Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1. Little BWOs
2. Green Sedges (Caddisflies)
3. Cinnamon Caddis (Mostly Abrams Creek)
4. Little Short Horned Sedges
5. American March Browns
6. Giant Stoneflies
7. Light Cahills
8. Little Yellow Stoneflies (Yellow Sally)
9. Eastern Pale Evening Duns
11. Slate Drakes
12. Golden Stoneflies
Most available/ Other types of available food:
13. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
KISS A Bug Series - Slate Drake
When your fishing the streams of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, If there is one
nymph that you want to make certain you have an imitation of, it's the Slate Drake. You could
lump about twenty-five species of other swimming nymphs called Blue-winged Olives
together and say they are more plentiful that anything else, but other than that, you would
have to rank the Slate Drake nymphs, which are also swimming nymphs, at the top of the list.
Slate Drake nymphs are large, hook size 10 and 12 when fully developed, and they are
plentiful. They are also as available for the trout to eat as any of the other nymphs. They are
more available than the majority of mayfly and stonefly nymphs because they are mostly
clinger nymphs that stay under the rocks out of the reach of trout most of the time.
Slate Drake nymphs live in an ideal habitat in the freestone, pocket water streams of the
park because they require clean, highly oxygenated water. There's no shortage of that in the
There's many things different about these nymphs than most mayfly nymphs but the one
thing that is very different about them and most all other mayfly nymphs is the fact they hatch
out of the water. The nymphs migrate to the banks of the stream or large rocks that protrude
out of the water and crawl out of the water to hatch. In this regard, Slate Drake nymphs are
more like stoneflies than mayflies.
The nymphs react quickly and move fast when they migrate to the shallow water to hatch.
Hatching or not hatching, they act more like minnows and other small fish than mayfly
nymphs. They are difficult to catch in regular kick nets and you want catch any of them just
by picking up rocks from the streams and looking at the bottoms of them. They will escape as
soon as you try to lift the rocks, if not sooner than that. It's about like trying to catch a
minnow with your hands.
During a hatch, one key to determining where to fish the nymph imitation is where you find
shucks along the banks. That indicates they are hatching and of course, where they are
hatching. The duns are difficult to find during the daylight hours because they fly off into the
trees and molt into spinners.
The only problem is their inconsistent hatch times. They hatch over a very long period of
time. They have already started hatching in the Smokies and will continue to do so until
about the second week of November. They have the longest hatch period of any mayfly in
the park. The only problem with it is that the hatch starts slow, slowly increases in intensity to
peak in June and then dwindles down to almost nothing until September. It then begins to
slowly increase in intensity in September and peak at the end of the month to the first part of
October and then slowly dwindle down to nothing by mid November. It's almost as if they are
bi-brooded, or hatch twice a year but that's not the case.
There's another big key during the hatch. If it's slowly raining, you will often find them
crawling out of the water and hatching during mid day. They have a huge preference for low
light conditions. They just about won't hatch if it's a clear blue-bird sky day.
My next point is very important. Since these nymphs are available for the trout to eat much
like minnows, meaning all the time, a hatch doesn't have to be taking place for an imitation of
the nymph to be effective. The nymphs work year-round.
Imitations of the nymph should be fished in pockets near the bank and behind rocks,
boulders and logs. The nymphs won't hold directly in fast current, rather the water immediate
adjacent to the fast water, such as pockets. They will also congregate in flats and the heads,
edges and tail ends of pools where the current isn't strong, yet there's plenty of oxygen.
You should allow the Perfect Fly Slate Drake Nymph to drift naturally or dead-drift. The fly
has a tremendous amount of build-in action or movement. Just a slight amount of current
will make the fly appear as if it's alive and breathing.
You can add a short erratic stripping motion to the fly to imitate the natural reaction of the
Slate Drake nymphs trying to escape a predator. This will sometimes trigger a strike from a
trout. In this case, I would not add any weight or if so, very little.
The “down and across” presentation works best in the shallow water that the nymphs crawl
out of the water to hatch from. In this case you should use the stripping action to imitate the
motions made by the nymph. It's easy to spook the nymphs when they are in shallow water
crawling out of the water to hatch.
During the times when a hatch isn't occurring, you should weight the nymph down to keep in
on or near the bottom in the deeper water. The amount of weight depends on the water
depth and swiftness. In this case I would suggest up or up and across presentations. You
can also present the fly on the swing keeping the rod high in the air and staying in contact
with the fly. This is best done in the runs and current seams along the pockets behind
boulders. When hatching, these nymphs can often be found in very shallow water so don't
be afraid to fish the shallow water areas adjacent to the deeper water
Copyright 2012 James Marsh
The Real Deal