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 outside and 32 degrees.  Rain is expected today and the high temperature will be about 47 degrees.  The rain may begin as sleet in some areas.  It is going to feel like Summer, compared to what we’ve had lately.  Rain will continue tonight, through tomorrow morning.

A winter storm was predicted last night in counties to our north.  The National Weather Service warned they would have snow amounts of up to 4 inches.  That didn’t happen, at least not in our area.  We did not get any snow here.  The weather radar is indicating rain and it is about to arrive.  To our north, the rain appears to be heavy. 

Little River is flowing at 319 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.02 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 338 cfs.  The water temperature is still 32 degrees according to the USGS data captured below the Townsend “Y”.  That temperature gauge does not read a temperature lower than 32 degrees.

Little River’s flow rose yesterday though there was no precipitation.  Ice and snow melted, which caused the streams to rise.  The rainfall today and tonight, along with melting snow and ice will increase the flow in all the streams in the Smokies. 

Most of the roads in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are closed this morning.  We should see them open today, at least in the lower elevations.  You can see updates on road conditions in the Park by CLICKING HERE.  Before heading into the Park, check that page.

Fishing will be slow.  The water is cold and the trout are inactive.

Walter Babb was supposed to be tying at the shop today.  He called and canceled yesterday.

Now, we will have warmer temperatures.  Looking out over the next 10 days, there is no snow in the forecast.  Temperatures will warm into the 40’s most days.  Next weekend looks best, with highs up to 50 degrees.

That is not quite warm enough to kick off Spring fishing.  Maybe that will happen after next week.  What we need is water temperatures to reach 50 degrees.  When that occurs, all heck break loose around here.  March can be an excellent month to fish in the Smokies.  Fishing was good here, the first week of March last year.  We are all hoping.  It won’t be long.  Now, we are counting days, not months or weeks.

This week, I tied some flies for me and Paula, and a lot of them for the shop.  What I’m tying for us are, large weighted Wooly Buggers on 2/0 jig hooks.  These things are huge.  We will use those for smallmouth fishing in the lakes early, before the bass spawn.

Smallmouth bass suspend in fairly deep water, close to where they will spawn in the early Spring.  We catch them in water that is 6 feet deep or deeper.  These heavily weighted Buggers get down to them.  Since the hook rides up, the chance for snagging the bottom is reduced.  I don’t like fishing with sink tip or sinking lines.  By using these weighted flies, they can reach that 6’ depth if you retrieve slow and wait longer for them to sink before starting a retrieve.  I usually cast into shallow water, 2 to 3 feet deep, start a faster retrieve, then, slow down when the water depth drops. The fly descends down that rocky drop-off, slowly enticing those smallies to strike.  It works and works well when they are preparing to move into shallower water.

I know where those drop-offs are, because I have a depth finder on our boat and have fished these areas often.  Over time, you just know.

When the smallmouth spawn, we know where, because we can see the nests.  Sometimes, we see the bass on those nests.  Smallmouth bass do spawn in deeper water.  We just don’t see those nests.  So, we fish the areas where we have seen nests in the past.  And in the early Spring, we fish further from the bank in those areas.  These big black Wooly Buggers tied weighted on large jig hooks work well. 

I tie them on 1/0 hooks with less weight for fishing with a 6 weight rod.  They are tied on 2/0 hooks with more weight for a 7 weight rod.  We are using 9’ leaders.  I like the heavier fly and the 7 weight rod. We use 8 to 10 pound tippet.

That is about all we do, when fishing for smallmouth bass in the early Spring before the spawn.  It’s as simple as that.

Smallmouth bass spawn at different times in a particular body of water.  I’ve read that and found it to be true.  So, you may find post-spawn bass in one area, and other bass beginning to spawn somewhere else.  Also, a male may prepare a nest, and leave for some reason.  Then, they try again later, maybe somewhere else.  On a given day, you can find post-spawn smallies and those that are just beginning to spawn, even in the same area.

Fishing for post-spawn bass is the most fun.  They are hungry.  The females are cruising.  The males are guarding the nest.  That’s when we switch to top-water Knucleheads.  Often, we are sight fishing.  We see the cruising smallies.  Plop a good top-water fly near them, and they will attack.  If you miss the fish, cast back to the same spot again.  Don’t false cast, just put the fly right back in there immediately.  They will hit it again unless they felt your hook.  If you miss the fish again, cast the fly back.  Sometimes you will see them swimming around, looking for that bug that just disappeared.  Now that is a lot of fun.

Keep a Wooly Bugger tied on another rod.  If the topwater action slows down, switch to sub-surface fishing.

After the males leave the nest, they are hungry too.  They are cruising.  They attack a top water fly.

When the smallmouth bass fishing is like what I am describing here, we always choose cloudy days to fish.  If you don’t have that option, go early or late for best results.

This wonderful fly fishing lasts for a few weeks.  After that, we change tactics.

It is daybreak.  The wind is blowing strong.  The temperature has risen 10 degrees during the past 90 minutes to 42.  The mountains are white, covered with snow.  The snow will be melting and the streams will rise.  Yesterday morning, the temperature was 0 at this time.

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

Byron Begley
February 21, 2015 

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