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 5:40 am, the temperature is 45 degrees.  We will see low temperatures in the 40’s every night through Friday.  This is going to be a chilly week until the weekend.  We’ll have rain at times.  Beginning this coming weekend, warmth will return.  Fishing will improve.  I can’t wait.

Little River is flowing at 319 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.23 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 268 cfs.  The water temperature is 54.9 degrees this morning.

Fishing in the Smoky Mountains is good.  I talked to several fishermen yesterday, who did well.  Evidently, Lynn Camp Prong was fishing very well, but it was crowded, as expected.  All the discussion, and predictions for severe storms were only that.  It never happened here.  Fishing conditions were good this weekend.  The water was a little high, but no so much, that fishermen were complaining.  Fishermen were just glad to get out, and they did.

Anglers also had opportunities to fish for trout on the tailwaters last week.  It’s about time.  April has been a tough month for tailwater anglers.  Maybe better times are ahead.  I hope so.

Other fishermen spent time on the lower tailwaters, fishing for smallmouth bass, white bass, stripers and skipjack herring. 

Carp are spawning on the flats in lakes.  Dan Munger is probably on his way, to a lake at this moment.  He has those carp figured out and loves fly fishing for them.  He poles his Gheenoe quietly, standing on a cooler.  He and I discussed falling in yesterday.  Stan made Dan a holder on a belt, for his pole, so when he sees a fish to target, he can clip the push pole to his waist.  We also discussed the possibility that the pole would catch on something, like a stump, and pull him off the boat.  I worry about things like that.  He’s thinking about catching carp on a fly.  I’m a lot older than Dan and more fragile. 

We’ve been busy at the shop too, very busy.  Mail order is very strong.  I noticed yesterday, a customer in Montana ordered Knuckleheads, Stealth Bombers and Bass Buggers. That is cool, that someone living in a trout state like Montana, is ordering bass flies from us.  We shipped at least 3 orders to Alaska last week, or maybe it was the week before.  Northeast and Northwest Americans are starting to fly fish.  I can tell by the mail orders and where they go.

May is always our busiest month at the shop and it’s about here.  May is an awesome fishing month.  Everything seems to come together in May, from the Gulf to the Great Lakes, New England to the Pacific.  Fishing in the Atlantic is good in May.  Where we are, May is the best month to fish.  June is very good too.  To our North, fishing is better in June than in May.

Many of us trek to the Gulf Coast in May.  I know several people going there next week and the week after.  Paula and I spent a week in Florida in early May last year.  We took our kayaks and had a great trip.  Fishing was excellent for the first half of the week.  Then, the wind blew, and blew and blew.  Some other friends of ours were fishing further South.  We stayed in contact with them while we were there.  They had the same wind, from the East.  I don’t know what it is about an East wind.  Fish don’t like it. 
Fishermen don’t like it either.  It’s been that way all my life and I don’t know why.  Walter Babb and I were fishing a lake years ago.  We launched the boat, he looked around and said, “We’re not going to catch many today”.  “The wind is blowing from the East”.   

When we plan to fly fish on lakes here, I watch the weather forecast to pick the perfect weekday.  Storms factor in of course.  Rain can make fishing uncomfortable if it lasts all day.  But, wind speed and direction are usually my deciding factors, when choosing a fishing day. 

Looking ahead, this morning, 10 days, next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (May 4-6) look perfect.  The wind is not predicted, at this point to be strong or coming from the East.  It will be cloudy or partly cloudy.  Of course, that can all change.  Considering my luck lately, by then, it will change.  The wind will be blowing from the East at 20 miles per hour, all three days.

I’ve never heard a mountain fly fisherman mention wind direction.  Up there, we think about tree limbs falling on our heads, due to the wind, not where the wind is coming from.  Maybe an East wind hits a mountain, then changes direction.

Since I work mostly on the second floor of our store, I get to talk to many fly tyers.  Our fly tying department takes up 700 square feet on the second floor.  For the past few months, the fly tying department has shown huge growth.  Many customers call to order fly tying materials.  We don’t charge for shipping, even for one pack of dubbing.  And many others, shop in that department in person.  They walk around, holding a green shopping basket, studying every bit of merchandise, hanging on the walls, then dropping some in the basket.

Keeping that department stocked is a big job.  Dan and Daniel are doing it well right now.  Dan worked on a shipment from Wapsi all day yesterday.  When we receive an order, containing hundreds of items, processing each one, from ordering to receiving and displaying, takes as much time as doing the same thing with a fly rod or a pair of wading boots.  The problem is, there are hundreds of items to process.  It takes the same amount of time to process a pack of dubbing, as it does to process a $700 fly rod.  We know, people will drive long distances to shop in a fly tying department.  There are not many fly tying departments.  We’ve got one!

David Perkins, one of the owners of Orvis was in our shop one day talking to me.  He asked, “How do you justify this much space, allotted to fly tying”.  I told him, “It is justified by the number of customers it brings in, not by sales or profit per square foot.  If you looked at it that way, the numbers don’t work.”  We own our building and built it specifically to be a fly shop.  We needed lots of wall space to display fly tying materials.

You can generate a lot of dollars and profit per square foot by selling clothing.  We have some clothing, mostly fishing apparel.  As a personal preference to us, we would rather spend our merchandise dollars on hooks, hackle, bunny strips, dubbing and other fly tying materials.  One reason is, many of us working here are avid fly tyers. We enjoy watching customers browse through that department, then discuss fly tying at the checkout when they depart.  It has been an important part of our culture and business model for 20 years.  I started tying flies in 1962.

Based on my experience, fly shops are like boats.  Once you have one, you want a bigger one.  You can verify that by looking back at our history.

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

Byron Begley
April 27, 2015

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