Guided Trips

FISHING REPORT AND SYNOPSIS: 05/08/2019

Fishing is good to excellent just about everywhere now. Lots of bugs are hatching including mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies. Little yellow stoneflies are hatching well now making a nymph imitation a good bet. Light Cahills, Sulfurs, Pale Evening Duns, March Browns, Blue-winged Olives, and others are on the water at times. Golden stones are now hatching well also. Try a #14 Yellow Stimulator and a #16 bead head Pheasant Tail and be ready to catch fish!

On the Clinch River, sulfurs have started and fish are responding to dry fly imitations. This is some of the most exciting and also the most challenging fishing of the whole year. Pinpoint accuracy at distance is needed, but the rewards can be large. Water is now mostly higher making float trips a requirement. If it will quit raining sometime soon, lower flows should return.

The Caney Fork is up and down each day. Right now it is mostly up and will stay that way as long as it keeps raining. Streamer fishing in particular was great on one generator. Moving forward, this river should continue to fish better and better for the next month or two.

Warm water streams are starting to turn on very well. Smallmouth bass are aggressive now. This is the spawning season for these fish, so please be careful where you wade and leave spawning fish alone.

Photo of the Month: Big Brown Trout on Deep Creek

Photo of the Month: Big Brown Trout on Deep Creek

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Isonychia bicolor

As we head into the heat of summer, Smoky Mountain anglers should begin adjusting to the changing conditions. The banner hatches of April and early May are giving way to the yellow and cream insects of summer. Most anyone who regularly fishes in the Park can tell you that yellow is the color to fish this time of year. There is of course, as with most things, an exception and a significant one at that.

The Isonychia bicolor (Slate Drakes) mayfly is arguably as important as the famed Yellow Sallies that everyone is trying to match. The interesting thing about this hatch is that, at least in many places, the nymph is the only important stage that fishermen need concern themselves with. One very notable exception to this is the Hiwassee River where the duns emerge mid stream and fishing from a drift boat can produce excellent action during the hatch. However, on the mountain streams, Isonychias generally crawl out onto the rocks in and around the stream and hatch out of the water. That means the fish rarely see a dun and the spinner falls are only rarely important, at least during legal fishing hours.

Earlier this week, I found large quantities of shucks on one of my local smallmouth bass streams and eventually a gorgeous dun that was still sitting on the rock it hatched on. Here, you can see the shucks where the nymphs crawled out of the water to hatch. The second picture is a newly hatched dun.

Isonychia Bicolor or Slate Drake nymphal shucks

Slate Drake or Isonychia Bicolor Dun Adult

These are large bugs, often a size #8 or #10 and the fish react accordingly. In the Smokies, trout will often take a nymph imitation when nothing else is seeming to work. In fact, one of the better brown trout I caught last summer ate my own Isonychia pattern.

Smokies big brown trout

If you don't have your own secret pattern, a Prince nymph does a reasonably decent job at imitating these bugs as well as a variety of commercially available Isonychia nymphs that you should be able to find at your local fly shop. Want to take a stab at my favorite, an Isonychia Soft Hackle? Here is a picture and a recipe.

David Knapp's Isonychia Soft Hackle


David Knapp's Isonychia Soft Hackle


Hook: #8-#12 TMC 5262 or 3671 (I use mostly #10-#12)
Weight: .020 Lead-free wire
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Brown hackle fibers
Body: Several strands of peacock fibers, twisted together for durability
Rib/Gills: Gray ostrich herl
Back/Stripe: Pearl or silver Flashabou or small pearl tinsel
Hackle: Speckled Brown Soft Hackle Hen Saddle patch feather (2-3 turns)

Tying directions: Add wire first and then start thread and cover the wire with a thread base. Tie in tail and then flash. Tie in ostrich and then peacock herl. Wind peacock herl forward, adding more if you need it to get a nice full body. Tie off. For added durability, wind thread back and forth over body several times. The thread will bite into the herl and should be mostly invisible but it will help hold the body together once fish start chewing on it. Next, palmer the ostrich herl forward and tie off. Pull flash strip over back and tie off behind the head. Finally, tie in soft hackle feather, wrap 2-3 turns depending on how thick the fibers are, and tie off. Whip finish and add a small drop of glue to the head and you are done!

How to fish

When fishing an Isonychia nymph pattern, you need to understand the naturals. The nymph is an active swimmer. This means that your normal dead drift is fine, but if that isn't working, try changing it up by adding a jigging motion with your rod tip or swinging the fly at the end of each drift. Some of the best trout that I've caught in the Smokies have come on an Isonychia nymph pattern so try one out this summer on the Little River or other larger Park stream and see if you agree that this is one of the most important hatches of the summer. 

5 comments:

  1. My favorite late summer/fall hatch in New England. Here they will take dunks but soft hackles also take lots of fish. I like your take on the soft hackle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mark, let me know if you try that SH out up there. I'm curious if it is as effective elsewhere as it is here.

      Delete
  2. David
    I am fishing soft hackles a lot more now, and having success with them on the Sipsey tailrace. Thanks for sharing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bill, they are some of my favorite flies and I fish them in a wide variety of methods.

      Delete
  3. I remember seeing some crazy Isonychia hatches on the Hiwassee years ago. The Zug Bug was also a good pattern to use when the Isonychia hatch was taking place.

    ReplyDelete

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