Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
Fishing Cold Water Series:
Fly Fishing Strategies - What Fly To Use - Part 22
A few weeks ago I wrote about the roller coaster weather pattern, meaning the water would
get very cold then a few days later very warm, a situation more common during the Spring for
this part of the nation than Fall. Officially, Winter starts December 22nd, just a couple of days
away, but we have already had some below freezing weather in the valley near the Smokies.
Within two to three days that has been followed with unseasonably warm weather with
temperatures in the sixties. When it has been warm,it has rained, sometimes heavily, and we
have either had high water to deal with, or very cold water to deal with. While that's not really
unusual, it is when it's continuously either only one or the other.
The national weather forecast for Gatlinburg for the next seven days indicates starting this
afternoon there will again be a chance (30%) of rain. Wednesday, it increases to eighty
percent, Thursday fifty percent and Friday forty percent. Saturday is the only day they are
predicting there isn't a chance for rain. They even show a chance of rain again for Sunday.
That's a long way out and will probably change some but one thing we can count on is rain
this week. The chances the streams will be high again, possible to high to wade this weekend,
is very good. We will have to wait until near the end of the week to know for sure. I'm sure
there isn't going to be a mad rush of anglers headed for the streams in the Smokies this
weekend, but there's a few that take advantage of the holiday time off to fish.
The roller coaster weather has caused the main Baetis species that hatches this time of the
year to be very sporadic. At the time the hatches have occurred they have been sparse
because the sky has been blue-bird clear. There has only been a day or two when the water
temperature was in the mid to high forties (the temperature at which they normally hatch)
when the sky was overcast or cloudy. All the baetis species of mayflies are very sensitive to
light. These are the size 18 bi-brooded larger (hatch twice a year) baetis tricadatus species
called Blue-winged Olives. These (females) get as large as 16 in the Spring. When the water
temperatures stabilize and the weather stays overcast for a few days, they can hatch in very
good numbers but that hasn't happened this year. Normally, the hatch is over by the end of
December. If it turns cold again, there could be some more hatch, but I doubt it. There's one
thing for sure. That won't happen this coming week before this weekend because the water
will be too warm.
By the way, as soon as I finish the series on Fishing Cold Water, I will start one on the "catch
all" aquatic insect name "Blue-winged Olive". Other than fishing cold water, I think it is the
most misunderstood and unknown area of fly fishing. There are 4 species of Baetis mayflies in
the park, 3 species of Acentrella, also in the Baedidae family, 1 species of Caenis in the
Baedidae family and it gets worse.
Not only are Baedidae species of mayflies (of which there's dozens more in other trout
streams) called BWOs, species of the Ephemerellidae family of mayflies are also called
BWOs. These mayflies are not even swimmers. These are crawlers and hatch completely
different from the swimmers in different types and areas of water. There are 4 Drunella
species (should be called Eastern Blue-winged Olives to help differentiate them), 1 Attenella
species, 1 Serratella species, and 2 Timpanoga species all called Blue-winged Olives. The
last there genera should be called Little BWOs or Small BWO depending on the species to
help differentiate them. Thats a grand total of 16 species of mayflies in Great Smoky
Mountains National Park that are called Blue-winged Olives. Remember also, most of
them are bi-brooded meaning they hatch twice a year. There's an understandable reason for
Back to the Strategies:
There is a good chance of some of the smaller hook size 20 and 22 BWOs hatching this
coming week because the water will warm up to at least to the mid fifties. The low tonight will
only get down to 51 degrees. They normally won't start until late January but with all the warm
weather we have had, I expect they are becoming well developed. These smaller size
BWOs and midges will be the only aquatic insects that may hatch. The water will still
have more BWO nymphs available for the trout to eat than anything else.
As long as the water is at a level it can be safely waded, I would start out fishing with a hook
size 18 or 20 BWO nymph and continue to use it until I noticed something hatching. Just so
you understand what I mean, I am saying fish it all day if nothing hatches. This will give you
the highest odds of catching trout. If you see any BWOs hatching, change to an emerger
BWO pattern or if they are hatching and the water is close to 50 degrees or higher, go to a
dun imitation. If you fish until near dark, check the water and overhead for spinners. If you
know they are falling, change to a BWO spinner. Remember, these BWOs won't hatch in the
fast current. They hatch in the slow moving, marginal water near the fast water.
If the rain begins to raise the water levels enough to add some color, I would change to a
streamer. When brown trout stop spawning, they usually go though a inactive period and then
feed out in the open water for about two or three days before resorting to their normal hide
and seek method of feeding. This is also a misunderstood thing. It's thought that they are
hungry, and they are in one sense of the meaning of the word, but not in the same sense
humans get hungry. Their hungry is controlled by their metabolism and that is to a large
extent regulated by water temperature, unlike it is with warm blooded humans. Again, if you
have followed the "Fishing Cold Water" series you should know that "how much food they eat"
has nothing to do with catching them. They just need to eat one of your flies, not fifty.
Much of the time you hear anglers say they caught post spawn brown trout, they caught
spawning trout. If so, they are either not very knowledgeable or they are lying. This isn't
always the case, but it's a great cover up for unsportsmanlike fishing. The brown trout don't
stay out exposed feeding for weeks after the spawn. Within the very first day or two they won't
feed at all. All fish just completing the spawn go through a temporary very inactive stage. For
two or three days following that they do tend to stay out in the open water more than they
normally would and feed, but within two or three days they return to their normal way of
feeding. Most of the time this is also because they must return to their normal home water
This week looks like a great time to catch browns on streamers. It should be cloudy and
raining much of the time and if you want to fish for fewer but larger fish including the rainbows,
you may want to use a streamer, especially anytime there is low light conditions or stained
water. It takes some effort and patients but it should pay off under the predicted conditions.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh