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

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is foggy and 64 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Traffic was heavier than usual for a Friday morning.  We do have quite a few visitors in town.  People are traveling more this year.  The tourism business has spiked a little.  Though September is not usually a heavy traffic month, we do still see tourists, especially on weekends. 

Little River is flowing at 115 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.68 feet on the gauge.  Heavy rain Monday night caused the river to rise to 2.6 feet on the gauge briefly.  The water level is dropping back down.  Median flow for this date is 95 cfs.  Though the water is higher than normal, it is still low.  It’s usually low this time of year.  The water temperature at 7:55 am is 65.5 degrees.

It is going to be sunny and hot today.  I would choose a cool, shaded backcountry stream to fish.  I would use a Yellow Neversink and/or a Green Weenie.  I don’t think you would need to change flies to something else.  I think those patterns will work.  Fishing should be good today.  Don’t forget to stay hidden.  Don’t waste your time fishing slow gin-clear water.  The trout are hiding during the daylight hours.  Cast into pockets behind rocks in the riffles.  Fish the choppy water where a riffle enters a pool.  Fishing low water is nothing like what you would do during the Spring when the water is higher.  This is an entirely different game.

Fish that live long enough to reach sexual maturity must be genetically wary in the wild.  All kinds of critters are trying to eat them.  There are brown trout, otters, herons, eagles, ospreys and kingfishers, just to name a few.  What we have in the Smokies is “natural selection” at its best. 

Wary genes are passed on to the adult’s offspring.  If something goes genetically wrong and a stupid fish is born, more than likely it will be eaten by something else.  That individual’s genes will not be passed on.

Legal stocking of trout in Great Smoky Mountains National Park stopped in the early 70’s.  What we have here is a wild population led by only the toughest of the tough and the wariest of the wary.  They are what we pursue.  We like that.  We like a challenge.  It keeps us coming back.

What we also have is a vast wilderness, a beautiful rain forest with more species than anyplace in the United States.  Scientists come here to do research.  Many secrets are locked in the backcountry of this Park and the surrounding vast National Forests.  This is why I call Townsend my home.  That is what drew me here. 

Paula and I were fishing a small mountain lake a few months ago.  A very large smallmouth bass started chasing minnows on the surface of the water only 100 feet from our boat.  I quickly tried to tie a shad pattern on one of our fly rods.  My hands were shaking.  I was excited.  All of a sudden, out of nowhere, a large bald eagle swooped down and grabbed that huge smallmouth right before our eyes.  The bird then flew into the trees to devour its catch.  What an awesome sight that was.  How often do you see that 20 miles from your house? 

Chatter has picked up again about panthers living here.  Someone in Dry Valley, where we live supposedly photographed the animal on a trail camera near a baited area and near our home.  I saw the picture.  It looked like a panther to me.

Two years ago one of my best friends spotted two large black cats on the Foothills Parkway.  The animals were the size of a small cougar or mountain lion.  They were solid black.

I found another sighting by searching the internet.  I searched “Black Panthers Tennessee”.  Another person, someone I had never heard of, saw two black panthers.  Guess where they saw them?  On the Foothills Parkway.  There was a forest fire in the area during that time.

There was another sighting reported in Dry Valley.  This time, the two panthers had two young kittens with them. 

I talked to Ronnie, our Police Chief this week about the trail camera photos and he knew about them.  He told me he wants to see the picture on the chip that was taken by the trail cam.  Then, he said he might believe it.  He knows the man with the camera and supposedly, the photo is still on that camera.  I guess I’ll find out soon enough what Ronnie has to say.

The research I did would indicate that if these animals exist, they are most likely leopards that were pets.  If they exist, the pets were probably released somewhere in the Southern Appalachians.  Leopards and jaguars can be black.  Mountain lions are never black.

Most of us who live here know that mountain lions move through the Southern Appalachians.  I don’t doubt that one bit.  I’ve seen the tracks, including a tail impression in the snow at our house.  I know several people who have seen them.  More than likely, a cat like that just passes through occasionally.  One or two animals in a wilderness as large as this one would be spotted from time to time like they are, but not often.  Mountain lions are reclusive.   

It is fun to think about these cats and all the creatures that live here or sometimes pass through.  It gives us all something interesting to talk about.  It puts a little excitement in our life.  Living here and seeing a bear on your porch is not that big of a deal. Seeing a mountain lion or panther would leave a lasting impression on me, to be sure.

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

Byron Begley
September 6, 2013  

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