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 6:31 am, it is cloudy and 65 degrees.  It will remain cloudy with a slight chance for rain today.  The high temperature will be in the low 80’s.

Little River is flowing at 167 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.75 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 228 cfs.  The water temperature is 64.6 degrees this morning.

Late yesterday evening, rain fell in the mountains.  Little River’s flow rose and peaked at 1.85 feet.  We have a fair chance for rain Thursday, it will be dry through the weekend, then rain will return to the forecast Monday through Thursday.  It should also be much warmer next week, with temperatures reaching the high 80’s.

Fishing in the Smoky Mountains remains good, especially in the evenings.  Light colored dry flies are working best.  Yellow Sally Stonefly, Sulphur and Light Cahill patterns are recommended.


I remember fly fishing here, often, 35 years ago.  My friends and I would catch rainbows and a few browns.  22 years ago, I asked Bart Carter, who at the time worked as a fisheries biologist in the Smokies, “Where can I catch some brook trout?”  Bart sent me to Alum Cave Creek. Frank and I went, and both caught brook trout.  Bart is now the Fisheries Manager for Region IV, at Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA).

I don’t remember the exact number, but most brook trout streams were closed to fishing back then.  Restoration efforts got into full swing, due to funding and a dream.  Steve Moore and Bart, with their summer seasonal crews, along with many volunteers, worked hard to restore more brookie streams.  Matt Kulp joined the team when Bart went to work for TWRA.  He was working here, with Steve, when many of the brook trout streams were restored. 

After feeling confident, the brookie streams had sustaining populations, the Park Service started opening the streams to fishing.  Now, they are all open.  I think, about 40 miles of formerly closed streams were re-opened during this period, and most opened during the past decade.

Steve Moore retired and Matt took his place as the Fisheries Biologist.  It was under Matt’s watch, that Lynn Camp Prong opened, after 7 years of restoration and closure.

So now, after decades of a “hands off” approach to brook trout management, fishermen can enjoy catching our Southern Appalachian strain of brook trout, our only native trout.  Rainbow and brown trout were stocked by humans. Brook trout came here to escape the ice.


Brown trout are a hardy fish, living in many rivers and streams in the Smokies.  They have a longer lifespan than rainbow or brook trout.  While rainbows tend to live only 3 years here, browns can live 2 to 3 times that long.  One reason is, brown become predators, trout that eat other fish.  Brown trout tend to be reclusive, often feeding only at night. 

The largest brown trout I know of, caught in Little River was 32” long.  That fish was caught in the Middle Prong.  Several brown trout are caught every year, in the 20” to 26” range, in the Park, in Little River.  I know of a few 28+ inch browns that have been caught.  I know of one or two 30” browns that were hooked and landed by fly fishermen.

Most people don’t believe these fish exist.  They do.  I was working with the fisheries crew and volunteers, electroshocking Abrams Creek a long time ago.  We captured at 29” brown there.  Those trout were stocked by a local fisherman.  Over time, the browns in Abrams Creek disappeared.  I do hear of an occasional brown caught in Abrams Creek.  So, maybe they have returned, on a limited basis, probably stocked illegally by a person or persons.


We have a huge population of small rainbow trout in most streams in the Smoky Mountains.  They tend to be smaller, because they don’t live long.  A 15” wild rainbow is a monster.  A 12 incher is big.  Most are smaller.  But, there are a lot of them. 


I saw my first tuber this year, in Little River yesterday.  It came as a shock, though it shouldn’t.  I drive by Little River at least twice daily.  I haven’t seen one since last Fall.  The time has come. Tourist season is slowly beginning.  Memorial Day Weekend is only days away.  Our town changes for a while, but for only a few months.  Before we know it, the hoards of people will be gone again.

If we didn’t have tourist season here, our fragile economy would collapse.  It’s not easy owning and running a business in Townsend. I should know.  I’ve been doing this for 20 years.  I’ve seen good years and a lot of slow years.  Our businesses are weather dependent.  If there is rain in the forecast, business slows.  People cancel their reservations and stay home.  If Little River is too high or too low, it affects everyone living here.  Many small businesses open one year and they are gone the next. 

Business this year seems good, according to everyone I talk to. Some of that may have to do with consumer spending.  Americans are spending more money per day than they were after the crash.  You can look at the Gallup Daily S.S. Consumer Spending chart by CLICKING HERE.  As of May 17th, 2015, using the 14 day rolling average, Americans polled said they would spend $88 per day.  In January 2010, that number dropped to $61.  On May 4, 2008, before the crash, the number was $104.

We are all hoping for a good tourist season this year, with no drought or floods. 

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

Byron Begley
May 19, 2015

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