Great Smoky Mountains Fishing Report 02/15/15
Sorry I'm late this morning. My brain was frozen and it took some time for it to thaw
out enough to rotate. I'll just ignore writing about the fishing conditions because they
don't exist, and get to the spinners part of the Quill Gordon story I know everyone is
Quill Gordons, Part 5 - Spinners
A spinner is the angler's term for the final stage of life of the mayfly. Actually, scientist
consider the dun and spinner adults with the spinner being the true grown adult.
They call the spinner the imago stage of the mayfly's life.
A Rundown on the Brief Adult Life and Death of a Mayfly:
As soon as the duns emerge from the stream and fly off to the trees and bushes,
they begin to molt into spinners. A layman's way of putting this is they become
sexually mature. The mayflies,including the Quill Gordons, undergo some fairly
drastic changes, not only in appearance, they also change the physically size of
some body parts. Their tails and to some extent, their legs become longer. Their
abdomen becomes skinnier. The wings usually become translucent, or clear, leaving
only the dark molting and veining pattern if present.
This all usually takes place within the first day of their life. Some species are fully
developed and mate the same day they hatch and others do so the following day.
The exact time of mating varies from species to species and to some extent, with the
The Quill Gordon male spinners go out over the water in the same areas they
emerged and do what I call the mayfly dance. They congregate in swarms and move
back and forth, up and down. Some contend this is to attract the females so they can
mate. When the females approach them the dancing intensifies. Copulation begins
and ends in mid-air. As soon as they are finished, the male spinners fall dead on the
water, or sometimes on the banks of the stream. The ones that fall on the water drift
away with the current and often get eaten by trout.
As soon as the females eggs have been fertilized from copulation, they fly back to
the bushes and trees along the stream until the eggs become ready for ovipositing.
Ovipositing is a fancy word for the female depositing her eggs on or in the water. The
time this takes varies but is usually very short. It's sometimes less than an hour but
often longer, again, depending on the species of mayfly. Most species of mayflies fly
out over the water from which they emerged and deposit the eggs on the surface of
the water. Some drop them from the air just above the water. Other species of
mayflies crawl into the water and deposit them on the rocks. Some dive into the
water and deposit their eggs on the submerged wood, vegetation and rocks. When
ovipositing (egg laying) is finished, the mayflies wings fall spent (flat) and the females
spinners float away in the current or get eaten by trout.
Most anglers are just not aware of the fishing opportunities a Quill Gordon spinner
fall presents. They think only in terms of the hatch. You can actually catch more trout
in a given amount of time during a good spinner fall than you can during the same
length of time during a hatch. That's because the spinner fall puts a lot of flies on the
water in a very short time. There's no need for the trout to get into a rush to eat
them. The flies are not going to escape them. The trout can sip them in as fast as
they want to. The only downfall to spinner falls is they sometimes occur after legal
fishing hours and in some cases, even when it's already dark. If the weather doesn't
cooperate, they can take place early during the following morning.
The Quill Gordon spinner fall usually occurs in the late afternoon but it's certainly
possible for it to start earlier than that, especially when the skies are overcast. Some
days this may occur not long after the current day's hatch ends. In some northern
streams, I have even seen the Quill Gordon spinner fall taking place before the hatch
The best way to confirm a spinner fall is taking place, is to first, know a hatch has
occurred, and secondly, spot them when they are mating high above the stream. This
always occurs above your head and sometimes as high as twenty to forty feet above
the water. If it's cloudy, they will mate and fall earlier in the afternoon. If it's a clear,
blue bird day, they will usually fall very late in the afternoon or early evening. The air
temperature also has a lot to do with the time it takes place. The warmer the air, the
later in the day the spinner fall will occur. If there's enough light, you can often see
the female spinners dipping down to the surface of the water to deposit their eggs. Of
course, the males will already be dead, drifting spent on the water at that time. After
the egg laying ends, it's almost impossible to see the spinners.
It isn't easy to see the trout taking the spinners from the water, and that means the
fake ones your fly imitates, as well as the real ones. The trout don't crash them like
they take the duns. They just sip them in. This leaves only a small ripple on the
surface and that's only if the water is smooth. If the surface of the water is fairly
rough, which is usually the case with Quill Gordon spinner falls, you probably won't
notice them. The spinners are also difficult to see because they are present during
low light conditions. In fact, if they fall late in the afternoon when they normally fall,
about the only way you can see them on the water is to skim the surface with a fine
mesh net. If your wading, they can drift right by you in the surface skim without your
being able to see them. I use a small, collapsible net made to slip over my landing
net. It's attached to the handle of the net. This will tells you very quickly if there are
spinners on the water.
The current will catch the spent spinners and move them into the current seams. The
trout will position themselves downstream along the current seams. The spinners will
be mixed right in with the bubbles. The trout usually hold near the ends of the runs
and deeper riffles in the same water from which the Quill Gordons hatched. You may
also find the trout eating them in eddies where the current has concentrated the
spinners. In some cases, they may end up in the heads of pools where plunges have
concentrated the spinners. In smooth sections of water, you will sometimes see the
trout's nose break the water when they are sipping them in, but not always. They can
eat them without breaking the surface of the water.
The trout can closely examine the spinners as much as they want to. They will turn
away from your fly if it isn't a fairly good imitation of the real ones. They get a good
look at the spinners even though it's under low light conditions. That's why our
"Perfect Fly" Quill Gordon Spinners are simi-realistic imitations of the real ones.
Using them results in a much higher percentage of hook ups.
The up and across presentation usually works fine for the spinners. Make sure it drifts
drag-free. Mend the line if you need to. In some cases you may need to use a down
and across presentation. If so, you should make a longer cast than normal to keep
from being spotted by the trout. I suggest this only when you observe trout taking the
spinners downstream of your position, or when that's about the only way to present
the fly in a given area. Another suggestion is to make sure you don't use too heavy
of a leader and tippet. I normally use a nine foot leader and a 5X tippet
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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