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 62 degrees in Townsend this morning at 6:45 am. It is foggy in the valley, as far as I can tell. It’s pretty dark out there. I am working from home these days, only going to the shop to do daily bookkeeping chores. Today, I’ll be working on the Fly Tyers Weekend web pages.
Little River is flowing nicely at 133 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.65 feet on the flow gauge located just inside the National Park. Median flow for this date is 141 cfs, which is high compared to the median flows this time of year. Data used at this USGS monitoring site goes back 50 years. Today, over half of a century, the water has been higher than most in August. I wonder why? Maybe we had some big floods that skewed the results.
The water temperature at the gauge site this morning is 65.5 degrees.
Fishing in the Smokies is good. To me, the flows like we have now are perfect for dry fly fishing. I love dry fly fishing. My enjoyment is heightened when I see a fish, any fish, take a fly from the surface. Of course, nothing beats sight fishing. Seeing a fish, whether it is a trout, bass, tarpon, redfish, even a bluegill first, before I cast, is the ultimate fly fishing experience. Watching the fish identify my fly as a food source, then reacting to the fly and moving toward it, creates the beginning of the experience that drives me crazy. Then, when they decide to take the fly, well, that is the best part of the event.
Hooking the fish is good. Fighting the fish creates excitement because you don’t know if you will lose the fish or not. Then landing the creature caps it off. But still, seeing the fish reacting to the fly and eating it is the ultimate to me. I fooled it. At that point, landing or losing is not as important. The point is, you fooled them. That’s just me. I think most people are different.
Many dry fly patterns will work this time of year. The trout are not very selective. They want food and lots of it. The warmer the water, the more a trout’s metabolism is cranked up. They require more food in warmer water.
My favorite dry flies for the Smokies during the summer are Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, Neversink Caddis, Yellow Stimulators and foam beetles.
I tie Elk Hair Caddis with some chartreuse calf hair on top of the wing so I can see it better on the water. Orange and yellow work well too.
Nymphs or a nymph dropper off the dry combination does well when the water is at summer flows. For that I would use a Bead Head Pheasant Tail or Green Weenie.
Since I was 11 years old, in 1962, when I started tying flies, fooling a fish on a fly I tied was and is my top priority. I don’t remember the last time I bought a fly. I have, maybe during the last couple of years. I’ve bought flies to see how they work or look in the water.
I have had guides tie on or hand me a fly to use and I’ll use them. They are experts on the water they are guiding on. But, given a chance, I always switch to one of my own. If they don’t work, I’ll go back to the guide’s fly.
We are holding an intermediate fly tying class in our shop today. I don’t know how many students we have. At some point, I’ll go to the shop and peer into the classroom. There, I will see students who think like me. I’ll see Walter Babb, who thinks like me but on a much higher level.
When you buy something at our store, we ask for your name and look it up in the computer. If you are a new customer, we ask to put you on our customer list. Then, when you buy something, we have a database that contains some interesting information. We can print reports based on many different variables.
We don’t do this to track your particular buying habits. What we can do is put you in a group with others to determine overall buying habits.
My favorite report, compares those who buy fly tying materials to those who don’t. Our data goes back to 1998. Nothing has changed in all those years. One third of our customers buy something from the fly tying department. Two thirds don’t.
I guess that is great. We sell a lot of flies. Flies are very profitable. Fly tying materials are not. Still, we do everything possible to convert non-fly tyers to fly tyers. We hold many fly tying classes during the year and we always have. We hold a lot of free fly tying demonstrations to draw you in. This year we are partnering with a local lodge to hold a huge fly tying event. We’ve been doing this for almost 20 years.
Why? It makes more sense from a business standpoint to sell more flies and not more fly tying materials.
Maybe it is because people like Walter Babb, Brian Courtney and I, want you to enjoy what we enjoy. The fly tyers who demonstrate in our store want the same thing. There will be many people coming to Townsend this fall to demonstrate at Fly Tyers Weekend. Some are coming long distances. They want you to enjoy what they enjoy. I can’t think of another reason why we do what we do.
There are some exceptions. But, for the most part, fly fishing is about sharing, not keeping secrets. For the most part, fly fishers enjoy seeing others do what they do and do it well. Helping someone enjoy our sport can be more rewarding than doing it yourself.
Look at Project Healing Waters, Casting for Recovery, Trout Unlimited Chapters, Fly Fishing Federation clubs and other fly fishing groups. Think about individuals who help others fly fish. What drives fly fishing guides? Why do they love their job? You know what all these people and groups do? They share what they know and benefit greatly from the experience of watching someone learn. I believe, it is one of the most important and far-reaching factors of our culture. It's that way everywhere you go.
Have a great day and thank you for being here with us.
August 16, 2014
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