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Strange Things in the Headwaters

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  • Strange Things in the Headwaters

    No luck on the releases so it was up to the WMA to fish the headwaters Saturday. (Just a heads up, main road is closed for road repair at the first bridge and another angler told me the same is true for the Unicoi gap access road.)

    After a longer than usual hike up to my normal stretch I was pleasantly surprised by the back-to-normal flows in that stretch. I was trying out a two rod setup Saturday that I think may be the trick for those mid-sized waters. In hand was my 5ft9in 3wt tied with a dry-dropper rig for fishing shallows and small pools. In the vest was a 5.3m collapsible keiryu rod rigged up with a two nymph drop shot rig. With the keiryu collapsing to a little over 18in, it was pretty easy to set the 3wt down and bring it out for the deeper faster holes and put it back up when I moved on. At 17ft extended i was constantly watching the trees but I was able to cast to just about every run as long as I planned the drift beforehand.

    Success was limited but I managed to catch a nice rainbow on a nymph Iíve been tying with a squirrel hair tail and squirrel/ice dubbing body. I thought he looked like he was in spawning colors and getting covered in milt confirmed the first out of season experience for the trip. He ended up becoming a streamside lunch since I left my snacks in the car. Took a look at its stomach contents and it was nothing but big (~size 6) stonefly nymphs

    A bit further upstream was the next out of season oddity, a multi-species hatch in February. I noticed a bunch of gnats hatching on the outside of a slow run but after a few minutes of watching, I also saw about ten mayflies riding on the surface. I think the fish were as confused as I was because in 15 minutes of watching the hatch, I didnít see a single rise despite a healthy amount of bugs on the surface......or maybe they were just preoccupied with spawning?

    i think the hatch charts and spawning schedules might need a local revision in light of the non-existent winters weíve been getting. Might as well start tying terrestrials for the next trip at this rate.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    I believe that everything you saw was pretty typical for this time of year. Rainbows are usually Spring spawners and can start up about now in our Southern climate. The mayflies were likely either Blue Quills or Blue Winged Olives. Blue Quills are the first hatch of the Spring and can often show up in February if the water warms up some. BWO's have several broods throughout the year and can hatch almost year round. They usually like overcast/rainy days best.

    It is amazing how much is going on beneath the surface in our Southern Appalachian streams during the "dead period" of the Winter.
    Heck I even caught a fish on a dry fly last weekend with water measuring 40 degrees at mid-day. It's all part of the fun of being in God's creation; you never know what you'll see!

    - Jed Green

    "I will make you fishers of men" - Christ
    Bamboo rods, Clear streams, and old Jeeps


    • #3
      Now that you mention it, the hatch sure did look like a BWO/Blue quill. They were about an inch long so my mind went to mayfly but I guess olives/quills get a lot bigger than I realized. Guess I need to brush up on my entomology. The spawning still seems early but definitely not out of place since that particular spot is usually good for a fingerling rainbow or two.

      There were definitely abundant signs of life for what ended up being a fairly cold day. Too bad there werenít more signs of life on the end of my tippet.


      • #4
        I also fished up there Saturday after finding Smith's overcrowded. I walked about half a mile up from the road closure and caught two rainbows on size 6 stonefly nymph like what you found.
        Last edited by grasshopperking; 02-11-19, 06:15 PM. Reason: grammer