Townsend, Tennessee - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, East Tennessee and Western North Carolina

Welcome to the Fishing Report from the Great Smoky Mountains.  It has been raining all night.  At 5:17 am, it is still raining and the temperature is 60 degrees.  It is hard to believe this is January 4th, and the temperature early in the morning is that warm.

The good news is, the water temperature in Little River is 52 degrees.  Actually, it is 51.98 degrees.  That’s close enough to 52 for me.  The trout will be active.

The bad news is, Little River is flowing at 652 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.88 feet on the gauge.  That’s a little high.  I wouldn’t wade in the river at this point.  Median flow for this date is 323 cfs.

Though the flow seems to have peaked, we’ve been fooled before, as recently as December 24th.  That day, the stream peaked early in the morning at 676 cfs, then rose further that afternoon to about 1,400 cfs.  We didn’t see much rain that day in the valley.  I just didn’t know what was coming down from the mountains.  That could happen again today.

If I had to make a decision to drive 2 hours to get here today, expecting to fish, I wouldn’t do it.  The water could fall to a reasonable high level for angling, or it could be blown out later today.  My guess is, it will rise further.  Nobody knows for sure at this point.

The kayakers are watching the USGS gauge sites right now.  Ducky Paddler has probably been up for hours.  This may be a great day for whitewater boating in the Smokies.  They’ve got good water flow in early January and it feels like March. 

We are starting out the year, with higher than normal rainfall.  We should be happy about that, though one rain event doesn’t make for a wet year. 

If the rivers don’t rise, but fall today, there are some places you could try fly fishing.  Anthony Creek at the picnic area in Cades Cove is a good choice.  West Prong of Little River could be fishable.  Other streams in the Park may have been missed by this rain.  I do know, because I’m awake and listening, it’s still raining.

Yesterday morning was strange from a wildlife perspective.  I bet I saw 50 wild turkeys around our house at one time.  They were in the driveways and on our private road when I left for the shop at 9 am. I bet, if I had stayed home yesterday, I would have seen hundreds of wild birds at the feeders.  Some days, the animals and birds are active and some days they are not.  I think they knew, today would not be pleasant for them so they were searching for food in earnest yesterday.  The wild critters will probably be hunkered down today. How do they know?  It must be the barometer.

I talked to a lot of friends yesterday.  Some were at the shop and some at a funeral.  Ray Ball sang at Jack’s brother’s funeral.  Hearing Ray sign gospel songs always brings a smile to my face.  Ray can sing, beautifully, without any musical instruments backing him up.  His voice fills the room or the great outdoors.  During the service, Ray mentioned fly fishing and bear hunting, his two favorite sports.  Those of you who know Ray missed a golden opportunity yesterday.

The service was wonderful.  Paula and I got to talk to most of Jack’s family and many of his and our friends. 

Ray sings at many funerals and I heard him sing at one wedding.  Once, after doing a fly tying demonstration at our store, he walked outside on the front porch and started singing with is sister and brother in law.  They were amazing.

25 years ago or longer, when I was living in Nashville, I bought some land near Townsend.  I was 38 years old.  I was not married at the time.  Soon after, I moved here.  I knew it would be different, moving from a town of nearly one million in population, to a valley populated by only about 1,000 to 1,500 folks.  The population here has grown to about 2,000.  Paula and I married 20 years ago.

No doubt about it, my life changed in a good way by moving here.  I have met so many people, who are just like who I wanted to be.  I wanted a slower pace, a place where everybody knows everybody, and where one can find peace with the land.  This is where I was meant to live.  Paula feels the same way.

Here, when someone flips you off for driving too slow, you know without looking at their license plate, they are from somewhere else. Some days I drive 10 miles per hour on part of my morning commute because I’m driving on a curvy road behind a tractor.

I talked to a man yesterday who has had back surgery.  He was a very nice man.  He told me he needed to find a way to fly fish that was not so difficult for him.  Like me, he has problems wading in these streams.  He will never be able to lift anything over 25 pounds and a bad fall could ruin his life.

We talked a while and I understand his dilemma.  I have a vertigo problem.  I suggested he pursue warmwater fly fishing.  Maybe he should get a boat and fish the lakes.  There are boats made for easy launching.  There are electric winches to load your boat on the trailer.  He could fish from the banks on ponds.  Fly fishing is not just trout fishing.  Fishing beautiful rivers for trout is a wonderful thing to do.  Most of us love rivers.  But, if you can’t do it anymore, there are other options. 

As we get older, we have limitations that eventually catch up with us.  Look at all of the disabled veterans, who took up fly fishing through Project Healing Waters.  Many of them have limitations. They overcame those limitations.  They fly fish.  “For every adversity there is an equal or greater benefit”. 

I told the man I would show him some lakes around here where he could fly fish and enjoy our sport.

Today is bookkeeping day for me at the shop.

It will be dawn soon and I’ll start thinking about going to work. 

Have a great day and thank you for being here with us.

UPDATE 8:18 AM - Little River is flowing high and fast. Right now, flow is 1,420 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 3.94 feet on the flow gauge. It appears, this rain storm hit the entire area in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Fishing will be slow and wading will be dangerous.

Byron Begley
January 4, 2014
 

Respond to: byron@littleriveroutfitters.com


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