Trout eat mainly aquatic insects, terrestrial insects, crustaceans and other fish species. The level of each in a trout's diet depends on a number of factors including waterway health (availability), season and geographical location. Most important to a trout's diet and thus to us as PA fly fishing anglers are the aquatic insects that spend much of their life-cycle underwater only to transform through the water's surface into flying, mating adult species.
Streams in Pennsylvania will be packed all the way up until the end of May. Between opening day of trout fishing season, additional trout stockings and the prolific hatches, anglers of all kinds will be out fishing. However, PA fly fishing anglers have a few special places to sneak off too. There are many special regulation trout streams where some of the best fly fishing in Pennsylvania takes place. The key to catching rising, and even bottom dwelling browns, is to understand a trout's diet.
Match the Hatch
Aquatic insects spend most of their lives underwater. The thrill for many PA fly fishing anglers is the few moments these species escape to the air. This movement exposes the insects to predators like birds and fish, particularly cunning trout waiting just below the surface in anticipation. Huge swarms of hatching insects put trout in a feeding frenzy and the fish focus in, often unlikely to be landed on any other bait. Successful fly anglers "match the hatch" by choosing the correct size, type and presentation of the hatching insects. If done successfully, each cast of the fly, often mimicking a mayfly or caddisfly, is an opportunity at catching a feeding trout. Knowing the insects hatching on one of the many PA fly fishing streams is part of the challenge to dry fly fishing. Most times, the difference between successful evenings and only landing one or two trout is based on size. Match the fly as close as you can if unsure of the species but more importantly match the size for more hook ups on the surface.
Best Flies for Trout in PA | Dry Flies
Every stream has different variations and even completely different populations of insects. Because of this, one can get overwhelmed with trying to know and carry all the different variations of dry flies for every situation on PA fly fishing streams. There are, however, a few top dry flies for matching the hatch every PA fly fishing angler should have on them no matter what waterway they are fishing.
The Trout's Nymph Diet
Trout feed on aquatic insects below the water, although not as extravagant as dry fly fishing to an angler, perhaps more than they feed on the surface. Fish can take nymphs throughout the course of a day by catching stream driven insects in the water column or bottom feeding through rocks and gravel in riffles. Nymphing is more reliable than dry fly fishing for trout because it allows you more options to fish (think time of year nymphs, streamers, sow bugs, terrestrials, etc.). Fish are also feeding underwater throughout the day, regardless of hatching insects or not. Take time as you get to the water to examine the underside of rocks in the stream. This will give you an idea of the aquatic insects in that area of water.
Best Flies for Trout in PA | Nymphs
The nymph can catch trout at any time of the year. Nymph fishing for trout hardly excites most PA fly fishing anglers but ask any PA fly fishing guide and they will tell you nymph fishing produces no matter what time of year. Here are three nymphs everyone has to have in their Tacky fly fishing box.
Spring is here in much of the country meaning PA fly fishing is starting its upward path to its peak. Understanding a trout's diet both above and below water is important to experience some of the best fly fishing in Pennsylvania.