Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report - 03/03/14
As promised on 2/27/14, in this article about hatch times and fishing strategies for
the Quill Gordons, I offer the following.
Regarding the Quill Gordon hatch, which normally occurs from late February to about
the first or second week of April, you will often find the water temperature gets into
the low fifties and stays there two or three days, only to be interrupted by a strong
cold front When this happens, the water temperature often drops back down into the
low to mid- forties at the highest levels. At the particular areas (elevation) the hatch is
underway, this change usually doesn't stop the hatch from continuing, but it does
affect the way the trout feed on the emerging duns. In general, under these
conditions, trout eat far more duns under the water than they do on the
The Quill Gordon, as well as the other species of the Epeorus genus of mayflies such
as the Gray-winged Yellow Quill (incorrectly call Pale Evening dun by some), and the
western Slate Dun as well as the Yellow Quill (Pink Lady), don't hatch on the
surface of the water like most mayflies. They emerge into duns somewhere
between the bottom and the surface. This is a little off subject, but bug challenged
anglers of the Smokies are not aware the Gray-winged Yellow Quills even exist.
When the wings emerge from the wing pads, they look like a soaking wet dun
because that is exactly what they are - soaking wet. The wings aren't spread out in a
normal, beautiful mayfly configuration. They look much like a small piece of dark
charcoal color paper napkin would look when it is dropped into water.
During a normal Quill Gordon hatch, the trout eat far more emerging nymphs
and duns, under the water than they do on the surface. When the conditions I
described above occur during a hatch (water temp drops during the hatch), they eat
just about every one they eat beneath the surface.
Because of this, we developed a Perfect Fly for the emerging dun that I named a
"Wet Dun". I sometimes call it an Emerging Dun but Wet Dun seems more
appropriate. Of course, it isn't the first wet fly ever designed, but it is the only specific
wet fly designed to imitate the emerging Quill Gordon dun. I did the same thing for
the other Epeorus species mentioned above. By the way, Epeorus is pronounced
with a long "e"; "pour", as in pour a drink; and "us" as in all of us or E - pour - us.
Anytime when water temps are in the low fifties or in the forties, you should fish this
fly in priority to an imitation of the dun, but I recommend it only up to the point you
begin to see trout take the Quill Gordon duns on the surface. By the way, when Quill
Gordons emerge and the water does remain in the fifties, the dry fly action can be
superb. These mayflies have to drift a very long way on the surface in order to dry
their wings well enough to become airborne. It isn't uncommon to see them drift for
several feet, even several yards, before flying off the water. You can usually not only
see the trout clobber them, you can hear the trout clobber them. This is exciting and
when this is going on, irregardless of the numbers caught, I prefer the dry fly.
There is a substantial difference in the number of Quill Gordon mayflies that trout will
eat on the surface when the water is say, 45 degrees as compared to say, 55
degrees. The difference is quite exponential.
Smoky Mountain Weather:
Today in Gatlinburg, there will be rain and snow before 1pm, then snow, possibly
mixed with freezing rain between 1pm and 4pm, then a chance of rain, snow, and
freezing rain after 4pm. Temperature falling to around 36 by 5pm. The chance of
precipitation is 100%. Little or no ice accumulation expected. Little or no snow
accumulation is expected.
Tonight, there is a chance of rain, snow, and freezing rain before 7pm. Cloudy, then
gradually becoming partly cloudy, with a low around 22. Chance of precipitation is
30%. Tuesday should be sunny, with a high near 47. East wind around 5 mph
becoming northwest in the afternoon. NWS Forecast
Smoky Mountain Stream Conditions:
The streams with links have nearby USGS Station Real-time stream data:
Little River: Rate 276 cfs at 2.05 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 476 cfs at 1.90 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 123 cfs at 2.68 ft
(good wading conditions up to 125 with extra caution up to 150 cfs)
Little Pigeon River doesn't have a station nearby. Late yesterday afternoon it
looked near a normal level but they will be on the way up.
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Cherokee Lake: I'm sure
they will be rising.
Current Recommended Streams
Any of the streams where trout exist in the lower elevations.
1. Blue-winged Olives:
Hook Size 18
nymphs (this would be the main fly)
2. Sculpins: Especially good in off color, high water & early/late in the day
Hook Size 6
White Belly Sculpin
3. Winter Stoneflies: 18/16
4. Little Brown Stoneflies: 14
5. Blue Quills: 18
6. Quill Gordons: 12/14
emerging duns (wet fly)
8. Little Black Caddis: 18
Recommended Fishing Strategy:
It is currently raining hard and the streams are rising. At this time, I have no way of
knowing the end results, meaning what the water levels will end up being. Right now,
it looks like the best strategy today would be to fish streamers.
There's a chance you could see some Little Brown stoneflies laying eggs this
afternoon. It is also possible to see some Blue Quills hatching in the very lowest
elevations trout exist. I would fish the BWO nymph until about 3:00 PM and then
switch to a Little Brown stonefly nymph. The only time I would change that strategy is
when and if I saw something hatching, and then I would go to the appropriate
emerger or dun imitation of that. The water temperature is going to be dropping
throughout the day. Fish the slow side of any current seams, pockets and pools
where there is little to no current. If you see any Little Brown stoneflies,or Winter
stoneflies laying eggs, switch to the adult pattern of it. You will likely see some very
small black caddis. I suggest you ignore them. They crawl out of the water to hatch
and we have always been unable to catch trout trying to imitate them. Although it is
probably possible, I think the BWO nymphs, or even the Blue Quill nymphs which are
out and about are far better options.
Tips for Beginners:
Purchase a stream thermometer and learn to relate water temperature to other
Tips for the Self Proclaimed Experts:
Streamers that imitate sculpin should outperform the others.
Whatever Hits Me:
Thoughts of a long way to go and a short time to get there
Copyright 2014 James Marsh
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