Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2. Little Yellow Quills (Heptagenia Group)
3. Needle Stoneflies
4 Slate Drakes
5 Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
9 . Craneflies
10. Great Brown Autumn Sedge
New Fly Fishing Strategy Series - What Fly To Use - Part 15
I know that some of you think my strategy series articles are all beginning to look like
the same recommendations from week to week. At this particular time of the year,
that's not far from being true. You have to remember that most all of the aquatic
insects have already hatched. I guess it would be more accurate to say the bulk of the
aquatic insects have hatched. "Most all" could indicate numbers and that could be
deceptive. Midges will be hatching all through the winter and as a matter of fact, most
every month of the year. In terms of numbers they rank high but in terms of
representing the bulk of trout food, they rank low as compared to many other trout
streams that are more suitable for midges.
Most midge larvae are burrowers and require a soft bottom. Soft bottoms aren't that
plentiful in the streams of the Smokies. There's always some areas of the streams that
have a soft bottom but it's small in comparison to hard bottom. Midges are hatching
now and should probably be included in the above list at this time. The reason we
haven't yet included them is that we don't want to place emphasis on them just yet.
When the water gets cold and remains cold most of the day, we will. It got pretty cold
this past weekend but warmed up during the day and at this time of the year, there's
still plenty of larger insects available for the trout to eat. You can catch trout right now
on imitations of midges. It is just that the trout are not concentrating on them nearly as
much as they will when the water is cold and there's little else food that's readily
available for them to eat.
The insects that hatched during March through June, or during the four months that
have the most hatches in terms of quantities of insects, are now not even half grown.
Remember, they spend some time as an egg and then hatch (and in this sense hatch
is used correctly) into their larval stage of life. As nymphs and larvae, they molt
several times and grow throughout the year. At the present time the average nymph
or larvae is less than half grown.
There's yet another important fact about the insects in the streams of the Smokies.
The majority are clingers. There's few crawlers, not as many swimmers as there are in
most trout streams, and very few burrowers. The clingers stay hidden down between
and under the rocks and are not as easy for the trout to find and eat as the crawlers
and swimmers. If you look at the mass of the food in the streams in terms of aquatic
insects, that means the majority of the nymphs and larvae are not readily available for
the trout to eat until they begin to expose themselves to hatch.
The main point I'm getting to in the past two paragraphs, is that those few insects that
are available and plentiful for the trout to eat at this time of the year become even
more important than other insects during the times they are very plentiful. With water
temperatures ranging in the fifties, the trout need a lot of food. In the forties, the need
drops quite a bit but at the current time of year, the water temperatures probably will
average more in the low fifties than the forties. When the water temperature is in the
thirties, the trout need only a small amount of food. In other words, it all works out
rather well. At the same time there's a low requirement for food, there's a low
quantity of food readily available for the trout to eat. Again, remember the bulk
of the aquatic insects are clingers and the trout can't catch and eat clinger nymphs
(clinger mayflies and stoneflies, which are all clingers) very easily until they expose
themselves to hatch.
Sunday's Fishing: Please keep in mind I am detailing this trip only to show how I
approach fishing, not for anyone to copy what I did. Everything depends on the
stream and usually even the exact location on the stream. It also greatly depends on
the exact time of day. Furthermore, this all changes day to day with changes in water
temperature. It also changes day to day and even hour to hour or less, with changes
in light conditions. Of course, as the days go by, changes occur in all environmental
conditions The species you are targeting also changes the strategy you should use.
Fishing success always depend on one being able to adjust to continuously
changing conditions. That's why attempting to copy someone else is very poor
I hope you read my article yesterday. This will make more sense if you did. Sunday, I
started fishing at around 1:00 PM on the Oconaluftee River near where it first begins
to appear along the highway headed down the mountain from Newfound Pass. I didn't
even get a fly tied on before noticing some Blue-winged Olives. These were obviously
baetis, so I tied on a size 18 Perfect Fly BWO dun. Latter I also noticed some smaller
BWOs hatching. Within five minutes I hooked and released the first rainbow. I stopped
and moved to a different pull off along the road and searched the water for browns. I
did the same thing at two other places but without fishing. I didn't find any.
I turned around and headed back up to about the middle section of Walkers Camp
Prong. I climbed in the water and fished about two minutes using the same fly before
noticing Little Yellow Quill duns that had obviously just hatched. I tied on a size 16
Perfect Fly Little Yellow Quill Dun and caught a small rainbow within the first five
minutes. About ten minutes later, I caught a brook trout. I stopped fishing there and
proceeded down the mountain to the Chimney Trailhead parking area at the very
upper end of the Little Pigeon River where I cut though just below the bridge.
I should also mention that I spotted a couple of Little Needle Stoneflies on Walkers
Camp Prong. They had obviously hatched some time within the last few days.
Stoneflies can live a few days out of the water. At some point near dark, most likely
you would see them laying eggs. If so, you should fish an imitation of them late in the
day. By the way, they look just like caddisflies, more so than the normal stoneflies
you're used to seeing.
The water in that area was just a little too high for me to wade very well in my cut
through area below the Chimney Trailhead Bridge. I couldn't get around very well in
that area. There were a few Little Yellow Quills hatching there also. It took about thirty
minutes of fishing and fighting the water, but I finally hooked a small rainbow. I didn't
make another cast because I wanted to fish other locations and I really didn't have
much choice wading wise.
I moved from there all the way to Little River just upstream from the turnout to
Elkmont. I watched the water for a few minutes looking for browns and hatches without
seeing either. I changed flies to a size 18 BWO Nymph. I didn't do that because I
wanted to try another fly. I did it because I wanted to imitate what was the most
available and most plentiful insect in the water at that time and that was Blue-winged
Olive nymphs. I didn't fish over five minutes before hooking a rainbow. Again, I
stopped fishing and left to fish yet another stream. On recent stops to this same area,
I usually pick up at least one brown to every couple of rainbows and I feel sure I would
have been able to do the same thing Sunday if I had continued to fish. I didn't see
anything hatching or that had hatched. Most likely BWOs had already hatched.
I proceeded to the Middle Prong of Little Pigeon River, using a back street way
around Gatlinburg. There I fished an area of the Pigeon about a mile above the
Porter's Creek Bridge. This entire upper part of the stream up to and a ways above
the trailhead usually has lots of willing rainbows. I continued with the same fly, the
BWO nymph, not noticing anything hatching. Later, I did see some very small Little
BWO spinners dancing above the water. They hadn't fell, so I stuck with the nymph. In
one section consisting of a fairly long run followed by a short riffle, I was able to catch
three rainbows within thirty minutes. I didn't have to wade. I caught them all from the
I hope this helps those of you that want to learn to consistently catch more trout. You
won't ever do it using trial and error.
You won't ever do it copying other anglers success.
You want ever do it by just using so called "Smoky Mountain Flies". I don't
know of a singe insect or other food that the trout feed on that's unique to the
Smokies. Flies should imitate insects and other foods trout eat. There's no such thing
as a Smoky Mountain Fly.
You can easily improve your success by first becoming familiar with the different
species of trout and the food they rely on to survive; learning to recognize what food
is most plentiful and most available; and finally how to best imitate its looks and
Our Just Released New DVD, "Stalking Appalachian Trout".
Copyright 2011 James Marsh