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, it is foggy and 64 degrees.  We have a 50% chance for rain today and tomorrow.  Thunderstorms are likely Monday.  And, we have more rain in the forecast Tuesday. 

Little River is flowing at 132 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.61 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 234 cfs.  The water temperature is 64.6 degrees this morning.

Fly fishing in the Smoky Mountains remains good to excellent.  Fishermen are reporting the same unbelievable evening hatches, we have had for a while.  These hatches occur an hour or so before dark and continue until you can’t see your fly. 

When this happens, it seems every trout in the river is feeding on the surface. Some anglers are reporting catches of 20 to 35 trout, in two hours.  We hear it over and over.

We talk to guides and fishermen every day.  I receive e-mail from customers almost daily.  Yesterday, I talked to a buddy of mine from Kentucky.  He and his friend camped on Fish Camp Prong for two days.  He said they caught at least 100 trout, without moving far from their campsite. 


These hatches occur during the day too, just not in the numbers you would see in the evenings.  This has been an unbelievable year for aquatic insect hatches.  The hatches are diverse.  Yellow sally stoneflies, sulphurs, light cahills, black caddis, and other insects are on the water, in greater numbers than we can remember in the past.  Why?  How long will it last? 

Mike Bryant, Dan Munger and I talked about this yesterday.  They have experienced the same thing.  Dan even confirmed seeing three Green Drakes on the Middle Prong of Little River.  He caught them and took a close look, then compared what he saw to photos of the Eastern Green Drake.  Green Drakes on the Middle Prong? 

I remember last year, hearing fishermen complain, that the hatches were unusually thin.  Mike and Dan, think they remember that too.  Or, was it year before last?  I think it was last year.

Is it a normal cycle, or is it due to an environmental influence, such as rain or high water?  Today, Dr. Brad Cook will be teaching our Aquatic Entomology Class at the shop. I’ll ask him.

I believe, unusually high water, or floods, in the early Spring, reduce the numbers of nymphs in streams. I think they become dislodged and washed away.  We worry every Winter, that will happen to the trout eggs. Sometimes we see areas where once were redds, but the streambed is scoured clean by high water.  The nests disappear during very high water, in some areas.  I think it reduces the bug populations too, causing a reduction in the adults we see in the Spring.  We have the flow numbers on the Little River database, on the USGS website, dating back 50 years, and this could be verified to some extent.

Whatever the reason, this year has been awesome.  Enjoy it while you can.  It won’t last too much longer.  We’ll see hatches at dusk, for a while, but probably not like we are seeing now.


The streams are getting low, lower than normal.  Surely, we’ll get some rain over the next few days.  The chances are pretty good.

During the day, you will catch more trout, if you practice low water tactics.  Dress in muted clothing.  Stay low.  Don’t wade much.  Use lighter tippet than you normally would.  I prefer the smaller streams, in the backcountry when the water is low.  Those streams are shaded. 

Late in the evenings it may not matter.  It is darker.  The trout are in a feeding frenzy.  I believe they tend to throw caution to the wind and eat with vigor.


The streams in the low elevations are getting warmer, or at least they have been warmer this past week.  That’s not a big deal now, but it will be soon.  Yesterday, the water temperature peaked, at the gauge on Little River, just inside the Park at 68 degrees.   All you have to do is fish in the higher elevations.  The water is cooler, the higher you go.  You don’t have to go to Newfound Gap to find cooler water.  Just go higher on the Middle Prong, above Elkmont, or a little higher in any Park stream, and the water will be cooler.  It doesn’t take much of an elevation change, to find cooler water.

Water temperatures change hourly.  They tend to be cooler in the mornings then warm later in the day.  The low elevation temperatures are not excessive yet. They will be as we move closer to Summer.  When that happens, anglers tend to fish in the higher elevations.


Check the links on the lower left of this page.  Click on your favorite tailwater.  You will find some fly fishing opportunities on many of them today.  You will see a lot of pulsing for an hour or so.  But, you will also see hours of wade fishing availability on some rivers. The tailwaters are fishing very well for the most part. 

So, there you have it.  Fishing is very good just about everywhere.  Trout are active.  Warmwater species are active.  If you drive by our store, you will see, fishermen are active too.  What a Spring it has been, here in Tennessee, so far.

Right at 5,000 people, read this report weekly.  Right at 4,000 people visit this website daily.  I can watch you visit, on a map, in real time.  It’s fun to do.  Most of our visitors live in the east United States.  Those in the Eastern time zone show up first.  I see some in Florida, north to Maine and places in between.  Later in the morning, our visitors come from the west. You show up as orange circles.  “Mousing Over” those circles tells me what town you are in, when you visit us.  When you leave our site, your orange circle disappears. 

It’s the same with mail orders.  I look at the paper version of every one of them, for every business day.  We track phone orders vs online orders.  We track in state and out of state, and out of country orders.  Many are from the east and most are from America.  During the past couple of weeks I remember a few orders shipped to Alaska.  I recall about three orders we shipped to France during the past few weeks.  We just never know what we’ll sell or where, every day.  Often, I recognize the name of the customer.  I can look the customer up in our POS system and find out when they made their first and last purchase from us.  That takes just a few seconds.  Some date back to the 90’s.  There are more from the early 2000’s.  I can learn more but that takes more time. Some are first time customers. 

The mail order business is just like brick and mortar in store business.  It grows over time.  Customer loyalty takes time.  If we serve you well, you come back.  We have been in the mail order business for about 18 years.  We have been in the brick and mortar business 20 years.  We have always offered free ground shipping, since day one.

It is very interesting to watch website visits and mail orders. I’ll be doing that today at the shop as I catch up on bookkeeping.   I like finding out where our store visitors are from.  Most customers entering our store have visited before.  Many are regular customers.  There are those who visit us for the first time.

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

Byron Begley
May 16, 2015

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