Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives - mostly Little BWO - Isolated hatches
2. Cinnamon Caddis - Mostly Abrams Creek
3 Light Cahills - hatching
4. Midges - hatching in isolated locations
5. Little Short-horned Sedges - should hatch randomly for 2-3 months
6. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish
7. Little Yellow Stoneflies - hatching
8. Green Sedges - hatching
9. Little Sister Caddisflies - Mostly Abrams Creek
10. Eastern Pale Evening Duns - (called Sulfurs by some)
11. Sulphurs - hatching in isolated areas
12. Golden Stonefly - hatching
13. Little Green Stonefly - hatching
14. Slate Drakes - hatching
The Learning Process - Part 23
Continued from Yesterday's Article
Although I tried to make yesterdays article on "what to fish when there is no hatch"
as simple as I could, I am well aware that to those of you that are new to fly fishing
for trout, it is probably confusing. I avoided Latin names and details about any of
the insects hoping that would help. I've read what I have written about three times
now and each time I can hear little voices asking questions. I will try to address
The fly is just one element of the presentation. To fool a trout into taking your fly,
you must imitate the behavior of the insect the fly imitates. To describe the behavior
of an insect you have to describe the stream makeup. Trout streams are typically
made up of a combination of riffles, runs and pools. Sometimes the pools are
connected with riffles, sometimes runs and sometimes both. Sometimes there are
almost continuous riffles and runs with few or no pools. In the streams of Great
Smoky Mountains National Park most of the streams are described as pocket water.
Pockets are the little miniature pools downstream of each rock or boulder
penetrating the surface. These rocks and boulders change the speed of the
current, and create current seams or areas of water where the slow moving water
meets the fast moving water. The current seams tend to collect food along with just
about everything else that is floating or drifting below the surface downstream.
Each of the different aquatic insects have their own habitat within the pocket water
streams where they live most all of their life. When they get ready to hatch, most of
them change locations within the stream. Most of the fast water insects move to
nearby slower moving water to hatch. This movement starts a few days prior to a
hatch depending on the particular insect. Caddisfly larvae may move as much as
two to three weeks before hatching because they form pupae before they hatch.
The mayflies hatch directly into a dun (what anglers call the final stage of the
insect's live) directly from the nymph. The nymphal shuck splits open and a fly
There are four basic types of nymphs. Both the crawler mayfly nymphs and the
swimmer mayfly nymphs live in slow to moderate moving water. The clingers live in
fast moving water. Burrowers are the forth type of mayfly nymph but they are few
and far between in the park. Most of the mayflies are clingers that survive best in
fast water. They can cling to or hold on to the rocks in the fast water.
About all of the stoneflies are clinger nymphs. All stoneflies, as well as a few
species of mayflies, move out of the fast water and onto rocks and the banks where
they crawl out of the water to hatch. This movement starts a few days before the
Caddisflies are either net-spinners, cased caddis or free-living caddisflies. There
are few net-spinning caddis in the park but where they do exist, they reside in slow
to moderate water. Free living caddis (don't build cases or shelters to live in),
mainly the rock worms, can live in both fast and moderate water. Cased caddis can
live in both fast and moderate water depending on the species. That is one reason
why most of the caddisfly larvae in the Smokies are either cased or free-living.
What is important about the type of nymphs and larvae is the fact it help identify
which part of the streams the insects normally reside in, and where they move to
hatch. If you don't know where they live and hatch it is impossible for you to
imitate their behavior.
You can catch trout on imitations of nymphs and larvae throughout the year. As I
previously said, most of the mayflies and stoneflies nymphs in the Smokies are
clingers. Most of the time they are hidden down between and underneath the rocks.
They are not directly available for trout to eat. They come out of their hiding
places only to grow larger (shed their shuck and change into a larger stage of life
called an instar); to eat; and the one time in their life they hatch. Most of the time
they come out to eat and this takes place during the evenings. In other words,
imitating the clingers just any time of the day doesn't work that very well.
The crawlers are similar but they can't hide as well. They are more exposed but not
nearly as exposed as they are when they change instars, eat or hatch. Since there
is not a lot of slow to moderate water in the park, theres not a many crawler nymphs.
The swimmers can't hide all that well either, but they are more difficult for the trout
to catch. They are more like little minnows. They can dart around and hide behind
small rocks and other objects in the water. You can catch trout using imitations of
the crawlers or swimmers most anytime but again, they are in the minority of
nymphs that exist in the Smokies.
You can imitate the Rock Worms or fee-living caddis anytime during the year fairly
successfully. There are so few net-spinners, that unless you are fishing Abrams
Creek where they are plentiful, it isn't worth it. You can also imitate the cased
caddis, but I have found that to be very questionable. I want deal with the details at
If you don't know when the insects hatch, you cannot possible imitate their
movement from one type of water to another to hatch. This is a huge deal
because that is first time many of the insects can be easily eaten by the trout. They
must come out of their hiding places and be exposed in order to crawl across the
bottom of the stream. You will be far more successful imitating a nymph or larvae
during the time they are changing locations to hatch than you will be any other time
except when they actually begin to emerge.
Caddis pupae can't hide very well at all. They are exposed all of the time. When
they accent to the surface to change into a fly, they become very easy prey for the
trout. So are the emerging mayfly nymphs. When they are changing from a nymph
into a fly they are very easy prey for the trout. The trout instinctively know all of this
very well. They can also easily observe the insects during the hatch period.
This is why I keep stressing that you need to know when they hatch and which parts
of the stream they hatch in. You can't imitate the movement of the nymphs and
larvae if you don't know when or where it is occurring. It happens underwater. You
can't see them unless you go scuba diving. If you wait until you start seeing the
duns or adult caddisflies, you will have missed a week or two of the easiest time to
catch trout on a nymph or larvae imitation. I call it the pre-hatch period. It reminds
me of the pre-spawn period of fish. Trout and most other fish are easily caught
when they loose their caution during the spawning period. When insects hatch, they
loose their normal caution, cover and protection and become easy prey for the
trout.Now keep in mind that I am strictly writing about fishing either imitations of the
nymphs and larvae. Many anglers lump them both together and incorrectly and call
the flies that imitate them "nymphs".
There is another highly important part of the hatch to do with the nymph or pupae.
When the flies start coming out of the nymphal shucks or the caddisflies start
emerging from their pupae, they are completely helpless. The trout can eat all
they want. In some cases the trout just stay in one place and eat the emerging
nymphs and caddis like popcorn. Sometimes this event happens just under the
surface, sometimes on the bottom and sometimes anywhere between the bottom
and the surface, depending on the species. Again, that is why it is so important to
know the behavior of each of the insects. Most anglers don't imitate this part of the
hatch at all. The first thing most anglers do relative to the hatch is fish a dry fly
imitation of the completely hatched out dun or adult caddisfly. There is nothing
wrong with this from a sportsmanship standpoint. It is fun to catch trout on the dry
fly but often, the easiest and fastest way to catch the trout has already passed
when the hatch progresses to the point there are more duns and adults than there
are emerging nymphs and pupae. The average time this complete process takes
place is usually less than two hours. It will vary greatly from insect to insect but it
averages only a short period of time.
I am completely skipping fishing the part of the hatch that takes place after the duns
emerge from the nymphs and the caddisflies (and midges by the way) emerge from
their pupae. I am also completely skipping the spinner fall and the egg laying. Trout
can be caught easily during those times but that is are compete different subject.
We are concerned here about how to fish before the insects emerge from their
shucks. Once a nymph, or pupa becomes more of a fly than it is a nymph or pupa,
imitating it becomes a completely different thing that i won't go into here.
So basically there are three different periods of time you can imitate a nymph or a
larva - during its normal everyday life; when it moves or migrates to a different
location to hatch or form a pupa; and when it actually start to emerge or change
from a nymph or pupae to a dun or an adult. Fishing for trout during the first period
of time can be fairly productive at times. Catching trout during the second period of
time is easy if you do things correctly at the right time. Catching trout during the
third period of time is like taking candy from a baby, if you do things right at the
This was suppose to be all about how you fish when there is no hatch occurring, yet
most of what I have written about involves hatches. However, keep in mind that
everything I have described takes place before most anglers know a hatch is in its
early stages. They don't see the insects changing locations prior to hatching. The
don't see the larvae change to pupae. They don't see the nymphs when they split
to allow the fly to emerge, especially if this occurs on the bottom or somewhere
below the surface. It is almost impossible to see this occurring in the surface skim.
The first time most anglers realize a hatch is occurring is when they begin to see a
lot of adult caddisflies or mayfly duns on the water and in the air; or they start
seeing adult stoneflies on the banks and in the bushes. At that point in time, its too
late to fish the "per-hatch" stages of the hatch. What I have written about today
started taking place anywhere from a week to three weeks earlier. If they had of
know what was occurring they could have caught far more trout than they could
have at the point they realized a hatch was underway.
When you hear anglers say, "fish a nymph", just be aware there is a heck of a lot
to fishing a nymph - far more than fishing a dry fly that you can see. Nymphs
remind me of electricity. Most people have problems understanding electricity. They
usually just stay away from it and let the pros handle any work or changes. The
same people will go out and adjust their water hoses, fill their tubs and wash
clothes. They even swim in it and float on water. They understand water pressure,
cubic feet per minute, etc., because they can see water. They can't see electricty
and therefore, don't really understand volts and current. The can't see a volt or the
current flowing through a wire. Anglers can't see nymphs most of the time. They
understand little about them other than you fish the nymph fly underwater. They
certainly don't understand when, where and how trout feed on nymphs, especially
when they feed on them "selectively". That, in my opinion, is the least know
and least understood thing about fly fishing for trout.
Copyright James Marsh 2009