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 5:08 am, the temperature is 34.9 degrees. The late December warm-up begins today. The high temperature today is expected to be 59 degrees. Then, highs each day through Monday will be in the 60’s and 70’s. Lows will be in the 50’s to 60’s.

Little River is flowing at 190 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.82 feet on the flow gauge. Median flow for this date is 217 cfs. The water temperature is 41.4 degrees this morning.

The streams will continue to warm all week and through the weekend. That started yesterday with a slight up-tick from the 39.7 degree reading early yesterday morning to 41.4 degrees now.  The temperature will climb faster, a few degrees every day. By Christmas Day, the low to mid-elevations stream temperatures should be over 50 degrees. That is the number to watch.

It is going to rain this week. That will contribute to the water warm-up.  Hopefully, we won’t get too much rain, enough to blow the streams out. We have a 40%, 50%, 60% and 90% chance over the next 4 days, including today. One model I saw on the WBIR website indicates over 2 inches of rain this week, maybe as much as 2.8 inches. If that happens, we will have high water and not much of a chance for fishing in the Smoky Mountains. So, the water will be warm, but there may be too much. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

What we won’t have here is a white Christmas.

I spent most of the day yesterday at the shop, talking to customers and old friends. Larry and I planned to float the Clinch in his drift boat. I talked to Clayton. John was there. He is President of the Great Smoky Mountains Chapter of TU.  I talked to Endsley for a while and of course, I laughed a lot. I saw Jason briefly.

Paul was working at the shop yesterday. I love talking to Paul. We talk about business and rock and roll. He owned a large business once, and loves music. I bet he has been to more rock concerts than anyone I know.

I asked Santa Clause for some Boss electric guitar stomp boxes. One is “compression” and the other is “distortion”. So, if we don’t have a white Christmas, it doesn’t matter to me.  I’ll be in here, wired for rock and roll, with my old Les Paul, trying to make sounds ranging from Joe Walsh to Jimi Hendrix. I won’t sound that good, but there will be so much music coming out of this little office, nobody will know. Is it Joe, or is it Byron? Is that David Gilmour? Is John Fogerty visiting the Begley’s home for Christmas?

I used to play guitar and piano, a lot. Then, I took 22 to 25 years off, to build a home, get married and be in the fly shop business. I picked up the Les Paul and started playing every day beginning in early July. It is coming back. There is an electric piano in here and a grand piano in the great room. Now, I’m tinkering with them too. Man, am I having fun!

So, what does all of this have to do with fly fishing? Nothing. I’m off subject. Sorry.

It could be just a matter of a few weeks, maybe 8 or 10 weeks. Nobody knows. Anticipation grows. Sometime, in late February to mid March, those bugs will be on the water in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Quill Gordons, Blue Quills and Blue Wing Olives will be thick in the air, hovering over the streams, enticing the trout.

If this weather continues to puzzle us, it may happen earlier. Or it could happen later.

The key component is water temperature, specifically, sustainable temperatures of around 50 degrees.  The moon phase doesn’t matter. The length of daylight during the day means nothing. The month may begin with F, M or A. The aquatic insects don’t care. All it takes is a few days of 50-degree water.

Hopefully, that won’t happen this week or in January. I don’t think that is possible. I doubt of the nymphs are old enough to become adults. But, I don’t know for sure. A warm winter, like we are having, is new territory for me and most other fly fishermen and I’m not an aquatic entomologist. 

Blue Wing Olives hatch all winter, sporadically.

We can be sure, with a margin of error of a few weeks, spring fly fishing is not far off and I can’t wait. And I know without any margin of error, you can’t wait either.

When the trout start slurping down mayflies in the spring, some of us are also thinking about smallmouth bass. They tend to wake up slower than trout. They like warmer water. When they become active, they are thinking about spawning. When the trout are concentrating on feeding, the smallmouth bass are moving into nesting areas. They are eating too.

White bass gather by the thousands, at the mouths of rivers, waiting to migrate upstream from the lakes to spawn. Fly fishermen gather too, armed with 6 weight fly rods and white Clouser Minnows, for the great migration. I will be one of them. I barely missed the white bass run this year, by about 3 days. That won’t happen next year.

I am really looking forward to 2016. I’m getting a raise. In July, I’ll be on Medicare. A year later, it will be Social Security time. I’ll be draw’n. I’m also looking forward to 2017.

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

Byron Begley
December 21, 2015 

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