Insects and other foods the trout may be eating:
1.   Blue-winged Olives
2.   Great Brown Autumn Sedge
3.   Slate Drakes
4.   Little Yellow Quills
5.   Needle Stoneflies
6.   Crane Flies
7.   Helligramite
8.   Streamers - matching sculpin, baitfish and small crawfish
9.   Midges

The Learning Process - Part 83
I hope you have been following this series at least since October 8th, otherwise, this article won't
serve its purpose near as well.

In summary, after fly fishing and photographing aquatic insects in Great Smoky
Mountains National Park, and many other destinations throughout the nation during
our first three years, we discovered some fishing methods that didn't fit the time
honored, traditional methods of fishing the Smokies. Traditionally, and rightfully so,
anglers look forward to the Quill Gordon hatch each year to start their fly fishing
season. They cast their Quill Gordon dun dry fly imitations in the riffles and runs
anticipating the fly will be eaten by a hungry trout. If the hatch hasn't fully
developed, and they are not successful with that method, they swap to a generic
nymph fly. They fish the nymph in the same riffles and runs they fished the dry fly  
but down in the water column or on the bottom. The results is they are usually
unable to catch many trout. The early birds are usually not very disappointed
because most other anglers report similar success. Everyone blames it on the fact
that the Quill Gordon hatch hasn't started or that the water is still just a little too
cold. This same sequence is repeated over and over each year during the period of
time angler refer to as the beginning of the season. Once the Quill Gordon hatch
gets fully underway, most anglers are able to catch some trout and everything is
great. The water warms to above fifty degrees, the trout become more aggressive
and they catch some trout.

Before the Quill Gordon hatch gets fully underway, you may hear some anglers say
that the only bugs they saw was a few little black caddisflies. Some non-traditional
anglers may even tie on an Elk Hair Caddis, cast it a few times, and get the results
they fully expect - nothing. The local fly shops will tell everyone that it is just a little
too early, the action will start very soon.  

We discovered that just as many trout can be caught during the Little Black Caddis
hatch, that usually takes place just before the Quill Gordon hatch, as can be caught
during the Quill Gordon hatch.  Sometimes the hatches overlap and even then, just
as many trout can be caught fishing imitations of the Little Black Caddis pupae
during the hatch, and on adult imitations of the egg layers after the Quill Gordon
hatch ends each day. We also discovered that by fishing an imitation of the Quill
Gordon nymph in the places the real nymphs congregate prior to the hatch can
also account for just as many trout as the dry fly usually does during the hatch. We
also discovered that when the Quill Gordon hatch is just getting started, or sparse
hatches are underway, a good many trout can usually be caught on a wet fly
imitation of the hatching duns.

When the Quill Gordon hatch is over for the day, the temperature begins to drop
and the air begin to get cold late in the afternoon, most anglers leave the water for
the day. What we also discovered, especially on heavy overcast or rainy days, was
that as many or more trout can be caught on the Quill Gordon spinner fall as can
be caught during the hatch. Usually, far more can be caught in a short amount of
time. In other words, if the fall occurs during legal fishing hours, as many trout can
be taken from the spinner fall in less than an hour and can be take during the hatch
in total.

Here is another thing we discovered that don't quite fit the standard, traditional
fishing methods of Davy Crockett. Typically, when the Quill Gordon hatch is being
anticipated, just starting or underway, you will also hear anglers mention the Blue
Quills they noticed in the air and on the water. Traditionally, they tie on an imitation
of the Blue Quill dun, usually a hook size or two too large, and fish it in the same
riffles and runs they fish the Quill Gordon imitations, and well in fact, any and
everything else that hatches in the park. The results is usually few or no trout are
caught. You will hear statements like "I saw some Blue Quills hatching but the trout
were not eating them". This sometimes goes on after the Quill Gordon hatch has
ended, when Blue Quills are hatching in large quantities almost everywhere.

What we discovered was that these insects don't hatch in the riffles and runs, and
in fact, rarely even get caught in the current seams of the riffles and runs before
the duns depart the water. By fishing imitations of the Blue Quill nymphs, emergers
and duns in the right places in the streams, using the right techniques, plenty of
trout can be caught when most other anglers are reporting poor success.

In general what we discovered was that the people teaching beginning anglers,
mostly the fly shops (although not all fly shops)  that proudly claim their big
advantage is knowledge, have very little knowledge about the insects. In fact, some
even teach that it is not important for anglers to know their insects. They teach that
the trout in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are completely different from
all the other trout in the world. They teach in person and in books, that trout in the
Smokies have little to eat, and that they must eat any and everything they can find
to survive. They teach there are few aquatic insects of any appreciable quantities
that exist in the Smokies, and that knowing what is hatching isn't important. They
teach presentation is everything.

We also found out that the people that teach such baloney are the same ones that
know very little, if anything at all, about aquatic insects. What I have written about
so far is just the beginning of many reasons why traditional time horned methods of
fishing the Smokies brings only mediocre results, and then only when conditions are
excellent. There are few things in this World that cannot be improved.

Copyright 2009 James Marsh