Insects and other foods the trout should be eating:
2. Little Winter Stoneflies
3. Blue-winged Ollives (Baetis brunnicolor) and Little BWOs
4. Blue Quills
5. Quill Gordons
6. Little Black Caddis (Brachycentrus)
7. 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 3
Blue Quill Emergers
I've already covered when and where the little Blue Quill nymphs hatch. This article deals with
how they emerge and how you imitate the emerging nymphs. First of all, just so I'm sure that it
has been covered, by "emerge", I mean what anglers call "hatch". It's the process by which the
nymphs change into duns, or adult mayflies that can fly.
Surface Emerging Mayflies:
Unlike the Quill Gordons we've just covered, these mayflies (like most all mayflies) emerge in the
surface skim. The nymphs swim from the bottom to the just under the surface of the water called
the surface skim, where they begin to shed their exoskeleton anglers call the nymphal shuck. The
nymph's wing pad, located in the thorax area of the nymph just behind the head, splits open and
the folded up wings come out and begin to straighten up into their final upright shape. Next, the
thorax, head, legs, abdomen and tails come out. During this process, the very thin exoskeleton
covering, or nymphal shuck, is shed from the body of the nymph. The shuck comes off the body
with the tail being the final part of the nymph to shed. This almost transparent nymphal shuck
often gets caught on the tail for a short period of time before finally falling off. At this stage of the
emergence, the nymphal shuck almost makes the half nymph, half dun mayfly look twice as long
as it really is. By the way, this is what a mayfly emerger with a "trailing shuck" fly pattern imitates.
The body and wings of the newly emerged dun are above the water at this point and can dry out
enough for the mayfly to fly.
During the period of time from the point the nymph rises from the bottom to the surface skim and
is able to complete the emerging process, to the point it's becomes a dun that's free of the
nymphal shuck, the emerging mayfly is easy prey for trout. The emergers are simply incapable of
escaping hungry trout. The trout can easily pick the emergers off about as fast as they desire.
The length of time this entire process takes, from the time the nymph reaches the surface skim of
the water until it's able to fly, is usually less than a minute or two. The exact time varies greatly,
depending on the species of mayfly and the weather. The amount of moisture in the air and the
temperature of the air and water are two things that varies the time it take for the nymph to
emerge into a dun capable of flying. The mayfly becomes a dun only after the nymphal shuck has
been shed, the body of the mayfly is drifting on the surface of the water, and the wings are
upright and drying. What many anglers don't stop to realize is this is the only time the dun
is on the water available for a trout to eat. Unless it gets into the water by accident, the
mayfly never returns as a dun. Only the spinner or imago stage of the mayfly returns to the water.
Usually, after reaching the surface, the entire time the mayfly takes to emerge is less than a
minute or two. By the way, later on in the year when other mayfly species emerge during warmer
weather, this entire time for this process can be as little as a few seconds.
Blue Quill Emergers:
The Blue Quills take longer than the average mayfly to emerge because of two reasons. One
reason is they are small enough that in some cases they have a difficult time penetrating the
surface skim. Secondly, they normally emerge in colder water when the air is still in the fifties and
low sixties. This slows the drying time down compared to mayflies that emerge during warmer
I've seen Eastern Green Drakes ride the surface of the water for as long as two or three minutes,
but that's a very long time for any mayfly dun to be on the surface of the water. I think the reason
for the long time of the big Drakes is their wings and bodies are much larger and they naturally
take longer to dry. The Blue Quills usually take less than a minute. This means your favorite
fly pattern, the imitation of the mayfly dun, a dry fly, represents the mayfly for only a
very short time that's usually less than a minute.
It should be easy to understand why trout eat far fewer mayfly duns than they do nymphs. In fact,
they eat far fewer mayfly duns than they do spinners, something few anglers realize.
Still, I admit, watching a trout take a dry fly on the surface of the water is more fun than catching
one on a nymph.
Imitating the Blue Quill Emergers:
Remember, although the Blue Quill nymphs are classified as crawlers, many entomologist think
they are more like a cross between a swimmer and a crawler. Also, don't forget they are small, a
hook size 18. As mentioned in yesterday's article, when they emerge, the trout know it. They
cruise the shallow margins of slower water during the hatch, eating them with ease.
The problem you have in imitating the emerging Blue Quills is the trout are extra spooky in the
shallower, slowing moving water the Blue Quills hatch in. Most of the time, the trout dart in the
areas of water they hatch in just a very short period of time and then quickly return to the deeper,
nearby water. The shallower and clearer the water, the more cautious the trout are. The brighter
the skies, the more cautious the trout are. They are much less spooky when it's very cloudy or
solid overcast. This is also the same conditions the Blue Quills prefer to hatch. Like most
mayflies, the Blue Quills hatch in larger quantities during low light conditions. By the time the
mayfly becomes a dun, it's usually caught up in a current seam where the slower water meets
faster moving water. During the time the mayfly is emerging, it's usually still in the smoother,
slower moving marginal water.
Approaching these areas of the stream with smooth surface, shallow, slower moving water without
spooking the trout feeding on the Blue Quills isn't exactly easy. It's certainly not as easy as
approaching trout feeding in the fast water runs and riffles where the surface of the water is
broken. The smoother the surface of the water, the more cautious the trout are. You have to use
extra caution approaching these areas. I'm not going to get off into the subject of how you do this.
That's another subject that deserves lots of consideration and practice. I will mention that unless
you have excellent cover (objects to hide behind), you will need to make longer cast than you
normally do. Not only do the cast need to be longer most of the time, they also need to be made
in such a way the fly, tippet, leader and fly line lands on the water delicately. In other words,
success demands good presentations.
It also requires lighter and longer than normal leaders and tippet. Most of the time, I use a 6X
tapered leader that's at least 9 foot long, including the tippet. That is long and light enough for
most situations you will encounter.
We have two Perfect Fly types of emerger fly patterns for the Blue Quills. One has a trailing
shuck and one doesn't. I will discuss these flies and how you fish them tomorrow. The one below
is the plain version, without the trailing shuck.
Copyright 2012 James Marsh
"Perfect Fly" Blue Quill Emerger
Thumbnail Image: Click to enlarge