Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives - mostly Little BWO - Isolated hatches
2.   Mahogany Duns
3.   Midges - hatching in isolated locations
4.   Little Yellow Stoneflies
5.   Slate Drakes
6.   Cream Cahills - hatching in Isolated locations
7.   Little Yellow Quills
8.   Needle Stoneflies
9.   Beetles
10. Grasshoppers
11. Ants
12. Inch Worms
13. Crane Flies
14. Helligramite
15. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish

The Learning Process - Part 58
Continuing from yesterday's article, part 57.......   Although most anglers can usually
catch plenty of trout in the fast moving headwater streams when conditions are
excellent, many anglers can't do that when conditions aren't so good.

In the Smokies that includes the three months or so that the water is relatively cold,
or below 50 degrees. In this case the trout don't hold in the fast water because
doing so requires more energy than the trout can obtain enough food to produce.
In cold water, the trout usually hold in water that is moving slowly behind boulders,
large rocks and in holes and depressions in the stream's bottom. There they are
out of the faster current but close to the drift. The trout are not nearly as
aggressive in cold water as they are at the optimum water temperatures. Their
metabolism is low and they want move as far or make as much effort to eat. They
require less food. Under these conditions the trout can usually see an angler's fly
much better simply because the water is moving slower. The trout want fall for the
attractor flies near as well (if at all) as they will in the fast moving water.

During the times the water is very low and the stream flows subside from the normal
rates, the trout become spooked much easier. Fortunately, this year we haven't had
that situation to any appreciable extent, but during most years, we do. In a normal
year there are many days during the late summer and early fall when the rainfall
amounts are normally low and the stream levels drop. When the stream flows are
low and the water is low and clear, the trout have a much better opportunity to
closely examine your fly. In low, slow moving water the trout want fall for the
attractor flies like they will in the fast current. They are spooked by the anglers
much easier. Thats not only because the trout can see the angler better, it is also
because of their natural instinct to hide from their predators. They become much
more cautious.

Then theres those times conditions seem perfect, yet many anglers are not
catching trout like they would normally expect to be able to do. That is the scenario I
painted in the article for the past two days. Those are the times when conditions are
prime but the trout are obviously not in the same places anglers are used to
catching them. During these times, the trout are usually feeding in different areas of
the stream and usually where the water isn't moving fast. In this situation, the trout
have an opportunity to look at the fly much closer. The same attractor flies that
anglers can usually catch trout on under the same apparent conditions, fail to
perform as well and in some cases, won't perform at all.  

During those times when conditions are excellent, the stream flows and water
temperatures are great but the catches aren't, anglers are usually fishing in the
wrong areas of the stream in the wrong type of water. If they are using their
attractor and generic trout flies, then they are also not able to fool the trout even if
they get the fly in the right place. I certainly didn't discover what usually goes on
under this scenario very early in our learning process. In fact, it took a few more
years. It required knowing a lot more about the insects the trout feed than I knew
the first year or two I fished for trout. In order to understand why the trout move and
don't seem to respond as they normally do when the conditions seem perfect,  you
have to understand the behavior of all of the aquatic insects present in the streams.
Thats because it is usually a concentration of insects or other food that causes the
trout to abandon their normal feeding areas in the runs and riffles.  

Now, I am not going to stop at this point and try to explain what happens each time
because it changes throughout the year and it is different with many of the aquatic
insects. It would take a few more hundred short articles like this one to detail what
happens in regards to each of the possibilities. What is consistent, however, is that
the trout begin to focus on a concentration of aquatic insects in a given area of the
stream. Most aquatic insects don't hatch in the fast water of the runs and riffles.
Most of them move to slower or more moderate water a few hours and even days
prior to hatching. When they do, they become much more available to the trout. It is
much easier for the trout to feed on them during the pre-hatch period. Let me
outline just one, common occurrence involving one common insect that causes the
trout to change their normal pattern of feeding in the usual areas of the stream.

There are several species of Little Yellow Stoneflies from two different families, and
several different genera that hatch during the year in the Smokies. Most anglers
lump them together as 'Yellow Sallies". Thats okay from one standpoint because all
stoneflies hatch the same way. They crawl out of the water onto rocks and the
banks to emerge. During their normal life of a year, the Little Yelow Stonefly
nymphs are found in the faster water but under small stones, cobble and rocks
where they are safe from the trout. This is usually in the riffles and runs of the
stream. A few hours before they start to hatch, they move from the fast water into
the slower and more moderately moving water along the banks. They do this during
the day by crawling on the bottom of the stream. When the sun goes down the
stonefly nymphs crawl out of the water and shed their nymphal shucks to emerge
into adults. As soon as their wings are dry, they fly off into the trees and bushes to
mate. They don't return to the water the next day like most mayflies. They can stay
out of the water over a long period of time, even a few days. They don't get into the
water again until the females begins to deposit her eggs.

During the time the process is going on, during the daylight hours, an angler should
be fishing the water with an imitation of the stonefly nymphs near the banks of the
stream in the slow to moderate water, and especially in the water near the fast
water areas the stoneflies normally reside in. The trout see this process happening
just as well as I saw thousands of visitors moving into Pigeon Forge the last few
days for the car show. The trout are not going to stay in their normal areas to feed
when this is happening. They focus on the concentration of available nymphs thats
easy for them to acquire. I want go so far as to say the trout will feed "selectively"
on the stonefly nymphs, but I will say they definitely focus or concentrate of eating
them. I want use the word "selective" because it is taken differently by different
people. If a trout eats 5 mayfly nymphs and 95 Little Yellow Stonefly nymphs during
a given amount of time, it would be categorized as feeding opportunistically, not
selectively. I could care less what you call it. It is a simple matter of the trout eating
far more stonefly nymphs than any other food. To accomplish this, the trout would
not be holding in the normal fast water runs and riffles waiting on food to drift by.
They would be hanging around the areas where the stonefly nymphs were
congregating. In fact, most of them hold nearby and dart in and out of the calmer
water near the banks and in the small pockets behind rocks that protrude out of the
water to feed on the nymphs.  

Instead of me going into the many different insects and how each of them behave
during their normal life and emergence period, let me continue with the series at the
point I left off. During the time period I have been writing about in our learning
process, I didn't know how the many different insects and other food items trout eat
changed their locations and feeding habits. That took a long time. It took several
months of research but mostly many days of on the water experience, collecting
and observing their behavior. It also took a lot of practical fishing experience
imitating the trout's food and its behavior.   


Copyright 2009 James Marsh