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.  At 5:37 am, it has been raining for a while this morning.  The temperature is 39 degrees.  They say we’ll get about ½ inch of rain today.  Tonight will be a mixture of rain and snow. More snow is expected tomorrow morning.  Right now, forecasters are saying we won’t see any snow accumulation in the valleys, but possible light accumulation of snow in the mountains.  We’ll see what happens.

Little River is flowing at 165 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.77 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 294 cfs.  The water temperature is 41.54 degrees.

When the water temperature is this low, we don’t expect good fishing.  I did talk to one fisherman yesterday who encountered warmer water on the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River.  His thermometer calculated the water temperature at 46 degrees.  He also saw a couple of what sounded to me like Blue Quills.  I think he caught one trout.

But, for the most part, fly fishing in the mountains is slow.  A cold front will follow the rain beginning Monday, with low temperatures in the 20’s.  That won’t help the fishing.

Let’s face it.  It is still January and it is still winter.

Daniel and Dan are re-arranging the shop.  It looks great.  The rods are now on the left side when you walk in.  Packs and vests are on the right.  Leaders and tippet are on the back wall now.  Fly lines and stream accessories will be on the left.  The fly tying department will still be upstairs. 

The fly tying department has been re-stocked from the big run we had over the last 3 weeks.  It’s in good shape.  Re-stocking that department takes a while.  It is very labor intensive because of the number of small items.  Ordering takes time, entering hundreds of items in the inventory system takes time, and putting those items on the walls takes even more time.

Dick Geiger, Clayton Gist and I spent most of yesterday photographing, tying and putting together a full color fly tying book for a new class the Clinch River Chapter of TU will hold.  We will spend today doing the same thing.  They are fun guys to work with and this book will be nice.  I’ll be playing catch-up all weekend after we finish.  The way this weather looks, catching up won’t be so bad.  I’ll be indoors.

A theme in this week’s fishing report has been discussion on my favorite streams in the Smokies.  I talked about Lynn Camp Prong and Cataloochee Valley this week.  Another of my favorite spots to fish in the Park is the East Prong of Little River above Elkmont.  Now that is a gem of a place to fish.  That whole stretch of water is beautiful.  Fishing can be excellent.

To get away from the crowds during the warmer months can require a hike.  The stream, near the huge campground can be busy with anglers and swimmers. If you are not catching trout, you may be fishing behind someone near Elkmont.  Move upstream and your luck will change. Don’t get me wrong, fishing can be excellent near or in the campground.  I’ve just found that too much activity can slow things down.

The trail is an old railroad bed used to transport logs to the mill in Townsend.  The grade is low.  Hiking a long distance is easy.  Several backcountry camping sites can be found on the East Prong and Fish Camp Prong.  But, all along the way, you will be looking at some of the most beautiful water the Smokies has to offer.  It’s hard to pass it up and keep hiking.

I think my favorite water is actually Fish Camp Prong on the Goshen Prong Trail.  About 7 miles up from Elkmont, on that trail is a wonderful backcountry site.  We used to backpack to that site often and spend some of the best fishing times I can remember along that trail.  There, you can catch all three species of trout, brook, rainbow and brown.  I’ve never seen many people camping at the backcountry site.  We have almost always been alone. 

Another excellent campsite is “Three Forks” at the confluence of the small creeks that form the East Prong of Little River.  It is also about 7 miles from Elkmont, from what I remember.  When you camp there, you can’t hear anything but rushing water.

Campsite #24 is located between Elkmont and Three Forks.  Near that campsite is the Goshen Prong Trail.  That site can be pretty busy at times.  It is a good base camp because you can hike up the East Prong, fish downstream on the East Prong or cut over to Fish Camp Prong easily from that location.  We’ve stayed there often.

I’ve never seen many fishermen at any of those campsites, or at least not enough to feel crowded.  When you are 4 to 7 miles from a trailhead, and you have to walk past some beautiful water, so we’ve pretty much been alone.  I haven’t been fishing or backpacking in the Smokies, on weekends, for at least 20 years due to my work schedule.  We’ve always gone during the week.  Maybe other people who do fish on weekends have a different experience than I’ve had.

When customers contact me about backcountry camping and fishing, I always mention and encourage them to go to this area.  I love it up there and can’t wait to go back in the Spring.

It is still dark outside and the rain is coming down. It’s been a little dry lately. We can use the rain. 

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

Byron Begley
January 23, 2015 

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