My friend Walter Babb said that most people’s favorite fly is the fly they happened to have on the first day the fishing was really good. The implication of his statement is that more often than not, it’s the archer, not the arrow. When you present it well and the fish are feeding, it probably doesn’t matter what your fly is. And if the fish aren’t feeding? It probably doesn’t matter what fly you have on!
But you had that fly on the first day the fishing was good. Now you have confidence in it. Now you tie it on first and leave it on longer. I have countless fly patterns that I abandoned because they didn’t catch fish the first time I tried them. All too often, that first time was after I tried everything else. Nothing was working that day!
With all of that said, I have, by far, caught more big brown trout in the Smokies on a Tellico Nymph than any other fly. But, you guessed it… the first big brown trout I caught in the Smokies was on a Tellico Nymph. I have confidence in it. And since most of the big browns I caught over the years were either spotted first or caught during “favorable brown trout conditions,” I put a Tellico on in anticipation. So, it’s a bit deceiving. Who is to say I wouldn’t have caught those fish on a Prince Nymph had I chosen to tie one on?
Nevertheless, the Tellico Nymph is a good fly and it’s been around a long time. Its exact origins are unclear, though most think it was obviously created and first fished on the Tellico River in East Tennessee. It has definitely been around since the 1940’s, but some estimate that it may date back to the turn of the 20thcentury. In any case, the Tellico Nymph is the most famous fly from this region. It still accounts for fish in the Smokies and all over the world.
In addition to its origin, there is some confusion as to what the fly imitates. Many contend that it represents a caddis larva. Others are just as certain it imitates a mayfly nymph. To me, there is absolutely no doubt that it represents a golden stonefly nymph. The coloration and size are consistent with that of a golden stone, and the Tellico River is known for its abundance of these nymphs.
As with any popular fly that has been around for this long, there have been a number of variations on the pattern over the years. Rick Blackburn devised personal favorite. I tie most in size #10.
Hook:3XL nymph hook #12 – 6
Thread:Dark brown 6/0
Weight:.015 to .035 lead wire (depending on hook size)
Tail:Mink fibers (I often use moose as a substitute)
Rib:Gold wire and 2-3 strands of peacock herl
Wing Case:Section of turkey tail – lacquered
Body:Wapsi Stonefly Gold Life Cycle dubbing
Hackle:Brown Chinese neck hackle, palmered through thorax