Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives
3.   Little Yellow Stoneflies
4.   Slate Drakes
5.   Cream Cahills - hatching in Isolated locations
6.   Little Yellow Quills
7.   Needle Stoneflies
8.   Beetles
9.   Grasshoppers
10. Ants
11. Crane Flies
12. Helligramite
13. Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish

The Learning Process -  Part 77

I hope you have been following this series at least since October 8th, otherwise, I
don't think this article will make much sense to you.

Although you can catch trout on attractor flies and other non-specific imitations
when the trout are feeding in the fast water of the riffles and runs, you cannot do it
consistently and successfully when they are feeding in water that isn't moving fast
within the same stream.
Although you can catch trout on attractor flies and non-specific imitations when the
trout are feeding in the fast water of the riffles and runs, you cannot do it
consistently and successfully when they are feeding in water that isn't moving fast
within the same stream.

As I pointed out yesterday, and many times prior to that over the last three years on
this website,
when the trout are not feeding in the fast water of the riffles
and runs, anglers tend to think the fishing is "poor" or lousy
. In their minds,
it has nothing to do with the way they are fishing. They think that's just the way it is.
They don't realize its their own lack of understanding of what is going on and their
own inability to adapt to the changes. They want to blame it on the fish, mother
nature, the tourist, or any and everything but themselves.

There's also another unrecognized problem that accounts for the lack of success
on occasions. When the trout are concentrating and feeding heavily a particular
insect that the attractor or generic flies don't imitate very well, the results is often far
less than satisfactory, even if the trout are feeding in the fast water of the runs and
riffles. Although it doesn't occur very often, there are times when the trout feed

Let me go back to where I left off yesterday. When we made the February trip to the
Smokies and took macro images and video of the insects from several streams,
there was one insect we didn't capture. It was the very one we thought would be the
most plentiful - the Quill Gordon. The Quill Gordon is one of the few insects that the
majority of the local anglers can identify. It is one that everyone makes a big deal
out of each year. I suppose one reason is that its the first large mayfly to hatch in
the Smokies. I always get a kick out of it because the very same anglers that go
through most of the year contending the trout in the Smokies have little to eat and
that the fly isn't important, suddenly become "match the hatch" specialist when the
Quill Gordons start hatching.

During the ten days of catching and photographing insects in the Smokies during
the last week or two of February a few years ago, we failed to capture a single Quill
Gordon nymph. What was really weird to us at the time was that we caught a few
Quill Gordon duns and spinners near the end of our trip. We knew all of the Quill
Gordons had not hatched. In fact, we knew they really hadn't even started. It was
during our second trip to the Smokies that early spring that we figured out what was
going on with the Quill Gordons. On our next trip during the second week of March,
we tried our kick net in a current seam behind a large boulder. We came up with
several Quill Gordon nymphs. Each time we repeated that pattern of collecting
samples (to photo and video) from behind boulders in the little mini pools, we
caught several Quill Gordon nymphs. The nymphs were not down in between or
under rocks on the bottom in the fast water of the stream where clinger nymphs
normally live. They were on the bottom where we could easily rake them into our
kick net. It was obvious to us at that time that the nymphs either lived there, or
moved there to hatch. Latter, we confirmed they move into those types of areas
prior to a hatching. They don't hatch in the fast water. They always move to the
closest adjacent water that is moving slower. In the Smokies this is usually the
pockets behind rocks and boulders, but we have also found them in quite water
areas along the banks and other places where the water moves slowly close to fast
water runs and riffles.

Up until that time, we had fished nymphs in the morning. We usually switched and
started fishing a dry fly in the early afternoons when we thought the Quill Gordons
would hatch. The problem was, the water wasn't any warmer than it was near the
end of February when we were there. We found a few Quill Gordon duns at that
time and on the second trip, two weeks later, the water was around the same
temperature. The highest in would get was fifty degrees. It was usually in the high
forties. No one, including us, was catching trout on dry flies. Most everyone
including us, were using dry flies that were supposed to be imitations of Quill
Gordons. After finding the nymphs congregated behind and downstream of the
boulders, along the slow side of the edges of the current seams, I started fishing my
Hare's Ear Nymph in the same type of places. I caught several trout each time I tried
it. The same nymph, fished in the riffles and runs like I normally fished, only
occasionally produced.
Fishing the nymph in the right places in the stream
made a huge difference.
By the way, we didn't have them at the time, but our
"Perfect Fly" Quill Gordon Nymph, a flat, weighted nymph the same color and a
much better imitation of the real Quill Gordon nymphs, works much better than the
round shaped Hare's Ear Nymph.

When we checked our books, we found all of them stated the Quill Gordon nymphs
moved out from under the rocks on the bottom of the fast water runs and riffles into
quieter water prior to hatching. If we had of paid closer attention, we would have
figured that out much earlier than we did. In checking back on the books, we also
discovered something else we had completely overlooked up until that time.
Gordon nymphs don't hatch on the surface of the water like most mayflies.
They hatch into duns on the bottom or somewhere between the bottom and the
surface of the water. When they reach the surface, they are fully developed duns.
They just dry their wings and depart the water as soon as they can. This can take
several seconds when the water is around fifty degrees and the air temperatures
are usually not much warmer. We had read this several times in various places, but
apparently it hadn't quite registered. By the way, during the past few years, I've
written about how these mayflies hatch on several occasions. I'm just describing the
events that led up to this, or what I like to call our "Learning process".

I started fishing a wet fly, trying to imitate the dun. I would cast it to the inside edges
of the current seams behind boulders and along the edges of the runs and riffles
where slower water existed, and allow it to drift back to the surface a good ways
down the current seams. I caught some trout doing that. The problem was, I didn't
have a fly that really looked like a wet Quill Gordon dun, or I should say what I
thought one would look like. At the time, I still hadn't actually seen one. I could not
find a fly in the fly shops for that specific purpose.


Copyright 2009 James Marsh