Flies Needed Now for Fishing the Smokies
Blue Quills - Part 1
Insects and other food the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives (Baetis)
2. Blue Quills
3. Quill Gordons
4. Little Black Caddis
5. Winter Stoneflies
The little Blue Quills are one of several species of Paraleptophlebia species that
hatch in the Smokies. This is the adoptive species, and the first one to hatch. The
others hatch during the late summer and early fall and are usually called Mahogany
Duns. These mayflies are in the same family as the Tricos.
The Blue Quills start hatching just before and sometimes about the same time as
the Quill Gordons. However, the hatch is usually larger and last longer than the
Quill Gordons. Last year it lasted almost a month after the Quill Gordons stopped
hatching. These are small, crawler nymphs. I often confuse them with swimming
nymphs because they can swim very well and they are slim, minnow like nymphs.
They dart around like the little swimmers. They live in the slow to moderate water,
not the fast water, like all crawler mayfly nymphs.
These mayflies hatch in water very similar to the Blue-winged Olives except usually
shallower. Concentrate on fishing the calmer areas of water that are near riffles and
runs such as calm pockets, eddies, and calm areas near the banks. They can
hatch in water so shallow you wouldn't think anything would live there. It is
unproductive to fish imitations of these little nymphs in the fast water runs and riffles
on the bottom or in the water column. You want find the nymphs in that type of
water. Trout will often shoot into the shallow water areas these nymphs live, eat
them and go back to the safety of deeper water adjacent to the area.
Many of you would call this technical fishing. It isn't easy to conceal your presence
yet make a cast into the right types of water without spooking the trout. One
reason it that when you cast into a calm pocket and try to get a natural drift, the fast
water grab your leader and yanks the nymph or emerger fly out of the calm area.
Keep as much of your line out of the water possible. That isn't easy to do unless
you get close to the area you are fishing. Try to move up on these areas from
behind boulders. Stay back away from the banks and cast in the calm pockets
along the banks.
I mentioned that the trout won't hold in the very shallow water. They tend to run in
and grab a nymph and then retreat to their holding water. However, not all of them
hatch in shallow water. They can hatch just about anywhere there is not fast water,
even if it is three feet deep. We have netted these nymphs in the Smokies is water
only a few inches deep.
If the hatch hasn't started, as is the case today, you will want to weight your leader
lightly using just enough weight to get the fly down on the bottom. Be sure and use
a hook size 18 nymph. That is as large as they grow. In the shallow, calmer water, a
strike indicator will tend to spook the trout. You can use a dry fly to keep track of
the little nymph if you must; however, you are better off just watching the end of
your fly line and leader for a strike. It will stop, jump or act unnatural when the trout
takes it. Sometimes you can see the trout take the nymph. I suggest using a very
light leader and tippet. We usually use a 2 foot, 6X tippet on a leader at least 9 foot
This is our Blue-Quill Nymph. Notice it isn't as dark as you would think it would be.
The clinger nymphs have large gills because they don't live in fast water. The gills
are large to get more oxygen from the moderate to slow water. It isn't easy to see in
the image above but we use a couple of Emu feather tips for the gills. They are
located just behind the thorax. They will move and look like crawler mayfly gills with
the slightest movement of the fly or water.
Copyright 2009 James Marsh