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

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is a beautiful Sunday morning in Townsend.  The sun has risen over the mountains, the sky is partly cloudy, and the taller peaks are obscured by fog.  Traffic was surprisingly heavy.  The Fall Festival, Country Fair and Old Timers Day ended yesterday.  I suppose a lot of visitors held over.  Paula won a second place ribbon and two third place ribbons in the baking competition at the Country Fair.  The weather was kind to the visitors and exhibitors this weekend.  We had a few brief sprinkles but no measurable rain in the valley.  All events turned out great.

We must have had some measurable rain in the Smokies.  Little River has risen some.  Flow right now is 55 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 86 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:50 am was 63.2 degrees.

Rain is on the way.  Tonight there is a 70% chance.  Tomorrow the predictors say we have a 90% chance.  And tomorrow night there is a 100% chance for rain.  The cold front and associated rainfall will continue through Tuesday.  When we get a forecast like this, it rains.  Some weather sites say we may get 1” tomorrow.  So, we’ll see some fluctuation on the up side in our streams.  We need that.

It will be sunny today but cloudy until Wednesday.  Fishing today may be slow due to low water and bright sun. After today, you need to be fishing in the Smokies.  The fishing will improve drastically.  Shorter days have turned on the Fall spawn of brown and brook trout.  The leaves are turning.  It is going to be cooler.  The skies will be dark.  It’s going to get really good unless we have too much rain and the streams are “blown out.”  I don’t think that will happen based on the forecast right now. 

I didn’t talk to any returning anglers yesterday.  Those who ventured into the backcountry probably did fair but not great.  It was cloudy yesterday. I don’t know how the fishermen did on the larger rivers.  I bet the fishing was slow. The water is low and clear.

Dry flies and nymphs will work.  One or the other works best under different conditions.  If you are targeting brown trout, use a nymph.  For rainbows, a dry will work.  The brookies will take about anything. The water is still low today so stealth is of utmost importance.

What about the lakes?  What are the smallmouth bass and trout in the lakes doing?  How about the stripers?  I haven’t had a day off in over a week and won’t get one until Thursday.  I’ll be on a lake Thursday.  And I will be stripping shad patterns on the Little Tennessee River.  I don’t know which impoundment I’ll be fishing.  Probably Tellico Lake.

I wrote about threadfin shad patterns yesterday.  In some cases they are the most abundant forage fish in the South.  We’ve got plenty of them in the 1 ½” to 2” range in the more fertile lakes. 

Yesterday, I ordered some Puglisi minnow patterns.  Most of them are white.  I’m planning to color them with a grey back, a chartreuse tail and place a dot behind and above the eye to resemble a threadfin.  Then I’ll re-package them for you.  These will be the best commercially tied threadfin patterns I can find anywhere.  For some reason, fly tying companies have not bought in to this great fly that can be used for trout, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, stripers and carp.

You know what?  The conventional tackle anglers are using them all the time.  Check out a Bass Pro Shops catalog.  I did last night.  Google threadfin shad and look at the lures those folks use. 

A customer asked me Friday what shad pattern he should be using on the Clinch River for trout.  Most of the large tailwaters in the south have populations of these forage fish.  A large percentage of the populations die off in the Winter if the water temperature drops to 40 degrees.  Threadfins are intolerant to water that cold.  Some adults do survive to spawn the next Spring. 

Threadfin shad thrive better in fertile reservoirs and rivers.  They eat plankton.  The more sterile rivers and impoundments have a food shortage for threadfins.  The water is too clean.  Years ago, the fisheries managers stocked threadfin shad in these infertile rivers and lakes.  The fish came here from Georgia according to the old timers.  The stockers were adults and the stocking occurred just before these adults spawned.  Fishing was great.  But the limiting factor for sustainability had to be the lack of food.

When threadfin shad die off in the winter an amazing fishing opportunity occurs in the tailwaters below lakes that have large populations.  The dead or dying shad are sucked through the turbines at dams.  The trout, stripers and smallmouth bass living below those dams have an abundance of food floating by and easy to catch.  I’ve seen this before and benefited by that shad die off a few times.  I’ll never forget the threadfin carnage I witnessed below Center Hill Dam in the 70’s.  It was awesome.  You could catch trout on about anything that was white and drifting.  The trout were stuffed with dead threadfin.  Their bellies were swollen like I had never seen before. 

Get ready this Winter.  It will happen again.  Your timing has to be right.  This could occur below Wolf Creek Dam or Norris.  You might see it below Center Hill Dam or in the Hiwassee.  Be on the lookout below Melton Hill or Fort Loudoun.  It may happen anywhere these small fish live.

But for now, these forage fish are alive and providing food for your targeted species in the tailwaters and lakes.

I posted this link yesterday but here it is again.  CLICK HERE.  You can learn to tie the Puglisi Threadfin Shad and be ready for Fall and Winter fishing at it’s best.

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

Byron Begley
September 30, 2012

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