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 5:50 am, the temperature is 69 degrees.  Showers are likely today and thunderstorms are likely tomorrow.  We need some rain.  I hope it comes.

Little River is flowing at 124 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.58 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 214 cfs.  The water temperature is 64.8 degrees.

I always include the time that I look up the important stream readings on this report, particularly flow, because that may change during the day.  Sometimes, I have stated a flow number, we get some rain, and that number rises.  Since I don’t update this report, unless there is a compelling reason to do so, I want to make sure everyone knows when I took the readings.  I don’t want someone to say, “The fishing report said the water was fishable”, when it’s not.

I tried to find out, how much lower, in terms of inches, Little River is flowing below median flow.  We used to have a conversion chart available online.  I couldn’t find it this morning.  By my calculations, Little River at the Townsend Gauge is 3.24 inches below median flow.  It is early in the morning.  I’m prone to mistakes when I just wake up.  This could be completely wrong.


Fishing is still very good.  The hatches are incredible.  Fly fishing, from an hour or so before dark is excellent.  Many species of aquatic insects are on the water in hoards, more than most of us can remember.  Trout are rising and taking the food from the surface.  The primary insects are the yellow stoneflies and yellow to cream colored mayflies.  All you need to use is a Yellow Neversink Caddis, which floats well, it is fairly easy to see and the trout love this fly. 

You will find good dry fly action during the day, but nothing like you will experience just before dark.


Brad taught our Aquatic Entomology Class yesterday.  As he and the students were leaving for the on-stream part of the class, I pulled Brad aside and asked him about these unbelievable numbers of bugs we are having on the water this year.  He told me he witnessed the same thing Friday night, about 2 miles upstream from the Elkmont Campground.  He saw mostly yellow stoneflies and sulphurs in different sizes and shades of yellow to cream, in huge numbers.  A thunderstorm approached and he decided to hike back to Elkmont before dark, so he missed that magical hour of fishing.

Then I asked Brad, what causes the heavy concentration of bugs in a year like this one, compared to other years, and does high water flows have anything to do with it.  He told me, high water in the Spring can reduce the number of nymphs, that eventually become adults, in a stream.  That sill cause a difference in the number of insects we see, from year to year.

He recounted doing some aquatic entomology studies on Lynn Camp Prong, preparing for the brook trout restoration project done there.  They stretched a fine mesh net across the stream to collect drifting samples.  It rained heavily upstream, causing the water to rise.  When they retrieved the net, it was littered with a mass of nymphs, many of them dead.

Brad also mentioned that long periods of low water can also be detrimental to the insect populations, due to a buildup of silt.  I was a little unclear about what he was saying at that point.  He was in a hurry to leave with his students and I knew it.  So, I did not question him further.  I may be wrong about the low water causing insect decline.

Brad is a Professor of Biology at Tennessee Tech University.  He is often asked to perform aquatic insect population studies in the Great Smoky Mountains, as needed, by the Fisheries Department.

Bottom line is, some years we have a large population of insects and some years we don’t.  When we do, fishing is perceived to be better by anglers.  This is one of those years.


A 16 year old girl was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park yesterday.  Her condition was considered serious but not life threatening.  She was having her picture taken, presumably standing 3 to 6 feet from the animal.  You can read the story on the CNN website by CLICKING HERE.  This terrible event should remind us, to keep a safe distance away from wild animals.  Here, we have bear and elk to be watchful of.  Injuries in the Smokies, often occur, when a human is too close to a wild animal, and often, cameras are involved.  I suspect there is a chance, adult beverages are sometimes involved.

We live in a remote area, not far from Townsend, that is also the home and range of black bears.  We have lived with them for over 20 years.  We had one a few feet from our house last week.  Though we see them, close-by, we have never felt threatened.  The reason for that is, we stay away from bears.  We give them space when they are around. After they leave, we go about our business.


It is now 7:30 am.  Light rain is falling.  The weather radar indicates a band of showers, some fairly heavy, is moving in our direction from the south.  Bring it on.  I hope it rains all day.  Unless we get heavy rain, today may be a good day to fish in the Smokies.  Be aware of the water levels.  They can rise quickly.  Keep an eye on the river, upstream from where you are fishing, constantly.


Looking up stories, checking data, writing this report, and putting everything together to be loaded on our remote server takes, on average, 2 hours.  I do this every morning, even on my day off.  So, I’ll finish this report at about 8 am. I update our home page too, typing the stream information and writing a "Quick Fishing Report".  

Then, I’ll tie a dozen Knuckleheads for you to buy.  Right now, I only have 44 ½ dozen in stock at home.  That makes me nervous.  That takes about 2 hours with breaks.  I tied 18 yesterday.  I’ll check e-mail.  That can take a while if I have questions or comments from customers and readers.  I enjoy doing that.

Then, I’ll get myself fairly presentable to go to the shop.  Today, I will pay bills.  I hate paying bills.  I love depositing money.  I’ll talk to whoever is working at the shop today, mostly about fishing and fun stuff.  I’m not the boss anymore.  I’ve was a boss for 42 years.  I’m over it and I quit a few months ago.  I don’t tell anyone what they should do.  Sometimes I do make suggestions to Daniel and Dan, but only as an advisor.  I’ll talk to customers too.

By 4 pm, I will have worked 9 ½ hours.  That’s kind of a typical day for me.  I like typical days and despise atypical days.

We are open on Sunday from 9 am until 5 pm.  Come to Townsend and see us!

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

Byron Begley
May 17, 2015

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