Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
2. Little Winter Stoneflies
Most available/ Near hatching and other types of available food:
3. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
4. Blue Quills (Nymphs)
5. Blue-winged Olives (Nymphs)
"K.I.S.S. A Bug" Series - Quill Gordon - Part 4:
When and Where They Hatch
As mentioned before, the Quill Gordon nymphs live their one year life in the fast water down
between and underneath the rocks on the bottom of the stream. For all practical purposes, these
nymphs are not available for trout to eat until a week (two at the most) prior to hatching. At that
time they leave their normal fast water habitat and crawl on the bottom to the nearest moderate to
slow flowing water. This is normally only a very few feet away..
One of the locations in the streams of the Smokies commonly chosen is the pockets behind
boulders. Each boulder located in the current creates a tiny pool. If the boulder is out in the
stream, it normally has fast current flowing around each side of it with the slower moving water
behind it. In some cases these boulders are located near the banks and only have fast current
flowing around one side, with the other adjoining the bank or more boulders. These miniature
pools, I call them, vary in depth depending on the location. You won't find the Quill Gordons
moving behind them if the water is shallow. They normally select the deeper, miniature pools.
Other locations the Quill Gordons move to when they hatch are deep pockets along the bank that
have slow to moderately flowing water. There's other locations they choose but the main point is
they don't hatch in the fast current they live in. They do quickly get caught in the current seams
and often end up drifting down the fast water runs and riffles before they are able to dry their
wings enough to depart the water.
The time the nymphs are in these areas prior to hatching varies depending on the changing
water temperature. Unlike most mayflies, the Quill Gordons hatch on the bottom, not in the
surface skim. By the way, "Hatch" is a common word used but in practical terms, eggs hatch, not
nymphs. A better word is "emerge". When the nymphs move to slower water, within a short time
their wing pad opens up (splits into) and the wings pop out while the nymph is still on, or at least
near the bottom. Some say they open mid-stream and others say they open on the bottom, but
the point is the nymph becomes a dun underwater, not in the surface skim.
The water temperature normally offers a good clue as to when this emergence takes place.
Usually when the water temperature reaches about 50 degrees and stays there a couple or three
days, they will begin to hatch. This depends on the status of the overall development of the
nymphs but when that usually happens, the nymphs are normally developed enough to emerge.
Keep in mind that in the Smokies, as well as other freestone streams that decline considerably in
elevation, the water temperature is normally colder at higher elevations. It begins to warm up first
in the low elevations and if the weather continues to stay warm, it will gradually warm up at higher
elevations as time passes. For example, the hatch may end in the lowest elevations when it is just
beginning to start in the mid elevations. This varies with the water temperature which can change
drastically at the time of year the nymphs hatch.
Once the nymphs become mature and migrate to the slower water to emerge, they will emerge
irregardless of the changes in the water temperature. It isn't the actual water temperature that
triggers the hatch at that point. It is the overall average temperature during the growth of the
nymphs that controls the emergence as well as some other factors. At the same time, when the
water temperature begins to fall at elevations where the nymphs haven't migrated to slower water
to emerge, the migration and emergence will be delayed. In cases where the water temperature
stays below the magic 50 degrees beyond the normal year life cycle, the nymphs will begin to
emerge at lower water temperatures than 50 degrees.. We have seen hatches of Quill Gordons
begin from scratch in the mid Atlantic and northern area streams when the water temperature was
in the mid forties but this isn't normally the case. Still, regardless of where your fishing, the best
clues to use to locate the hatching Quill Gordons are the normal time of year they hatch and the
current water temperature at any one location in the stream.
If you can determine when the migration is taking place at any particular place in a stream, you
can usually catch more trout on the imitations of the nymphs than you can during the actual
emergence. The best method to use is hi-stickin. This does require a lot of effort wading, or to be
blunt, a lot of work, but it is very effective. By casting a weighted Quill Gordon nymph
imitation in the fast water and bringing in on the bottom into the pockets and other
areas of slower water that's in close proximity to the fast water, you can usually score
It doesn't have to be presented using the high stickin method, but you otherwise keep the fly on
the bottom and keep in contact with both by feel and by watching your line for unusual movement.
After a hatch has started in a certain area, you should use this method of fishing up until the
mayflies begin to emerge. This usually takes place in the warmest part of the day. In the Smokies,
this is usually in the early to middle afternoon. When the Quill Gordons first begin to appear on
the surface of the water, you should switch to one of two methods I will get into tomorrow.
I realize this isn't providing any specific information as to when and where you should fish. If you
want to consistently catch trout from the Quill Gordon hatch, it's important to understand what
goes on. I will be providing specific when and where information in the fly fishing
strategies article I normally do on Tuesday.
The weather should start warming back up after this cold spell ends, at least for a few days. Due
to the unusual warm weather we have experienced this Winter, the Quill Gordons are developed
well ahead of schedule this year. They have already started to emerge in some streams at the
lowest elevations. I suggest you get prepared and take advantage of a lot of Quill Gordon activity
in the forthcoming days.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh