Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/12/15
Today's high will be 34 with gusting wind to 20 MPH. Need I write more about fishing
Quill Gordons, Continued:
As mentioned before, the Quill Gordon nymphs live their one year life in the fast
water down between but mostly underneath the rocks on the bottom of the stream.
For all practical purposes, these nymphs are not available for trout to eat until about
two weeks prior to hatching. At that time they leave their normal fast water habitat
and crawl on the bottom to the nearest moderate to slow flowing water. This is
normally just a very few feet.
One of the locations in the streams of the Smokies commonly chosen is the pockets
behind boulders. Each boulder located in the current creates a tiny pool. If the
boulder is out in the stream, it normally has fast current flowing around each side of it
with slower moving water behind it. In some cases these boulders are located near
the banks and only have fast current flowing around one side, with the other
adjoining the bank or more boulders. These miniature pools, I call them, vary in
depth depending on the location. You won't find the Quill Gordons moving behind
them if the water is shallow. They normally select the deeper, miniature pools. I think
they should be two feet deep at a minimum, but deeper is better.
Other locations the Quill Gordons move to when they hatch are deep pockets along
the bank that have slow to moderately flowing water. There's other locations they
choose but the main point is they don't hatch in the fast current they live in. They do
quickly get caught in the current seams and often end up drifting down the fast water
runs and riffles before they are able to dry their wings enough to depart the water.
The time the nymphs are in these areas prior to hatching varies depending on the
changing water temperature. Unlike most mayflies, the Quill Gordons hatch on the
bottom, not in the surface skim. By the way, "Hatch" is a common word used but in
practical terms, eggs hatch, not nymphs. A better word is "emerge". When the
nymphs move to slower water, within a short time their wing pad opens up (splits into)
and the wings pop out while the nymph is still on, or at least near the bottom. Some
say they open mid-stream and others say they open on the bottom, but the point is
the nymph becomes a dun underwater, not in the surface skim. I tried to determine
this by raising some in an aquarium, but I was never looking at them at the time they
accented to the surface to emerge. I also broke two aquariums by letting the water
freeze attempting it on some Quill Gordon and other mayfly nymphs.
The water temperature normally offers a good clue as to when this emergence takes
place. Usually when the water temperature reaches about 50 degrees and stays
there a couple or three days, they will begin to hatch. This depends on the status of
the overall development of the nymphs but when that usually happens, the nymphs
are normally developed enough to emerge. Right now, things appear to be about
normal in that regard. The average water temperature the past few months has been
Keep in mind that in the Smokies, as well as other freestone streams that decline
considerably in elevation, the water temperature is normally colder at higher
elevations. It begins to warm up first in the low elevations and if the weather
continues to stay warm, it will gradually warm up at higher elevations as time passes.
For example, the hatch may end in the lowest elevations when it is just beginning to
start in the mid elevations. This varies with the water temperature which can change
drastically at the time of year the Quill Gordon nymphs hatch.
Once the nymphs become mature and migrate to the slower water to emerge, they
will emerge irregardless of the changes in the water temperature. It isn't the actual
water temperature that triggers the hatch at that point. It is the overall average
temperature during the growth of the nymphs that controls the emergence as well as
some other factors. At the same time, when the water temperature begins to fall at
elevations where the nymphs haven't migrated to slower water to emerge, the
migration and emergence will be delayed.
In cases where the water temperature stays below the magic 50 degrees beyond the
normal year life cycle, the nymphs will begin to emerge at lower water temperatures
than 50 degrees.. We have seen hatches of Quill Gordons begin from scratch in the
mid Atlantic and northern area streams when the water temperature was in the mid
forties, but this isn't normally the case. Regardless of where your fishing, the best
clues to use to locate the hatching Quill Gordons are the normal time of year they
hatch and the current water temperature at any one location in the stream.
If you can determine when the migration is taking place at any particular place in a
stream, you can usually catch more trout on the imitations of the nymphs than you
can during the actual emergence. The best method to use is hi-sticking. This does
require a lot of effort wading, or to be blunt, a lot of work, but it is very effective. By
casting our Quill Gordon nymph imitation (with added weight a few inches above the
fly) in the fast water and bringing in on the bottom into the pockets and other areas
of slower water that's in close proximity to the fast water, you can usually score well. It
doesn't have to be presented using the high sticking method, but you otherwise keep
the fly on the bottom, and keep in contact both by feel, and by watching your line for
After a hatch has started in a certain area, you should use this method of fishing up
until the mayflies begin to emerge. This usually takes place in the warmest part of the
day. In the Smokies, this is usually in the early to middle afternoon. When the Quill
Gordons first begin to appear on the surface of the water, you should switch to one
of two methods I will get into tomorrow.
Weather: (At Gatlinburg at about 1600 ft)
Today, there is a 30 percent chance of snow showers, but mainly before 7am. It will
be cloudy with a high near 34. Northwest wind will range from 5 to 15 mph, with gusts
as high as 20 mph. Tonight's low will be around 14.
Friday, will be mostly sunny with a high near 33. The wind will be about 5 mph.
Friday night's low will be around 23.
Saturday, there is a 30 percent chance of showers after 1pm. It will be mostly sunny
with a high near 47. West winds will be gusty 10 to 20 mph with gusts to 30.
Saturday night's low will be around 10. The chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday will be mostly sunny with a high near 23.
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 450 cfs at 2.31 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 447 cfs at 1.81 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 98 cfs at 2.55 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 getting back
down near a normal level.
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake. I'm sure
they are a little on the high side, but falling.
Current Recommended Streams: Upper Abrams Creek
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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The Perfect Fly Quill Gordon Nymph