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 71 degrees in Townsend this morning.  I saw Frank and waved. He was waiting to catch someone speeding.  He’s a great policeman and one of the funniest people I know.  I guess the police department is gearing up for the holiday weekend. 

They will be busy.  Unfortunately, when you mass a lot of people into the Park, people get hurt.  The roads are narrow.  People don’t watch where they are going.  They are busy looking at the beautiful scenery. Due to the water flow being a little below normal, we should not have swift water rescues.  Our fire department personnel are trained and seasoned veterans at rescuing people who try to tube in swift water, then get into trouble.  I guess it goes with the territory.  After this weekend, it will be quiet again.

Little River is flowing at 72 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.38 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 95 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:50 am is 70 degrees.

If you go fishing this weekend, go into the backcountry and seek higher, cooler streams.  Avoiding people will make your fishing day much more enjoyable.  A short hike should get you away from the crowds.  I say that though I don’t have much experience fishing on weekends or holidays.  I’ve been working here on those days for almost 20 years. 

It’s the same with the lakes.  My perception is, the lakes are underutilized.  When we go fishing on the lakes, on weekdays, we don’t see many boaters or anglers.  I hear differently from those who visit the lakes on weekends.  My perception is skewed.  I’m going to keep it that way.

Dry flies should work well in the Park.  A Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Foam Beetle, Neversink Caddis, and many other dry patterns will do.  Green Weenies make a good dropper or sub-surface fly.  Fly pattern is not as important this time of year.  People catch trout on all kinds of different flies right now.  More important are stealth and presentation.

If the water is warm, the minnows or warpaint shiners will be active and beat the trout to your fly.  The trout are more lethargic in warmer water.  The warpaint shiners are on the war path.  If this happens to you, take the water temperature.  It bet it is warm.  Go higher.

It is going to be hot for several days, at least 10 days.  We have a good chance for rain on Sunday and Thursday with a lower chance most other days. 

The streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are flowing low and slow.  That is normal this time of year.  Fishing will be good if you are in the right place.  The right place has cool, shaded water.  Fishing will be best early and late.

We are having some discussion on the message board about Hatchery Creek in Kentucky.  Hatchery Creek is basically an artificial stream fed by the discharge from the National Fish Hatchery at Wolf Creek Dam on the Cumberland River.  I’m very interested in this project and visited there this week while on a fishing trip.  The stream will be extended by at least a mile and provide new fishing opportunities and spawning habitat for rainbow, brook and brown trout.

This idea takes me back many years to a place in Pennsylvania called Big Spring Creek.  Big Spring is just what the name implies, a huge spring near Boiling Springs, PA.  At some point, a fish hatchery was built above the spring.  I’m not sure where the water came from for that hatchery.  I was there many times and never figured that out.

The hatchery discharge emptied into Big Spring Creek, just below the spring.

A wooden dam was built downstream.  It backed up a short portion of Big Spring Creek.  Everyone called it “The Ditch”.  Watercress grew wild and provided cover for huge trout.  I was there once when the Pennsylvania Fish Commission (PFC) shocked the Ditch.  They captured some very large browns, rainbows and a ton of brook trout.  We always enjoyed fishing there at least one day while on a trip to Boiling Springs. 

Almost daily, the hatchery runs were scrubbed.  Small red worms washed into Big Spring Creek from the hatchery.  We always had some simple flies tied with red thread on a hook, just in case we were there for the cleaning process.  The trout went nuts when that happened in the creek below the hatchery discharge.

At some point, fishermen and biologists determined that the hatchery was discharging too many nutrients into Big Spring Creek.  They felt like it was ecologically detrimental to the stream.  After years of debate, the hatchery was closed, the wooden dam was breached and the spring creek reverted back to a more normal ecosystem.  It is my understanding that that action did improve the water quality downstream and most local anglers are happy with the decision to do what they did.  Wild brook trout are spawning in Big Spring Creek.

I’ve been back.  There are some trout still living in the ditch.  But, it’s nothing like it was before.

Hatchery Creek is different.  For one thing, the discharge will not dump nutrients into a small stream below the project.  They will flow into the Cumberland River, a very large river.  The new stream extension will have a high nutrient load, but nothing worse than there is now.  I think it will be fine and hopefully the trout will inhabit the creek and spawn.  I’m no fisheries biologist so my opinion is only based on what I’ve seen elsewhere.

At one time there was a trout farm, upstream, on the spring creek that runs through our property behind our home.  Back then, due to the high nutrient load, that creek was full of minnows, crawfish and wild trout.  The trout farm closed.  What I see now is just clear water with less fish and aquatic biomass.  The water comes out of the ground from two large springs.  Now, the water lacks nutrients and due to that, in my opinion, it has less trout, minnows, crawfish and aquatic insects.  There are still plenty of snails, just like before. So, are nutrients good or bad?

Hatchery Creek is going to be interesting place to watch and hopefully enjoy fishing there some day.  We should know in a short time, how successful this project turns out to be.

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

Byron Begley
August 29, 2014

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