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 is 5:44 am and the temperature is 19 degrees in Townsend.  A warm front will arrive today bringing highs in the 40’s and lows in the 30’s.  Rain will also be included in the forecast beginning tonight and lasting for a few days.  We may see snow in the mountains this week.

Little River’s flow is not available because the USGS gauge site is not working.  Just like yesterday, the flow meter is not responding.  We can see the temperature, which is currently 32.72 degrees.

With the water at freezing in the lower elevations, fishing will be slow today.  We will see the temperature spike upwards over the next few days.  Fishing will improve somewhat.

I spent yesterday at home working on our website and tying Knuckleheads for the store to sell.  Last night, I cut Knucklehead foam bodies during the NFL game.  So, I didn’t talk to any fishermen yesterday and have no idea what was going on at the shop. Today is bookkeeping day for me at the store. I’ll be there all day.

This may be one of those days, I can’t think of anything to write.

It’s hard to write a fishing report when fishing is slow.  When our streams are at freezing temperatures, people don’t go fishing, or at least most don’t.  At times like these, avid anglers usually think about the sport or prepare for better fishing weather.

We’ve found, that during the winter months, based on our business, most anglers are thinking about something else except for one group, fly tyers.

People who tie flies are very active during the Winter.  We sell a lot of fly tying materials and tools in January and February.  Keeping everything in stock is a chore.  We don’t know what people will buy.  That’s why we have a large tying department with lots of choices.

Since we record a transaction in the customer’s name, we can run reports and find out how many of our customers buy fly tying materials.  We have data going back to 1998.  It has not changed in years.  Only 1/3 of our customers buy merchandise from the fly tying category. 

I guess that’s good in one way.  We sell more finished flies.  But, I can’t help but wonder what people who don’t tie, do in January.

For me, for decades, tying flies was my way of extending the fly fishing season through the cold months.  In Tennessee, our winters are not usually severe.  We have breaks, when the weather warms, fishing gets better and we go fishing. We’ve had a lot of those warm breaks this winter so far, until recently.  Maybe more are to come.

I’ll spend 100 hours this winter, tying one fly pattern, in three colors to sell in the shop. I started, and that job is about 20% finished.  Tying the same pattern, over and over might seem boring to many people.  It can be for me too.  Like most activities, the more you do it, the better you get.  You also become faster. 

When I’m tying flies to sell, I think about our customers who will be using those flies and catching fish later this year.  That helps.  I tie at a desk that is now 9 feet wide.  5 feet is devoted to tying and 4 feet to my computer used for work at home.  My chair is on wheels.  So, I can tie for a while, then roll over to the computer and work on updating our online store.  When boredom sets in, I simply move to the other side of the desk.  I did that for 11 hours yesterday.  I could hear basketball and football games playing on the TV and still concentrate on the job at hand.

I am often distracted by wildlife.  Directly behind me are large windows with a view of the forest just a few feet away.  Yesterday, all kinds of birds were feeding.  At one point, a flock of wild turkeys arrived.  It’s hard to work when a bunch of turkeys are walking around 20 feet away.  I propped my feet up and watched them.  They come into the area to feed on the birdseed I throw out for the ground birds.  They don’t stay long because there is not much to eat.  You never know when they will arrive.  It’s always a surprise but it happens every day.  After they finish feeding, they simply walk away, deeper into the forest and disappear. If something scares them, they all fly off at once, into the trees.  It is a sight to see 20 turkeys sitting in trees all at once.

Frank and I were watching the bird feeders on New Years Day.  He remarked how our bird’s behavior compares to the birds that visit his feeders.  Ours fly in, grab a seed then fly off to eat.  His stay of the feeders and eat.  He lives in a town.

I think the difference is, our birds are constantly on guard.  They are afraid of hawks.  We saw a hawk catch a dove last week, just feet from our back door.  The predator this time was a cooper hawk.  There are many red-tailed hawks living around here.  They are large enough to take out a squirrel or rabbit.

The turkeys are always looking around for predators.  Bobcats feed on the turkeys.  I’ve never seen that happen but our neighbor has.  He saw one catch a turkey next to his house. We saw one bald eagle fly over our house last summer.  I bet an eagle would take on a turkey.  Paula saw a hawk grab a squirrel and fly off with it.  I bet that was something to see. 

We see bear and deer but not often.  Seeing a bear around the house is a treat.  Now that is always a surprise.  I’m looking forward to the day we see elk.  It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.

So, that’s how I spent my day. Boring as it may seem, I love my life.

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

Byron Begley
January 11, 2015

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