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Fly Fishing Lessons: What's Hatching

Updated: Feb 18

In the mountains of North Georgia blanket hatches of insects are few and far between. Here we have what I refer to as cornucopia hatches, where several different species of stoneflies, caddis, mayflies, and ever present midges seem to coordinate their hatches at times. These types of hatches leave our local trout open minded to the fly patterns used by visiting anglers. However, this is not the situation that unfolds on many trout streams across the world. Blanket hatches may leave trout keying in on a single insect and profile for several days or even weeks. When hatches begin to overlap and trout remain selective can create situations difficult for even the most experienced anglers. This is the situation I found myself facing on a small tributary of Soca River in Slovenia.

Selective Marble Trout

May in Slovenia saw heavy rains and higher water levels across the country. When I arrived in the small town of Most na Soci the weather had cleared and the water levels were dropping to normal Spring levels. The evening I arrived, I saw caddis hatches popping off along several sections of the Soca River and its tributaries. After reading several other reports and visiting the local fly shop, it seemed caddis had been on the menu for many of the trout on the river for the past couple weeks. With this information I was prepared to hit the water in the morning to target my first Marble Trout.

The Soca, much like many of the other tributaries of the Adriatic Sea, runs crystal clear with a turquoise tint. Beneath the shadows of the overhanging tree branches on the small feeder streams the water can turn to an emerald green. Despite the clarity of these streams, the native Adriatic Brown Trout and Marble Trout stayed well hidden. The introduced rainbow trout were much less elusive lower in the river and far easier to find. To land my target species the small headwater tributaries would be my best chance to land a Marble Trout.

After traveling beyond several gorges and manmade dividers that separate the stocked trout from the natives, I found a winding section of stream to slip into. The shoreline shrubs and trees hung over much of the creek, similar to that of the trout streams of Southern Appalachia. Caddis were already abundant on the water and seemed to fall from every branch I brushed by as I fished my way upstream. Several trout were rising with regularity in the tailouts of short runs. My stimulator and elk hair caddis patterns were seeing no attention from the fish. I could not even get a refusal. After fishing upstream for a quarter mile, only managing to spook a few trout despite them actively rising, I felt the need to reexamine my strategy. I cycled through different sizes of various caddis patterns as well as several nymphs with no luck.

Before frustration had completely set in, I noticed several mayflies coming off the water at the tail of a slow pool. There was no way these trout were keying in on the Green Drakes over the far more abundant caddis. Despite the seemingly lower odds, I figured I had nothing to lose in trying a cropped adams fly pattern that might imitate these duns struggling on the surface.

I had just made my way around a sheltered bend in the river where the current curved around a large boulder creating a deeper pool. As I retied, two trout rose toward the rear of the pool in near unison. I stalked the rear of the pool and landed my cast alongside the boulder. The adams drifted no more than three feet when it disappeared into a large boil. A quick hookset turned into a rodeo ride as a good sized marble trout muscled itself into the safety of the deep water beneath the boulder. With my fiberglass 3wt I was sorely outmatched. The hooked marble trout’s companion zipped around the rear of the pool as I tried to angle the trout out from under the boulder to move the fight to more suitable water. The trout refused to budge and my confidence in landing the prize was low. After what felt like several minutes but was likely only seconds, a deadweight feeling came over the rod. My heart sank as I thought the trout had found a way to tangle in a sunken tree limb. I could now put some line back on the reel and as my leader began to clear the water’s surface, I noticed the trout was still safely secured. In fact, the fish had hogtied itself around the tippet somehow, essentially ending the fight.

Another species was off the bucket list. After a quick photo and some admiration of the beautiful color pattern of the Marble Trout, he made his way back to the depths of the pool, likely to rejoin his companion.

4 of the next 5 holes all produced one or multiple trout on the low riding adams fly. The lesson on being observant and willing to go against conventional wisdom was well earned. Most anglers from bass fisherman to saltwater fly anglers often get caught up in fishing history or what is hot rather than fishing the conditions in front of them. Overcoming this thought process is difficult and usually comes with taking a few beatings. The activity of most fish is fluid and experienced anglers know the ability to be versatile, reactive, and at times creative is crucial to success.

Since this trip, I have run into several situations like this across a few on the Western states here in the U.S. For me it has solidified the old saying : “To study the owl, you must first study the mouse”. For anglers looking to learn more about the mouse, our article on What Trout Eat is a great resource to understand the insects that share the stream with trout. For more Fly Fishing Stories and Fly Fishing Lessons, check out the Georgia Wild Trout home.

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