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 48 degrees and raining in Townsend this morning.  I looked at the weather radar and saw snow in some areas.  It looked like Nashville was getting snow.

We are going to have a hard freeze tonight.  The low is expected to be 28 degrees in the valley.  I remember the last time this happened in April a few years ago.  That one was worse.  The damage it did to the flowering trees, new light green leaves and wildflowers was awful.  Some trees actually died.  Maybe this won’t be so bad.

Little River is rising slightly.  So far, we have had only ¼” of rain.  I think the rain is about over. UPDATE 11:14 AM - Well, maybe the rain isn't about over. It is persisting and we could see the water rise further and faster than I thought.  

Flow is currently 319 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.16 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 297 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:40 is 57 degrees.

We will see the water temperature drop.  How far, I don’t know.  Tomorrow night’s low is expected to be in the low 30’s.  I think the party is over for a couple of days or more.  When a strong front moves in the fishing usually slows.  It might have been slow yesterday though the flows and water temperature were good.  It’s hard to say.

We will start the warm-up tomorrow.  It will continue through the weekend.  We do have a very low chance for rain and it will be partly cloudy Saturday and Sunday.  But, it will be warm.  Fishing should be good.

Since there are many aquatic insects hatching and landing on the water, I would use either an Elk Hair Caddis, tan or yellow Neversink Caddis or Parachute Adams for the dry fly.  Drop a Pheasant Tail off the dry.

I would expect the fishing to be slow tomorrow and maybe Thursday.  It depends on the water temperature.  When the water temp climbs back to 50 degrees or higher, fishing will improve.

It is often difficult to help fishermen who walk in here and say the fishing is slow when others report something different.  I try to base my opinions on what the guides and my friends say.  Also, that crucial water temperature and flow plays in. 

I had a guy come in Monday and said he fished all day and did not catch anything.   He also said, everyone he talked to had not caught a single fish.  They were fishing above Elkmont.  The water temperature was about 55 degrees or warmer.  It was mostly cloudy that day, from what I remember.  I will say this, the moon was full.  I’m not absolutely sure if that matters.  It seems to. 

I want to help people catch trout.  When I hear this, I start asking questions and try to figure out what is wrong.  Maybe they are not getting a good drift.  Maybe they are standing where they should be fishing.  They could be fishing the slow pools or behind someone else. 

This man seemed to be doing everything right.  He was not a regular Smokies fisherman.  He lives in Wisconsin.  He is used to fishing spring creeks. Maybe I didn’t ask the right questions.  I tried.

I guess that is fishing for you!  It happens to me, way too often, especially fishing for smallmouth bass on clear lakes.  I can’t remember getting skunked in the Smokies unless the water was cold.  Well, it did happen often back in the early 80’s.  I didn’t know how to fly fish in the Smokies.  I did well in Montana, Pennsylvania and really well on the Caney Fork River in Tennessee.  Fishing here was new and different.  It is totally different.  I’m not a great fly fisherman by any stretch.  Most of my close friends are better anglers. 

Here, it’s hard to catch trout in the slow moving pools unless there is a huge hatch going on and the trout are watching for bugs and not looking for fishermen.  That is rare.

Here, you have to get a good drift.  These are wild trout.  They grew up in these streams.  If something looks wrong, they won’t bite.

Here, choppy water helps conceal you from them and the trout feel less vulnerable to predators.  They can’t be seen.  They have to eat, so they hide and eat.

If your fly line lands on the water, on top of a trout, they will most likely run for cover.  That’s why you work your way upstream, hitting the likely spots with your fly and leader so you don’t spook them.

You don’t want to wade through the likely spots where a trout should be hiding and eating.  You try to avoid wading as much as possible.  You may wade through those areas only after you have presented a fly there first. 

Some people stand in one spot and fish for a long time.  What they should do is make a few casts in a likely spot, then move on.   

There are exceptions to everything.  When trout are spawning, they act differently.  When there is no sunlight on the water, they act differently.  When there is a large hatch of mayflies or other insects on the water, they act differently.  Sometimes they just act differently for no reason at all. 

Trout don’t have the brain-power to reason.  They rely on their instinctive fear of everything to survive.  Without that instinctive fear, they would not survive.  Something would eat them.

Genetics play into this.  Dumb trout don’t live long enough to pass those genes on to another generation.

I believe, one reason anglers like fishing here is because it is challenging.  We are trying to trick wary trout.  We have a lot working against us.  We get our flies hung in those darned trees.  They see you before you see them.  By the time you notice a strike, they have spit your fly out.  Accurate casting is essential.  And, you can’t always cast overhead on the side of your body like you would on a large river or lake.  You have to learn to cast all different ways to avoid hitting a limb or catching your fly on a branch behind you.  We all hate that. 

One time Brian caught a huge hornet nest on his backcast.  We pondered that situation for a while before figuring out how to cut that leader and run like heck.

It’s always a challenge.  Nobody will dispute that.

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

Byron Begley
April 15, 2014

Respond to: byron@littleriveroutfitters.com


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