Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1. Blue-winged Olives
2 . Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
4. Little Winter Stoneflies
5. Quill Gordon Nymphs
6. Blue Quill Nymphs
New Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trout Food Series - Blue
I have written many times that the more you know about the insects and other food
trout survive on, the better you should be able imitate to it. Imitating an insect's
behavior is more important than imitating its appearance. Often anglers think of
imitating an insect only in terms of having the right fly. The right fly is of little use if it
isn't fished at the right time and place. Place doesn't just mean fished in the stream,
it means fished in the right area of the stream, or the right type of water.
Blue Quills are crawler mayfly nymphs that are properly identified as
Paralephophlebia adoptive species. One of my favorite little goofy tricks is to be
taking to someone about hatches and mention the Blue Quill by its Latin name. It's
sometimes difficult to do without laughing. I can rattle the name off as if it is as
common as my home address. It's a mouth full that always gets a strange look from
whomever I'm talking to. What I fail to tell them is that it took me about a month of
saying it several times a day to remember how to pronounce it. I will assure you that
being able to pronounce the bugs by their Latin names will not help you imitate them.
These nymphs do not live in the fast water. They prefer the moderate water. They
like the shallow, moderately flowing riffles. In some ways they look like the swimmer
nymphs, being a little longer and skinner than most crawler nymphs, but they cannot
swim. They are very easy to identify down to the genus. They are called the Forked
Gill Nymphs because their gills are very slim, almost hair like gills that end in a fork.
At this time of the year, the only thing in the streams of the Smokies to confuse them
with are the mollis and debilis species and that's not really a problem because they
are very tiny at this time of the year, whereas the adoptive species are fully grown
(in their final instar) about to open their wing pads and hatch.
Interestingly, you would be hard pressed to find an angler that doesn't know what a
Blue Quill is but the mollis and debilis species, which are just as plentiful in the
Smokies, are not well known. They are also called Blue Quills, Iron Blue Quills,
Mahogany Duns and dozens of other common names. The big difference is they
hatch in the late Summer and early Fall. The trout eat them just as well as the Blue
Quills but very few anglers are even aware the mayflies exist.
One big difference in most nymphs and something you should keep in mind, is the
Blue Quill nymphs will collect in schools. There can be a lot of them in a very
small area. These areas where they live and where they hatch usually represents
only a small part of the stream. The trout know where they live and hatch just as well
as you know where your close friends live. When you fish only these areas, you are
greatly increasing your odds of success.
As I've mentioned often and very recently, the best way to increase your odds is to
fish an imitation of the insects in the same type of water they live and/or hatch in
depending on the timing. That is usually two completely different types of places
within the stream. In the case of the Blue Quills, they hatch in slack, shallow water
nearby the moderately flowing water they normally live in. This is usually shallow,
calm pockets behind rocks and boulders, shallow pockets along the banks,
shallow edges of pools and anywhere you find shallow, slow moving water.
This is one reason they are difficult to imitate. It's difficult to get close to this type of
water without spooking the trout. The trout that feed on the Blue Quill nymphs
usually do not hold in the slack, calmer water. They usually hold nearby in deeper
water where they can easily dart in a grab a nymph. As I mentioned day before
yesterday, that's why you need to make longer cast with lighter leaders and tippets.
You do not need to add much weight to the fly, if any.
I think I've already touched on this but the more cloud cover and shade, the better.
The trout will be very cautious about darting into shallow water when the sun is
bearing directly down on these types of areas. It's usually much easier to catch trout
fishing imitations of the Blue Quill nymphs if you're fishing when there's cloud cover
or early or late in the day. Although it is a little more difficult, you need to learn to be
able to imitate Blue Quills because they will be around several days longer than the
Quill Gordons and they are also more plentiful than the Quill Gordons. Also, the
behavior of the nymphs and hatches isn't that much different from many of the BWO
Down and Dirty (some are clean) Tips and Recommendations for Fly
Fishing Destinations - Part 21
Just keep in mind that it is strictly one opinion that happens to be mine. The intent is to hopefully
give those interested a general idea of what to expect. Most likely every guide, affiliated business
entity and local angler will have a different opinion. These streams also have full coverage on our
Perfect Fly Stream Section.
Western Rocky Mountain States In General:
I have finished Colorado finally and will move on to other western states. Before
doing so, I just want to mention a few things in general about the streams in the
Western Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho.
I'm sure you have all read and heard many things written and said by Eastern trout
anglers that in essence compared the trout streams of the East to those of the
West. It's easy to get carried away and praise you local streams higher than they
should be regardless of where you live. We all have our favorite streams and if you
live in the East like Angie and I, you always tend to want to rate the streams as high
as you can; however, this can sometimes get completely out of reality.
When I finish this series, you will see that I rate the streams of Great Smoky
Mountain National Park very high. I'll step ahead and tell you now that I give them an
"A" minus. If you noticed, I gave only a very, very few other streams in the East that
high of a rating. I rate the streams of the Smokies that high because the trout
are wild or native, plentiful, there's lots of access, some easy and some
difficult and it's a beautiful place to fish. The only reason they get the minus is
because the rainbows average a small size.
The small rainbow size isn't due to a lack of food as many think and has often be
given as a reason for size by those whom are supposed to be the experts. The
streams of the Smokies have about as much food for the trout as most other
headwater, freestone streams in the nation and more than many streams in the
West. I challenge anyone to prove otherwise. The small average size of the
rainbows is due to an inadequate amount of water during the hot months of the year
that's cool enough to hold enough oxygen for them to survive. In a nutshell, in hot
weather under low water conditions that only exist in the upper middle and higher
elevations. The rainbows don't starve trying to get enough food to eat. As a
practical matter, If they did, you would catch the larger ones that were long and
skinny with caved in stomachs. They would chase your fly down from anywhere they
could see it. They die because of the limited amount of water with enough oxygen
for them to survive during hot weather. The larger the trout, the more likely they
are to die when this situation occurs. When this occurs to a large extent, within
the following two or three years, the rainbows become less plentiful but also much
larger. Only the upper middle and higher elevations have water cool enough for
rainbows during very hot summer days, especially when there has been low rainfall
amounts. In the West, good freestone trout streams start at about 5,000-6000 feet
in elevation and in the Smokies, that's as high or higher than they exist. In the
Smokies, wild browns (which change their eating habits) grow large and the native
brook trout get about as big as they get anywhere they exist in the few areas where
the rainbows are not able to reach the same areas and compete with them.
The Smokies can be fished year-round and this is a huge plus in my book. It's
where we choose to live. All of the above said, I mentioned the Smokies at this time
to point this one thing out. Comparing any stream in the East as being equal to or
better than most of the better ones in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho requires
someone to do one of two things - either make a complete idiot out of themselves,
or just outright lie. I take that back. I guess it's possible to do both.
There are streams most anglers have never heard of in all three of the
above states that are fifty miles long and longer that are better trout
streams than any stream that exist in the Eastern United States.
I will be going though some of the best of the best during the next few days.
Copyright 2011 James Marsh