Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Hold your horses. I've seen a couple natural hoppers floating down the river and they're not on them just yet but this is a good sign. I walked up into the bushes and thousands of these little guys were hopping around. They were still little guys but soon they will be big guys and they will be getting devoured by trout looking for something to eat.
So why, even if you see them, don't hoppers work all the time? Ants do, right? Well, I just went to the Orvis Fly Fishing Learning Center and they say that trout do eat terrestrials including hoppers all the time because as they suggest, trout like to eat whatever gives them the biggest bang for the buck. I don't know what river they were looking at when they did their study, (they said somewhere in Upstate New York,) but I've tried hoppers on the Missouri River early in the season and they won't even look at them until their pantry of aquatics is pretty well cleaned out. In fact, when they're on some bugs like tricos, they will literally move out of the way when there's anything bigger than a size 22 spinner drifting into them; even a PMD dun that is being used as a point fly while PMD's are present.
Trout get incredibly selective when eating on top because that is their defense mechanism. So even though a hopper or a big mayfly is a bigger and easier meal, they won't eat it because it's a bigger risk. It's not on their menu and they will avoid it because it represents something that might cause predation. I don't want to give the impression that they have developed reasoning but it is an innate characteristic of a trout to be incredibly selective and that does keep them alive.
We see this with other wildlife like deer for instance. If they see anything out of place or if they smell anything that is out of the norm for their environment, it sets off the flight instinct. It's not that much different with a trout seeing something that's not natural. However, they will eat things you wouldn't necessarily think of when aquatic bugs aren't present and sometimes between hatches, they do become more opportunistic.
But they do eat ants just about all the time so why is that? According to Bruce Auchly, the information officer for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks who wrote about this in the Great Falls Tribune, trout eat ants because of the formic acid. You can click the link to check out the article for yourself.
The science behind a trout's desire for ants makes sense and I've heard this before from other biologists. They also suggest a trout that has eaten a bee will seek them out because of the acid they contain in their stingers. I've seen it first hand and can confirm that trout will eat bees aggressively and they do love ants and if you've ever seen a bunch of flying ants get blown into the river you know what I'm talking about. I've seen average days completely blow up with a good wind and a bunch of ants as every fish in the river goes on the hunt for them and although I've seen hoppers get blown into the river and fish start eating them as well, I've never seen hoppers create the frenzy that ants do. It's because ants have formic acid and hoppers don't.
I also believe fish hold out on the hoppers until they have to eat them, which is coming soon. As mayflies and caddis dwindle, fish will become more opportunistic and will start eating the big stuff. It's really one of my favorite times of the year because their are fewer people due to the perception of tougher conditions but the fishing is much less technical and watching a monster brown suck down a big hopper is fricken cool.
Speaking of terrestrials, this moth was floating at our lunch spot yesterday. Do you think a trout would eat him?
Keep 'em where they live...

No comments:

Post a Comment