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.  This is my day off this week and it is 5:17 am.  I usually work 6 days a week, though I’ve taken off 2 days during a week, a few times this year.  I guess I enjoy working.  I know I enjoy working.

I’ve had bad luck picking fishing days this year.  I try to work around the weather, but it seems lately, thunderstorms or extremely hot days have hampered my attempts to get on the water. Today is one of those hot days, or it will be.  Right now, at this time of the morning, it is 72 degrees already.  We don’t fish on weekends.  We prefer solitude. 

Next week will be different.  Frank and Mouse will be here.  Paula, me and the guys are floating a tailwater, with Josh Pfeiffer in his drift boat.  I don’t know where we will fish.  That depends on generation schedules.  Josh is the guide so that will be his call.  We will be fishing for smallmouth bass.  We’ll have two kayaks and the drifter, and plan two switch out during the day.  We are going no matter what happens, I hope.


Little River is flowing at 117 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.55 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 131 cfs.  The water temperature is 69.1 degrees, just inside the Park, below the Townsend “Y”.  Yesterday that number climbed to almost 72 degrees.  I suspect it will be warmer than that for a few days this week.


Due to the fact that the water is warm in the lower elevations, go to the higher elevations.  Find water temperatures in the low 60’s if you can.  Trout do not tolerate 70 degree water very well.  That, and the added stress of being caught by an angler are not healthy.  Do the trout a favor, and find more comfort for yourself, by fishing in the higher mountain streams.

Dry flies will work fine.  I’m sticking with my standard Summer recommendations again today.  Use a Yellow Sally Stonefly pattern or a black foam beetle.  Many other fly patterns will work for you.  Those are just what I would use.  If you choose to fish with nymphs, you may catch more fish.  You may catch less.  I would use a Green Weenie unless you are fishing on a brook trout stream.  Then, I would use the pink version.

I’ve been hearing from beginner anglers, who are not catching trout in the Smokies.  Believe me, I feel your pain.  I went through the process of figuring out these streams a long time ago.  I had many fishless days in the early 80’s.

One very common mistake, I see beginners make in the Smokies, is wading too much and casting too far.  I’ve seen fishermen wading where the fish are holding and casting to where they are not.  And, I see fishermen casting so far, they can’t possibly get a good drift.  I made the same mistakes.  Once I learned to fish closer, and wade less, I started catching trout.  Also, you don’t want your fly line to land on top of a trout.  They don’t like that at all. 


The tailwaters should be fishing well, especially the Clinch River, if trout is your target. If you are after smallmouth bass, try the Holston or French Broad.


They are getting warmer again.  Fish early or late.  Cast to the shaded banks. 


I talked to my buddy Frank Bryant yesterday.  He and his wife live on a lake at Fairfield Glade in Crossville.  There are several small, privately owned lakes in the community.  They are stocking tilapia in one or more of those lakes.  Evidently, young tilapia make great forage fish for bass.  And supposedly, they don’t overpopulate, because they die off during the winter.  Their preferred temperature is over 70 degrees.  Below that, they die.  That lake, or those lakes will need to be re-stocked every year.   

This is all new news to Frank and I.  It was worrisome when we both heard about it.  But, maybe it is a good idea. 

These fish grow fast.  Frank said he caught one last week on a Stealth Bomber, which is probably unusual.  I don’t think they are predators.  Frank ate the fish.  I asked him what it tasted like.  He said “It tasted like tilapia”.  That makes sense.  I’ve never been a big fan of tilapia as a table fare.


Fishermen have been catching yellow perch in Tennessee for a while now.  These fish migrated here, probably down the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  Fishermen are also catching them, in impoundments, that don’t have locks.  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency biologists believe, those were stocked, probably by northerners who moved here.

I caught one last year, or maybe it was year before last, on a wooly bugger.  The fish was 13 inches long.  Paula and I ate it.  I had never eaten yellow perch.  They taste great.  They don’t taste like tilapia. 

I talked to Bart, our TWRA Region IV fisheries chief a few days ago.  He asked me if I have caught any yellow perch.  I said “Yes and it tasted great”.  The conversation didn’t go any further on that topic.  I don’t know if the biologists are worried about the perch or glad they are here.

I do know they are concerned, as we all are, about the invasive Asian carp, the species that jump into your boat.  Actually, there are two different species.  I haven’t heard much about them lately. I have not personally talked to anyone who has been slapped by a 10 pound, airborne carp, while running down the lake wide open.  If it had happened around here, I would have heard about it.


I read an article this morning on the subject in the Southern Kayak Fishing magazine.  This is a web only magazine.  Here is the link to the April issue:

The article is on page 122.  Josh Pfeiffer was interviewed.  He guides smallmouth fishermen on Little River when the water is at a good floatable level.  He uses a raft.  It was an interesting article.  Josh made some excellent points.  You should read this.

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

Byron Begley
July 9, 2015    

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