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

Welcome to the Fishing Report from Townsend, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains. At 6:41 am, the temperature is 32.4 degrees. We may snow showers today with little to no accumulation in the lower elevations. The high temperature will top out at 36 degrees. It will be cold tonight, 20 degrees with a high tomorrow around 40. This is going to feel like January. Later this week and this weekend, it will be warmer.

Little River is flowing at 323 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.19 feet on the flow gauge. Median flow for this date is 340 cfs. The water temperature is 42.3 degrees this morning.

Jack waited until the frost melted yesterday morning, then drove into the Park to catch his first trout of the year. He knew the water was cold so he tied in a pair of weighted nymphs and walked out on a bridge. He saw trout rising to midges below.

Not prepared for that, he had only one tiny Blue Wing Olive in his vest and some light tippet. After re-rigging, he caught several rainbows before losing his small fly, broken off, fighting a fish. The rainbows were not interested in nymphs.

Jack was at our house last night describing the day. He told me he could not see what the trout were feeding on. They were very small, and in the eddys. He said they were probably some kind of midges. 

You just never know for sure, what to expect when you go fishing. Sometimes you know, and other times you are surprised.

The water is cold this morning and it probably won’t warm much if any. Go prepared to fish with weighted nymphs, but have some light tippet and tiny midge dry flies just in case you find what Jack found yesterday.

Some nice brown trout were caught this weekend in Little River. They are still active. If you catch them on a dry fly, I will be very surprised. Jack told me he talked to a fisherman at the shop yesterday who caught an 18” brown earlier in the day. That was the first nice brown trout he had caught in the Park. He showed Jack the photo.

Most anglers do not believe there are brown trout in Little River, exceeding 20 inches in length, but they are there. They have spawned and they are hungry this time of year. Even when the water is cold, they can be caught. Jack catches browns in the 22” to 26” range every year, during the late fall or winter. He has caught a few larger than that.

When most people fish, during the warmer months, those trout are hiding during the day and feeding at night. Most people assume, only small trout live in these streams.

Catching these large trout takes either luck or skill. It requires determination and patience.

These fish can be found in other Smokies streams too. Most of the large streams have populations of brown trout and some big ones live in those rivers.

I remember when Abrams Creek had a population of brown trout. They were stocked by a local resident, years ago. I was helping the Park Service conduct population sampling on the creek about 20 years ago. We captured and relased about 500 trout that day. We shocked and captured one brown trout that was 29” long and a few smaller browns.

Then, over time, the brown trout disappeared.

For some reason the population was not sustainable. Maybe the local person or persons didn’t stock enough of them.

I guess it is possible, the substrate is not conducive for successful brown trout reproduction. But, that doesn’t make sense, because rainbows spawn in Abrams Creek. We know the water chemistry is perfect, and the ph is very high. Abrams Creek has an abundance of food for trout. Whoever stocked them, probably didn’t stock enough.

By the way, it is illegal to stock any fish in the National Park. Even if you didn’t get caught, it’s not a good idea. Let Mother Nature take care of that.

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

Byron Begley
January 4, 2016

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