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Are trout really that picky?


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37 replies to this topic

#1 Hogan

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 10:55 AM

I've been fishing with the fly for about three years now. I have gotten fairly proficient with casting,and had success with the local warm water fish( sunnies, bass,pickerel, crappie). But when I try for the stocked trout my state has to offer, I leave confounded wondering if even fish are in the area.
So, as a beginner to the craft,I have to ask are trout really that picky?

#2 rstaight

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 02:26 PM

We used to joke about pellet flies for the stockers. When they key in on a hatch, yes.

But I was on recent trip that has me thinking. I started with nymphs, no luck. Midges, no luck. Soft hackles, nope. Tied on scud, did pretty well. Thought 6 was enough for the day.

One of the guys that never fished the area let alone trout that often put us to shame. He released 15.

He was using a gold crappie jig hook with a soft piece of silicone glued to it. It was cut from a kids toy. A jelly yoyo. The trout would grab it not let it go!

So I used to think yes. But now I'm not so sure.

"Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers.  Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher's salary." - Patrick F. McManus


#3 steeldrifter

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 03:22 PM

The honest answer to that question is that there are far too many variables to be able to give a yes or no reply to it. It all depends where you fish, the amount of fishing pressure the stream gets, the time of year, stocked or wild, hatch or no hatch etc etc.

 

I've fished some places where you could probably tie a 1" piece of chenille to a hook and catch lots of fish. Yet on the flip side of that there are some places like the upper fly water of the Au Sable here where the fish are wild and the pressure is very high and those fish do not come easy at all there. So just so many things that factor into that question. 


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#4 redietz

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 03:52 PM

One of the guys that never fished the area let alone trout that often put us to shame. He released 15.

He was using a gold crappie jig hook with a soft piece of silicone glued to it. It was cut from a kids toy. A jelly yoyo. The trout would grab it not let it go!

 

 

 "Being picky"  and "only eats something that looks like something that comes from nature" are two different concepts.  The trout were being picky.  They were just preferring the gummy jig.   Perhaps presentation trumped that day or perhaps they'd seen every other fly too many times to be fooled again.


Bob


#5 rstaight

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 04:11 PM

Redietz,

Very true, it was definitely something they haven't seen.

"Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers.  Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher's salary." - Patrick F. McManus


#6 mikechell

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 10:39 PM

Fish are fish.  They will try to eat anything they can get into their mouths ... ALL of them.  Eat or be eaten, it's the rule of survival in the wild.

Now, trying to eat something, and eating it can be two different things.  When something a fish has taken bites back, and causes all the trauma that comes with fighting to exhaustion, being pulled from the water and handled ... the fish will avoid that particular item in the future.  As fish are caught and released, they "learn" to recognize those things that bite back, and avoid them.  Not so much the actual "fly" ... but anything that looks like it, color and size.

Smaller and smaller items are taken, and the fish start to eat tiny bits and bugs more and more as they are the only items that don't bite back.  In many streams and rivers, etc. only the tiniest flies are accepted as edible without a fight.  They are thought of as "smart fish" but it's all about conditioning.

 

Someone throws something larger, but of a completely different color or shape ... the fish (especially those who've rarely seen a larger offering) may attempt to eat it, since it's outside the normal conditioning.

 

Bass anglers have long known to "offer something they haven't seen before".  Bubblegum pink, for a while, took well conditioned bass because it was so outside the normal conditioned response offerings.

 

They're not "picky" or smart ... they're conditioned.  Sunfish are so easy to catch because they're kept more often ... no chance for conditioning.  Bass are easy to catch because the conventional gear angler has been told, "Large baits for large fish" and when we throw a fly ... BAM !!!


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#7 NohackleHS

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 11:20 PM

If you are fishing a high mountain stream with a very short growing season and sparse insect hatches, the fish will probably not be that picky.  They can't afford to be since there is a scarcity of food.  However, if you are fishing a spring creek with prolific hatches of different insects, then, yes, the fish will probably be a lot more picky.  I can remember fishing Armstrong spring creek near Livingston Montana.  I was a relative newcomer to flyfishing.  I tied on a #20 adams and fished a slow rifffly section of the creek.  I thought that with the riffle the fish wouldn't be that selective.  Wrong!  When I cast my fly, this one fish came right up to the fly (eyeball to eyeball) and then dropped back down to his lie.  This happened twice from the same fish.  Maybe some of the other fish weren't that picky, but this one sure was.  I've also had similar experiences at crystal clear lakes where the fish have a lot of time to inspect whatever is on the water's surface.



#8 steeldrifter

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Posted 07 October 2018 - 11:35 PM

Trout actually can be very picky Mike. I know you don't fish for them so you most likely haven't had a chance to experience how picky trout in some waters can be, but trust me they can be VERY picky. The upper Au Sable is one of the most prolific rivers in the world for hatches of every sort of insect you can find. Many of the hatches will overlap each other and the trout will let certain insects pass overhead and single out either certain insects or even certain sizes of insects. That is picky not conditioned. While "conditioned" can be a big factor in many waters for other species, it's just not always the case for trout in spring creek waters that are very prolific with hatches.


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#9 Rocco

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 02:19 AM

Trout feeding habits are pretty much a mystery as there are two many randoms in the fish, the activity,  and the observers.

 

Fish of different types, sizes; origins -- stock tank, or native waters;in different ambient food chains, and in different seasons  do things differently. That big brown under a sweeper is highly unlikely to chase the same things the tiddlers are after at high noon in mid summer.  

 

Much of the activity goes unseen, What is observed and reported is mainly by observers who are only interested in deceiving them into eating an unnatural imitation of food. And, of those, some are more skilled than others at tying the fakes and presenting them,so success rates vary widely. Many labor under an idee fixe and  only dry flies, nymphs, soft hackles etc are put in play by them.  And then you must deduct for the uncharted, but not so rare, untruth telling factor.  (Some of us still keep mum on our best patterns and tactics.)

 

There are some certainties.  Fisherman will talk about this forever,  And firmly believe they are getting smarter all the time.

 

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#10 Poopdeck

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 07:18 AM

No. Trout are dumb fish just like other dumb fish. Some times you catch them and some times you don't. Depends on how hungry they are at the time your fly goes by.

#11 redietz

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Posted 08 October 2018 - 10:25 PM

As an example of what we're talking about as far as "pickiness", here's something that anybody who's fished for trout long enough has probably observed:

 

A month or so back I was fishing a spring creek in PA (I'm not spot burning to say it was Big Spring, one of the most pressured streams in the state) and had managed to locate myself within casting range of five different rising, visible fish.  I was fishing a size 14 parachute ant, got a each fish to come up to within an inch or so of the fly and examine it, without taking (once per fish, they weren't interested after the first drift.)  I changed flies to the same parachute ant pattern in a size 16.  Three fish hooked in the first three casts.  Since I'm generally more curious about what works and what doesn't and why than I am in catching fish, I switched back to the size 14.  No interest from the remaining two. Back to the size 16 for a second time, and two cast resulted in two hookups.

 

Are trout always that picky?  No, most of the time they're not.  (Heck, I've caught trout on a bare hook before.)  Trout in an infertile headwaters will eat almost anything.  Well fed trout in a slow moving, gin clear spring creek can be incredibly sensitive to minor nuances in presentation or fly  selection.  Most of the time, they're somewhere in between those two extremes. 


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#12 Dave G.

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 05:41 AM

As an example of what we're talking about as far as "pickiness", here's something that anybody who's fished for trout long enough has probably observed:

 

A month or so back I was fishing a spring creek in PA (I'm not spot burning to say it was Big Spring, one of the most pressured streams in the state) and had managed to locate myself within casting range of five different rising, visible fish.  I was fishing a size 14 parachute ant, got a each fish to come up to within an inch or so of the fly and examine it, without taking (once per fish, they weren't interested after the first drift.)  I changed flies to the same parachute ant pattern in a size 16.  Three fish hooked in the first three casts.  Since I'm generally more curious about what works and what doesn't and why than I am in catching fish, I switched back to the size 14.  No interest from the remaining two. Back to the size 16 for a second time, and two cast resulted in two hookups.

 

Are trout always that picky?  No, most of the time they're not.  (Heck, I've caught trout on a bare hook before.)  Trout in an infertile headwaters will eat almost anything.  Well fed trout in a slow moving, gin clear spring creek can be incredibly sensitive to minor nuances in presentation or fly  selection.  Most of the time, they're somewhere in between those two extremes. 

 

Trout actually can be very picky Mike. I know you don't fish for them so you most likely haven't had a chance to experience how picky trout in some waters can be, but trust me they can be VERY picky. The upper Au Sable is one of the most prolific rivers in the world for hatches of every sort of insect you can find. Many of the hatches will overlap each other and the trout will let certain insects pass overhead and single out either certain insects or even certain sizes of insects. That is picky not conditioned. While "conditioned" can be a big factor in many waters for other species, it's just not always the case for trout in spring creek waters that are very prolific with hatches.

Another scenario is still water midge fishing, the trout key right into those in ponds where the hatches are prolific .. In fact if you cut one open it will have as stomach content nothing but black mud looking substance. I've heard people say the fish are starving and eating mud off the bottom when actually it's digested midge pupa. The same guys are swatting around their heads at midges in the air driving them nuts but fishing a pheasant tail nymph and catching nothing.


John 7:38 ESV  is about "Rivers of Living Water"


#13 redietz

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 06:09 AM

 

As an example of what we're talking about as far as "pickiness", here's something that anybody who's fished for trout long enough has probably observed:

 

A month or so back I was fishing a spring creek in PA (I'm not spot burning to say it was Big Spring, one of the most pressured streams in the state) and had managed to locate myself within casting range of five different rising, visible fish.  I was fishing a size 14 parachute ant, got a each fish to come up to within an inch or so of the fly and examine it, without taking (once per fish, they weren't interested after the first drift.)  I changed flies to the same parachute ant pattern in a size 16.  Three fish hooked in the first three casts.  Since I'm generally more curious about what works and what doesn't and why than I am in catching fish, I switched back to the size 14.  No interest from the remaining two. Back to the size 16 for a second time, and two cast resulted in two hookups.

 

Are trout always that picky?  No, most of the time they're not.  (Heck, I've caught trout on a bare hook before.)  Trout in an infertile headwaters will eat almost anything.  Well fed trout in a slow moving, gin clear spring creek can be incredibly sensitive to minor nuances in presentation or fly  selection.  Most of the time, they're somewhere in between those two extremes. 

 

Trout actually can be very picky Mike. I know you don't fish for them so you most likely haven't had a chance to experience how picky trout in some waters can be, but trust me they can be VERY picky. The upper Au Sable is one of the most prolific rivers in the world for hatches of every sort of insect you can find. Many of the hatches will overlap each other and the trout will let certain insects pass overhead and single out either certain insects or even certain sizes of insects. That is picky not conditioned. While "conditioned" can be a big factor in many waters for other species, it's just not always the case for trout in spring creek waters that are very prolific with hatches.

Another scenario is still water midge fishing, the trout key right into those in ponds where the hatches are prolific .. In fact if you cut one open it will have as stomach content nothing but black mud looking substance. I've heard people say the fish are starving and eating mud off the bottom when actually it's digested midge pupa. The same guys are swatting around their heads at midges in the air driving them nuts but fishing a pheasant tail nymph and catching nothing.

 

True, but those same fish may very well take a streamer. Or a size 22 pheasant tail soft hackle for that matter. You never know.

 

I didn't mean to imply that fish will only eat one food item at any given time, but that they will discern between two identical flies that differ only by a slight variation in size. I wouldn't have tried the experiment above if I hadn't already taken enough fish the same day on a variety of other flies, including wet flies.


Bob


#14 Dave G.

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 07:10 AM

 

Another scenario is still water midge fishing, the trout key right into those in ponds where the hatches are prolific .. In fact if you cut one open it will have as stomach content nothing but black mud looking substance. I've heard people say the fish are starving and eating mud off the bottom when actually it's digested midge pupa. The same guys are swatting around their heads at midges in the air driving them nuts but fishing a pheasant tail nymph and catching nothing.

 

True, but those same fish may very well take a streamer. Or a size 22 pheasant tail soft hackle for that matter. You never know.

 

I didn't mean to imply that fish will only eat one food item at any given time, but that they will discern between two identical flies that differ only by a slight variation in size. I wouldn't have tried the experiment above if I hadn't already taken enough fish the same day on a variety of other flies, including wet flies.

 

They might take that randomly in the midge seasons yes. The difference is you might catch a fish or two in the course of the day but 20 by midge fishing. A size 20 hairs ear can be a good second option sometimes but not generally speaking. And soft hackles can work at times too.. But here is the thing in still water with chironamids. They stack up under the surface by the thousands, look like black and white candy cane sticks in the water upright 6 inches to a foot under the surface. And the trout come swimming through them basically open mouthed, you will see the backs porpoising and occasional heads and tails and swirls of water.. You know there is a ton of activity taking place just under the surface and you want your emerger in that, standing upright like the rest.. As the fish approaches you give tiny twitches, tiny, like and inch or two and wait, your floating tippet will move away, set the hook then. He's got your pupa and probably 8 other naturals in it's mouth. It's very different fishing, patient fishing and productive fishing.. If you wade the water and get in the hatch all you have to do is look in the water around you and you will see the little candy canes of pupa shucks left behind. My midge pupa have a tiny piece of very fine lead tied along the hook shank under the thin wrap of black rabbit, really mostly thread and I candy cane an off white piece of thread for the rib, It looks very close to the naturals. I grease up my leader but the last foot of tippet and cast that out there. This allows the pupa to hang upright under the surface. You spook every fish in the area trying to cast a float out there, it's useless to try.


John 7:38 ESV  is about "Rivers of Living Water"


#15 SilverCreek

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Posted 09 October 2018 - 07:13 AM

How trout become selective:

 

http://www.theflyfis...html#post602396


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Silver

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