Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
1.    Midges
2.    Little Winter Stoneflies
3.    Blue-winged Ollives (
Baetis brunnicolor) and Little BWOs
4.    Blue Quills
5.    Quill Gordons
6.    Little Black Caddis (
Little Brown Stoneflies

Most available/ Near hatching and/or other types of available food:
8.    Sculpin, Minnows (Streamers)

"K.I.S.S. A Bug" Series - Blue Quills - Part 2
Blue Quill Nymphs - Crawlers

In the last article I showed a picture of a Blue Quill nymph and went over some things in general
about the insect. In this article, I want to focus on fishing imitations of the nymph prior to the time
they begin to hatch and explain the difference in the this type (crawler) and the other nymphs.

Please keep in mind, much of what I'm writing about the Blue Quill nymphs also applies
to other small crawler nymphs and in most cases, even the small swimming nymphs. As
we go along, I won't be covering the same subjects for all the other species of crawler

For those of you just staring, I'll get very basic. Wild trout live their entire life from the time they
are only small fry until they are large as they get, living in the same environment as the nymphs.
They see and try to catch and eat the Blue Quill nymphs all of their life. After the Blue Quills
hatch and are first eggs, then very tiny nymphs, they see their cousins, I'll call them, meaning
other species of the same genera  (group of mayflies within the same family). They see the little
Mahogany Duns in large quantities for most of the rest of the year.
The point of this is, don't
think for a split second that the trout don't regularly see and know far more about the
little Blue Quill nymphs than anyone, even an entomologist, could explain.
From a
standpoint of being able to catch and eat them, they know as much about the nymphs they
survive on than any angler or entomologist will ever comprehend. Trying to fool them into taking
your fake fly imitation for the real thing they see every day of their life, especially since they catch
and eat them in slow to moderate water where they can get a good look at them, isn't exactly

In order to imitate the nymphs with much success, you have to know something about them. Just
tying on a imitation of a Blue Quill nymph, even if its a "Perfect" imitation of one, won't bring the
success you probably expect.

First of all, of the four types of nymphs, swimmers, crawlers, burrowers and clingers, the crawlers
are the most difficult to describe. A "Crawler" isn't exactly a catch all group of nymphs but they
can't be as clearly defined and described as the other three types. Although I have no conclusive
proof, I suspect strongly that more of them get eaten by trout than the others. They are not near
as fast moving as the swimmers that can dart around like little minnows. They can't hide in
burrows like the burrower nymphs. They can't get down between and even up under rocks on the
stream bottom like the clingers. They can't hold on in fast water like the clingers. They have to
rely on staying hidden in more moderate to slow flows.

In spring creeks and tailwaters, you will almost always find more crawler nymphs than the others,
but not in fast, pocket water freestone streams. They exist in slower moving, isolated areas of the
fast water streams and are not near as overall plentiful as the clingers or the swimmers. In areas
of the streams where they do exist, they are far more plentiful per area of the stream than the

What does all this mean to you? It means that if you can identify the areas of the streams in the
Smokies where they do exist, you can catch trout on imitations of them more frequently than you
can trying to imitate the other types of nymphs. The majority of the nymphs in the Smokies are
clingers and for all practical purposes, are not available for the trout to eat except prior to a
hatch. You can catch trout feeding on the swimmers just about any time, but up until the time for
them to hatch, it isn't as easy as fishing imitations of the crawlers.

When I say "identify the areas of the stream where the crawlers exist", I'm not referring to large,
major sections of the streams in the Smokies. Crawlers are in all major areas of the streams. I'm
not referring to long stretches of water in any of the streams. There's some crawlers scattered
about here and there all along in the streams. In areas of the stream with faster and steeper
inclines, there are fewer crawler nymphs, but you will still find some in the calmer pockets and
areas of the slower moving water. The more moderate declination sections of the streams in the
mid to lower elevations will usually have the most clinger nymphs.

I'm probably getting ahead of many of you just learning about aquatic insects but what I'm
mentioning above regarding the crawler nymph habitat is the reason there are not any huge
quantities and subsequent hatches of Hendricksons, Sulphurs, Eastern Pale Evening Duns, and
Eastern Blue-winged Olives (Drunnela species) in the park. That written, as already mentioned,
the Blue Quills are crawler nymphs. I've also written there's more of them than the Quill Gordons
which are clinger nymphs. That certainly seems to contradict what I just wrote about the low
quantities of the crawler mayfly nymphs and here's why. It gets back to what I first wrote. The
crawler category of nymphs is difficult to define, describe and categorize. Blue Quill crawler
nymphs can live just about everywhere in a stream the water isn't flowing fast. Even in fast pocket
water sections of the streams, you will find Blue Quill nymphs hiding just about everywhere the
water isn't moving fast. One reason is that in terms of their ability to move around and hide from
predators, in many ways they are more like swimming nymphs than they are the crawler nymphs.
Most crawlers have big front legs to help them crawl or move about the bottom. The little Blue
Quill nymphs are streamlined and far more agile. While they can't swim as such, they can dart
about with body wiggles and because of their small size, they can hide around just about anything
in the stream. Without continuing to deal with this, I'll put it like this. They are different enough
from the other crawler nymphs that they probably deserve their own category.

When you examine a stream, just about anywhere you see slow to moderately flowing water,
there's a good chance there's plenty of Blue Quill nymphs. Of course, the largest and most
plentiful sections of slow to moderate water is usually found in the pools. While there are plenty of
Blue Quill nymphs in the typical pool in the Smokies, they don't exist in the deeper water. You will
find them around the banks and the shallow tail ends of the pools. The problem is, they don't just
exist in pools. Where they do, it's even more difficult to catch trout feeding on them there than it is
from other smaller sections of slow to moderate water that's found within the fast water sections of
runs and riffles. For one thing, because of their small size, large quantities of them can exist in
small areas.

If you stumble up the stream, blind casting a fly, and this includes our Perfect Fly imitation of the
Blue Quill, you are limited to one thing - luck. You may or may not catch the first trout but if and
when you do, you can rest assured it was only due to blink luck.
The total area of water you
need to present the fly in to imitate the Blue Quills, probably averages less than twenty
percent of the overall surface area of water
. If you fly doesn't land in the area of the stream
the trout are looking for the Blue Quills in, your mostly just waisting time. Sure, you may well end
up hooking a trout, but it certainly won't be because you knew anything about what you were

The fly not only needs to be presented in the right areas of the stream (type of water), it needs to
be presented such that it imitates the behavior of the Blue Quill nymphs. Remember, this will be
slow to moderate water. Much of the time it will be on the shallow side rather than deep water. It
isn't the same as casting your fly in the fast water of a run. It has to be presented without allowing
the trout to see you and without the fly line, leader and landing of the fly spooking trout looking
for the nymphs.

I don't intend to get into basic fly fishing techniques, casting and presentation. A few books
wouldn't completely cover those subjects. I'm only pointing out where the nymphs are found and
the type of water they are found in. When you confine your presentations to those areas of the
stream only, you have increased your odds big time. When you use a good imitation of the Blue
Quill nymph, you have increased your odds a bunch. When you keep the fly on the bottom (like
the naturals) and when it isn't on the bottom, barely off the bottom (like the naturals), you have
increased your odds even more.

If your fly line drags the fly through the slower water, forget catching a trout. If the trout see you
or your fly line, forget it. If the fly doesn't move at the same speed or slower than the current,
forget it. If you have to see an indicator, or dry fly that drops the nymph to know a fish has taken
the fly, forget it and learn to fish a nymph without a float. Your not fishing for bream with a cricket.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh