Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2 . Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3. Little Brown Stoneflies
4. Quill Gordons
5. Blue Quills
6. Little Black Caddis
Current Stream Conditions:
Everything relating to the beginning of the hatches still seems to be on a normal
schedule. We should start seeing hatches of Quill Gordons and Blue Quills
occurring any day. Water levels were a little on the high side yesterday and the
water was a little stained in the streams on the Tennessee side of the park. I haven't
seen the North Carolina streams. Last nights lows were just below freezing but it
should warm up to a nice 60 degrees in the lower elevations today and even warmer
Blue Quill Emergers
For you that are new to fly fishing for trout, I may should begin by explaining what an
emerging mayfly is. The word "emerger" is a common name used for the insect
during the period of time the mayfly is changing from a nymph that has lived in an
underwater world for a year or longer, into a dun, or a fly that will live out of the
water anywhere from a few hours to as long as five days, depending on the species
The Blue Quills usually live about a day before mating and dieing. The word
"emerger" is also used for the "fly" anglers use to imitate the emerging stage of the
mayfly. It isn't an actual stage of life of the mayfly. It's just a word used to describe
the insect during the transition period of time it is changing from a nymph to a dun.
Mayflies do not undergo complete metamorphosis like many insects do. The skip
the pupa stage of life.
During the time the Blue Quill are emerging, and most other mayflies for that matter,
they look very different depending on the exact point in time you want to describe
the insect. The complete emerging process usually takes place in less than a
minute or two but it depends on many things such as water and air temperatures as
well as the species of mayfly. The Blue Quills usually emerge within a minute or so.
When they first begin to hatch from water which is usually around 50 degrees, the
entire process may take two or three minutes. Later on, when the water and air gets
warmer, they may take less than a minute to change from a nymph to a fly capable
of departing the water in flight.
Now you may think this is a extremely short time for anyone to attempt to be
imitating the emerging mayfly and it is; however, doing so can be very important.
The reason is because that short period of time is when the mayfly is most subject
to being eaten by trout. You have to remember that after the mayfly changes into a
dun, after the few seconds it usually takes to dry its wings, it will no longer be on the
water in a position for trout to eat it. Even after it has opened its wings in a fully
extended position and it is drifting around on the surface of the water, it is capable
of departing the water before a trout can grab it. In layman language, the trout are
aware of this better than I am. They know their odds of catching and eating the
mayfly are much higher when it is drifting helplessly in or just under the surface skim
of the water than it is when it is capable of departing the water in flight. This is the
period of time when most mayflies are eaten during the "hatch" period of time.
Often, during this short time period, the insect is called an emerging nymph. This
transition period of time has a lot of different phases and words that describe it and
so does the insect.
Most commercial fly companies have generic imitations of mayfly emergers. That's
only taken place over the last few years. For years prior to that, they only had
generic nymphs and imitations of duns. It's almost laughable that they go to a lot of
trouble to come up with imitations of the duns that imitate the looks and behavior of
the mayfly after trout have little chances of catching and eating it, and also when its
mostly out of the water in a situation where the trout only get a crude view of it, yet
their imitations of the emergers are generic flies that in many cases don't resemble
the real things much at all. In the case of the Blue Quill mayfly, they have fairly good
imitations of the duns (although most of them are too large) yet they don't even
have imitations of the nymphs or emergers. The fly shops will tell you just any old
generic mayfly emerger is good enough but when it comes to the duns, you need a
Blue Quill fly. The truth is, you need a better imitation of the nymph and emerger
than you do the dun. This all stems from a general lack of knowledge about
mayflies. It gets even worse with other aquatic insects.
These Blue Quills emerge in calm, slow moving water that is usually on the shallow
side. The trout see the emergers and nymphs very well. While the generic flies work
okay in the fast water when anglers imitate the Quill Gordons, they work very poorly
in imitating the Blue Quills. In fact, most anglers that fish the Smoky mountain
streams cannot catch trout feeding on the Blue Quills. They sometimes declare the
fishing, quote "poor" or "slow" at a time when trout are eating the Blue Quills one
after the other. This always happens when the Quill Gordons stop hatching. No
wonder you hear anglers referring to the fishing as slow or good, etc. It's mostly
terms used that relate to the level of their knowledge, skill and the flies they use.
Back to the emerging Blue Quills, and most other mayflies for that matter, you will
find the insects start emerging at a point they looks like:
1. A nymph with a swollen wing pad about to split and burst open. We imitate this
with our Blue Quill nymph
2. To a nymphs with a clump of wings that are partially open and with an almost
translucent skin looking sheath that is beginning to come off its body at the tail end
of the nymph. We imitate this with our Blue Quill Emerger fly.
3. To something that now looks more like a mayfly dun than a nymph, but with the
translucent skin-like thing anglers call the shuck still attached to its tail. We imitate
this with our Blue Quill Emerger with a Trailing Shuck fly.
4. And finally to the dun that's ready to fly. We imitate this with our Blue Quill Dun.
A Blue Quill, the common name of this mayfly, is also called a Mahogany Dun. When
it becomes a dun, its body becomes a very dark, mahogany color. The problem with
using this common name in the Smokies is that many anglers use it for the Slate
Drake. In some areas of the East and Mid-west, the Blue Quill is called a Mahogany
Dun. Confused? You should be. That's the problem with common names.
Now the two emerger flies above, number 2 and 3, imitate the mayfly only for the
very short period of time it is emerging. Again, this is important because it is
when most of the Blue Quills are eaten by trout. Naturally, you can't change
the type of emerger fly you are using during the time a mayfly is emerging. You
can't tie a knot that fast. You have to select one of the two patterns to use.
You can use a plain emerger or the emerger with the trailing shuck. This is purely
optional. Some anglers prefer plain emergers and some prefer those with a trailing
shuck. That is why we have the option.
The plain emerger seems to me to be the most effective at catching trout of the two
flies but it is more difficult to fish. It is difficult to detect strikes because the CDC
wings just suspend it flush with the surface of the water. This is the way you want it
to float. You don't add any floatants to the fly. It imitates the real emergers very well
but you have pay close attention to your fly line and leader.
The emerger with the trailing shuck fly is easier to see and fish. It tends to float a
little higher in the water. I can't say it is any more or less effective. Many anglers
have strong opinions over this. We just give them the option of using either type.
2011 James Marsh
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