Insects and other foods the trout
should be eating:
1. BWOs (Little BWOs)
3. Little Winter Stoneflies
Most available/ Other types of food:
4. Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)
This Week's Featured Trout Food - Quill Gordon and Blue Quill Mayflies
I am writing about two mayflies that will begin to hatch in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a reason
that has little to do with the fact they both will begin to hatch near the same time, and everything to do with
the fact that they are completely different types of mayflies. I'm pointing out the difference because many
anglers think that catching trout during the hatch amounts to just tieing on a fly that matches the dun stage of
life of the mayflies and presenting them in the fast water.
I mention they are completely different types of mayflies not because they are different species,
but because they hatch in two completely different ways, and in two completely different types of
water, or areas of the streams.
The nymphs of the Blue Quills are crawlers. The nymphs of the Quill Gordons are clingers. If you know much
about mayflies, you know immediately that these nymphs live in two completely different types of water. To be
very simple, the crawler nymphs live in slow to moderate flows of water, and the clinger nymphs live in fast
water. Neither one could exist living in the same type of water the other one lived in.
The Blue Quill:
If you examine a stream just about anywhere you see shallower, slow to moderately flowing water, there's a
good chance there are plenty of Blue Quill nymphs. Of course, the largest and most plentiful sections of slow
to moderate flowing waters are usually found in the pools. While there are plenty of Blue Quill nymphs in the
typical pools of the Smokies, they don't exist in the deep water. You will only find them around the banks and
the shallow tail ends of the pools. The problem is,they don't just exist in pools. Where they do, it's even more
difficult to catch trout feeding on them than it is from other smaller sections of slow to moderate water that's
found within the areas of the fast water sections of pocket water that's typical of the streams of the Smokies.
For one thing, because of their small size, large quantities of them can exist in very small areas.
If you fish a stream, blind casting a fly, and this includes our Perfect Fly imitation of the Blue Quill, you are
limited to one thing - luck. You may or may not catch the first trout but if and when you do, you can rest
assured it was only due to blink luck. The total area of water you need to present the fly in to imitate
the Blue Quills, probably averages less than twenty percent of the overall surface area of water. If
you don't present your fly in the area of the stream the trout are looking for the Blue Quill nymphs in, your
mostly just waisting time.
The fly not only needs to be presented in the right areas of the stream (type of water), it needs to be
presented such that it imitates the behavior of the Blue Quill nymphs. Remember, this will be slow to
moderate water. It will be in rather shallow water, not deep water. This isn't the same as casting your fly in the
fast water of a run. It has to be presented without allowing the trout to see you and without the fly line, leader
and landing of the fly spooking the trout looking for the nymphs in the shallower, calmer water.
By the way, Blue Quill nymphs are very easy to identify down to the genus. They are called the Forked
Gill Nymphs because their gills are very slim, almost hair like gills that end in a fork. One big difference in
Blue Quill nymphs and most other types of nymphs, is the Blue Quill nymphs will collect in schools.
There can be a lot of them in a very small area. These areas where they live and as mentioned above, the
areas of the stream they hatch in, usually represents only a small part of the stream.
The trout know where they live and hatch just as well as you know where your close friends live. When you
fish an imitation of the nymph in the right areas of water during the days and weeks leading into the Blue Quill
hatch, you are greatly increasing your odds of success. When they begin to hatch, and you fish an
imitation of the emerger or dun in these same areas, you are again greatly increasing your odds of
The Quill Gordon:
Prior to hatching, the Quill Gordon nymphs will migrate from their normal, deep, fast, water habitat (beneath
the bottom of rocks on the bottom in fast water) to nearby, adjacent areas of calmer water. Unlike the Blue
Quills and many other mayflies, they don't move to shallow water areas to hatch. They remain in
fairly deep water, usually more in the middle of the streams than shallow water areas near banks or shallow
pockets. My guess is that if you took an overall percentage of the total area of the water in a stream where
the Quill Gordons nymphs move to hatch, it would be less than ten percent of the surface area of
water. The other ninety-plus percent of the area of the stream would be void on Quill Gordon nymphs.
When these nymphs hatch, and they do so on or near the bottom, not on the surface or in the
surface skim like the Blue Quills, they usually quickly get caught up in the fast water that flows around the
boulders or large rocks creating the pockets. You will see the duns riding the fast water of runs and riffles
after they emerge on the surface at times but for now, I am concentrating on the week or two of time prior to
the actual hatch. Prior to that, trout don't feed on the nymphs very much because they live well hidden in tiny
crevices underneath the rocks on the bottom.
If you present good imitations of the Quill Gordon nymphs in these areas of the streams, you can usually
catch a lot of trout in a short time. Other than fishing at the right time in relationship to the start of a hatch,
the key is to get fairly close to the areas will hatch from, and using upstream presentations, quickly get the
nymph on the bottom in pockets near the current seams such as I just described.
There are usually two seams, one on each side of the rocks or boulders that create the pocket or miniature
pool. Sometimes you can find pockets of knee deep, or even deeper water along the banks of a stream
where the Quill Gordon nymphs move prior to a hatch. That's usually the exception rather than the rule.
Keep in mind, these areas may not exist in a long stretch of water in a given stream. Quill Gordon hatches
don't take place from one end of a stream to the other. They only exist in certain areas where the stream
conditions at right for them to live and hatch. You may fish a stretch of a stream as long as a hundred yards
or more, without seeing the first Quill Gordon during a hatch. I mention this now to point out that when
you are fishing the nymph during the week or two prior to the start of a hatch, you may have to
keep moving up a stream a good ways to hit an area that is holding the nymphs.
The trout don't have to look for them. They know exactly where to find them.
Copyright 2013 James Marsh
New Schedule of Daily Articles
Mondays: Weather and Stream Conditions
Forecast - Coming Week
Tuesdays: Fly Fishing Strategies - Which
Flies To Use - Coming Week
Wednesday: Fishing Tales
Thursday: Smoky Mountains Fishing Report
Friday: Getting Started
Saturday: Fly Fishing School
Sunday: This Week's Featured Trout Food
Quill Gordon Nymph:
A flatter body with big gills and the
eyes on the top.
Blue Quill Nymph:
Round body, tiny hair like gills
with eyes on the sides. By the
way, they are light brown, not
near as dark as this picture
shows them to be.