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

Welcome to the Fishing Report from Townsend, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains.  At 5:15 am, the temperature is a bone chilling 23.5 degrees. Today’s high will be 48 degrees. Sunday should reach 57. Then, it will be warm again, with high temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s next week. Lows will be in the 50’s. We have a fair chance for rain beginning Tuesday.

Little River is flowing at 222 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.92 feet on the flow gauge. Median flow for this date is 243 cfs. The water temperature is currently 42.4 degrees. Yesterday morning, the water temperature was 50 degrees.

Fishing in the Smoky Mountains will be much slower this weekend due to the colder water. Next week, the water will warm and fishing will be much better. By Christmas, fishing in the mountains should be exceptional, especially for late December. It should be cloudy most of the week, making fishing even better. This is hard to believe, but true.

Right now it appears, early January will be much warmer than normal. That could change.

Winter fishing in the mountains is usually slow due to normal water temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s. The trout become sluggish. Their metabolism slows. They don’t eat much. This winter is different, or it has been so far. And, maybe this trend will continue.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plans to generate all day at Norris Dam. There is a planned shut-down of the generators at Cherokee Dam this afternoon. A similar schedule is planned at Douglas Dam. You may squeeze in some tailwater trout fishing today on the Holston. Check the TVA schedules and see if they work for you.

I was off yesterday and spent several hours with Jack. Jack is one of a few of my closest friends. He is planning a trip to Belize. I don’t know anyone who loves Belize and fly fishing for permit, more than Jack. In fact, I don’t know anyone who loves fly fishing more than Jack. When we go fishing, he wears me out.

Jack is a little younger and a lot stronger than I am. He can fish all day without a break and does. He always catches more fish than I do. It’s been that way since we became friends over 20 years ago.

I love Jack like a brother. He is not trying to catch more fish than I do. The boy just loves to fish. And, he gets more excited watching me catch a fish, than catching one himself.

We were fishing in Florida in October. On the trip were three of my good friends and our wives. Paula fished with the guys every day. Between the five of us, Jack always caught more fish than anyone. It’s a given, it always happens.

Jack can cast and see fish better than anyone I fish with. He sees tarpon and permit from his position on a flats boat, better than many guides see them, and the guide is standing several feet higher, on a poling platform. I don’t know how he does it.

It doesn’t bother me at all. Jack deserves to catch more fish than I do. He works harder at it than I do. He has much better fly fishing skills than I do. To me, fly fishing is absolutely non-competitive. I’m just as happy watching my friends catch a fish, as catching one myself, just like Jack. 

I almost always insist on fishing from the stern of a drift boat, with my buddy in the bow, when we are floating rivers with a guide. I’ve learned from experience, I can fish from the stern, and nobody notices me watching the scenery, sitting down, and relaxing instead of fishing hard all day. Remember, the guide is rowing while facing the bow.

When we fly fish from our boat on the lakes, I always have the guest fish from the bow. Our boat has a trolling motor on the bow and the stern. I can control the boat from the stern, and position the guest so they can have better shots at the fish. That way, I can relax and enjoy the scenery while watching whoever is in the bow fish. If they want to control the boat, they can use the trolling motor on the bow.

The funny thing is, I bought this nice and expensive bow mounted, saltwater safe trolling motor for the boat, and it hardly gets used. In fact, the motor hinders the fly fisherman in the bow, if it is not deployed.

I catch my share of fish. I hate getting skunked. I suppose I’m at a point in my life, when watching the river, the shore, the scenery, wildlife and being with friends or my wife, is more important than catching the fish. Henry David Thoreau wrote something about that long ago.

I will never forget the time, I saw a man, slap the water and break a fly rod on the Beaverkill River in New York, because he lost a trout. That made an impression on me. Why? It’s just a fish! We are not going to starve. The trout would have been released anyway.

Look around. This is a beautiful place. Enjoy where you are and who you are with.

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

Byron Begley
December 19, 2015 

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