On the Fly: Time to match the hatch | AspenTimes.com

On the Fly: Time to match the hatch

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
Beck Brooks fishes the Fryingpan River.
Scott Spooner/Special to The Aspen Times

Trout in rivers have a fundamentally different set of circumstances from their cousins in lakes and reservoirs, and we must adjust to these differences to become more effective anglers. The simplest reason is that moving water brings the food to the fish, and still water forces the trout to go in search of meals.

Knowing where to find your quarry in these diverse situations is half the battle, and just like Mesa the shop dog, a fish’s consumption of many types of food trumps all other worldly concerns.

To think like a still-water fish, consider the time of year and what hatches are most likely. In spring and early summer, chironomids and callibaetis are the official meal. As summer progresses, damsel and dragonflies are hatching in earnest. Seeking out taller vegetation and the little highways the fish use to peruse and graze these places for the long, olive nymphs and waxy winged adults are the ticket.

Trout follow two simple commandments (most of the time). Expend no more energy consuming a food source than thou shalt receive from it, and eat what you see the most of, which results in match the hatch situations. A fish feeding on minute insects rarely moves an inch to do so; one slurping drakes the size of corn chips will swim 10 feet out of its way to consume one. Simply put, the smaller the preferred insect, the more accurate we must be.

Most of us find fish easier to locate in moving water because of their basic needs. These fish prefer to struggle against the unrelenting current as little as possible and be near places where slow and swift water converge. Until a significant hatch occurs, that is. In Mesa’s case, when lunch starts at the Riverside Grill, patrolling the deck for patrons willing to part with their french fries outweighs sleeping the day away under the rental waders.

When midges are the fare, slowest water usually fishes best. Caddis seem to best be fished in riffles, PMDs in pocket water, and stoneflies crawl ashore from the fast stuff you normally walk right past. Drakes just love a gravelly bottom and yellow sallies live anywhere there is some current. Adjusting our attentions to these differences make us more skillful anglers — and the best ones have the gift of knowing where the trout are in any situation, and why.

This column is provided by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374.