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 Great Brown Autumn Sedge
7. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
I going ahead and listing midges on the above list of insects that the trout may be
eating. Doing so is probably completely misleading, so let me explain why.
Midges hatch throughout the year, depending on the species. Most of them are
multi-brooded, meaning they hatch more than once a year. Trout eat them
year-round. The above list is intended to guide anglers as to what to imitate, not to
provide a technically correct list of insects that the trout may possibly eat. There are
dozens of insects not listed that exist in small, insignificant quantities at various times
of the year. As I often write, we should be concerned with those that are most
available and most plentiful for the trout to eat at any one particular time.
So far this year, there's been plenty of other much larger insects available for the
trout to eat than midges. That isn't to say the trout will choose the larger insects. They
won't necessarily do that. It is to say that one's odds of catching trout has been and
still is greater using imitations of the larger insects than it has been using midges.
That's simply because there's plenty of them to eat and imitations of them are easier
It's just a fact that imitations of midges are not as easy to fish as most other insects.
They are very small, require light tippet and in general, are slow to fish. When the
trout are eating most all midges and there's not much else for them to choose from,
doing so greatly increases your odds of success. So far this season, I don't feel this
situation has existed. When the water temperatures drop down into the high thirties
and low forties and remains there consistently, midges will become much more
important. So far, except for a few nightly lows, the water temperature hasn't remained
low enough to justify this. In fact, it hasn't even remained low enough on a consistent
basis for good hatches of Beatis Blue-winged Olives hatches to occur. For the next
few days, the weather will be nice and warm with the high temperatures reaching
around 70 in the foothills. I'm going ahead and listing midges at this time only so
that I can write about them before they do become important.
At some point during the next month or two, the water temperature will average low
enough for midges to become much more important. The trout's metabolism will be
low enough that the amount of food they require will be easily acquired from midges.
The trout will become less active and midges will become more important because
the trout can remain in one relative position in slow moving water and eat
plenty of them. When you get an imitation of the midge larvae down on the bottom in
the right places, the trout will consistently eat them, but doing that isn't usually a fast
process. Fishing deeper water with tiny flies for fish you can't see isn't a fast process.
It takes some time searching to find the trout and it takes some skill to consistently
catch trout on the larvae when you do.
When the midges are hatching, the trout will concentrate on eating the pupae. That's
easy for them to do. That too, requires some skill in terms of knowing when, where
and how to imitate the emerging midge pupae
At times, depending on the weather and other factors, it's possible to catch trout
sipping adults or newly hatched midges from the surface. This doesn't happen very
often but when it does, you can catch trout on the surface feeding on midges. This
too, isn't exactly an easy process. Fishing a tiny dry fly you can't see well or may not
be able to see at all, isn't easy either. This all requires practice, knowing the right
methods and tactics, and knowing when and where to do it. During the next few days I
will get into this.
Re-run of Spawning Brown Trout
I thought it may be appropriate to write about spawning brown trout now that the
spawn is occurring in the streams of Great Smoky Mountains National park and most
of the other streams in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States.
Brown trout spawn when the water temperatures range between the mid forties and
high forties. Of course, this water temperature must exist at the right time of the year
which in our area is from the middle of October to the middle of December. The peak
of the spawn is usually around mid November but that is subject to weather and water
conditions. They will usually follow the brook trout mostly because the brook trout exist
at higher elevations but also for other reasons. The spawning time is also subject to
water levels and the amount of light available or sunlight penetration versus darkness.
Prior to spawning, both sexes increase their intake of food. This is for two reasons.
One is to provide the energy needed for the migration to their upstream spawning
areas and the other has to do with producing the eggs and sperm needed for the
The female locates and chooses the area to spawn. They prefer to spawn on a gravel
bottom. Just in case you don't know, the spawning beds of trout and salmon are called
redds. That only has meaning in terms of the use of the word. It's not that redds differ
from what anglers call "beds" of other species of fish as such, although they usually
do vary. The depth of the water is important. It's normally from about 6 inches to 16
inches in depth. The depth is important because it affects light penetration and other
factors. Extreme high and low water levels can affect the spawn and the survival of the
eggs, sperm and hatching trout. In the Smokies, most of the redds are found in the
middle to tailends of pools, but they can be found anywhere there's the right type of
bottom, depth and current. I forgot to mention current. It too, is very important for the
success of the entire process. If the current is too fast or too slow, it can affect the
spawn. Somehow, the female knows what she's looking for but she can control these
things only up to a certain extent. Mother nature has more to do with it than she does.
The female builds the redd. This is unlike a bass, for example, whereas the male
builds the bed. She uses her swimming body motions and tail to form a depression in
the gravel. This also is done to get the sand and silt out of the gravel where the eggs
will be deposited.
While this is going on, a couple to as many as several males will complete for the right
to spawn with the female. They will attempt to chase off their competition. If your
fishing out West during the spawn, you may be able to watch the exact same thing
take place with male elk and the male brown trout. We have watched this take place
on the Madison River several times. You will have a few bull elk fighting for a group of
several females and a few male brown trout fighting for, in this case, one female.
You will usually see the female swimming slowing in the redd with the male beside her
during the actual spawn. She releases her eggs and he releases his milt (sperm) in
the water to fertilize the eggs as they are released. She will use her tail to gently
cover the eggs with gravel. This action is also thought to clean the gravel and help
allow the right amount of current flow through the gravel. There can be more than one
male participating during the actual spawn. She will usually release from between
4,000 to 14,000 eggs, depending on her size.
The current should flow through or into the gravel but ideally, it also should create a
barrier of sand and silt over the eggs and sperm. For all these reasons, it's easy to
see why so few eggs survive to hatch. When the ideal conditions can't be found, or
the weather and water conditions aren't right, they spawn wherever and however they
Not many realize that she may not deposit all of her eggs in one redd. She may build
another one in the same general area and continue the process. Eggs can be
damaged by the gravel, lack of or too much current, sperm not reaching them and
other fish eating them. In tailwaters, and some freestone stream situations, water
levels can drop and expose the eggs, or the water can become real shallow and
freeze. Too much silt or sand can destroy them. Of course too much water, or flooding
situations can destroy everything. Fungus can destroy the eggs in some situations.
The survival and extent the eggs hatch is also directly affected by the water
temperature and sunlight. Anglers can wade through the redds and ruin the
redds and the eggs. Anglers can hurt the entire operation by catching the
females and/or the males. I doubt that catching the male would destroy the spawn
but it could well effect the extent it was successful. They estimate that only about ten
percent of the eggs survive and that's under ideal conditions.
When I see any angler holding up a brown trout for a photo opportunity that was
caught from a redd during the spawn, and of course only they know for sure, I see an
angler that's either completely ignorant of the spawning process, or one that
should be ashamed of him or herself. Those are pictures of phonies, not
sportsmen. They should take up golf where they can write down whatever score they
choose to post on the handicap board of their country club.
The higher the water temperature, the faster the eggs develop. In the Smokies, they
usually hatch in late Winter or early Spring. It can be as early as February or as late
as early April. Everything must remain intact until the eggs hatch and the fry can get
out of the gravel and barrier above the redd to survive. There must be food available
for the fry. They much survive all the predators that want to eat them including other
fish. The mother and father or fathers are not around to help with this. In fact, if they
were, they would do just the opposite of protecting them.
Our New DVD Release "Stalking Appalachian Trout".
Copyright 2011 James Marsh