Townsend, Tennessee - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, East Tennessee and Western North Carolina

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is overcast and 64 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Some of the higher peaks to the East are obscured by fog.  We will be shielded from the sun by clouds all day and there is a 50% chance for thunderstorms.  This will be a nice day to fish in the Smokies or anywhere else in East Tennessee or Western North Carolina.  The high temperature is supposed to be 77 degrees.  Nice.

Little River is flowing at 264 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 193 cfs.  The water temperature is 60.9 degrees at 7:50 am.  We got some rain somewhere in the Little River watershed last night or yesterday afternoon.  Our rain gauge at the shop is bone dry.  The Knoxville Airport reported .25” this morning.  I didn’t stop at the river on my way to work.  My best guess is, it is running clear.  The level did rise during the night but it’s coming down now. 

Fishing in the Park should be excellent today.  It is going to be comfortable too.  Yellow Sally Stoneflies are hatching in large numbers in the Park.  You will see other aquatic insects on the water as well.  Dry flies are working great.  I would use any Yellow Sally pattern and probably a Green Weenie as a dropper.  Brian was in here yesterday tying Weenies.  He comes in weekly or every other week during the warm months and ties 8 dozen.  Then he waits to hear from Daniel.  When we get low, he comes back in.

I got a phone call from a guy yesterday asking who to contact on the State level of Trout Unlimited.  Evidently the Clinch River below Norris Dam is warm and low.  He said there has been very little water released below the weir dam.  Last night I looked at our message board.  There was some chatter about the warm water on the Clinch.  I’m looking at the observed data at Norris Dam right now.  It appears they released some water between 6 am and 7 am this morning.  And, TVA is still releasing a small amount right now.

Looking at the history for the past two days indicates TVA is releasing about 3,500 cubic feet of water for an hour each day. 

There was also some discussion about debris blocking the weir dam and holding water back.  I don’t know much more than that.  I do know some of the guys at the Clinch River Chapter have been in contact with TVA.

Fishing for smallmouth bass on the lowland rivers in the Smoky Mountains foothills should be good today.  You might find some stained water on some of the rivers.

The lower tailwaters are fishing well for smallmouth bass too. 

I hear the lakes are fishing well.  I’ll find out for sure later this week.  Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, bluegill and shellcrackers are active.

I am having a hard time figuring out the true lake levels when I update the box below and to the left.  For instance, TVA indicates Douglas lake is at full pool.  People are telling me it is not.  You can look at this TVA graphic by CLICKING HERE.  The gray area is the average lake level in feet above sea level.  The red line indicates where the level is now.  And, as you can see, it is at the high end of average for May.  May is the month when the lake is at it’s highest historically.

I found an error one time in the TVA lake level information.  The error was an elevation reading at Calderwood Dam that was lower by several feet than the level above Chilhowee Dam which is downstream.  I contacted TVA.  The answer I got was, “The datum at Calderwood Dam must be wrong and has been for decades.”  Surveying has come a long way since that dam was completed in 1930.  So, if you use this data, you are driving your boat downhill from Chilhowee Dam to Calderwood Dam.  And, it also means the water is running up-hill which of course is contrary to the “Plumbers Rule”.

There seems to be a trend indicating growth in bass fishing with fly rods.  I have been reacting to that with more attention here focused on that part of the sport.  Without analyzing any market data, which is probably not available anyway, I have my own opinion based on my personal preferences and those of my friends.

What I’m seeing and experiencing is, us older guys are more comfortable fishing out of a boat as opposed to wading in rivers.  That is just my unsubstantiated opinion.  There was a robust trend toward fly fishing from kayaks a few years ago.  I found that to be very hard to do.  Drift boats are a great way to fish but that requires a shuttle and someone to guide the boat with oars. 

I have a small group of fishing buddies here, who like to fly fish from a boat and I am one of them.  Yesterday we talked and e-mailed about this week’s adventure.  We are all going to meet up on a lake and fish.  We’ve been doing that fairly often.  In a boat we can sit, stand, stretch, and even walk around.  There is always a seat nearby. 

I love power-boats so this kind of fly fishing appeals to me.  I do like floating down rivers in a drift boat too. 

Also, wade fishing for smallmouth bass in lowland rivers is less taxing on the body than wading in a mountain stream.  I love mountain trout fishing, probably more than anything.  But in my case, the balance issues make boat fishing safer.  We have an excellent smallmouth river running right through our town.  I can walk down to it from the shop.  I have to drive 2 miles to get to my favorite area of Little River.  Wading in lowland rivers is easier for me.

I like tying bass flies too.  I tied about a dozen last night.  One was a Knuclehead that has a different tail.  I used bucktail instead of Krystal Flash.  This was Jack’s idea, something he thinks will work better on the clear lakes.  I tied 6 of those last night.  Jack and I will be using them this week.  We have some excellent lakes around here that are very clear.  Norris and upper Tellico are perfect examples. 

I’m also beefing up our selection of warmwater flies in the shop.  I even set up a new display for the fly department last week.  We have new bass flies coming in any day.  I am ordering more this week, new patterns we have never sold before.  So, this is fun for me.

I do this job for fun.  There’s not a lot of money to be made in a fly shop.  Everyone in the industry knows that.  But, loving your job at 61 years old is very important, especially since I’ll probably be doing this until the last day.

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

Byron Begley
May 22, 2012 

Respond to: byron@littleriveroutfitters.com


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