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.  I’m at home, it is dark and it has been raining since 5:30 am.  The rain was predicted to arrive at 2 am and be gone by 8 am.  Now, they say it will be over by 11 am.  It will become sunny later today with a high temperature of 67 degrees. 

 A cold front is approaching.  Tonight’s low will be in the 30’s.  In fact, we’ll see lows in the 30’s through Saturday and possibly later.  Tomorrow will be beautiful.  Friday will be the great fishing day because it will be cloudy.  Then Saturday morning, we may get snow.  I doubt if it will be much because it will turn to rain later in the morning. 

Little River has not risen yet.  Right now, flow is 117 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.60 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 98 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:28 am is a perfect 58 degrees.

Fishing is very good.  Trout are active and feeding.  Both brown trout and rainbows have a pumped up metabolism.  They are hungry.  Nymphs are working and so are dry flies.  It’s been great lately.  I would go today for sure. A good dry fly to use now is an Orange Stimulator.  Most reasonable nymphs will produce.  If we get some slightly stained water, all the better. If the water is stained too much, fishing will be slow.  Try a Black Wooly Bugger or Girdle Bug if you encounter dark water.  I caught a huge brown one time in muddy water using a Black Wooly Bugger.   

I don’t know what this weekend will be like.  The water temperature will take a sharp drop.  That could slow the fishing for rainbows.  Brown trout will still be active.  Cold water won’t slow them down at all.  They are preparing to spawn. 

Yesterday was beautiful, I had the day off and did mostly nothing.  Jack came over just after noon and stayed all day and for dinner.  We sat out on the deck, looking at the mountains and talking.

Jack is the best fly fisherman I know.  He is especially good in the Smokies, where he grew up, fly fishing.  Of course, we talked about fishing for hours.  We always do.

He does a lot of watching in the Smokies.  He likes catching large fish and watching them.  He also watches other fly fishermen.  He started talking about the mistakes he sees other fishermen make.  I didn’t learn anything new, but I was reminded of things that I take for granted.

He said, the worst mistake fishermen make is false casting.  You can’t do that here, at least not over the area you intend to fish.  The fly line and shadow it makes on the water sends trout heading for cover.  Here, you pick up your line and place the fly where you want it with the leader only, over the fish.  I’ll repeat, false casting is the worst mistake fishermen make.

When you are fishing a run or an area you plan to fish, you start by placing your fly on the water closer to you.  Hit the spots at the lower end of the run.  If you cast far, you will spook the trout that are closer to you. You should work your way up the run with longer casts after fishing the lower end.  Jack will tell you, casting over trout you have not given the opportunity to take your fly is probably the second worst mistake you can make.

We all make mistakes fishing in the Smokies.  Learning to do well here takes time and hopefully you can get some coaching from a guy like Jack or one of the guides.  Having someone show you how, makes all the difference in the world.

A friend of ours went fishing with Jack this Spring.  He did what Jack said and caught 26 trout.  Before that, the most he had caught in a day was four. 

You can’t cast a shadow on the water where you intend to fish.  The trout take off.  That is why you see fishermen crouched down or on their hands and knees.  They don’t want to be seen by the trout or cast a shadow on the stream.

You can’t splash your fly line on the water where you hope a trout may be feeding.  You won’t get another chance at that trout.  He’s gone.  You don’t wade where the trout are.  They hear you coming.

You have to get a good drift.  These trout see aquatic and terrestrial insects, either adults or nymphs floating by at the same speed as the current all day long all of their lives.  If your fly drags, either slower than the current or faster, the trout usually won’t take it. 
That looks strange to them.  It looks unusual.  It sends out a “danger” sign to the trout.   

Most people who know will tell you, The Great Smoky Mountains is the most challenging place to fly fish for trout.  First, these fish are wild.  Their genes, that were passed down from their elders make them wary.  If a trout here is not wary, that fish will die and never reproduce.  We have a gene pool of wary trout.  Only the most wary trout live to reproduce, thus passing on those genes.

The water here is usually very clear.  The canopy is tight.  The stream bottoms are rocky.  It is hard to wade without making noise.  There is a lot of current and riffles in our streams.  And, on the larger rivers, which are usually close to the road, these trout have seen a lot of fishermen.  The season is long.  This is a warm climate.  Fishermen are on the water here more months than in most trout populated areas.  The really good local fishermen are on the water from December through February.  Those are Jack’s favorite months to fish.  He catches a lot of big trout in the Winter months.

Some rivers have large populations of brown trout.  Browns are harder to catch.  Everybody knows that.  That compounds the situation.

A good size river here, with a high density of trout, may have up to 1,500 trout per mile.  Most streams have lower densities.  1,500 is on the high side.  Some sections of Little River have that many or more, according to biologists who do sampling in some years.  Other years may be less.  Of course some areas of a river are more populated that others.  But on average, in some larger streams, you may be fishing in an area that has 1,500 trout per mile or more.

Think about that for a minute.  Do the math.  I’ve helped biologists electroshock Little River.  We have often captured 200 trout in 200 meters, one trout every three feet.  Sometimes it is much more.  We captured over 500 trout in 200 meters of Abrams Creek one day.

Fish population density variations from year to year depend on two factors, floods and drought.  Fishermen have very little effect on fish populations in the Smokies. Research has proven that.  A well timed flood, after the spawn, often reduces the fish density.  Fishermen don’t notice that there are less trout.  What fishermen do notice is the trout are larger the next year.  When the number of trout, exceed the carrying capacity of a river, the fish are smaller.  There are more trout competing for the same amount of food.

I guess I got a little carried away this morning.  I’m running out of steam and room on the page.

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

Byron Begley
October 29, 2014

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