Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
2. Little Winter Stoneflies
3. Blue-winged Ollives (Baetis brunnicolor) and Little BWOs
4. Blue Quills
5. Quill Gordons
6. Little Black Caddis (Brachycentrus)
7. Little Brown Stoneflies
Most available/ Near hatching and/or other types of available food:
8. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
"K.I.S.S. A Bug" Series - Hendrickson and Red Quill - Part 2
A Smoky Mountain "Learn Your Bugs Story"
I always get a kick out of reading fly fishing blogs about the same time the Hendrickson hatch
takes place. It never fails that at least one guy will write about two different mayflies he found
hatching on a given stream that you can almost be assured are the Hendricksons and the Red
Quills, which is, of course, the same mayfly. They usually describe one of the two as a red mayfly,
often confusing the Red Quill with a March Brown, and the other mayfly as everything from a big
Sulfur to a Light Hendrickson. There are other descriptions used but the point is, few anglers that
fish the Smokies recognize and properly identify the Hendrickson and the Red Quill mayfly.
There's good reasons for the misidentification's. One is that in terms of overall population, the
Hendrickson and Red Quill mayflies aren't very plentiful in the streams of the Smokies. Contrary
to that, is that in the specific areas where they do exist, they can be very plentiful and usually
hatch in large numbers. I guess it's best explained by saying they are concentrated in isolated
areas of the steams in the park.
A Smoky Mountain "What Fly To Use" Story:
I'll never forget something that happened to Angie and I about a year or two after we first started
fly fishing in the Smokies. We both were standing on the bridge in Metcalf Bottoms one spring
day watching this guy fish. We didn't notice him when we parked the car because he was hidden
on the opposite side of the bridge. We were both dressed out in our fly fishing gear, trying to
determine if we should hike upstream a long ways in front of the guy to fish, or get back in the car
and find another location. He asked if we were catching any trout and I responded that we had
not yet fished. He then told us the Hendricksons were hatching and continued to say he had
already caught several trout. He quickly let us know that he was a guide and that he would be
happy to show us around, for a fee, of course. I declined his offer but I did ask him again about
the insect he said was hatching. I cannot remember what he said but he did at least probably try
to tell us what insect a Hendrickson was. I have never seen the guy again. I can only assume he
properly identified the insects as Hendricksons, although I didn't know one mayfly from the other
at the time. I just know he used the name Hendrickson. I remembered it by associating it with Rick
Hendrick, Hendrick Motor Sports Nascar team owner.
The next morning, Angie and I visited a local fly shop in the area to purchase some flies to match
the Hendrickson mayflies the guide had told us were hatching. The fly shop salesman, whom I
want name, asked if we wanted Light or Dark Hendrickson flies. Not knowing what he meant, I
relayed what the guide had told us. The fly shop guy said the Dark Hendricksons were almost
finished hatching but the Light Hendricksons would be starting any day. Not knowing whether the
guide was referring to Light Hendricksons or Dark Hendricksons, we being dumbfounded,
purchased a few of both flies. Of course, I now know what he told us is laughable. The Light and
Dark references are references the same mayfly and of course, the male (Dark) and female
(Light) hatch at the same time. What he told us is neatly noted in Angie's daily log that's has
always been maintained along with our video tape logs. It says "Light Hendricksons hatching any
day - Dark Hendricksons almost gone" along with the fly shop and salesman's name.
Later that day, after fishing both flies for a few hours with no success, we ran into a guide we did
know. He was fishing alone and I asked him about the hatch that was supposed to be taking
place. As best as I can remember, he responded with something like, he had not seen any
Hendricksons hatching, and it was still too early for them to hatch. Looking at the fly (a Dark
Hendrickson) Angie had tied on, he said "that's a Red Quill fly your using, not a Hendrickson". I
told him it was what the fly shop salesman sold us for a Dark Hendrickson. He laughed and said
again, it was a wasn't a Dark Hendrickson, it was a Red Quill. I still have that little plastic box of
Hendrickson flies we purchased sitting on my fly desk in a box with many others. It has a
permanent marker pen note on the top over the fly shop name printed on the little plastic box,
where Angie wrote "Light and Dark Hendricksons" and later, remarked "Dark ones Red Quills". As
mentioned in yesterday's article, both the Light and Dark Hendrickson fly patterns are poor
imitations of any mayfly you want to use them for. Fly shops (what remains) still sell 1916 flies like
the Light and Dark Hendrickson that are now tied in Kenya, Thailand, China and other foreign
locations by people who have never seen an aquatic insect.
We never put them in our fly boxes, not because of that mix up which both the fly shop guy and
the guide we knew both got wrong, but because back in those days we were always buying flies
from various shops that told us what flies we should be using since I rarely fished the same flies
over a day or two, and Angie always marked on the names of the flies on the bags or boxes the
flies came in. Like most other unsuspecting new anglers, I falsely assumed that the
information I was getting from fly shops was a big key in catching trout. I didn't know in
most cases that ended up being a matter of "the blind leading the blind" and did far
more damage than good.
Angie always kelp the fly boxes and bags the flies came in with their names on them so we could
learn the many different trout flies from one another. We have boxes from fly shops we have
collected from all across the nation that are still in the boxes or bags they came in. I would never
take the time to put them in my fly boxes carried in my vest unless it was flies I caught trout on.
Angie would put some of all of them in her fly boxes and as a result, she ended up with dozens of
fly boxes and hundreds and hundreds of flies, more than she could get in her fly vest.
Never-the-less, she still saved the little plastic boxes and bags the flies came in with her notes. By
the way, she does the same thing with just about everything she buys, fishing gear as well as
household and personal stuff.
I soon realized the main reason why determining what flies to use was a huge problem.
It's because the names of flies are almost always completely meaningless. The joke
about the "Adams" hatch, best describes the fly name mess. In case your new at this, there's no
such thing as an Adams mayfly, so anglers joke about the Adams hatch..
Within a couple of years, I finally figured out that many of the fly shop guys, as well as many of
the guides, didn't really know one aquatic insect from another. They all cover their lack of
knowledge up by contending knowing the insects isn't important. Such stupidity, misinformation
and more importantly, the lack of information, eventually led to the creation of "Perfect
Flies", or flies that carry the same name as the insects they imitate. That's yet, another
The bottom line to this Smoky Mountain fly story is don't expect to get much worthwhile, factual
information from the local fly shops about aquatic insects, flies and certainly not the Hendrickson
hatch, If your new at fly fishing for trout, and you do that, you'll soon have a strong desire to take
Copyright 2012 James Marsh