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Forage Fish: a trout's idea of steak
Once trout reach approximately eight to ten inches in length, they become sexually mature and thus their energy requirements rise exponentially. Consequently, they often require more food than they can obtain from drift feeding. Therefore, large trout tend to lie in deep cover during the day where they can ambush prey that mistakenly stays too close to their lie. However, at night they leave the shelter of their day time lies and venture out into open water where they actively hunt forage fish such as Sculpins, Dace, Chubs, and juveniles of their own species. Thus, really large trout are often referred to as "sharks" because they are voracious feeders and any prey that is smaller than they are is fair game as far as they are concerned. But, it is also important to realize that any trout larger than a fingerling will consume smaller fish of any species given the opportunity and thus streamer flies often serve as an excellent search pattern. After all, would you pass up a chance at a free, no strings attached, steak dinner?
Dace and Juvinile Trout-
Just the opposite of Sculpins, Dace and Juvenile Trout are excellent swimmers but prefer to inhabit the shallows instead of living in the main current. Thus, they are normally unavailable to Trout as a food source unless they are chased into deeper water by larger fish or pushed into deeper water by rising or receding water levels. But, whenever this does happen, the only concern they have is to make it back to the safety of shallow water as fast as possible. However, in the case of rising water levels, the shallows disappear and thus, they are forced to seek shelter wherever they can find it. So, when the water is high, try swimming a streamer fly in the current while retrieving it using a series of short strips and then pause and let it drift downstream a bit by feeding it line before retrieving it again. Or, you can also suspend the fly in the current while swinging it back and forth across the current near boulders and other Prime Lies. Last, to imitate Trout and Dace when the water is clear, use Baby Brook Trout, Rainbow Trout, and Brown Trout imitations as well as the Black Nosed Dace and the Muddler Minnow and, to attract Trout when the water is turbid, try the Royal Wulff, the Spruce Fly, and the Mickey Finn.
Black Nosed Dace
Opposite of Dace and juvenile Trout, Sculpins are small, bottom-dwelling, fish that appear somewhat flattened along the dorsal line such that they vaguely resemble a Catfish. However, unlike Catfish, Sculpins are not particularly strong swimmers which is odd because they prefer to take up residence in the main current. But, they are in fact supremely well adapted to their chosen habitat because they specifically choose sections of the stream that have rocky bottoms where they have shelter from both the current and predators. In addition, since they live in main current, they are accessible to Trout at all times and thus, they are a favorite food source because they are easily ambushed by the much more nimble Trout. Last, to imitate this favored food source, use either a Muddler Minnow or a Conehead Muddler Minnow pattern and fish it near the bottom of the water column by casting it across the current and then letting it drift downstream while giving it short, six inch, strips with a noticeable pause between strips.
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