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.  At 6:18 am, the temperature is 63 degrees.  Showers are predicted this morning.  Heavy rain and thunderstorms will move into the area this afternoon.

Little River is flowing at 525 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.64 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 268 cfs.  The water temperature is 57.7 degrees right now.

The streams in the Smokies are fishable but, still flowing fairly high.  The ground is saturated.  We have had a very wet April.

If we get heavy rain, and we probably will today and tonight, the possibility for flash flooding is high.  If you go fishing, you should be keenly aware of rising water.  If you see the water color change to turbid, get the heck out of the stream.  My suggestion would be to go fishing elsewhere.  If you go, be careful.

In the mountains, a thunderstorm can be dropping heavy rain upstream, and you may not know it is happening.  A flash flood could be rushing down the river where you are fishing, and you may not know what is coming.  You don’t want to be fishing across the stream, away from the road.  If water rises, your only choice would be to exit on that side.  Then, you are stuck.  Sometimes it is possible to bushwhack to a bridge.  Sometimes that is almost impossible.

We are holding a Nymphing Tactics Class today.  I don’t know if it has been cancelled.  Maybe I’ll find out before this report is uploaded to the server.  If they go, they will be conducting the class on the road-side of a stream, and constantly watching the water levels.

I checked TVA’s website, looking at the generation schedules at Norris and Cherokee Dams.  Norris will be running generators all day.  Cherokee Dam has a different schedule.  According to the website, there will be periods of time with no generation.  Check the website and see if the schedule works for you.  These schedules are subject to change.  Look at them yourself and decide what to do.  Don’t take my word on it!

John Thurman and I are exchanging e-mail this morning.  He is looking for a large passenger van, to be used one day, for the TU Kids Trout Camp.  If you can help, please shoot me an e-mail.  They can rent one for $500. That money could be best used for something else for the kids.

I can’t say enough good things about Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), especially the fisheries team here in Region IV. 

Paula and I planned to fish on one of the Little Tennessee River reservoirs this week.  We chose Chilhowee, which turned out to be a mistake.  It is a small impoundment.  Water levels fluctuate greatly.  Fishing is normally tough.  That’s why not many anglers fish there.

When we arrived at the launch, we couldn’t believe what we saw.  The water level was down 4 feet from full pool.  We wanted to see what the lake looked like that low, so we launched.  The ramp was so shallow, we could barely get the boat off the trailer.  Much of the convenience dock was on dry land.  Everything looked different.  We saw dry land, where before, smallmouth bass spawned.  But, we drove around and saw lake bottom we have not seen before.  We didn’t catch a fish.  But, it was a nice day.  Also, we didn’t hit any rocks.

Yesterday morning, I sent an e-mail to Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners, the owners of Santeelah, Cheoah, Calderwood and Chilhowee Dams.  Brookfield is a Canadian company.  I explained the affect of draw downs, on fishing.  I told them the smallmouth bass would be spawning soon, if not already.  I tied to make them aware of the likelihood of smallies, abandoning their nests, when lake levels are altered that much.

I copied Bart Carter and John Hammonds from TWRA on that e-mail.  The e-mail was sent at about 8 am.  Bart is Chief of Fisheries in our Region.  John is the reservoir biologist in Region 4.

I was working at the shop and checked my e-mail at noon. Sometime between 8 am and noon, Bart responded to me.  I’m at home so I don’t know what time he responded.  That e-mail is saved on my computer at work.  Bart said the lake is being lowered so repairs could be made to the dam.  He said he would contact Brookfield, and let me know how long the repairs would take and how much more the lake would be lowered.

Obviously, they are concerned too.

I didn’t expect to hear back from anyone on a Saturday.  Bart was working. He jumped right on my e-mail.  The Fisheries Team in our region is awesome.  I talked to Bart’s boss, Frank Fiss, Assistant Chief of Fisheries at TWRA, on the phone a while back.   I asked Frank, “Do you know how lucky you are to have these guys over here?”   He said he knew and they are as good as they come.

I checked this morning.  The lake level dropped another 6 inches.  I guess we’ll be fishing in Tellico Lake or Calderwood for a while.  Repairs to that dam a few years ago required lowering the lake to the original riverbed.  After the repairs were made, and the lake was re-filled, TWRA stocked a lot of young smallmouth bass.  Jack and I saw hundreds of them one day, all about 6” long.  Fishing has been getting somewhat better since then.  It’s never been an easy lake to fish.  Most people go somewhere else because of that.  There are so many lakes around here to choose from. 

The Little Tennessee River has a well known problem, lack of nutrients.  The low density of plankton, affects the population of threadfin shad, the primary forage fish.  They don’t have much to eat.  From Fontana Lake to Tellico Lake, the river runs through National Forests and borders Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There are no towns or farms along the way.  The water is too clean.  I like it that way.  The water is cold, clear and lacking in boat traffic.  Fishing, especially fly fishing, is a challenge.

Dan cancelled the Nymphing Tactics Class today and contacted the students last night.  The out of town students were contacted two days ago, telling them there was a possibility this would happen. I was glad to hear that.   

Have a great Sunday.  We will be open all day, as usual.

Thank you for being here with us.

Byron Begley
April 19, 2015

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