Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/13/15
It is 20 degrees at the time I'm writing this. Today's high will be around 35 degrees.
This means one thing for sure. The water temperature will barely be above freezing
at the warmest.
Quill Gordons, Part 3
As you may have noticed in the last article, I recommended using the "Perfect Fly"
Emerging Dun, a wet fly, or the "Perfect Fly" Dun, a dry fly. I'll repeat something I
wrote yesterday. "More frequently, when the water temperatures are marginal for
surface action and the trout are eating the emerging duns between the bottom
(where they emerge into duns) and the surface of the water, the dry fly imitation of
the dun fails to work. In fact, it's actually always the case that more of the naturals
are eaten below the surface than on the surface; however, when the water is on the
cool side of about 50 degrees, the trout can become even more prone to eat the
emerging duns. We developed a Perfect Fly pattern for the emerging dun a few
years ago. I first called it a Wed Dun and then changed the name to an Emerging
Adult. It not only works great for the Quill Gordon but different versions of it works the
other three common species within the same genera. It has become a very popular
fly to use when the Quill Gordons are hatching, yet a little reluctant to take an
imitation of the dun from the surface".
Again, I'll mentioned that when the Quill Gordons emerge from an nymph into a dun
(a fly that once their wings are dry can fly off of the water), they do so on the bottom.
The wet fly that you see below is designed to imitated those emerging duns before
they reach the surface. The fly has a strap of deer hair on its back secured by fine
gold wire that helps add some buoyancy to the fly. When you add a split-shot weight
a few inches above the fly, the added buoyancy helps it tend to rise a little above the
level of the split-shot. To imitate the natural emerging nymphs, the drift should allow
the fly to rise from the bottom of the stream to the surface like the real ones.
Remember, the Quill Gordons move from their normal fast water habitat in the bottom
of the runs to the nearest moderate to slow flowing water before they hatch. I went
over this in previous articles in this series. That's where you want to cast the
Emerging Dun fly. Add enough weight and give the fly enough time to sink all the way
to the bottom just outside the fast water/slow water current seam in the slower moving
water. Mending your fly line a time or two will help get it down without adding a lot of
When the fly gets on the bottom, raise your rod tip slightly to very slowly bring the fly
up to the surface as it drifts downstream towards your position. You want to
maneuver the fly from the slower water into the current seam between the fast and
slower moving water. Most of the time the fast water will catch the fly and this will be
almost automatic. If not, bring the tip of your fly rod sideways in the direction of the
fast water to help it. You want the fly to slowly come from the bottom and arrive at the
surface near the ends of the fast water runs. Of course, this will always depend on
the water speed, length of the drift and other things. Try to imagine the real emerging
duns changing to a dun on the bottom and rising to the surface and imitate what you
think would happen to the real mayfly.
Lets use this situation for an example. Lets suppose you want to fish the slower water
behind a large boulder that's in the middle of the stream that has current flowing
around each side of the boulder. That would be a very common area for the Quill
Gordons to hatch. Make sure the water behind the boulder is at least a couple of feet
deep. Lets assume you want to fish the current seam where the water flows around
the side of the boulder and into the run that's on your right.
Cast the fly into the miniature pool behind the boulder about a foot from the current
seam to your right and mend your line to help get the fly on the bottom. Bring the rod
tip up very slowly and slightly to your right in such a manner that the fly will get
caught up in the water coming around the boulder. You will notice the fly line, leader
and eventually the fly will almost always get caught by the faster water with little help
from you. Keep raising the rod tip until the fly reaches the surface. On longer cast,
you may need to strip in a little line during the drift. Again, this all depends on the
water and the length of your upstream cast, but usually the drift will take place
(fly rise from the bottom to the surface) between five to ten feet and rarely over
The trout will sometimes take the fly when it's in the pocket and sometimes when it
first gets to the current seam, but most often, when it is between mid depth and the
surface near the end of the fast water run. Keep in mind, you don't want to wade into
the area of water near the ends of the runs. That would spook the trout feeding on
the emerging Quill Gordons. The presentation should be made slightly up and across
the stream, so that when the fly reaches near the end of the run it's across from your
position, not right in front of your legs.
Tomorrow, I will continue with fishing imitations of the Quill Gordon Dun, or a dry fly
imitation of this mayfly.
Weather: (At Gatlinburg at about 1600 ft)
Today, will be mostly sunny with a high near 35. North wind will be around 5 mph.
Tonight's low will be around 20.
Saturday, there' s 40 percent chance of rain, mainly after 4pm. It will be mostly sunny
with a high near 44. West wind will range from 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25
mph. The low Saturday night will be around 10. The chance of precipitation is 30%.
Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 23. North wind 5 to 10 mph.
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 392 cfs at 2.19 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 392 cfs at 1.71 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 77 cfs at 2.45 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 about a normal
Hazel Creek and the other larger NC streams flowing into Fontana Lake. I'm sure
they are approaching normal levels.
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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Perfect Fly Quill Gordon Emerging Adult