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 still dark outside and the temperature is 38 degrees.  It has been raining, almost non-stop for over 24 hours.  The rainfall has been mostly light but I don’t think it has stopped for one minute.  The high elevations in the mountains have reported sleet, ice and probably snow.  It’s too early to tell exactly what the conditions are up there.  Newfound Gap road is closed.

In the valleys, it is soggy and wet.  I stepped outside, it is still raining and there is no ice on our decks.  The high temperature today should be in the low 40’s.  The precipitation will move out sometime today, only to return Sunday.

One weather website is reporting snow in our area right now. I don’t see it.  Maybe it is snowing around here somewhere.  They are probably referring to the mountains.  

Weather conditions in the Smokies Monday through Tuesday are sketchy at this point.  We could get snow, ice or rain.

At the shop, we think we know why we have had no snow or ice this year.  We have learned from experience.  This fall, Daniel ordered several hundred pounds of calcium chloride “Ice Melt”. When we stock up on this stuff, we don’t use it for a while.  It just sits in the shop, taking up space.  I stored 100 pounds in my truck early this winter.  I didn’t use it.  I finally carried it into our house.

Usually, the next year we need and use Ice Melt.  Maybe it has a one-year shelf life.  Being prepared, kind of reverses Murphy’s Law.  When we start getting low on Ice Melt, here comes the snow.  We order more, no more snow. 

Little River is flowing at 357 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.31 feet on the gauge. Median flow for this date is 316 cfs.  The water temperature at 6:15 am is 43.16 degrees.

Fishing will be slow for most folks.  The water is cold.  I suspect there will be some fishermen, venturing into the Park to fish for brown trout today.  It is going to be overcast this morning and the water may be stained somewhat, a perfect combination for those seeking to catch big fish. 

The latest word, on the opening of Lynn Camp Prong is, it will open when the news release has been written and posted on the GSMNP website.  Expect that in two to three weeks.  I will be checking the news releases every morning, like I’ve been doing for several weeks. When I know, you will know.

I’ve been writing about favorite places to fish in the Smokies this week. So far, some good spots have come up.  One was Lynn Camp Prong early this week.  That was followed by the Cataloochee Valley and the East Prong of Little River above Elkmont, including Fish Camp Prong.

Does anyone love Hazel Creek like I do?  I kept re-reading the Hazel Creek chapter in Don Kirk’s first book about fly fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains.  Hazel Creek is born deep in the forest, high in the mountains of North Carolina.  The old town of Proctor was located there, before Fontana Lake blocked it’s downstream entry.  You can hike in from several places in the Smokies.  We never tried that.  Paula, me and many of our friends have camped on Hazel Creek and accessed the former location of Proctor by crossing Fontana Lake.

At first we used canoes.  Our favorite place to launch and leave your vehicle is Cable Cove, directly across the Hazel Creek embayment.  It seems like a long paddle at first.  But in reality, it probably only takes an hour, maybe an hour and a half.  If the wind is blowing, the trip takes longer.  One day, Paula and I sat at Cable Cove watching the lake, hoping to cross.  The lake was white capping.  We didn’t think we would make it.  We finally gave up and drove to Cataloochee to camp.  Other campers kept asking us why we brought a canoe to Cataloochee. 

At other times, the lake was calm and the trip across was without incident. I remember one trip when we took 3 or 4 canoes across at one time.

Frank, Mouse, Wayne and I planned a trip there probably 20 years ago.  The old road that runs along Hazel Creek is one of a couple where wheeled carts are allowed in the Park. I ordered a deer carcass carrier from Cabelas for us to use as a cart.  We had a cooler full of dry ice.  And, we had ice trays.  We made our own ice cubes, which came in handy for the evening celebration of our day of fishing. Instead of paddling over from Cable Cove, we took the pontoon shuttle from Fontana Marina.

We put the heavy stuff on the cart and carried everything else in backpacks.  We camped at the sawdust pile, which is a great location due to the fairly close proximity to the upper reaches at Bone Valley, or for walking downstream toward Proctor.

Fishing was always good.  I don’t think it is any better than other places we have fished in the Smokies.  Hazel Creek is just special.  Maybe that is because I had read so much about it.  Hazel is a good sized stream and the area is beautiful.  You can’t think enough about what it was like to live there before the Park became what it is.

That cart has been handy over the years.  We used it to gather firewood.  We’ve loaned it to friends.  On that first trip with the guys, we decided to load everything we had on it for the trip down and out.  We had that cart piled high with packs and gear.  Everything was tied down.  We thought we were so smart.  We could walk downhill, several miles, with no weight on our backs, just keeping the cart on course.

The cart has a weight limit of 500 pounds.  We knew we didn’t exceed that.  So, away we went on our easy journey with the cart piled with gear.  Of course, about 100 yards down the trail, the cart tipped over.  We re-packed, being more careful to load the heavy gear on the bottom.  Down the trail we went, and the cart tipped over again.  By the time we got down to Fontana Lake, we were wearing our backpacks. 

We still laugh about that trip and look at old photos.  The Buddy Boy’s great adventure to Hazel Creek still comes up when we get together. Hazel Creek is one place you should visit in your life.  If the water conditions are good, you will catch plenty of trout, just like any place else in the Smoky Mountains.  But, Hazel Creek is still special.  Maybe we will return some day.  Next time we’ll take our boat and a wider cart.

Buzz Buffington and Steve Brown will be tying at the shop today.  This is a Free Saturday Demonstration.  Just show up.  They will be there between 10 am and 2 pm.  We also have an advanced fly tying class going on, taught by Walter Babb.

Well I’ll be.  It is snowing.  The temperature has dropped to 35 degrees.  Forget everything I wrote in the first two paragraphs.  Forget about the Ice Melt too.  The roads down here should be fine.  Who knows what’s happening in the mountains right now.  My guess is, it’s not good for travel. 

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

Byron Begley
January 24, 2015

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