Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/14/15
Wow! The national weather forecast page for Gatlinburg has snow all over it
everyday through next Friday. I have never seen snow in the forecast for that long of
a period of time.
Quill Gordons, Part 4 - Duns
For those just getting started fly fishing, let me make sure everyone understands
what a dun is. When the nymph emerges from the water as an adult mayfly (and can
fly off the water to the trees and bushes along the stream), anglers call this stage of
the mayfly a "dun". Scientist call this stage the subimago. The mayfly will later change
into what the scientist call the imago and anglers call the spinner. We will get into the
spinner stage of the Quill Gordon later. This article is about the Quill Gordon dun.
As described in the previous parts of the series on Quill Gordon emergers, the duns
normally reach the surface of the water in the fast runs. There are other places the
duns emerge. Sometimes they will get caught up in the slower water of the pockets
and sometimes they will emerge in the deeper riffles. In the Smokies, most often they
emerge in the runs. Depending on the length of the run and the speed of the water,
they normally are on the surface drying their wings near the end of the runs.
Just how quickly the duns fly off the water to nearby bushes and trees depends on
the temperature and weather conditions. Normally, it only takes a few seconds from
the time they reach the surface until they can fly but under adverse conditions, it can
take up to a minute or two. In real adverse conditions, the duns cannot open and dry
their wings enough to fly. These mayflies are called "cripples".
One good thing about the Quill Gordon Duns is that they are large enough to see
fairly easy. It's also fairly easy to tell when the trout are taking them from the surface.
You can often see and hear the trout taking the duns from the surface.
A good way to know your placing your fly in the right areas of the runs is to present it
in such as way as it is drifting downstream with the little bubbles on the surface of the
water. The current tends to congregate the bubbles in the path of least resistance
and usually, that's where you will find the duns drifting downstream.
As mentioned before, the Quill Gordons normally hatch when the water temperature
of the stream reaches about 50 degrees for two or three days. Again, this is only a
rough rule of thumb. This can vary depending on the overall average water
temperature during the past few months and the status of the development of the
nymphs. If the Quill Gordons are hatching and the water is much lower than 50
degrees, the odds of the trout taking the duns from the surface is lower than it is if
the water is above that temperature. This is only a very general rule, not a cut and
dry hard rule. The trout are just a little more reluctant to take them from the surface
when the water is on the cold side of that, especially since they can acquire the
helpless emerging duns easier beneath the surface.
If you can see the Quill Gordons hatching and they are not taking your dry fly
imitation of the dun, chances are good you will catch more trout using a wet fly
imitation of the emerging dun. You just have to weigh the odds against your
preference of fishing methods. It is exciting to see a good size trout clobber your dun
imitation on the surface. My friend and bass fishing legend Roland Martin, coined the
phrase for bass fishing "Son, that's what it's all about" and in the case of trout taking
Quill Gordon duns from the surface, in many angler's opinion, the same phrase
works equally as well for trout.
The same slightly up and across method of presentation as outlined for the Emerging
Dun fly in yesterday's article works for the dry fly imitation of the dun with this
exception. You don't need to cast the fly in the pockets, or the slow to moderate
water they begin to emerge from. Cast it at theheads of the runs and deep riffles
where you see the duns emerging on the surface. It's best to use a reach cast to put
a little slack in your line but make sure you cast far enough above the rising trout to
have time to mend your line if it's needed to get a good drag free drift. You want to
make sure your fly is drifting naturally with the current like the real mayflies, not
dragging across the current leaving a wake. I'm not going to get into any detail about
the techniques of making good presentations and getting good drifts.
The "Perfect Fly" Quill Gordon Dun is far more imitative of the real mayflies than any
of the fly shop versions. They use the parachute style of hackle because it does a
much better job of imitating the legs of a mayfly than vertically wound hackle that
extends in the water unnaturally, in only one area in relationship to the fly's body.
The parachute style also drifts in the water in a more realistic manner with a lower,
more natural profile that's far more like the naturals than other styles of hackle.
The thorax is made from dubbing and the body of the fly is made from a turkey biot.
The biot not only closely imitates the segmentation of the mayflies body, it also helps
the fly float well. The two tails that are split like that of the real Quill Gordons, not a
clump of hair that's used for the tails of cheaply tied fly shop versions. There are two
wings that are split and slanted back like the real mayfly wings, not a vertical clump
of hair or other material found on usual generic imitations sold by fly shops
The amount of time required for a good fly tier to turn out a Perfect Fly dun is at least
three times that required to tie the typical fly shop versions. Flies sold by most fly
shops are imported from foreign countries, marked up by the importing fly company,
and marked up again by the retailer. Perfect fly has it's own fly tiers that tie our own
fly patterns and are sold directly to anglers. If the flies were sold through the normal
distribution channels, they would cost at least $5.00 each and probably, even more.
Weather: (At Gatlinburg at about 1600 ft)
Today, there is a 30 percent chance of showers, mainly after 5pm. It will be partly
sunny with a high near 47. It will be breezy, with a southwest wind 10 to 15 mph
increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 30 mph.
Tonight's low will be around 10 with a 40 percent chance of snow.
Sunday will be mostly sunny with a high near 24. Wind chill will values will be between
-2 and 8. North wind will be from 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 365 cfs at 2.13 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 250 cfs, and with extra caution up to 400 cfs)
Oconaluftee River: Rate 387 cfs at 1.70 ft.
(good wading conditions up to 500 cfs, and with extra caution up to 700 cfs)
Cataloochee Creek: Rate 91 cfs at 2.52 ft (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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