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 foggy and 63 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Rob was in our parking lot when I pulled in.  He has another guided trip this morning.  His clients are from my old stomping grounds in Kentucky.  They own a hunting and fishing store there.  That was my dream in high school.  My plan was to do just that.  College and the U.S. Army changed that dream.  Now, I’ve got what I want though it would be fun to sell guns and hunting gear.  That won’t happen.

Little River is flowing at 230 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.07 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 89 cfs.  The water temperature is 60.2 degrees.

A customer asked me yesterday if the fish were biting.  I told him they were.  He jokingly asked how I new since I was standing in a store.  I told him, the conditions are perfect.  When the conditions are perfect, the trout will bite.  Now, they may not bite all day and they may not bite if you are not changing your tactics until you find something that works.  But, if the flows are good like they are and the temperatures are in the trout’s preferred range, which they are, the fish will be active. You can determine that by looking online from Alaska, New Zealand or anywhere in the world that has internet access to the United States.

Dry flies are working well.  We have good dry fly fishing flows.  Nymphs are working too.  Terrestrials are effective right now.  Fly patterns are not as important as presentation and stealth.  If it looks like food, most trout will be interested.  Food is a little scarce this time of year.  In fact, food is often scarce in the Smokies.  When the water temperature is in the preferred range, the trout need food.  Their metabolism is cranked up. 

One problem is, other fish species are hungry too, particularly the flame chub.  Those little fish will drive you crazy.  A lot of people think they are trout that are missing their fly.  When you finally catch one of these little fish you will know it is time to change your tactics.  If you are fishing with a dry fly, try a nymph.  Do something different.

The brown trout are active.  They are out in the open.  It seems early.  Everything seems early or late this year.  It has been a strange one, weather wise.

I have been reading that the lake fishing is improving.  The surface temperatures are dropping.  Now that is a very good sign.  Largemouth bass are being caught in shallower water.  Night fishing is best.  I won’t be out on a lake doing that with a fly rod. 

Evidently, from what I hear and read, walleye fishing is improving too.  Fishing for walleye with conventional tackle is very popular around here.  I have never caught one on a fly and I fish in walleye populated waters almost every week.

We pay Great Smoky Mountains National Park a fee to use their streams for our beginner fly fishing and aquatic entomology classes.  We are considered a Commercial Use Authorization (CUA) permit holder.  Every year we provide proof of adequate liability insurance, list the names of our instructors and pay the fee.  All guides have a CUA permit.  Anyone who does business in the Park has to have one.

We got an e-mail from Park Headquarters Friday.  In that e-mail our Concessions Manager warned us that it is possible the Park’s appropriations will lapse tomorrow night.  Should that happen, the Park management did not have specific details of what would happen but one consequence is, the Park would close and we could not do business there until it re-opens.

Everything I have read indicates that all 400+ units of the National Park Service will in fact close should the U.S. Government shut down.  I am hoping some kind of temporary relief will be authorized so that won’t happen. 

You can read thousands of pages about how this would affect our Country and the world.  I’m going to tell you how I think it will change our lives in Townsend. 

October is the 3rd highest visitation month of the year.  Some 1.2 million visitors enjoy the Smokies in October.  A lot of people come here to view the fall colors.  They visit here to fish.  Photographers show up from everywhere to photograph this event.  Hikers love October.  Everyone loves October in the Smoky Mountains.

In October we have a higher percentage of older visitors who don’t have children in school.  Revenue from tourism is very high in October because a large percentage of the visitors are not local and they spend more than one day, which means they stay in hotels, motels, rental cabins, lodges and campgrounds.  They eat out in restaurants.  They shop in retail stores.  Tourism drives our local economy and ultimately the prosperity of our residents.

If the Park shuts down, many of those people could cancel their reservations and go someplace else or stay home.  That is our fear.

I don’t know how this will turn out but the fact is, this has been a good business year so far and if the Park closes during October, this year may end up “not so good”.  I have been giving thought to cost cutting measures just in case.  We will certainly cut back on our ordering of merchandise.  I’m sure everyone here is considering a plan if they own a business.

After October, the tourism business slows to a crawl until Christmas. I’m trying to be positive and hopeful until Tuesday.  At that point we should know our fate and plan accordingly.  Owning a small business has never been and will always be challenging.  I think that is one reason I like it so much. 

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

Byron Begley
September 29, 2013

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