Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Great Autumn Brown Caddisfly
4.    Midges

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New Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trout Food Series
Writing about, or even talking about, all the food the wild and native trout have to
eat in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in the amount of detail that's
necessary for one to understand it can be mind-boggling. This is especially true
when it comes to the aquatic insects. Here is just one reason why.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a huge diversity of aquatic insects. At the
same time, most of the streams with the huge diversity of insects have a rather low
density of them. This isn't true for all the different species but it is for the majority of
them. Part of the reason for this huge diversity, but low quantity, is the fact the
streams are all fast flowing, pocket water, freestone streams. There are exceptions,
of course, and Abrams Creek is the one big exceptions. I won't get into why or how
right now. I just want to point out that fast, headwater mountain freestone streams,
wherever they exist in the United States, all have fewer quantities of aquatic insects
that most other types of trout streams.

Before I go any farther, let me point out something that a majority of anglers make a
big mistake on, not just in the Smokies, but on all trout streams. They tend to think
that the only important aquatic insects are the ones that hatch in large quantities. In
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or for that matter, any stream that has a
large diversity but low density of insects, this just isn't true. When there are few
insects available for trout to eat, the few that are available, hatching or not hatching,
become even more important. The trout are forced to focus on the smaller quantity
of available food. This is the single biggest mistake on the subject of aquatic insects
I observe over and over.

Many anglers think the only important aquatic insects in the Smokies are the Quill
Gordons, BWOs, Little Yellow Stoneflies and maybe two or three others. This line of
thinking indicates a complete lack of understanding and knowledge of the subject.
To be perfectly blunt, it indicates pure stupidity. One reason it's such a common line
of thinking, is that the few people that are thought to be responsible enough to
teach others, mostly meaning fly shops and guides, for the most part pass along the
same line of false information creating this same line of thinking. There's also a very
good reason why. What they actually know about aquatic insects is very basic and
severely lacking. Most anyone that studied aquatic insects for just a short time
would have far more knowledge that the majority of them. It's not true of everyone,
but it is for the vast majority of them. The easy way to pass off ignorance, is to claim
the subject isn't important.  

When you are fishing a trout stream, and only a few insects are available for the
trout to eat, they are just as, if not even more important as it is when there are many
available. In fact, when there are multiple hatches occurring, it makes it more difficult
to catch trout. You have to determine which one or ones are being keyed in on.
Also, when there are huge quantities of any one insect in or on the surface of the
water at any one time, it makes it even more difficult. The trout may have hundreds
of choices other than your fly. Even if it's a perfect imitation, it can easily be passed
over for a real insect.
Don't ever let anyone tell you that there are only a few
insects that are important in the park. It simply isn't true.

We don't tend to think of it in this respect, but all of the streams in the park are
headwater streams. You could classify the lowest sections of some of the larger
streams as being mid-section, freestone streams but if so, they are just beginning to
slow down and  level out some. In the South, by the time the streams become true
mid-level freestones, the water can get too warm to support trout and the species of
fish change to non-trout species. When you have freestone streams with fast,
pocket water, you will not find many crawler type mayfly or stonefly nymphs, for
example. They are mostly flat, clingers. There will be some swimmers because they
can easily get into areas of water where the current isn't strong. In other words, the
lack of burrower mayflies and the reduced amount of crawler mayflies reduce the
potential population of mayflies down sharply. Since stoneflies are mostly all clinger
nymphs, we have every family of stoneflies that exist in cold water streams in the

Caddisflies are never heavily populated in total but more so because of other
factors related to freestone, headwater streams. Seventy percent of all caddisfly
species that live in cold water trout streams are net-spinners. They catch their food
in tiny nets. Their food consist mostly of algae. When there's little algae, there's little
food and few net-spinning caddisflies. Why do the streams in the Smokies have little
algae? The low pH levels, or acidic content of the water. To make this simple for
you, when the rocks in the streams are not slick, there's little algae. When you slip
and slide on the rocks like they had a sheet of ice on them, there's algae present
and you can rest assured there will be lots of net-spinning caddisflies. Abrams
Creek is a good example. Its bottom is slicker than most Smoky streams and it has
far more net-spinning species of caddisflies than the other streams.

During the next several days, I am going through each of the different kinds of
insects and other foods that trout survive on in the Smokies. I will do so in the
simplest way possible I can come up with. I will try to explain what you need to know
about the food and how you imitate it to catch trout. I may have some entomologist
cutting down some things I write, but that's fine with me. If any of them, anywhere in
the United States, wants to challenge me on any aspect of the subject insofar as to  
it relates to trout fishing, they are certainly welcome to do so.

It's very easy to make the subject boring. It's also very easy to loose those who are
not necessarily wanting to devote much time to the subject. In this fast paced World
we live in, we all rather just get out there and catch fish and enjoy the free time we
have to do it. I understand that very well and I am going to do my best to make
everything as practical and to the point as much as possible. Also, keep in mind this
isn't a cure all solution for catching trout. It's just one very important part of it,
especially when it comes to being consistent at catching trout. Many other things
are also important, so always keep that in mind. One more thing to keep in mind is
this isn't all about what fly to use. It's far more important to place the fly in the right
spot in the stream and to have it act and behave like the real insects it imitates than
it is to just have a look-alike fly.

I will promise you one thing. If you ignore the ignorance of those that like to pass
their limited knowledge around on this subject by claiming it isn't important, and you
make a real effort to follow along with me the next couple of months, you will
increase the consistency that you're able to catch trout in Great Smoky Mountains
National Park a considerable amount. This also goes for those of you that think your
already the greatest thing the poor trout have had to deal with.

Copyright 2010 James Marsh