Copyright 2013 James Marsh
Insects and other foods the trout
should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little BWOs)
2. Light Cahills
3. Cinnamon Caddis (mostly Abrams)
4. Eastern Pale Evening Duns
5. Little Short-horned Sedges
7. Green Sedges
8. Little Yellow Stoneflies
9. Golden Stoneflies
10. Slate Drakes
11. Little Green Stoneflies
Most available - Other types of food:
12. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
13. Inch Worms
Fishing Tales - Spider Webs
This is actually two fishing tales in one and admittedly, to make what I think is an important point.
Part One: The first part took place in the Middle of August in the Smoky Mountains National
Park. Angie and I had been on a month and a half long fishing trip to the New England area
where we fished along the Canadian line in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We were living
in Panama City Beach, Florida, at the time and was on our way home when we decided to stop
at Townsend and spend the night at my brother's house. We arrived at the Townsend area about
two to three hours before dark and decided we would fish in the park until brother got home from
work. The temperature was probably well in the nineties and we only had a couple of hours to
fish. We entered the Middle Prong of Little River and drove almost to the trailhead at the end of
the dirt road.
When we arrived, I begin to wet wade and noticed the water was very warm. I took the
temperature and it was 69 degrees. As a side note, I should probably mention that we always
maintained detailed logs of both our video (which we always acquired) and our daily activity in the
form of what I call fishing logs. I have a large, two-drawer office file cabinet with nothing but about
maybe 75 spiral notebooks full of notes that are all indexed to trips and of course dates. I
mention this because although I well remember the fish catching part of the trip, I would never
remember things like water temperature. Back to the story, after taking the temperature of the
water, I almost quit fishing because I thought the water temperature would have the trout almost
lethargic. I began to notice a cloud of tiny, tiny mayflies swarming and dancing up and down
above the stream. Angie went to the truck, got our net, and captured a net full of the little
mayflies. They had clear abdomens but a dark thorax. I knew they were spinners but I didn't know
what mayflies they were. I had never noticed clear bodies on a mayfly prior to that. They were
tiny, a hook size about 20 or maybe 22.
I tied on the smallest little spinner I could find in my dry fly box. It had a rusty body and didn't look
much like the spinners we caught at all. I didn't record the size but I'm guessing it was probably a
hook size 18 and could have been a 20. I begin to catch trout on almost every cast. We fished
probably a little longer than the rules allow but I'll just call it dark enough the video was getting
bad according to Angie. According the notes and video logs, the total number was 16 rainbow
trout. I doubt any were much over eight inches but it was fast action.
I will never forget telling a local guide, a good friend of mine, about that and I am certain he didn't
believe a single word of it. In fact, he didn't do so, but I could tell he almost wanted to call me a
liar. All he would say is, it's the wrong time of year to be fishing the Middle Prong of Little River.
It was two or three years later before I caught some of the same spinners. It too, was in August,
but on the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River at the Porters Creek Bridge. It was about a
month later before I was able to identify the mayfly from the keys with a microscope. They are
what most anglers call Mahogany Duns but not in the Smokies. It seems most anglers call the
Slate Drake a Mahogany Dun in the South. Slates do have a Mahogany body but they are many
times the size of a Paraleptophlebia mollis, or what most anglers call Mahogany duns. As you
can see in the photo, they are tiny, little spinners.
Part Two: This part of this story took place as mentioned above, two or three years later, and
after Angie and I moved to Gatlinburg. It was August and I decided to fish the Middle Prong of the
Little Pigeon River at the end of the road at the trailhead area. I stopped at the Porters Creek
bridge on the way to look down off the bridge to see if I could spot anything feeding. I noticed a
large spider web that was full of tiny mayflies hung up it it. They had the same clear abdomens
we found before on the Middle Prong of the Little River. We shot images of them using micro lens.
While all this was going on, I noticed that the little spinners were in small clouds dancing around
my head. They were well above the stream, but I was standing on the bridge and they were head
high. I also had noticed some trout feeding on the surface of the water during the time Angie and
I was video taping and shooting slides of the spinners. I went back to the truck to get the fly rod.
It was probably about sunset but within less than an hour, more likely about a half hour, before
dark. Angie was able to catch 11 trout. One was quite large. It was well over ten inches which is a
large rainbow for the park in spite of all the stories you hear and read about larger ones. Most of
those are measured in the minds of anglers, not with a tape. Ask the park fishery manages that
have shocked thousands of trout in the Smokies.
I'm getting off subject of the two fishing tales but I'm also pointing out that over the years, I've only
talked to two other anglers that fish the Smokies that are aware of this mayfly. All you hear about
in the hot summer is the trout have nothing to eat but terrestrials insects. We have found that
although the food supply is less than the Spring, Fall and Winter, and although there are less
hatches, there are still plenty of aquatic insects available for the trout to eat. They are mostly in
the larva stage of life but al things considered, the streams have a lot more insects in them than
most anglers think. The facts are, few anglers have paid much attention to aquatic insects in the
park. Most seem to think trout feed on hair and feathers.
I think that has changed in the last couple or three years within the park's approach. I'm sure it
isn't for fishing purposes, but the bug guy or guys working for the park service seem to be doing
a great job of identifying the insects in the streams as well as those on land.
I think the ones that have the most to learn are all the self-proclaimed fly fishing experts that
quote, "have been fishing these here creeks and branches for over thirty years". Maybe they
have, but it's a shame that many of them haven't learned to get their head out of their ...........I'm
New Schedule of Daily
Mondays: Weather and Stream
Conditions Forecast - Coming Week
Tuesdays: Fly Fishing Strategies -
Which Flies To Use - Coming Week
Wednesday: Fishing Tales
Thursday: Smoky Mountains Fishing
Friday: Getting Started
Saturday: Fly Fishing School
Sunday: This Week's Featured Trout
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Please allow up to 24 hours for a
2. Call us at 800-594-4726 and we
will help you decide which flies you
3. Call or email us with a budget for
flies and we will select them and get
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