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

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is sunny and 31 degrees this morning in Townsend.  A heavy frost is clinging to the ground and rooftops.  The high today should cross over the 60 degree mark.  Then rain will move in tonight, we hope.

Little River is flowing at less than half it’s normal level.  Right now, the river is flowing at 85 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 184 cfs.  The water temperature is a chilly 38.6 degrees at our elevation, colder than that in the higher elevations.

Overall, fly fishing is slow in the Smokies.  The water is low, cold and crystal clear.  It’s tough out there.  The trout are sluggish and hiding.  They can easily see you.  So, what can you do?

I would wait until the afternoon.  Clouds will probably move into our area.  Less direct sunlight will calm those fish down some.  They feel less vulnerable, I guess.  We guess based on experience and the fact that trout can’t talk.  The water will warm up some.  That spurs the trout’s appetite.  Don’t get me wrong.  You are not going to experience a feeding frenzy. 

Fish the choppy water.  That could be a riffle in pockets or areas where the flow is slowed but there is still movement on the surface.  Runs, where riffles enter a pool would be good.  And use nymphs, weighted with split shot so you can get down and hopefully bump those trout in the nose or close to it.  These fish don’t want to travel far for a meal.  It uses too much energy.  They are lethargic right now.

Watch for post spawn brown trout.  They are hungry and they will feed.  Jack, Lynn and I were talking yesterday.  They hunt for big browns.  They have both caught several over 20” this year in the Smokies.  They both agree that the spawn is over.  There are a few fish still chasing each other and spawning.  But for most, it is over.  Now the fun begins for them.  No more watching.  They will be fishing for these fish through February. 

Imagine what it was like before the internet.  How did we know what the stream conditions were before driving three hours to get here to fish.  We didn’t.  We could watch television and draw some conclusions about what was going on here but sometimes we were wrong.  Predicting stream conditions from 200 miles away was a crap shoot. 

Those days are over.  Not only can we know exactly what levels the streams are flowing we also know the water temperature which are both critical to success.

When I started fly fishing here, there were not people in fly shops providing reliable information.  I could not visit websites or message boards to get information.  All my friends and I could do is try different things.  We got it wrong most of the time. 

After I moved here and met some real experts, it all came together.  I realized what I had been doing wrong for years after going fishing with these mountain anglers.  My biggest mistake was casting too far.  This is a short cast game here.  You have to get a good drift and that is almost impossible when you cast 50 feet.

Lynn and I talked about this float n fly method of catching smallmouth bass yesterday.  I was convinced it could be done with a fly rod.  Maybe it can in some situations.  But, to really do it right in all conditions, you probably need a spinning rod and a long one at that.  You have to be able to cast a weighted fly with a float attached to your leader 10 feet to 20 feet above the fly. 

I have a little spinning rod and reel that is so old the reel probably won’t crank.  So Lynn and I decided to order a couple of St. Croix 10’ 6” spinning rods.  I will have to buy a spinning reel. 

When the water dips to 50 degrees or below, the bass suspend in the lakes where there is absolutely no current.  The shad are lethargic or dying during the Winter kill-off.  These flies are tied on jig hooks so the minnow imitation hangs horizontal under the float or strike indicator.  They are an easy target for the suspended smallmouth bass.  We are going to tie Puglisi Threadfin Shad patterns on a jig hook and get out on a lake this winter to give it a try.  I’ll have to re-learn to use a spinning outfit.  I haven’t used one in decades.  And, I’ll try to make a fly rod and reel work for this when the bass are suspended shallower. This is going to be an interesting endeavor.  Having Lynn as a partner will be enjoyable.

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

Byron Begley
November 26, 2012

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