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 snowed last night.  This is one of those clinging snows, that cover the tree limbs.  We have right at an inch on the ground.  The paved and concrete surfaces are not covered with snow.  The temperature this morning is 31 degrees.

We may get some additional snow or freezing rain this morning but the chance is low.

Right now, only three roads are temporarily closed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park due to ice and snow.  They are, Newfound Gap Road, Laurel Creek from Tremont to Cades Cove and Cherokee Orchard Road.

It is beautiful outside.  This is more snow than I’ve seen all year.  LeConte Lodge reported a snowfall amount of 4” last night. The temperature there was 20 degrees at 7:00 am.  Of course, this is nothing compared to the snowstorm pounding New England. 

Little River is flowing at 254 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.05 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 320 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:30 am is 38.66 degrees.

If you go fishing in the Smokies, fish the lower elevations near a Park entrance.  Be careful entering Metcalf Bottoms from Lyons Spring Road.  It is probably slick there.  You may not catch many if any trout today.  The water is cold.  But, you will be treated to a beautiful scene, of snow clinging to the trees, with the background of a clear mountain stream.  It is hard to find a sight much more beautiful than fresh snow and one of these streams.

This would also be a nice morning to be backpacking in the Park.  I’m reminded of many trips, Paula and I have wandered into the woods, knowing we would wake to snow on the tent and in our camp.  Those were some of my favorite nights spent in the forest. 

We have a mountaineering tent and down bags, so under the conditions we have right now, backcountry camping is not a problem at all.  I would be out there right now, starting a campfire.

Frank and I used to meet here, decades ago, during the winter to fish in the Smoky Mountains.  We endured some cold nights and slow fishing days.  I remember one morning, we woke to a temperature of 17 degrees.  My contact lenses were frozen in their plastic case.  We’ve been friends for 58 years now.  He lives in Kentucky.  We spoke yesterday morning.

He has been reading this fishing report every day, for the past few, as I recounted some of the fishing trips I made to the Smokies during my 20’s and 30’s.  Frank was on every one of them. If I went on a fishing trip, you could be sure, Frank was there.  We have fished together under some awful conditions.  Yellowstone in October was one of them.  Fishing the big Manistee River in December was another.  Rock Creek in the Big South Fork comes to mind.  But most of those camping and fishing trips, we made during the winter, were done right here, in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Last week I talked about some of my favorite places to fish in the Smokies.  I talked about Lynn Camp Prong, Cataloochee Valley, Little River above Elkmont, the Middle Prong of Little River and Hazel Creek.  Fond memories were etched in stone at those magnificent places.

Another place in the Smokies, where we spent many enjoyable times during my younger years was Abrams Creek.  Sometimes we fished and camped at Cades Cove.  Some camping/fishing excursions took us further downstream to Little Bottoms.  We were at Little Bottoms, when Wayne melted his wet hiking boots next to the campfire. I know Frank, Mouse and Wayne remember that trip.  Lucky for Wayne, our hike out was only two or three miles. 

It was on Abrams Creek, during the winter, when we saw Wayne standing on a big rock with his clothing hanging on the tree limbs to dry.  Of course, he fell in.  I can’t think of many or any fishing trips we made to Abrams Creek when one or more of us didn’t fall in. 

I remember slipping into deep water, fishing with Gary McCown on Abrams Creek during a green drake hatch.  When I finally climbed out of the water, soaking wet, I could hear Gary laughing.  I looked in his direction, only to see him slide off the rock he was standing on and became completely submerged in the river.  I was laughing so hard I almost fell in again.

If you are lucky enough, to actually fish the green drake hatch on Abrams Creek, usually in April, it is a thrill.  I’ve only been there once in all these years when a true, large, hatch occurred.  Steve Moore and I tried to catch that hatch a few times.  Steve is a retired fisheries biologist, who spent most of his career at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We missed the hatch every time.  We went, when we thought it would happen, and it didn’t.

At times, customers have come by the shop, reporting an occurrence we can only dream about.  They describe how their truck is covered with huge mayflies.  I’ve seen people point out the egg sacs left behind on the hoods of their trucks.  I learned over time not to be tricked by this.  I would go back the next day, “no green drakes”. 

Walter Babb, Brian Courtney and I hoped to be right in the middle of the green drake hatch twice on two different fishing trips to the Beaverkill River in New York.  Both times, we missed it.  Anglers who traveled there from New England lined the rivers in the Catskills.  They always seemed to be looking around, with a puzzled look on their face.   

We called it “the hatch that never happens”.  Our boxes were full of coffin flies and green drake wet flies.  Maybe that was our problem.  We were over-prepared.  We actually discussed, cutting back our on-stream inventory of flies to see if that would help the situation.  At the fly shop in Roscoe, the bins and boxes were brimming with green drake patterns, just waiting for us to buy them. I bought handfuls. I still have them all. Knowing me, when I do need them, they will be in this closet in the man cave, miles or hundreds of miles from the water I’m standing in.

We stock green drake patterns at our store, but not too many.  They are there if you want to buy them.  If a customer is going to Abrams Creek at the right time, we suggest they buy one or two but the purchase and our encouragement comes with verbal disclosure statement.  “You may not need them, but you hope you will”.

It’s kind of like backing on a fly reel.  Beginners ask why it’s needed.  I always tell them, “Backing is something you may never see again, but you always hope you do”. 

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

Byron Begley
January 27, 2015

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