02/20/12

Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
Hatching:
1.    Midges
2.    Little Winter Stoneflies (Capniidae/Taeniopterygidae)
3.    Blue-winged Ollives (
Baetis brunnicolor) and Little BWOs
4.    Blue Quills
5.    Quill Gordons
6.    Little Black Caddis (
Brachycentrus)

Most available/ Near hatching and/or other types of available food:
7.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)


"K.I.S.S. A Bug" Series - Blue Quill - Part 1:
A General Description of the Blue Quill Mayfly

Blue Quill is another common name that can create total confusion when it comes to
actually knowing what anglers are referring to. This is one case where anglers from the
Southeastern U. S. get it right most always and anglers from other areas of the country
don't. I wrote that realizing there isn't such a thing as getting a common name right. A
common name for an insect is whatever anyone commonly calls it. There isn't a hard core
definition for any common insect name. For those who care, the Blue Quills we have in
the Smokies that are hatching now and will be hatching for the next few weeks are  
Paraleptophlebia adoptiva species..

I  think the actual name Blue Quill was first used for a fly rather than an insect. In
fact, the best I can determine, it was a wet fly pattern that tells me the fly was originated
before anyone knew one mayfly from another. I'm not one to study fly history and
origination of flies because to me, a fly should be an imitation of an insect or other food
fish eat and nothing else.
That's why I named all of the Perfect Fly patterns after the
name of the insect or other foods they imitate instead of goofy names that make
it impossible to tell what  they were suppose to imitate
. We do use common names
but we go a step further and also list the insects real (scientific) names the flies imitate to
make certain we are correctly identifying them..
For example, if we named flies
"stupid" names like a "George Nymph", just for example, those of you who are
trying to learn something about the real foods trout eat would be left out in left
field scratching your head.
 I've never seen a George Nymph in any trout stream in the
nation. George, whoever he was, obviously had a big ego. While critics would quickly
point out the George Nymph I'm picking on catches trout, my response would be that as
long as it's small with a hook in it, you probably couldn't tie a fly that wouldn't catch a trout,
especially in fast water. The question becomes, how many and with what consistency.

Although most anglers get it right in the Smokies (for a big change), just north of the
Smokies, there are anglers that call the same Blue Quill mayfly a Mahogany Dun, another
catch all common name for just about any mayfly with a mahogany colored body.

There are actually at least three different species of this insect that hatches in the streams
of the Smokies. The other species hatch in the late Summer and early Fall. A least one
species of this mayfly rightly should be called (here I go again saying common names
rightly should be such and such when they shouldn't) a Mahogany Dun. It's the
Paralepthophlebia mollis which hatches in the late Summer and early Fall. There's just
as many of these little mayflies that hatch in the Smokies as there are Blue Quills, yet not
one out of ten anglers that fish the Smokies are aware of it. The thing that makes the Blue
Quill mayfly popular in the Smokies and the little Mahogany Duns almost unknown is the
time of year they hatch. Anglers get all excited about the Spring hatches and by late
Summer, most of them have stopped fly fishing for trout and are thinking about hunting,
football and other sports.

In my opinion, the Blue Quills are just as important as the Quill Gordons. There are several
main differences in the two mayflies but the one that makes one seem more important to
the other is due to their size. Blue Quills are small mayflies, the females averaging a hook
size 18 and the slightly smaller males about half way between an 18 and a 20 hook size.
The Quill Gordons range from a hook size 14 up to a 12. Most of them are closer to a 14
than a 12 and this again varies with the gender. The point is the Quill Gordons are big
mayflies that are easy to see and the Blue Quills aren't.

There's another big difference that cause anglers to prefer the Quill Gordons over the
Blue Quills. Although they emerge in slow water on the bottom, by the time they reach the
surface to dry their wings the Quill Gordons are usually drifting downstream on the surface
of the fast water runs. This makes it much easier to fool the trout because the trout don't
have much of an opportunity to get a good look at the fly you use to imitate them. The fast
water also makes the trout feeding on the Quill Gordons less wary of poor presentations
than those feeding on the Blue Quills. Blue Quills hatch in shallower, slower moving water
that's more difficult to fish without spooking the trout feeding on them. They also hatch in
locations where the trout can see your fly much better. While just about anyone can fool a
few trout feeding on Quill Gordons, it isn't usually as easy to fool those feeding on the Blue
Quills.

The plus side of fishing a Blue Quill hatch is the fact there's more of them and
they hatch over a much longer period of time.
Although both species of mayflies start
hatching at about the same time, the substantial part of the Quill Gordon hatches come
and go rather quickly as compared to the Blue Quills. They are usually around a month
and sometimes longer past the end of the Quill Gordon hatch.
By the way, if you don't
get to the streams within at least the next month, better even sooner, you will
miss the majority of the Quill Gordon hatches in the Smokies this year.
All the
aquatic insects are way ahead of their normal emergence schedule due to the very
abnormal warm weather pattern we have experienced this Winter.

I will be writing more about the Blue Quill Nymphs on Wednesday or Thursday of this
week after I write the weekly Fly Fishing Strategy article, but I wanted to go ahead and
show a picture of the Blue Quill nymph. As you can see by clicking on the thumbnail
image to your above right, they have a different look. The white pan background makes
the nymph appear much darker than it actually is but you can see the distinct difference in
the gills of the mayfly. In case your don't know, those are the tiny little hairlike things
protruding out of the sides of the nymph. Whereas most nymphs have flat, wide gills, the
little Blue Quill mayfly nymph gills are very slim. You may not be able to see this well, but
there's another difference that makes it very easy to identify a Blue Quill nymph (species
of the Para. genus).
They have tiny forks on the end of the hairlike gills. They are in
a Y shape on the tip ends of the gills and quite obvious if you pick one up.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh
Thumbnail Image: Click for a larger view
Blue Quill Nymph