Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Little BWOs)
2. Mahogany Duns
3. Little Yellow Quills (Heptagenia Group)
4. Little Yellow Stoneflies
5. Needle Stoneflies
6. Slate Drakes
7. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
12. Great Brown Autumn Sedge
New Fly Fishing Strategy Series - What Fly To Use - Part 11
Remember: The key is to imitate the insects and or other food that's most
available and easiest for the trout to acquire. If you haven't read the first parts of this
series, please do so. It will help make this article more meaningful.
I did have (take would be a better word) an opportunity to fish about an hour Sunday
afternoon and about an hour and a half yesterday. Let me stop and point out that the
purpose of my mentioning this isn't intended to serve as a guide for others to try to
copy. The article I wrote yesterday should make that very clear. My purpose was to
determine if there had been any significant changes in the above list of foods and
hatches, and/or changes in the strategy I outlined in last weeks article.
I saw little change in the hatches and I know for a fact that the most available and
plentiful foods changed very little, if any. Sunday's trip was made just after lunch on
the Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River. It was clear and bright and I didn't see
anything hatching at all. I fished for about an hour using a #18 BWO nymph and
caught eight rainbows. One was about eight inches, but most of them were four to six
inches long. Three came at the end of one small run within just a few minutes. I didn't
see but one vehicle that appeared to belong to an angler, only tourists.
Yesterday, Monday, I fished Little River near Elkmont. I fished from about 1:00PM to
2:30PM at three locations. I didn't see anything but one Eastern BWO dun, upside
down under a leaf. These are Drunella species. Other than midges, I didn't see any
other aquatic insects out of the water. Of course, I was fishing prior to the time
anything would hatch and the bright sun would make whatever may be hatching
probably take place in sparse quantities. I probably shouldn't have, but I changed
from a BWO nymph to a #18 Mahogany Dun nymph just to experiment. I know both
are fairly plentiful in the streams and more plentiful than any other aquatic insects
except those tiny, half or less grown nymphs from the Spring hatches. I managed two
browns, one 6 inches and one 13 inches. I also caught three rainbows, all small, less
than eight inches. Five trout in an hour and a half, isn't very good results. I didn't try it,
but I would bet my last nickel that I could have caught plenty of small rainbows and
brook trout in the higher elevations. The brook trout have been very easy to catch
last for the last few weeks.
The bottom line to the strategy I'm recommending at this time is the same as it has
been. Just review the last two or three articles for the specifics. The weather is
warming throughout this week but staying clear with no rain in the forecast. I doubt
there will be much change but some of the larger baetis BWO's may begin to hatch in
the near future. I didn't see any Great Brown Autumn Sedges, which most local's call
Fall caddis. They too, should start showing up but never in large quantities. Also keep
in mind this is a low light caddis that hatches mostly at night and mostly lays their eggs
very late in the day and evening. They are not bright orange Fall caddis like you
would see in the Western U.S. These are a different species that have cinnamon color
wings but are mostly brown to rusty brown. There may be some Little Yellow Stoneflies
hatching near dark. I just haven't been able to fish late in the day for some time.
Maybe I can do that this week.
One thing I noticed at my home in Pigeon Forge is that there's still no shortage of
terrestrial insects. I'm not seeing as many ants and beetles as a month or so ago, but
there's a huge population of grasshoppers around the house, even yesterday after
the cold night before. Hoppers usually hang around until after the first few frosts take
place. The high wind gust we had over the weekend should have put some of them in
the water but by Sunday afternoon, the wind had died down and I didn't try any
Understanding Selective Feeding:
I want to stop and clear something up that others have ask me about. I have
previously mentioned that heavy rain and high winds can indicate that terrestrial
imitations (flies) may become more important, but in doing so, I'm often
misunderstood. Except in isolated circumstances, i doubt if the trout in the Smokies
ever become selective on terrestrial insects. By "selective", I mean the trout are
mostly eating them, not exclusively eating them.
I don't want to get started on the much misunderstood phrase "selective feeding",
versus "opportunistic feeding", but I do want to point out that selective feeding doesn't
and shouldn't mean the trout are only eating one particular item of food. It just means
they are focusing on a certain item of food and eating a lot of that particular food.
This isn't a decision made by the trout such as us humans would make when we
decide to eat a particular food such as streak. In layman terms, trout aren't smart
enough to do that. They do have enough sense to locate in feeding lies in certain
areas of the stream where they can easily search the water for a particular food.
Unlike some fly fishing authors and some anglers think, It doesn't mean the trout
exclude any and all other foods that they may encounter and only eat one item of
food. That never happens anywhere, or anytime in any stream in the nation. By
definition, all trout are opportunistic feeders. Selective feeding simply means that the
majority of the food they eat consist of one item of food.
Why would a trout eat tiny emerging Blue-winged Olive nymphs (emergers) and pass
up eating a sculpin that it happens to see a few feet away? Of hand, that doesn't
make sense. The answer is really simple. All wild animals, and trout are animals, have
to maximise their intake of food and minimize the amount of energy spent in doing so.
When fish are feeding selectively, they are doing that. In other words, instead of
eating a little bit of everything that they see, and waisting the energy to do so, they
focus on one source of food that's most available and easy to acquire. This can even
mean they focus on only one stage of life of a particular species of insect.
Let me provide some examples. The trout may focus of the nymphs of stoneflies
crawling from fast water runs across the stream bottom to slack water along the banks
to hatch. They may focus on egg laying caddis at the tail end of a pool. They may
focus on BWO mayfly nymphs that are emerging in the surface skim of the water at
the slow end of runs and riffles. They may focus on ants being washed into the stream
by a heavy rain.
I hope you get the picture. Each of these different feeding patterns requires the trout
to physically locate or situate themselves in different areas and/or depths of water in
the stream. Using the above example, the trout may position themselves in the slack
water along the banks of the stream to search the bottom to intercept stonefly nymphs
crawling out of the water to hatch. In the next scenario, they may position themselves
at the tail ends of the pool to eat egg laying caddisflies of a particular species. In the
next case, they may position themselves near the surface of the water at the end of a
run or riffle tightly focusing on the drifting BWO mayfly nymphs emerging in the
surface skim. In the last example, after a heavy rain, trout may position themselves
where water is draining back into the stream washing ants into the water. There they
can spend little energy and eat a lot of food being delivered to them by mother nature.
I hope this gets you to thinking and understanding that the age old, generally
accepted methods of fishing the streams of Great Smoky Mountains National
Park are just that - old and outdated. Although they still work when the trout are in
high gear, the water is high and fast, and the catching is easy, they don't work well
most of the time. In all due respect to any and everyone who has fished the Smokies
over the years, in comparison to other parts of the county, anglers in the South are
still fishing the same way as they did when moonshine stills were more plentiful in the
Smokies than black bears. You can fish all the streams that can be accessed by
roads in a T - Model Ford, wearing a Davy Crocket hat, using "Yellar Hammar" flies
made from real woodpecker feathers and still catch fish. There's nothing wrong with
that if that's your preference. Just don't call the fishing "fair", "slow", or "poor", every
time you fail to catch as many trout as you would like to catch. For that T - Model, get
yourself a "I'm a Hardheaded, Mediocre Angler that's ....well, I don't think I need to
finish the sticker for you. By the way, the sticker may be even more appropriate for
that new Lexus SUV.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh