Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/05/15
I am continuing the Blue Quill articles: I've already covered when and where the little
Blue Quill nymphs hatch. This article deals with how they emerge and how you imitate
the emerging nymphs. First of all, just so I'm sure that it has been covered, by
"emerge", I mean what anglers call "hatch". It's the process by which the nymphs
change into duns, or adult mayflies that can fly.
Surface Emerging Mayflies:
Like most mayflies that emerge in the surface skim, the Blue Quill nymphs accent
from the bottom to the just under the surface of the water called the surface skim,
where they begin to shed their exoskeleton anglers call the nymphal shuck. The
nymph's wing pad, located in the thorax area of the nymph just behind the head,
splits open and the folded up wings come out and begin to straighten up into their
final upright shape. Next, the thorax, head, legs, abdomen and tails come out. During
this process, the very thin exoskeleton covering, or nymphal shuck, is shed from the
body of the nymph. The shuck comes off the body with the tail being the final part of
the nymph to shed. This almost transparent nymphal shuck often gets caught on the
tail for a short period of time before finally falling off. At this stage of the
emergence, the nymphal shuck almost makes the half nymph, half dun mayfly look
twice as long as it really is. By the way, this is what a mayfly emerger with a "trailing
shuck" fly pattern imitates. The body and wings of the newly emerged dun are above
the water at this point and can dry out enough for the mayfly to fly.
During the period of time from the point the nymph rises from the bottom to the
surface skim and is able to complete the emerging process, to the point it's becomes
a dun that's free of the nymphal shuck, the emerging mayfly is easy prey for trout.
The emergers are simply incapable of escaping hungry trout. The trout can easily
pick the emergers off about as fast as they desire.
The length of time this entire process takes, from the time the nymph reaches the
surface skim of the water until it's able to fly, is usually less than a minute or two. The
exact time varies greatly, depending on the species of mayfly and the weather. The
amount of moisture in the air and the temperature of the air and water are two things
that varies the time it take for the nymph to emerge into a dun capable of flying. The
mayfly becomes a dun only after the nymphal shuck has been shed, the body of the
mayfly is drifting on the surface of the water, and the wings are upright and drying.
What many anglers don't stop to realize is this is the only time the dun is on the water
available for a trout to eat. Unless it gets into the water by accident, the mayfly never
returns to the water as a dun. Only the spinner or imago stage of the mayfly returns
to the water.
Usually, after reaching the surface, the entire time the mayfly takes to emerge is less
than a minute or two. By the way, later on in the year when other mayfly species
emerge during warmer weather, this entire time for this process can be as little as a
Blue Quill Emergers:
The Blue Quills take longer than the average mayfly to emerge because of two
reasons. One reason is they are small enough that in some cases they have a
difficult time penetrating the surface skim. Secondly, they normally emerge in colder
water when the air is still in the fifties and low sixties. This slows the drying time down
compared to mayflies that emerge during warmer temperatures.
I've seen Eastern Green Drakes ride the surface of the water for as long as two or
three minutes, but that's a very long time for any mayfly dun to be on the surface of
the water. I think the reason for the long time of the big Drakes is their wings and
bodies are much larger and they naturally take longer to dry. The Blue Quills usually
take less than a minute. This means your favorite fly pattern, the imitation of the
mayfly dun, a dry fly, represents the mayfly for only a very short time that's usually
less than a minute.
It should be easy to understand why trout eat far fewer mayfly duns than they do
nymphs. In fact, they eat far fewer mayfly duns than they do spinners, something few
anglers realize. Still, I admit, watching a trout take a dry fly on the surface of the
water is more fun than catching one on a nymph.
Imitating the Blue Quill Emergers:
Remember, although the Blue Quill nymphs are classified as crawlers, many
entomologist think they are more like a cross between a swimmer and a crawler. Also,
don't forget they are small, a hook size 18. As mentioned in my previous article, when
they emerge, the trout know it. They cruise the shallow margins of slower water
during the hatch, eating them with ease.
The problem you have in imitating the emerging Blue Quills is the trout are extra
spooky in the shallower, slowing moving water the Blue Quills hatch in. Most of the
time, the trout dart in the areas of water they hatch in just a very short period of time
and then quickly return to the deeper, nearby water. The shallower and clearer the
water, the more cautious the trout are. The brighter the skies, the more cautious the
trout are. They are much less spooky when it's very cloudy or solid overcast. This is
also the same conditions the Blue Quills prefer to hatch. Like most mayflies, the Blue
Quills hatch in larger quantities during low light conditions.
By the time the mayfly becomes a dun, it's usually caught up in a current seam where
the slower water meets faster moving water. During the time the mayfly is emerging,
it's usually still in the smoother, slower moving marginal water.
Approaching these areas of the stream with smooth surface, shallow, slower moving
water without spooking the trout feeding on the Blue Quills isn't exactly easy. It's
certainly not as easy as approaching trout feeding in the fast water runs and riffles
where the surface of the water is broken. The smoother the surface of the water, the
more cautious the trout are. You have to use extra caution approaching these areas.
I'm not going to get off into the subject of how you do this. That's another subject that
deserves lots of consideration and practice. I will mention that unless you have
excellent cover (objects to hide behind), you will need to make longer cast than you
normally do. Not only do the cast need to be longer most of the time, they also need
to be made in such a way the fly, tippet, leader and fly line lands on the water
delicately. In other words, success demands good presentations.
It also requires lighter and longer than normal leaders and tippet. Most of the time, I
use a 6X tapered leader that's at least 9 foot long, including the tippet. That is long
and light enough for most situations you will encounter.
We have two Perfect Fly types of emerger fly patterns for the Blue Quills. One has a
trailing shuck and one doesn't. I will discuss these flies and how you fish them
tomorrow. The one below is the plain version, without the trailing shuck.
As normal, for those who may be considering coming to the Smokies to fish this
weekend, I will give the forecast through the weekend. Today, there is a 50 percent
chance of snow, mainly before 1pm. It will be partly sunny with a high near 32. North
wind will be around 10 mph. Tonight's low will be around 15.
Friday, will be sunny with a high near 48. Calm wind will become west around 5 mph
in the morning. Friday night's low will be around 29.
Saturday, will be sunny with a high near 55. West wind will range from 5 to 10 mph.
Saturday night's low will be around 37.
Sunday, there's aA 20 percent chance of rain after noon. It will be partly sunny with a
high near 56.
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 531 cfs at 2.47 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 565 cfs at 2.00 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 148 cfs at 2.76 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. Yesterday, it was a little high.
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake. I'm sure
they are still on the high side of normal.
Current Recommended Streams: All of them are still too high to wade safely.
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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