Hatches Made Easy:

Slate Drake - Nymphs


Nymphs of this species are swimmers that prefer rather highly oxygenated water
ranging from medium to fast flowing freestone streams. The streams of the
Great Smoky Mountains are a perfect habitat for them. The nymph is the most
important stage of life of the Slate Drake. When they migrate to the banks or
large rocks to hatch, they are very susceptible to being eaten by trout.
In the Smokies the Slate Drakes can
hatch anytime from about the last part
of May until the middle of September.
This is an extremely long hatch
period. They are not bi-brooded. They just hatch off and on during that long
period of time. It is not possible to predict the peaks in the hatch during the long
hatch period. You just have to look for them and be aware they may hatch
anytime from Spring to Fall.
After the nymphs reach the banks of the stream, they crawl out of the water and
emerge on rocks and logs. Nymphs are quick, shy, and move fast when they
migrate to the shallows. At times you can see evidence of the hatch by finding
their nymphal shucks on logs, banks and rocks without ever seeing the duns..

Nymph Presentation:
Imitations of the nymph should be fished in pockets near the bank and behind
rocks or logs. You should allow them to drift naturally, but imparting short erratic
stripping motions to them would better imitate the action. You should use the
stripping action to imitate the swift darts of this excellent swimmer. By stripping
action, I don't mean 5 to 12 inch strips. I mean 1 or 2 inch strips. Just a twitch of
the line imparted using your non-rod hand is all that is necessary. In this case
the fly should be slightly weighted.
The “down and across” method works well in the shallow water they move into to
crawl out of the water. It is easy  to spook the trout that feed on these nymphs in
the shallow water they move out of the water from. Getting close to the fish is
usually not an option. This requires cast that are longer than the normal ones
for the Smokies.
During the times the nymphs are not migrating to hatch, a heavier weighted
nymph works best. It should be fished in the runs and riffles the nymphs live in.  
You should use the standard nymphing methods that are effective in the
Smokies. We have covered the "high-stickin" method of nymphing in a previous

Side view of the Slate Drake nymph

Coming Up Next:
Slate Drake - Spinners

Copyright 2008 James Marsh