Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.    Blue-winged Olives
2  .  Sculpin, baitfish and small crayfish (Imitate with streamers)
3.    Midges
4.    Little Winter Stoneflies

New Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trout Food Series - Part
17 - Strategy for the next few days

As I'm sure everyone in the country has noticed, the arctic deep freezer ls losing
power and it's starting to warm up some. In the Smoky Mountains, which is located in
the South in case you have forgotten, springlike weather usually shows up well
before its official beginning of March 20, 2011. The long range weather forecast for
the nest week looks great. I'm sure we will have some cold fronts that move through
and drop the temperature every once in a while during the next two months. That
pattern will probably last into the first part of May but usually within a couple of days
of the passage of the front, things return back to normal springlike weather.

Although the water temperature isn't the main determining factor as to when the
various aquatic insects hatch, it usually provides a good indication of when they
begin. We have three species of aquatic insects that will all start to hatch near the
time the water reaches about 50 degrees Fahrenheit - the Blue Quills, Quill
Gordons and Little Black Caddis. The exact temperatures at which these insects
hatch may vary some, depending on how stable the temperatures have been and
how well the larvae have developed. If the water gets to 50 degrees and stays there
only a very short time, it probably won't mean anything. If it gets that warm and
continues to rise on up into the mid-high fifties, we may see an explosion in the
hatches. It depends on the maturity of the nymphs and larvae and the overall
average water temperature over time more than the actual water temperature at a
given point in time. These hatches usually start occurring near the first week of
March. It's possible for all three of these insects to hatch before the water reaches
fifty degrees but that would be unusual. It's also possible for it to reach 50 and the
insects not begin to hatch for two or three days. The temperature is only a guideline
but it's usually a good one.

The problem many anglers have with hatches is they place far too much importance
on the actual hatch, or the time the insects begin to emerge and depart the water,
and little importance of how to catch trout during the pre-hatch period of time. As I
have written for the past few days, trout will eat more of these insects when the are
still nymphs and/or larvae than duns and full grown adults.

The only hatches that may occur today and for the next few days are the Little
Winter Stoneflies, Blue-winged Olives (one of the
baetis species) and midges. The
water needs to get to into the mid-forties before the BWOs hatch and that will
probably happen today in the lower elevations. The first early season
species, which are not very plentiful, are usually sporadic hatches that usually
continue through the month of March. These will be a hook size 18. There will also
be sporadic hatches of two species of Little Blue-winged Olives that will range in
hook size from a 20 to a 22.. By April, these hatches will be replaced by yet another
larger BWO species. These BWO hatches are not very dependable. If I had to put a
percentage on them hatching on any given day, it wouldn't be over a 20% chance.
That percentage will increase and the hatches will increase in intensity under low
barometric pressure when the sky is heavily overcast. By the way, this is also true of
the Blue Quill hatches and any mayfly emergence to some extent.

We show the Blue Quills starting to hatch as early as the third week of February on
Smoky Mountain Hatch Chart. Normally, it will be a couple of weeks later. We
show the Quill Gordons starting the forth week of February but again, that would
normally be about two weeks early. What we don't show but what the chart should
tell you is that the nymphs of both the Blue Quills and the Quill Gordons will move
from their normal habitats into the type of water they will hatch from a week or two
prior to the actual emergence. For all practical purposes and considering the
weather forecast we have
, that means very soon. If the weather remains warm,
this movement should begin to take place later this week or certainly by
the end of next week.
The other species to hatch at almost the same time are the
American Grannom caddisflies or the
Brachycentrus species called Little Black
Caddis. This is called the Mother's day hatch in the West but usually just the Little
Black Caddis hatch in the Southeast. These caddisflies hatch mid-stream much the
same way most mayflies do. These three mayfly and caddis hatches will first start in
the lower elevations and of course, that's where you should first start fishing
imitations of the mayfly nymphs. There is no need to fish imitations of the Little Black
Caddis until the hatch actually begins. Fished correctly, it often produces more trout
than the Blue Quill or the Quill Gordons. Also, don't confuse them with the little
Chimarra species of caddis that are smaller or about a hook size 20 or less. I have
yet to figure out how to catch trout off those little critters. They crawl out of the water
on the boulders and rocks and I'm not sure just how much they are eaten by trout
given the fact the streams are full of aquatic insect larvae at this time of the year.

Here's my recommendations for what you should do up until the time these
mayflies and/or caddisflies begin to actually hatch.

First and foremost, don't guess at the water temperature. If you don't have a
thermometer, buy one and take the time to obtain the water temperature every few

If the water temperature is still only in the high thirties or low forties, fish an imitation
of the Little Winter Stonefly nymph. Fish it on the bottom in the deeper, slow moving
areas of water. The trout will not hold in fast water that cold. However, the water will
getting warmer as the week progresses and this situation may not exist.

For the next four or five days, as long as the water temperatures only reach the
mid-forties, or less than the high forties,
you should fish imitations of either the
Blue Quills or Quill Gordon nymphs.
I'm stating this under the assumption you
don't find any BWOs hatching. If you do, that changes the situation entirely. If you
happen to know BWOs hatched the day before you are fishing, or you see them
beginning to hatch, you would want to fish an imitation of the BWO nymphs up until
the hatch gets underway. When it gets under way, which would be mid afternoon,
you would want to switch to a BWO emerger pattern or dun. Otherwise, the Blue
Quill nymphs should be the most productive fly to use because they will be the most
plentiful and the easiest food for the trout to acquire.
However, there is a trade
off with this.
The Blue Quill nymph imitations are more difficult to present properly
than the Quill Gordon Nymphs. The Blue Quill crawler nymphs will be moving into
the slow to moderate water that I described day before yesterday. You won't be able
to get very close to the areas they move to without spooking the trout that feed on
them. If you don't like making longer cast, using light leaders and tippets, then I
suggest you go to an imitation of the Quill Gordon clinger nymphs. You can get
much closer to areas where they will move to before hatching and your odds of
spooking trout that feed on them is much less likely than it is in the Blue Quill
scenario. In some cases, especially if you can approach an area from behind a
boulder, you can use the hi-sticking methods to present the nymphs. Most of the
time it is better to make short up and across presentations.

I have also described the areas the Quill Gordon nymphs will move to a week or two
before hatching. You don't want to waste cast and spook trout fishing in all the
wrong places fishing either the Blue Quill or Quill Gordon nymph imitations. These
nymphs will be in completely different areas of the stream in completely different
types of water. I'm not guessing. I know this for a fact. We have caught hundreds of
both of these nymphs and I can assure you they won't be in the same areas of
water. If you don't remember the descriptions of the areas they hatch, please go
back and read the previous articles on clinger, crawler and swimming nymphs. The
way to catch more trout is to increase your odds by only presenting the fly, either
the Blue Quill Nymph Imitation or the Quill Gordon imitation, in the type of water they
will soon hatch from. Don't waste time making unproductive cast into water where
the odds of catching a trout are much lower. Doing this, will enable you to cover
three or four times the length of any given stream you choose to fish.

By the way, as a general note, you may want to wait until it is at least 10:00 AM or
so to start fishing. That will give the water a chance to start warming some and
continue to warm as the day progresses.   

Tomorrow, I will give some more details about presentation of the nymphs. For now,
here are our "Perfect Fly" imitations of these nymphs. You can see they are very
different from the generic imitations. I hope you also remember that the trout can
see nymphs much better than they can see the dry fly imitations of the duns you will
be fishing very soon. Having a fly that matches the nymphs provides an advantage.

Perfect Fly Blue Quill Nymph

Quill Gordon Nymph

No, our Quill Gordon imitations are not very pretty and neither are the real
nymphs. They are dark, drab and almost uniform in color. They are about as
ugly as a nymph can get.

Copyright 2011 James Marsh