Methods & Strategies to Use "Now" Fishing the Smokies
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
Quill Gordon - Duns - Part 3
The dun is the stage of life of the Quill Gordon mayfly that excites most anglers.
The dun is what they mostly see on the streams and identify the insect from. They
are fairly large mayflies but about as plain, colorless and ugly as a mayfly can get.
Often you can see them drifting on the surface of the water. Often you see that
they are not being eaten doing that, which is the only problem with the dun. Trout
don't always eat them, especially when they first start hatching.
I always get a kick out of anglers saying the trout are not used to seeing flies on the
surface when that happens. Some will say "the trout aren't looking up yet". I guess
they have never paid much attention to the eyes of a trout. They can't help but look
up. They are always looking up. What is occurring is that the trout can eat all of the
mayflies they want during the time they are emerging with a lot less effort. That is
why the emerger imitation always out performs the dun. Another reason is that
often the water is only around 50 degrees and may even be less if it happened to
have dropped during the hatch. That just reduces the surface feeding activity
because, in simple terms, the trout are still a little too cold to be very active. You will
still be able to catch them on the surface every once in a while, even when the
water is that cold. It just isn't as effective of a method as it would be fishing below
The thing that makes this mayfly important and the most talked about mayfly of the
year in the Smokies is the fact that it is the first one that brings much exciting action
on the dry fly. The cold water and air temperatures don't allow the mayflies wings to
dry very fast and as a result, they sometimes have to ride the surface a rather
lengthy amount of time compared to other mayflies. The Blue Quills, that are
hatching about the same time, bring on decent dry fly action but the hatch is more
difficult to fish and the flies are not as large. There is just something about large
insects that turns anglers on. It turns them on a lot more than it turns the trout on,
that is for sure.
When we start seeing duns on the surface and trout begin to eat them, we change
to our imitation of the dun. It is fairly easy to determine when the trout begin to eat
them on the surface. You can see and hear them.
We fish the dun up and across making a lot of short cast. You want to place the fly
near the ends of the current seams and allow it to drift drag free down the stream
just below the pockets. Keeping the fly in the bubbles is a great way to insure you
have the fly in the right place. Don't forget about the edges of the current seams
along the banks. Not all of the Quill Gordons hatch out in the pockets behind rocks
and boulders. You want the dun to drift in the faster moving water, not the slow
water of the pockets. Just in case you are wondering about it, Quill Gordons don't
hatch in pools. When the trout takes the dun imitation, you will know it. It can be
very exciting dry fly fishing.
If it is the right time of day for the Quill Gordons to be hatching (generally the
warmest part of the day) don't waste a lot of time in any one place if you are not
catching trout. Move around to different areas of the stream. You may find an
entirely different situation fifty yards away. In fact, if you don't have a clue where to
fish on the stream or where they may be hatching, you may need to move around a
great deal and a fairly long distance within that short time period to find them.
Copyright 2009 James Marsh
"Perfect Fly" Quill Gordon Dun