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 early, dark and 49 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Today’s high will be around 59 degrees.  We have a chance for showers today.  The weekend will be beautiful, partly cloudy to cloudy, no rain and highs in the mid to high 60’s.  Awesome.

Little River is flowing at 458 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.52 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 368 cfs.  The water temperature at 6:20 am is 49.5 degrees.  The water level is dropping.

Fly fishing is very good in the Smokies. Aquatic insects are very active with nymphs on the move and clinging to rocks, adults hatching and mating, and sporadic large haches on the rivers.  Trout are very active too, feeding on nymphs in the absence of adults on the water, and gorging on adults when they are on the water. 

Yesterday was wet and we did get more rain than expected.  Some customers told me they saw stained water in some streams.  As far as I know, Little River remained clear.  The river did rise a few inches yesterday, then peaked and receded last night.

Nymphs will work best when adult insects are not on the water or hatching.  It’s hard to beat a Pheasant Tail nymph in sizes #14 through #16 but other mayfly nymphs will work too.  If you see a significant hatch, it will most likely be Quill Gordons or smaller Blue Quills. 

If we do not get much rain today, and we probably won’t, the streams will continue to fall and should soon be back to yesterday’s level, which was good. 

Norris and Cherokee Dams will be generating all day, again.  Maybe we will get a break this weekend.

We know it is Spring.  I saw forsythia blooming yesterday.  Bernie and the boys are in town.  The turkeys are acting odd.  I saw a large flock yesterday, after telling you they had split up to mate.  My young buddies from the University of Kentucky are in town for Spring break.  Business is good at the shop, very good.  Fishing is great. 

Next week looks even better.  We may see highs at 70 degrees two days, and a couple of lows later in the week in the 30’s.  That is Spring for you.  Oh, there is no heavy rain in the forecast next week. March 2015 has been a good fishing month. 

We have a huge amount of traffic on our website right now.  This report is read by thousands of people each week, around 800 per day.  People want to know what’s going on here so they can plan a fishing trip.

I get a lot of e-mail from those people.  Many are new to fishing in the Smokies.  I answer every e-mail, every day.  One question comes up and it is often hard for me to answer.  Should I worry about the bears?

This week, I’ve been exchanging e-mail with a man who wants to hike into the backcountry, to fish for a day, and get away from people.  I told him, he and his buddy should hike up above Elkmont to the Goshen Prong Trail, then up that trail and fish along the way, on Fish Camp Prong.  That is my second favorite stream in the Smokies.

He followed up, and told me their wives and kids may go with them.  He asked if they should worry about the bears.

I don’t worry about bears.  I’ve been around them too often.  I know, even a small bear can kill you.  I know not to approach them.  We are fishing in a noisy environment, concentrating on the job at hand.  We don’t see or hear bears coming.  The bears don’t hear us, because of the stream noise.  If we are upwind, they may not smell us.

Sometimes, we have close encounters.  In my case, the bear always leaves, usually quickly. We’ve had them sniff around our tent during the night.  They walk around our house, sometimes very close, maybe 15 feet away.  We watch them disappear into the forest, then go about our business, often outside and unarmed.

To put this into perspective, if I saw a person, who I didn’t know, walk by our house, the first thing I would do is grab the closest loaded gun I could get my hands on.  If that person didn’t look like a lost tourist or a neighbor, I would call 911.  We’ve seen plenty of bears around our house over the years.  We’ve never seen an unknown human close to our house.  I would be more worried about the human, than a bear.

There has been one fatality, a woman, who was alone at the time, and was killed by a bear, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  That was an awful time around here.  The rangers shot and killed the bear.  The same bear ran some friends of mine out of campsite 24 the day before.  Something was wrong with that bear.

It so happens, that occurred where I sent these two guys to fish.  Other than that, since this park was formed, some people have been injured by bears, but there have been no other deaths as a result.

Visitors to our Park make two big mistakes.  They get too close to a bear, maybe to take a picture.  Or, they have food in their pack, near the car or in their tent.  Those two things cause most human/bear incidents.  There are exceptions.  I know of two people who were dragged from a tent and a hammock by a bear at Hazel Creek.  A friend of mine left some donuts in his car while we were camping at Cataloochee.  That morning, we found a bear on top of his car, trying to get in.

What about children?  You should never let children venture away in this wilderness alone.  Most often, a child gets off the trail and lost.  I know of one case, that a lost child in the Park was never found.  If I had small kids, I would want them to see a bear in the wild.  That would be a very beneficial experience for a child. I would encourage it.  But, we would keep our distance and the child would not be holding a candy bar.  If a bear got too close, I think I could handle it.  I don’t carry a handgun in the Park. 

I told this man, in the last e-mail, his wife and kids should not go with them if she is worried about bears.  What else could I say?  There is a chance they will see a bear above Elkmont.  I also told him, I don’t worry about bears.  It’s the truth.  They have to make that decision, not me.  I hope they all go, see a bear, catch some trout, enjoy that beautiful place and benefit from the experience.  That would be my decision, without even thinking about it.

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

Byron Begley
March 20, 2015

Respond to: byron@littleriveroutfitters.com


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