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 5:59 am, the temperature is 22.5 degrees. It is snowing. We may get 1” to 3” today. The high temperature today will be barely above freezing.

It will be warmer tomorrow. Rain is expected. Snow is possible again

Little River is flowing at 193 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.83 feet on the flow gauge. Median flow for this date is 309 cfs. The water temperature is 32.5 degrees.

I am going by memory, but I think the water temperature gauge stops reporting at 32 or 32.5 degrees. The water is freezing, or very close to it. Higher in the mountains, the streams are surely freezing along the bank.

I would not consider fishing in the mountains today. I would consider walking along Little River, especially the Middle Prong, on the road. It is beautiful there when it snows. You can park just inside the entrance to the Smokies, or outside the entrance, and walk in. There is always the chance the Park will close.

I just looked at the Park’s Road Conditions page on Twitter. Laurel Creek Road is closed near the Townsend “Y”. That road runs from the “Y” to Cades Cove. I expect Little River road will close soon. Other roads are closing including Highway 441 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee. You can read the Park’s Twitter page by CLICKING HERE.

Park Rangers will be busy today. There will probably be accidents on the roads. When they close a road, they have to stand by, to let people out of the closed area. And, they drive along closed roads to ask (tell) people to leave.

I get an e-mail every day from the Park, describing road conditions, the weather forecast and “significant events”.  Significant events describes every problem that requires a ranger to get involved. During the summer, the list is long. There are more people in the Smokies. Stuff happens.

Many of these events are automobile accidents. Some are drunk drivers, who go to jail, usually in our County, Sevier County or Cherokee, N.C. 

Many significant events involve an injury on a trail, or hikers who are reported lost, or didn’t return when they said they would. Some tourists, hike into the mountains, and do not have the strength to walk back out.

Hikers actually get lost. That happens more often than you think. Last week I read about a hiker who became lost, and called for help on a cell phone. Cell phones don’t usually work in the Park, but his did.

Rangers respond to all of these significant events. Usually, a team of at least two rangers search for the missing hikers. Most times, the rangers find the missing hiker, and escort them back to their vehicle. If the hiker is injured or ill, they are evacuated.

An evacuation in the backcountry requires several rangers, using a single wheeled gurney.  I know how tough that is to do. I helped with an evacuation once. In this case, the evacuee was dead. If the injury is serious, an ambulance is waiting at the trailhead. If the injury or illness is life threatening, the patient is driven to a town, where they are transferred to a helicopter, and flown to a hospital. If that happens near Townsend, the helicopter usually lands next to our shop.

It is rare for a Park visitor to be injured by a wild animal. It has been years since I have read about that happening. When it does, it is usually a tourist, getting too close to a bear to take a picture, and the bear swipes at them with his paw.

We occasionally hear about a snake bite. We have copperheads and rattle snakes living in the Park. I’m surprised more people are not bitten. It doesn’t happen often.

I can only think of a few times, a fisherman has been injured. Slips and falls are the most common and they are so rare, or the injury is mild, so we don’t read or hear about that happening. A friend of mine fell and broke his ankle. He was fishing outside the Park. It can happen.

Fishermen don’t get lost. If they have, I don’t know about it. Fishermen are on a stream. Streams usually run to roads. Most fishermen know where they are fishing. Trails follow most of the streams where people fish. If you are fishing in a stream that has no trail, you usually fish you way upstream, then, walk back out.

Fishermen do get trapped on the wrong side of the stream during a flash flood. They are fishing, see the water rising rapidly, then, get the heck out as quickly as they can. The problems is, the quickest and safest way out, may be on the wrong side of the stream. Your truck and the road is on the other side. It may be a long and tough bushwhack to a bridge. When there is a chance for a flash flood, the best advice is to fish on the road side of the stream. Sometimes you don’t know there is a chance for a flash flood. Thunderstorms form way up stream, unexpectedly.

Getting stuck on the wrong side can be dangerous, if it is cold and you are wet. I have not heard of a fisherman dying of hypothermia, caught on the wrong side of the stream, during the past 20 years. If that had happened, I would have heard.

I believe, fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains is safe if you use common sense and understand the consequences of making a big mistake.

Today, is one of those days, when you should probably not go fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains.

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

Byron Begley
January 20, 2016 

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