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 dark and 33 degrees in Townsend this morning.  This will be a nice day, with a high of around 52 degrees.

Snow fell early yesterday morning in the higher elevations and in some areas in the valley.  Knoxville, Maryville and other towns reported measurable snowfall.  Somehow that missed Townsend.  When I drove to the shop, the mountains were completely white.  It was beautiful.  We did not have any measurable snow in town.  The snow on the mountains lingered for part of the day, then melted.

Newfound Gap Road is reported closed right now by the Park Service. It should open sometime this morning.

Little River gained flow from the rain night before last, then the levels fell.  The river is still flowing at 261 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 3.21 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 327 cfs.  The water temperature at 6:20 am is 39.56 degrees.

Fishing will be slow today.  With the water temperature below 40 degrees, the trout will be hunkered down and for the most part inactive.  You can catch them but it will be slow.  If you go, use nymphs and get them to the bottom of the stream.  Put some extra weight on and dredge the deep water.

The water moves slower on the bottom.  Friction on the stream bed slows the water down.  If your fly line is floating on top, it may be dragging your nymphs on the bottom, faster than the current they are in.  You can compensate for this by mending upstream and trying to keep your fly line off the surface.  When your fly is moving faster than the current, it looks unnatural to the trout.  That reduces your chances of catching them.

It will rain tonight then turn colder.  Lows Monday and Tuesday nights will be in the 20’s.  Later this week it will warm up some.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park just completed a new stream mapping project.  It has been thought, for decades, that the Park contained 2,000 miles of streams with under 1,000 miles of water large enough to sustain fish populations.  Using modern technology, the recent study indicates that there are actually 2,900 miles of streams, with 1,073 miles of fish holding water.  You can read the new report in the form of a news release by CLICKING HERE.

I am still checking the news releases daily, hoping to read the expected announcement about the opening of Lynn Camp Prong to fishing.  That should happen soon.  They say we should get the news in two or three weeks.

I started fly fishing in the Smokies, on a regular basis, over 30 years ago.  I lived in Nashville.  My friends and I would meet in Townsend often.  Townsend was our base camp.  With that in mind, there is no doubt, the stream I have fished most often is the Middle Prong of the Little River.  After moving here over 20 years ago, I fished the Middle Prong most often because of it’s close proximity to town, and because it is beautiful, access is good and fishing can be excellent.  I knew the Middle Prong well and fished there often.

I refer to the Middle Prong of Little River as the stretch beginning at the confluence of Lynn Camp Prong and Thunderhead Prong, which terminates at the confluence of the West Prong, just upstream from the “Y”.  Many people, including me, refer to this stream as Tremont.  Tremont was a logging town located at and near the confluence of Thunderhead and Lynn Camp.

Back in the days, when I was in my 30’s, we would often camp at Little River Village Campground.  Today, that campground is the KOA, owned by the parent company, Kampgrounds of America.

From there, we could be on the Middle Prong in minutes, fish until dark, and be back at camp quickly. 

In the later 80’s, I bought 10 acres of land in Dry Valley.  My buddies and I started camping on this land when we came to Townsend to fish in the Smokies. 

I built a small cabin near the creek with a covered front porch.  That became our fishing camp.  It didn’t have electricity or running water back then.  It was not heated.  It remains a shell.  We actually called it “the barn”.  We still call it the barn. It looks like an old Appalachian cabin.  

Later, I built this house, married Paula, and this became our home. The little cabin is now a storage building.  I did run water and electricity, underground, to the barn when this house was built.

Frank and I retrofitted some battery powered deer feeders that ran on timers to feed the trout in the creek near the barn.  The feeders held 5 gallons of trout food and were suspended from trees over the creek.  They released food twice a day.  Since I lived in Nashville at the time, I would fill the feeders when we were here.  They held enough food between trips here and they never ran out. 

The creek’s water temperature is consistently around 58 degrees year round.  It is formed by two large springs, one emerging from a cave you can actually crawl into.  The rainbow trout grew fast and large.  I remember one that measured 22 inches. 

We didn’t fish there much, but we would try to be at the feeders when they started releasing food. It was fun to watch.  Eventually, people found out about those big trout and started catching them.  After a few confrontations with fishermen, I removed the feeders and let the stream revert back to a small rainbow fishery, the way it was when I first bought this place.

We all have fond memories, going back to the early 80’s, of camping near and fishing in the Middle Prong.  When I visit that stream now, that’s what I think about. I enjoy sending fishermen to that stream so they can enjoy what I enjoyed many years ago.

I am 63 years old now.  When I walk down that gravel road along the Middle Prong of the Little River, I see exactly what I saw in my 30’s.  Nothing has changed as far as I can tell. It is still beautiful and the fishing is great.

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

Byron Begley
January 25, 2015

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