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

Welcome to the Fishing Report from Townsend, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains.  At 5:57 am, the temperature is 55.6 degrees.  Today will be sunny with a high temperature of 81 degrees.  Tonight’s low should drop to 59 degrees. No rain is expected.  Tomorrow and Friday will be slightly warmer with only a slight chance for rain.

Little River is flowing at 52 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.22 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 104 cfs.  The water temperature is 66.7 degrees this morning.

The streams are flowing low in the Smoky Mountains, lower than normal.  Normal is also low this time of year.  Water temperatures dropped last night. 

You might have better fishing today in the mid-elevation, larger streams, now that the water has cooled some.  I would fish in the Elkmont area or maybe Lynn Camp Prong.  Abrams Creek may be a good choice.  You might even try the East Prong of Little River above Metcalf Bottoms, especially early today, this evening and tomorrow.

The sun will be bright today, which is not favorable to you.  Look for shaded areas if you can find them.  Fishing will be best early and late. 

Dry flies are working.  Yellow Stimulators, beetle patterns, Yellow Sally Stonefly imitations, all should work.  You will need to blend in and try not to be seen by the trout.  They will be hiding in broken water, behind boulders in riffles, where riffles enter pools and near runs.  If you want to fish sub-surface flies, try a Bead Head Pheasant Tail or a Green Weenie.

Rain is back in the forecast Saturday through Monday.  Hopefully we will get some rain here, in our watershed.  We need it.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the very eastern portion of our County, which includes Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is abnormally dry.  In most of our County, rainfall is normal.  Lately, rain has missed the Smoky Mountains.  Rainfall amounts are right at normal at the Knoxville Airport, located in our county, a 25 minute drive from here.

TVA will be generating at Norris Dam all day.  Their website indicates no generation at Cherokee Dam until 10 am this morning.  Then, they will turn on the generators all day.  Check the TVA website before you go and plan accordingly.

The lakes are fishing fine early and late.  Poppers and sub-surface flies will produce.  You may find shad on the surface very early or late in the day, so be ready with some baitfish flies, particularly a Puglisi Threadfin Shad.  Those flies are deadly in the jumps.

Paula and I plan to fish a small lake tomorrow in our kayaks.  I’m not expecting much, because we won’t be on the water early or late.  It a fairly long drive from here.  The sun will be beating down on us.  This may be more of a scenic paddle trip, than a fishing trip. I’m looking forward to it. 

Fishing has changed in the Smoky Mountains, since I was a youngster.  Long ago, there was a fishing season in the Park.  All trout waters were closed to fishing before the Fall spawn of the brown and brook trout.  The streams opened in April.  I fished here a few times in the 60’s and early 70’s.

I became very interested in fly fishing here in the late 70’s and even more avid in the early 80’s.  Back then, most streams in the lower elevations were open to fishing year round, except Abrams Creek.  Most streams that had populations of brook trout were still closed to fishing.

Steve Moore became the Park’s fisheries biologist in 1983.  One of his first big decisions was opening Abrams Creek to year round fishing.  I remember that happening, but don’t recall the exact year.  I think that might have been 1984 or 1985.

Steve always thought, fishermen did not affect fish populations.  Fluctuations were caused by droughts, floods and the natural short life of rainbow trout in these harsh mountain streams.  But, he had to prove it before making drastic changes in fishing regulations.

Under his supervision, brook trout restoration projects began.  Rainbow trout were removed manually, using electroshocking, which temporarily stunned the fish.  That was done on brook trout streams that had natural barriers or waterfalls of a certain height.  The remaining brook trout in those streams thrived and re-populated. 

Over time, the Park Service Fisheries Department proved, using population monitoring and creel data provided by anglers, that fishermen actually did not affect fish populations.  Most trout died from natural causes.  After years of collecting data, the brook trout streams were opened to fishing.  I think, about 30 miles of formerly closed waters were opened.  They had been closed for 30 years, if my memory is correct this morning.

Lynn Camp Prong, the beautiful tributary to the Middle Prong of Little River was opened to fishing this year.  That stream and it’s tributaries total about 8 miles of new fishable brook trout water.  It had been closed 7 years for a huge brook trout re-introduction project.  The brook trout populations there, now exceed the Park’s expectations, and the former rainbow populations found there before the project began.  Matt Kulp, who is now the head fisheries biologist, who took over when Steve retired, made the decision to open Lynn Camp Prong this year.

Today, anglers enjoy fishing many miles of remote, mid to high-elevation streams, catching Southern Appalachian brook trout.  That is something we should not take for granted.  If it were not for good science, and opened minded management, those streams would probably still be closed and off limits to anyone with a fly rod in their hand. 

It’s hard for me to believe how much has changed, during my life as a Smokies fly fisherman.  I remember when things were different.

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

Byron Begley
August 26, 2015 

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