The creek is calling- you’ve got a heart full of hope and a face full of pollen. Spring has, in fact, sprung. So dry your eyes and stretch that new line because this is the year we finally match the hatch.
Words by: BJ Poss
I’ve watched enough sitcom television to know that fisher people don’t have a reputation for being the sexiest subculture out there. We’ve been trolled on dating apps across the country for displaying what our buddies agreed was a heck of a catch, mocked by our white-collar colleagues for our, in their eyes, bumpkin-like pass time, and we smell like fish. Well, the joke’s on them because, in a climate full of filters and swiping, we’ve come up with a double down they never saw coming. In this new segment: we’re getting really into bugs.
The mayfly nymph can be considered the dinner bell for fly fishers who either have no desire to stick it out all winter and freeze their doo-dads off or those who believe that if you’re trout fishing with a submerged fly, you might as well have a button on your reel. The most likely scenario is you’ve probably been spot-fishing the warmish stretches through this peculiar winter we’ve had, wrestling with tangled double nymph rigs and maybe even trying one of those new Oros bobbers that are trying to put Air-Locks out of business, extra credit to Oros for having the backbone to make them in red and white like they were always intended.
As I was saying, the nymph mayflies, or clingers, are the first bugs to come across the bottom of limestone rocks that are big and distinguishable enough for us, in our thirties- wrestling with the uncomfortable truth that it’s time to get a pair of glasses for the river, to identify. They typically make their first appearance in mid-March and, in higher elevations, will hang around through the end of April. These little crawlers will start popping wings in the early afternoon and giddy up on out of the stream, hopefully before they get swallowed up. They’re a strong indicator that there will be some top-water action that day and most days moving forward.
The most iconic hair and hook variant of these would have to be the Quill Gordon dry fly, a product of Theodore Gordon. It first floated around 1890- the same year the late great Colonel Sanders was born. That’s right; this delicate assortment of feather and thread has been catching fish since the birth of Mr. Kentucky Fried Chicken himself. Gordon developed this pattern to pull brook trout out of the Catskills way back then, and it has since imitated its way to Appalachia immortality. So if you’ve got some spare peacock feathers lying around and a hankering for small stream specs, check out how to tie one here: Quill Gordon Dry Fly.
Once you spot clusters of bloodroot along your stream’s path, it’s time to get stoked on brookies hitting dry flies. It only flowers for about two weeks, so catching it in bloom is always exciting. Think of it like the Groundhog Day of small stream fishing, except the bloodroot never sees its shadow and shrivels back up for six more weeks of nymphing.
It does, however, close up at night. So as you’re walking in and see the flower reaching and basking in sunlight, you know the fish are probably on. I don’t know if the bloodroot gets a signal from the brookies that eating is over for the day, so it closes back up, or if it’s the other way around, but the two seem to correlate. It’s always around that time that you ought to get going for dinner anyway.
Get out there, good luck, get home when you said you would, and don’t stack the rocks.