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 6:07 am, it is cloudy and 64 degrees.  We are expecting rain, with a high chance every day through Thursday.  A fairly large storm, with predicted heavy rain, was bearing down on our area last night.  It missed us, and moved to the south and east.  I heard rain falling during the night and expected to wake and find high water in Little River.  It didn’t happen.

Little River is flowing at 86 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.41 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 192 cfs.  The water temperature this morning is 66.7 degrees.  The river may rise later this morning.

The low flow in the Smokies streams may not last much longer.  That could change quickly and most likely will.

If you go fishing this week, in the mountains, be prepared for low water fishing.  Also, be prepared for unexpectedly high water, rising quickly. Be alert. Some of these storms may be scattered.  You may not know what is happening upstream.  Watch for rising water.

Choosing a day to fish this week is not easy to do.  I’m trying right now.  We fly fish from our boat most of the time.  Rain is not the issue.  Thunderstorms are.  We’re looking at Thursday right now.


May is usually the best fishing month of the year in the Smoky Mountains.  Let’s face it, we are deeply involved in a weather dependent sport.  The same is true of our business, though ours is more dependent on weather in the East United States.

May began great in the Smoky Mountains.  Stream levels were very good.  We didn’t have floods.  Aquatic insect activity was the highest in years. Fly fishing was excellent. Then, we stopped getting rain. The stream levels fell.  Fishing remained good until this past week.  Those who know how to fish low water did fine.  To other anglers, fishing was slow. May is not over yet. We could end the month with excellent fishing again.

Lately, daytime temperatures have been warmer than normal.  Night temperatures have been normal.

On the other hand, our business in May, will be one of the best months we’ve had in years at the shop. Mail order was excellent, but so were our in-store sales.  Generation schedules on our tailwaters were not good for wade fishing in April. That improved in May. Good business has been the norm for us for several months.  We even added a new staff member at the shop.


According to meteorologists, we may feel the influence of a strong El Nino, probably stronger than 2009.  The result of that in our area, may be cooler than normal temperatures during the summer, especially late summer.  Much cooler temperatures are expected in the Central United States.  The west, Florida and coastal Georgia and North Carolina are predicted to be warmer than average.  You can read the story and see the model by CLICKING HERE.

As of May 20th, we are not in a drought or even considered to be abnormally dry. 


Is fishing participation on the increase?  Is fly fishing participation on the increase?  We don’t know and won’t know until 2018, when new research will find out.  The last comprehensive report was released in 2013, a collaboration between several organizations and U.S. Fish and Wildlife. 

According to the latest report, released in 2013, total fishing participation was in decline.  Fly fishing has also been in decline, thought there was a small up-tick in 2012.

The most compelling and troubling news, was the decline in the youth population.

Another interesting number I found in this report is the growth in kayak and canoe ownership.  That number grew by 8.6% from 2011 to 2012 among total boat owners. I think it is growing faster than that now.

This is interesting information and of most importance to the future of fishing.  You can read highlights of this report by CLICKING HERE.


I guess the crowds are gone this morning.  I’ll find out soon.  This was a busy weekend for businesses in town.  Little River was chocked full of tubers.  Restaurants were packed.  I hope the motels, lodges, cabins and campgrounds had a good weekend.  They should have, the weather was perfect.   

Now, which is typical of a week after a holiday, we will see peace and quiet for a few days.

This weekend was the kick-off of tourist season, which will last through Labor Day weekend.  What usually happens though, since many of our visitors are young families during the Summer, we’ll see visitation drop in August, after schools get back into session. After that, we see crowds on weekends.  After Labor Day, all is quiet until the fall colors draw people back to the Smokies.  At that point, we have older visitors.

We’ll see fly fishermen through June, then those numbers drop in July and August.

The same cycle repeats every year like clockwork. 

It is 8:30 am and Little River has not risen at all. 

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

Byron Begley
May 26, 2015 

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