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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Part Nine - Midge Larvae and Cold Water Fishing Tips
New Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trout Food Series

For some reason, anglers that fish a midge fly day in and day out on the local
tailwater such as the Clinch River, will not give a midge imitation the first second of
consideration for the streams in the park. Maybe that's the reason. Maybe that get
tired of fishing midge flies where they are almost forced to fish midges and don't
want to continue it in the park. However, I have a good idea it's more likely because
they think they are not effective in the park. Now, I must admit, there are problems
you will run into. One problem is when you are fishing an imitation of the larvae, the
little shiners will sometimes drive you nuts. In some streams, that seems to never be
a problem and others it is. I'm not sure why unless that some streams many not
have them or may not have many of them. I have really not studied that aspect of
the streams. Whether or not you enjoy fishing the small files is a personal thing. I
certainly wouldn't want anyone fishing something they didn't enjoy fishing. That
would defeat the purpose of fishing. I want to alert those that may not know that a
hook size 20 midge will catch rainbow trout right and left some days. They will also
catch the browns and brook trout, but they are very effective on the rainbows in cold
water. They will catch trout when the water is in the low to mid forties at times when
nymphs seem to produce very little. When midges are hatching, the pupae
imitations will out produce the larvae imitations. We have also caught a few on the
dry fly, adult midge imitations but not very many. One reason is probably because
we have fished them very little in the park.

One thing you won't find a lot of in the park are the bloodworm midges or red
midges. These midge species just don't do well in the type of water in the streams of
the Smokies. Most of the hundreds of midge larvae that we have caught in our nets
when video tapping other aquatic insects were a cream color. Some of them had
some circular markings or rings around the slim larvae of a slightly darker color. In
fact, many midge larvae have this segmented appearance. It's usually very slight,
not very noticeable.  I don't have a clue just how much, if any, a fly pattern that
showed this slight segmentation would improve one's success. We plan on
developing some segmented patterns and testing them for potential new Perfect

Midges are complex little insects. Of the family "Chironomidae" which is what we are
mainly concerned with as anglers, there are over 200 genera and over 2000
species in the U. S. When we have examined them from samples from the streams
of the Smokies, we couldn't tell one from the other with the naked eye. Even under
magnification at home they all looked the same. In fact, we have only found a few
that were different from the highly prevalent cream midge color. As far as color is
concerned, about 90% of all of the ones we have observed coast to coast and from
many streams are either a cream shade, green shade, or red color. We have found
very few that didn't fit those color patterns. We usually have plenty of midge larvae
along with the other aquatic insects in our kick nets whether we want them or not.

I think the key to fishing imitations of midge larvae is to keep them on or near the
bottom. That isn't that easy to do in the streams of the Smokies. While it simplifies
fishing a lot, a strike indicator only allows the fly to drift at one level. The bottom of
the streams aren't level. There are few flats in the streams of the Smokies..
Although it requires far more concentration, it's much better to fish the fly without an

In cold water, you not only want it to drift on the bottom, you want it to drift in slow
moving water. Trout will not hold in fast water that's very cold. They will quickly use
up more energy than they can acquire food to replace. This usually means the trout
will seek out holes in the bottom of the stream where they can avoid the current and
overhead predators. This makes it almost impossible to fish the fly very slowly
though a deep hole in the bottom when there's fast current on the surface or above
the hole. The drag on the leader is enough to make the fly, fly though the hole
unnaturally. You can weight it down but that makes it tough to detect the takes and
the added weight may well spook the trout when they do take the fly. What I usually
do, is just avoid this type of water altogether. It's one thing to fish a larger, heavier
nymph in fast water and get it down in holes and areas of the stream that is out of
the main flow above the area and it's a completely different thing to fish the same
water with a hook size 20 midge fly.

I prefer to fish the areas of pools where the current is slow to moderate. There's the
normal pools between the riffles and runs and there's the miniature pools, I call
them, or areas of slow water that is relatively deep behind boulders. Anywhere you
can find slow water that is fairly deep, is a likely spot for trout to hold in cold water.
Pockets along the bank where the water is moving slow out of the main flow is
another option.

You want to try to keep your fly line from getting caught in fast water. You may fish a
very short distance in fast water by making two or three quick mends, but it's difficult
to detect a strike on tiny flies when you are mending line. It's best to keep the line
off the fast water as much as possible. The high stickin method works great if you
can get close to slow moving water in deep holes without spooking the trout. If you
are wading, you can often use the boulders to your advantage by hiding behind
them. In pools, down and across presentations often work best. You can keep well
away from your fly and the line and leader from getting to fish before the fly does. In
some cases, such as pools with slow moving water, you can use the fly line as an
indicator, Just watch the end of the line or the line/leader connection for strange
movement or stops as if it was a strike indicator.

It's best to use a soft tip rod of a slow to moderate action. This helps protect light
tippets and you certainly should be using light tippet. I normally use 6X in the
Smokies with the small midge flies of hook sizes 20 or 22.. A 9 foot leader is long
enough. If you are high stickin, you may want a shorter leader.

You will hear that you should fish the areas of the stream where the sun is shinning
on the water. That's poor advice. It doesn't make any difference in respect to water
temperature. The water continuously moves through shaded and non-shaped
areas. The other reason it's poor advice is even if the water was warmer (and it
won't be unless it is still water) the trout will not necessarily seek the warmer water.
Some anglers think trout are always trying to find warmer water when it's cold.
That's another huge misconception about trout. They are cold blooded. They are
just as comfortable in 40 degree water as they are 60 degree water. The trout in
warmer water that have been there for a lengthy time will be slightly more active but
they will not seek warmer water for that purpose. You may feel warmer and better
because your blood is alway the same temperature (98.6 degrees) and you feel the
difference in the air temperature and your body temperature. There isn't any
temperature difference for the trout to detect. Their blood will stay at the same
temperature the water is when given time to adjust.

Copyright 2010 James Marsh
Fly Fishing for rainbow trout is fun. Most of
the rainbow trout caught in this presentation
are wild fish. Wild fish, whether native or from
previously planted stocked trout, are much
more fun but also more difficult to catch than
stocked trout. Wild rainbow trout share the
streams they live in with all kinds of  
predators. They spook easily and swim for
the nearest cover at the slightest hind of a
predator, including man. If you make one
wrong move, they will not fall for your fake fly
any time soon.