Trout Fishing Birmingham AL
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Stoneflies vary greatly in size all across the U.S. If you find a clean, highly oxygenated stream you'll probably find stoneflies nearby. They are very important to a trout's diet.
Trout probably eat more nymphs than adults because the immature insects are more abundant most of the time. The nymphs range in size from less than a half inch long to the giant stoneflies out West, which are as long as two to three inches.
Stonefly nymphs usually emerge from the water by crawling onto the shore, breaking out of it's armor and leaving its shell behind.
The wings of artificial stonefly adults sweep back over buoyant bodies-like the real insect with two tiny tails. In the East, where its common to interchange small stoneflies for caddis flies, artificial caddis flies often will fool fish feeding on little stoneflies.
If you are convinced that your fly is the same size, shape, and color as those of real stoneflies on the water but the fish continue to refuse it, try to twitch it slightly just before the fly floats over the fish. Sometimes animating a floating fly triggers a predatory fish to attack.
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Trout are cold-blooded beings and unlike humans, their body temperature varies and is directly related to the surrounding environment. Because of this their level of activity changes as the water temperature changes. If the water temperature fluctuates to much, they will decrease their level of activity accordingly to conserve energy. There seems to be a temperature range of about 20 to 25 degrees F in which most trout can maintain the status quo. Most studies have shown that trout will maintain a normal regimen in temperatures ranging from around 40 to 65 degrees give or take a few degrees on the high and/or low sides. In this ideal range of temperatures is when you will find the trout actively feeding. When the water temperature fluctuates higher or lower than these ranges, they usually become sluggish or dormant and can even die if temperatures fluctuate too much outside of their ideal range.
In lower water temperatures trout tend to become more sluggish and will slow down their feeding activities. In these conditions they also prefer the deeper pools of water as these pools hold warmer water. Oxygen is not a real concern here as colder water holds more oxygen.
In higher water temperatures the trout tend to head for deeper, colder water or to other sources of colder water such as areas where cooler tributary creeks converge. If these are unavailable, fish move to other oxygen sources, such as waterfalls, rapids, or riffles. When these actions need to be taken, trout will usually become more lethargic as less oxygen is available and also to conserve energy.
Trout, as with most animals, are very in tune to their surroundings. They locate, inspect, and eat natural foods using their senses of sight, hearing, smell, and taste/touch. They use a highly developed set of senses to locate foods and to avoid or escape their predators.
Trout possess a very keen sense of sight although they have no need to see more than 20 or 30 feet away because of water clarity. Trout see through what scientists have called the “trout’s window”. This is a cone shaped view extending up from the trout’s eye at an increasing diameter. Without going into details, this is why trout see better at greater depths. They also have good color vision which is why fishing the same fly in two different colors can produce drastically different results. Trout possess excellent night vision as well. I’ve never personally done any night fishing as I don’t enjoy the extra challenges it involves but have talked to those who have, many with great success. Sight is arguably the most important sense a trout uses when deciding whether or not to take your offering. Because of these things it is important for the angler to make sure he presents the fly upstream from the trout so the fly doesn’t suddenly appear in its window and give it a chance to be spooked.
Trout have highly developed dual hearing systems. First, the ears in their heads are used to detect the movement of nearby objects. These ears allow the trout to hear sound frequencies well outside the human hearing range. This hearing receptor of the trout is what allows the fish to find food even in very murky water.
Fish also have a lateral-line system on each side of their bodies that picks up frequency vibrations. This lateral line, which runs from behind the head to the base of the tail, is a series of tiny drum-like membranes with nerve endings that run back to the spinal cord.
Some things to note about a trout’s hearing are: 1) Trout cannot hear human voices as we speak at a range outside of their hearing frequency so it’s ok to have the stream-side conversation. 2) Trout are very aware of their surroundings so it is important to wade slowly and quietly so as not to spook them and stay as far back from the target area as possible.
Amazingly, trout have a highly developed sense of smell that is much better than that of humans and supposedly even surpasses that of other animals. For this reason it is important that you don’t introduce any foreign smells into the water. When heading out to the stream leave the smelly colognes and deodorants in the medicine cabinet until after you’re finished fishing. Also, take care to purchase the newer fly floatants and line cleaners that “mask” the chemical smell. Be careful with the insect repellents as well as these smells are not masked and are quite foreign to trout.
On the surfaces of their bodies, fins, and mouths, fish have sensors that can taste and feel their foods. These are considered secondary senses which are used after the potential food is located or captured. A trout might locate your fly and rub its body across it or bite it to determine if it is real food or fake. This is demonstrated when it appears that the trout has missed the fly when, in reality, it has touched and tasted it and in an instant rejected it because it did not feel or taste right. This is why you must react to a strike quickly before the fish can recognize your fly as a fake and reject it.
Many anglers choose not to discuss these senses of taste and touch because it seems to be somewhat of a gray area but since I have witnessed this behavior in trout, I have decided to touch on it briefly as well.
Every angler has their favorite species of trout and most talk about either the beautiful rainbow or the highly intelligent brown as being their favorite but I choose to break the mold and have chosen the brook trout as my favorite.
The brook trout is Pennsylvania’s State Fish but ironically this fish isn’t technically a member of the trout family. It is a member of the char family and is related to the likes of the Dolly Varden, Lake Trout (another trout that isn’t a trout) and the Arctic Char. Referred to affectionately as “brookies”, these are the only trout that are native to Pennsylvania. Brook trout can be found up and down the east coast as far south as Georgia but are slowly disappearing as the cold water fisheries of the east slowly disappear. This species finds it challenging to tolerate temperatures much over 65 degrees. Probably the most popular areas for brook trout today are in the streams of the Rocky Mountains and all across Canada.
You can identify a brook trout by its dark olive green color with very distinctive wormlike markings all across its backside from head to tail. Its sides begin to shade lighter and is scattered with red and cream colored dots, some with what looks to be bluish colored rings surrounding the dots. The lighter side colors usually fade into a yellowish or orangish color on the belly. Most trout are caught in the 6 to 18 inch range depending on the availability of food sources. Brook trout spawn in the fall usually somewhere between mid September to November but these fish have a very short life cycle of only around 5 years according to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
Brown trout have their origins in Europe and Asia but found their way to the United States in the early 1800s. Pennsylvania got its first brown trout in 1886. This species is known for its extreme intelligence and cunning making it more difficult to catch than its cousins. Once hooked, rainbow and brook trout tend to put on acrobatic displays while the brown trout usually chooses to head toward the nearest obstacle in an all out attempt to entangle your line and free itself. It is also known for its monstrous runs and as a last resort will sometimes choose the acrobatics of its cousins. You’d do yourself well to pick up a good book on this fish and learn as much as you can about it as it is quickly becoming the primary Pennsylvania trout because of its strong will to survive and its ability to survive in warmer waters.
You can identify the brown trout by its distinct deep golden and brownish tones with large dark spots across its back from head to tail and scattered red and cream colored spots down its sides. Its belly is a lighter cream color usually with no spots. They are usually caught in the 10 – 24 inch lengths but can exceed 30 inches in some of the more fertile streams. Their optimum water temperature is around 50 to 60 degrees but it can tolerate temperatures up to around 70 degrees making it more tolerant of the larger streams and rivers. Brown trout usually spawn later in the fall somewhere between October to as late as early December and these fish have a longer life cycle of somewhere between 10 to 12 years.
The Rainbow trout is native to the west coast of the United States from California up to Alaska. Today however, you can find this species all across the country and even in parts of Australia, South America, New Zealand and Europe. It was originally classified as a close relative of the brown but has recently been reclassified as a relative of the western cutthroat trout and salmon. Unlike the cunning brown trout, once hooked, the rainbow trout will put on very impressive acrobatic displays, jumping high out of the water in an attempt to spit the hook.
Rainbows are beautiful fish and can be identified usually by a dark green or sometimes silvery green back side with black spots running from head to tail and also covering the caudal and dorsal fins. They get their name from the colorful lateral stripe running from the gills back to the tail and is usually some variation of pink or red and even sometimes with hints of orange. This colorful lateral stripe then gives way to a light colored belly. Like the brown trout, their optimum water temperature is around 50 to 60 degrees but it can also tolerate temperatures up to and exceeding 70 degrees as long as there is plenty of oxygen and a cool place to retreat to once in awhile. They are considered spring spawners and will begin spawning when water temperatures reach 50 degrees. After the eggs are deposited in the gravel bed, they are left there and no additional parental duties are undertaken. The eggs hatch in four to seven weeks. Rainbows are usually caught in the 12 to 20 inch range but can grow to 24 to 28 inches under the right conditions and they have a life cycle of three to five years.
Steelhead trout (or “steelies”) are simply rainbow trout that have access to the ocean or larger lakes (like the Great Lakes). Sometime after birth, they will make their pilgrimage to the ocean or other large body of water and usually spend their first three to four years there growing much larger than other rainbows because of the large quantity of food and habitat they live in. After this, they head back upstream for spawning. Unlike salmon, which die after spawning, steelhead can return back to the lake or ocean to grow even larger for the next season’s spawning run.
Steelhead get their name from the “steel” color they acquire after leaving the stream. Instead of the brilliant and colorful lateral stripe that other rainbows have, steelhead have a less pronounced red or pink lateral stripe and are more of a silver color across the back. The average Lake Erie steelhead is probably about seven to eight pounds but it is not uncommon to hook one in the ten to twelve pound range. They can reach lengths of over 30 inches and have a life span of usually six to eight years.
As mentioned earlier, the lake trout, like the book trout are technically not even a member of the trout family. They are members of the char family and are found in great numbers in deep, cold lakes across the northern tier of the United States, into Canada and Alaska. They do exist naturally in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes as well.
You can identify the lake trout by its gray colored back which fades to a silver and finally to a white belly. It has numerous white and light colored spots across its back, some worm-shaped like the brook trout but light in color instead of black. It also has a very distinctive deeply forked tail, unlike other trout.
Lake trout usually begin spawning around seven to eight years old and usually make their spawning beds in the lakes instead of making an upstream spawning run. They also are capable of spawning year after year as they can live up to and sometimes over 20 years. They reach larger sizes than other trout because they remain in the lakes and also because of the longer life span. They feed on other fish, plankton, crustaceans, terrestrials and other insects. In Lake Erie, these trout can reach up to 30 pounds but have been know to grow up to 100 pounds in some of the more northern territories.
Other Trout Species
There are also other species of trout such as the golden rainbow (or palomino) trout and the cutthroat trout but I won’t go into any detail on those as the cutthroat trout is a western trout, native to the Rocky Mountain region and the golden rainbow trout is a genetic mutation of a rainbow trout and is hatchery raised to trophy size and released as a novelty for anglers.
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