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The truth about trout food revealed

by Jerry Smalley
| December 5, 2012 7:38 AM

Oftentimes when books are reviewed in this space, I include two or three reviews in a single column. But not this week.

I got a copy of Jeff Morgan’s “Productive Trout Flies for Unorthodox Prey” late last spring. I was immediately impressed with Morgan’s ideas, his writing style and the stunning macro photography.

To put the book to test, I placed it on an end table at our cabin and waited to hear what our summer fly-fishing guests thought about the book. Comments were positive, in line with my own, and most importantly friends actually read the book rather than just thumb through it.

The book investigates “oddball” trout food — what trout eat, minus caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies.

“On average water, the annual trout diet may be 30 percent mayflies, 30 percent caddis, 10 percent stoneflies and 30 percent ‘other’,” Morgan writes.

Chapters include Ants, Beetles, Chironomids, Crayfish, Damselflies, Dragonflies, and Leeches. Also, Grasshoppers, Sow bugs, Scuds, Water Boatmen, Backswimmers, Baitfish and Daphnia. And more…

Each chapter includes a discussion of The Prey, Thoughts on Imitation, Keys to Match, Keys to Avoid and Patterns.

The author points out the difference between “angler sampling” and “professional sampling,” indicating angler sampling is often biased because we tend to do it when fish aren’t biting.

Morgan cites a New Zealand study that found the total production of aquatic insects in a stream was not enough to support that stream’s trout population.

For dry fly anglers, terrestrial insects may provide 90 percent of the surface-feeding activity but only 35 percent of the overall diet. And varying amounts of the total caloric input of trout.

Ants may make up as much as 42 percent of trout diets, and beetles, which are three to five times more common in trout diets than grasshoppers, are “oft-overlooked trout foods,” according to Morgan. He also cites studies showing trout eat very few, if any, hoppers.

“Productive Trout Flies for Unorthodox Prey” is a fun, thought-provoking book that deserves a spot in your fly-fishing library. Published by Frank Amato Publications, the book costs $29.95 (and is worth it).