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. It is very foggy and 62 degrees in Townsend this morning. This is the week following a holiday. There are not many visitors in town. That is usual during a week after or before a holiday.
The streams are flowing low for now. We have a 50% chance for rain tonight and tomorrow. We could use it.
Little River is flowing at 110 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.59 feet on the flow gauge. Median flow for this date is 194 cfs. So, you can see, flow in the river is 43% below normal. The water temperature at 7:55 am is 64.5 degrees.
If you plan to fish in the Smokies, you can do very well. You need to adjust your tactics to low water fishing. Use light tippet, 5X or lighter. Dry flies are easy to drift through pockets and runs that are shallow. The trout are going to be hiding in the broken water.
Wear muted clothing. Try to blend in with the forest. Stay low and wade as little as possible. Fish shaded areas. And, fishing will be best this evening unless we have cloud cover during the day which we could.
After we get some rain, fishing will be normal again. Don’t get me wrong, fishing is still good. The water temperatures dictate that and they are fine.
Do you ever get on our Message Board and read the posts? If you are looking for great information about fly fishing, especially in the Smokies or on the local tailwaters, browse through the forum and you will learn what is going on and how to catch trout, smallmouth bass, panfish or just about anything in our area. This is a valuable source of information, built over several years of input from anglers.
Our new “Choose a Guide” page, though created only a week ago, has become a very busy that our readers visit. These 5 guides are the same guys we’ve been sending our customers to for several years. We wanted to make it easier for you to find them, so I created this page. Evidently, you like it. You can click on the link above or use the menu item, "Plan Your Trip".
Hiring a guide, especially when you are learning to fish a new area, cuts the learning curve. Fishing in the Southern Appalachian mountains is especially challenging until you learn the tricks. I can tell you from experience, fishing here at first is very different from what you are used to.
What I didn’t understand 40 years ago is, you fish closer than I would have imagined. By close I mean 15 to 20 feet away. Now, those trout are spooky and you would think they could see you and dart off somewhere else. They can see you, but only if you let them. By fishing the broken water, especially when the water is low is essential to success.
The reason you will have a hard time catching trout by casting long distances is the theory of drag and drift. The trout are used to seeing food drift by at the same speed as the current, all day long, every day. When your fly goes over too fast or too slow, the fish know something is wrong. They usually don’t strike your fly.
When you try to drift your fly way out there, all the conflicting currents will pull your fly line creating all kinds of drift problems. Your fly may “drag” which means it is being pulled and not drifting as a real aquatic insect would.
Current speeds differ greatly in a stretch of stream. The water may move faster in some areas because the current is not impeded by boulders, rocks or cobble. The water may move slower on one side of the stream, and faster just a few feet away. A large boulder slows the water flow below it. We refer to that as a “pocket”.
The gradient of a river changes from one place to another. Think about the dry land next to the river. The river bed may fall faster in some areas and slower in others. When the river bed flattens, you have a pool. That pool may also be caused by rocks or trees that have fallen in the water, slowing the flow at the lower end.
Streams are very interesting to watch and especially fun to fish.
I noticed the United States Geological Survey (USGS), who manages our flow gauge near Townsend, calibrated their equipment recently. I know because they place a red “*” on that day on their website.
They go through the motions of determining the actual flow in cubic feet per second (cfs). First, they measure the width of the stream where their gauge is located. Then, they take depth measurements along that line. The more often they check the depth along that line, the more accurate their flow number will be. Using a very precise instrument, you can determine the water pressure at each location where the depth is measured. All of this data is calculated using a formula to determine the flow in cfs.
At their flow gauge station, there is a pipe that runs out into the river. It is connected to a piece of equipment that measures the water pressure. By comparing that pressure to the cfs they found that day, over time and with many checks to determine the flow, they can calibrate that electronic piece of equipment housed in the little building at the gauge site and they get a fairly accurate reading in cfs. That number is transmitted via satellite to their website and it is there for us to see every day in darned near real time.
USGS has flow gauge sites all over the United States. Can you imagine calibrating the flow on the Mississippi River. That is quite a chore compared to doing the same thing on Little River. And think about this, they also do it a flood stage, here, there and everywhere.
That is done mostly from bridges. Little River’s gauges (there are two of them) are calibrated from a bridge. The bridge they use in Townsend crosses the river at the Tremont Outdoor Resort.
I guess this whole discussion about flow got out of hand and I’m writing this in my allotted 45-minutes, so hopefully it is comprehendible. And, I hope it gives you a better understanding about water flow that can help you catch more fish in moving water and make your visit to the river more interesting.
Have a great day and thank you for being here with us.
May 29, 2014
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