Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/03/15
One of the first hatches that occurs in the Smokies near the beginning of a new year
is the Blue Quill. Although I will be repeated some things I have posted in previous
years, I do want to provide you with some information on 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 as opposed to most anglers from other areas of
the country. I just 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 will be hatching in the near future 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 are suppose to imitate. We do use
common names, but we go a step further and also list the insect's real (scientific)
name the flies imitate. We want 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.
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
always becomes, how many and with what consistency.
Although most Smoky Mountain anglers get the common name that is generally
considered correct, just north of the Smokies, there are anglers that call the same
mayfly a Mahogany Dun, another catch-all, common name for just about any mayfly
with a mahogany colored body.
There are at least three different species of this mayfly genus that hatch in the
streams of the Smokies. The species other than the Blue Quill hatch in the late
Summer and early Fall. At least one species of this same genera of mayflies are
usually called Mahogany Duns - the Paralepthophlebia mollis, which hatch in the late
Summer and early Fall. There are 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
Here is another thing I question. In my opinion, the Blue Quills are just as important
as the Quill Gordons, yet most anglers don't agree with that. There are several
differences in the two mayflies, but the one that makes one seem more important
than the other is its size. Blue Quills are much smaller mayflies. The females average
a hook size 18, and the slightly smaller males, average about half way between an 18
and a 20 hook size. The Quill Gordons range from a hook size 14 up to a size 12.
Most of them are closer to a 14 than a 12, but again, it varies with the gender. The
point is, the Quill Gordons are relatively large mayflies that are easy to see, and the
Blue Quills aren't.
The hatch times of the Blue Quills and the Quill Gordons overlap quite a bit and
when both are hatching, anglers generally prefer to imitate the Quill Gordons. Other
than the size, there is another reason for this. Although the Quill Gordons emerge in
slow water on the bottom, by the time they reach the surface to dry their wings, the
Quill Gordons are usually caught by the faster current and 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.
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 that are
feeding on the Blue Quills. They also hatch in areas of the stream where the trout
can see your fly much better than the Quill Gordons. While just about anyone can
fool a few trout feeding on Quill Gordons, it isn't as easy to fool those feeding on the
The plus side of fishing a Blue Quill hatch is the fact there's more of them than there
are Quill Gordons 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 hatch comes and goes rather quickly as compared to the Blue Quills.
They are usually hatching in some streams around a month past the end of the Quill
Today will be mostly sunny with a high near 46. Wind will be from the northwest
around 5 mph in the afternoon. Tonight's low will be around 25.
Wednesday, will be sunny with a high near 54. The wind will be from the west around
5 mph in the afternoon.
Smoky Mountain Stream Conditions:
The streams with links that have nearby USGS Station Real-time stream data: Click
to links to see updates:
Little River: Rate 693 cfs at 2.95 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 742 cfs at 2.95 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 205 cfs at 2.96 ft (This gauge is also messed up due to
ice) (good wading conditions up to 125 with extra caution up to 150 cfs)
Little Pigeon River doesn't have a station nearby. According to the rain precip
map, I'm sure they are still high.
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake. According
to the rain precip map, they will still be high.
Current Recommended Streams: None
Recommended Trout Flies:
1. Blue-winged Olives:
Hook Size 20/18
2. Brown and White Belly Sculpins:
Hook Size 6
3. Cream Midges: 20/22
4. Winter Stoneflies: 16/18
5. Little Brown Stoneflies: 14
Recommended Fishing Strategy:
Keep in mind, the strategies I am recommending is for the maximum odds
of catching numbers of fish. Many prefer or favor a dry fly and by all means there
isn't anything wrong with that. It's just a fact that if nothing is hatching at the time, it
reduces your odds of success. You can still probably hook some trout, just not as
many as if you fish subsurface. Of course, this is also based on using good
techniques and the right flies. Some guys don't know how to fish below the surface.
Until I spotted something hatching, assuming I was fishing a low to mid elevation
stream, I would fish a size 18 Blue-winged Olive nymph. Many of the species of
mayflies called Blue-winged Olives are bi-brooded, meaning they hatch twice a year.
They are swimming nymphs that dart around in short spurts and hide wherever they
can. They don't stay wedged up under the rocks like most of the other mayfly
nymphs, the majority of which are clingers. Winter stoneflies should begin crawling
out of the water to hatch and Little Brown stoneflies will start very soon, if not already.
If the water is below 43 degrees, I would switch to a Cream Midge larva and Cream
Midge Pupa tandem rig, with the larva the bottom fly and the pupa above it.
If you spot something hatching, it will most likely be Cream Midges, Winter stoneflies
or small Blue-winged Olives. Switch to the adult Cream Midge, if it is midges
hatching, Winter stonefly, or the BWO Dun or emerger, if it is the BWOs.
Tips for Beginners:
Learn to imitate the most plentiful and available insects and other foods at the time
you are fishing, or continue to use trial and error methods and forever be a mediocre
Tips for the Self Proclaimed Experts:
Whatever Hits Me:
Copyright 2015 James Marsh
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