills, Needle Stoneflies, Great Autumn
Brown Caddis, and a few minor species of caddisflies and insects that are not
plentiful. These insects that are not yet hatching, are well hidden, especially the Little
Yellow Quills and Stoneflies which are clinger nymphs.
Of the 6 aquatic insects listed as hatching, notice the Mahogany duns are just
starting to hatch and are not in their prime hatch period of time, although they may be
hatching. This lowers the odds of them being a key insect this week. Fish imitations of
them ONLY if you see the insects hatching.
Notice the Cream Cahills are at the very end of their hatch time. Those likely
remaining will be in the high elevations, or brook trout streams. In fact, two weeks ago
they were plentiful but most likely now, they are not. This lowers your odds. Fish
imitations of them ONLY if you see them hatching.
The Little Yellow Stoneflies, are not Yellow Sallies as such. They are Summer
Stones which are very, very similar. They are slightly shorter and stocky but behave
the same as Yellow Sallies and look almost the same. I mention this only because the
hatch chart separates them. Our Little Yellow Stonefly Perfect Fly imitations are the
same for both types. These stoneflies are hatching now but keep in mind, these hatch
over a long period of time and are hit and miss. If they are hatching, you will see some
egg layers near dark. If you see some one day, fish the nymph the next day beginning
at about 7 PM. When you see egg laying activity start, swap to the adult imitation for
the most fun, or continue fishing the nymph for more fish. Remember, this is hit or
miss depending where your fishing. I give your chances of finding them only about
twenty percent or two out of ten days. If you don't see them, don't fish imitations of
The Little Green Stoneflies are hatching but mostly at the ends of pools and in the
mid elevations. It's hot now and if your high on the brook trout streams your odds are
very low you will see any. At mid elevations (I'm omitting low elevations due to the
heat) your odds are still only about twenty percent. You may confuse these with
Yellow Sallies because some are yellow/green and difficult to tell apart as adults.
Follow the same strategy as with the Little Yellow Stoneflies that I provided above,
fishing them only if you see them. Again, only very late in the day.
You should also review previous info about stoneflies. I'm not going into detail about
how to fish the hatch, only strategy.
The Slate Drakes are in the middle of their hatch period, but that's deceptive. These
mayflies hatch heavily at the beginning of the very long hatch period and again near
the end of the period. It is now in the middle of the period. Chances are low you will
see them but if you do, fish the hatch. These crawl out of the water and only nymphs
and spinners are important. If you see their shucks on rocks an boulders, fish the
nymph from mid afternoon to dark. If it is raining, fish the nymph anytime the water is
coming down, morning or afternoon. Fish the spinner right near dark and only if you
see egg layers. Right now the odds are low you will see any. I'd say only one out of
ten chances at the most. However, the nymphs (about half of them) that haven't yet
hatched are in the water. These are swimmer nymphs that don't hide well. These are
not plentiful at the high elevation, but mostly mid elevations. Remember the low
elevations are too warm to fish. The bottom line is the nymph is a good fly to use
anytime of the day, where they are hatching or not; however, I rank it second to the
BWOs, coming up next.
We are down to Blue-winged Olives on the aquatics. Notice on the hatch chart, these
are Little Blue-winged olives and include several species. These are size 18 at the
largest and mostly size 20 with some males even a 22. Use the size 20 or 18 only if
you have to. I want bore you with species and specifics but there's several species of
them. These will most likely be hatching wherever you are. They are even in the high
elevation brook trout streams but vary greatly, depending on the stream. You may
even mistake some species for midges.
In the early mornings and late afternoons they are easy to spot. Some spinner falls
take place in the early morning. When the males are dancing up and down or when
they are mating about head high or higher above the water, they are easier to spot.
That's proof of the hatches, but you don't need it. They will be hatching in most of the
areas you fish and is your number one nymph to fish. Remember, this includes
several species, some of which are bi-brooded. These are mostly swimmer nymphs
which don't hide well from the trout. Some are crawler nymphs and they don't hide
well. The baetis species, size 16 and 18, are not hatching and will not hatch again
until October, but the nymphs are in most streams available for the trout to eat,
especially the mid-elevations. When your fishing a BWO nymph, your also imitating
The BWO nymph, emerger or dun when they are hatching, should be the number one
flies you should use. It will catch trout and it will even catch large trout, so don't let the
small fly size fool you. It is best fished free- lined with a little added weight, or by high
stickin it with weight, but quite frankly, most anglers cannot manage this type of fishing
without lots of practice. You can also use the Czech method of nymphing with two
flies. It's difficult to detect strikes using either of these three methods but they are the
most effective ways to fish the nymph, but provided you are experienced at fishing
nymphs without strike indicators or dropped from dry flies used as indicators. If not,
use a strike indicator, or better at this time of year, a beetle or hopper dry fly as an
indicator. Drop the nymph below our Japanese Beetle, hook size 14, or our Sandwich
Hopper, size 10 or 12.
When these little mayflies start to hatch, and this is usually from 1 to 6 P M,
depending on the species, shade and cloud cover (earlier in the brook trout streams),
change to an emerger or dun pattern.
Start the day out with a streamer, provided your fishing early before much light hits
the water. If not, start the day with one of the above rigs using the BWO nymph and
don't change it. You will catch fish. If you don't, your doing something bad wrong. You
may try changing locations but don't change strategies unless you see evidence that
one of the insects are hatching or under the conditions as follows.
If it gets windy, or if a thunderstorm moves though with wind and rain, and your not
doing well otherwise, go to the terrestrials. If it stays calm, stay with the BWO nymph,
that is of course, you see one of the other above insects hatching. If you do, switch to
imitations of that insect. If you don't, don't change flies. Stay with the BWO nymph or
as a backup, you can try the Slate Drake Nymph, but only if your going nuts from not
An exception you might try is that if your fishing an area with lots of grass (mostly out
in the open areas not under heavy tree cover) on the banks and your kicking up
hoppers, you may want to try fishing the banks with a hopper. Unlike what many of
you may think, this works far better in the middle of the day in direct sunlight, not in
the shade. I only recommend the hopper in the Smokies under the windy conditions
as mentioned above and then only around grass.
If it gets windy or it's after a rain, or if you find water draining back into a stream, fish
an ant imitation. If you don't like fishing the wet ant without an indicator, try our
Japanese Beetle with the regular wet Perfect Fly Ant as a dropper.
If your in the woods where there's little grass, use the Japanese Beetle. It's a dry fly
and works great, even on the brook trout. Use a size 16 for the brookies and the 14 at
the mid elevations. Again, keep in mind, this is only if wind or rain is present or
recently occurred. It's not that these flies won't work anytime. It's just that the BWO
nymph will give you higher odds. The problem is many of you rather fish a dry fly than
a nymph. I'm trying to give you your highest odds for catching the most trout. If you
want to change, by all means do. I find myself fishing the dry fly most of the time. I just
want you to know what your best odds are.
If you see any trout hitting the surface, use the Perfect Fly Carpenter ant. The woods
are full of them. They are thousands if not millions around my house at this time and
I'm less than a mile from the Spur.
You can also drop our Perfect Fly Inch Worm (Green Weenie type fly but better) from
either one of our Sandwich Hoppers or our large size Japanese Beetle. You can also
fish it with a split shot free-lined but I only recommend that if you find moth larvae
(inch worms) in the trees.
Remember, this strategy isn't exactly easy to follow until you build confidence, but for
your highest odds, stick with the BWO nymph until you see evidence of insects
hatching, or unless the wind/rain situation given above takes place. Even then, if
something is hatching, I would not go with the terrestrials. I would go with imitations of
the hatching insect.
If you stick to this strategy and use good presentations, stay hidden and do the basic
things right, within a six to eight hour period of actual fishing, you should catch from
twenty to fifty trout and sometimes even more.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh