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 overcast and 32 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Traffic is light.  Visitors are scarce.  We are in the midst of winter. 

If you missed the Fishing Reports this weekend, we had a lot of rain.  The streams rose to the occasion.  Fly fishing has been next to impossible this weekend due to the high flows.  We did not talk to hardly anyone who fished this weekend. 

The water is still high in the Smokies.  Little River is flowing at 916 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 3.41 feet on the flow gauge.  That number exceeded 7 feet on Saturday.  Median flow for this date is 303 cfs.  The water temperature is 44 degrees at 8:10 am.

Fly fishing is possible in some streams now but you should use extreme caution when wading.  I would use a heavily weighted nymph or a nymph double rig with plenty of split shot to get the flies down.  The water is cold but not freezing like it was early last week.  The trout may be somewhat active but we consider fishing to be slow for most anglers.  Those targeting big trout might have a good day.

You will find warmer water at Abrams Creek near the trailhead.  There, springs feed the creek and the water temperature there is always warmer than in other streams during the winter.  On the other hand, the water is cooler there during the hot months.

It will rain today and tonight.  We may get snow Tuesday night and Wednesday.  Accumulations are not expected to be much.  The weather service speculates we’ll see moderate snowfall in the mountains and a light dusting in the valleys.  We’ll see how that turns out.

I read some article in “Tackle Trade Magazine” last night and this morning.  Three articles featured realistic conventional fishing lures.  These lures are made to be cast with a spinning or bait casting outfit.  So, why bring it up here?  We are fly fishermen.

Well, there is a lot we can learn from the huge number of conventional fishing anglers.  They outnumber us by hundreds of percentage points.  They are serviced by a very large industry.  Compared to the fly fishing industry, conventional fishing is huge.  A lot of money is spent and made by research development and manufacturing for the conventional fishermen. I pay close attention to what is going on in that world. 

The buzz in that realm of fishing is realism.  Most of what I see in conventional fishing magazines equate to our sport with streamers or baitfish patterns.  Realistic fly fishing baitfish patterns catch big trout, bass, stripers, musky, tarpon, redfish, speckled trout, bonefish and a whole list of trophy sized fish.  Big fish eat other fish.  They are predators. 

Take the Puglisi flies for instance.  We’ve been using these realistic baitfish flies for years.  I’ve caught everything from bluegill to tarpon on Puglisi flies.  Big trophy trout eat them up. 

The conventional tackle market is doing more to produce realistic baitfish lures than ever before.  These lures are often articulated.  They are often very large, up to a foot long or longer.  And, they are designed to catch big fish, trophies and tournament winners. 

We also improve our small flies by making them more realistic.  CDC changed fly tying at one point.  Look at what the bead head did for our sport.  Brass beads revolutionized fly fishing for trout.  I remember the first time I caught a trout on a Bead Head Pheasant Tail.  I was fishing with Frank Brown and Gary Taylor on the Hiwassee River decades ago. 

We will see more movement to and realistic development of our flies as time goes on.  We are always trying to find better ways to fool a fish.  I love it.

Wow, I was bragging about how more of our restaurants in town are staying open this Winter, and two more of them just closed until Spring.  We all thought they were going to stay open.  Others always close.  I don’t blame them.  I just wish it were different.

January is starting out slow in town.  Tourism is not great.  Fishermen have not been able to fish much.  Our business has not been all that good.  We are bleeding cash, as usual.

We lose a lot of money during January and February by staying open.  It usually takes us 2 to 3 months of good business to make up that Winter loss.  This is a seasonal town.  It’s a tough place to do business.  It is a great place to live and visit.  I would not want to be anywhere else. 

We stay open to service customers.  We don’t lay anyone off.  We just suck it up and get through the slow times.  I don’t see that changing.  If busy times come early this year, I will be happy about that.

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

Byron Begley
January 13, 2014

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