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Great Smoky Mountains

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Fishing a Smokies Stream

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So Many Options…So Little Time
By Byron Begley

If you have ever really looked close at a map of East Tennessee you will see one distinct difference between here and most places.  On that map, in this area you will see lots of blue, indicating water. Many rivers are born in southern Appalachia and join others to form the Tennessee River.  Many of those rivers and streams begin at high elevations and the water is cold.  Due to that, trout are abundant.  For instance, in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are 800 miles of fishable trout streams which includes both Tennessee and North Carolina.

Dams have been built on some of the larger rivers that form lakes with thousands of acres and miles of shoreline in East Tennessee. The scope of this watershed is overwhelming.  I live here and love the water as much as anyone, but I’ve only seen a small sampling of what is here. 

If you enjoy water sports and live or visit here your options are endless. Let’s begin with streams.  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reports 621 miles of wild (self sustaining) populations of rainbow, brown and brook trout streams in Region 4. They are not including the streams and river in western North Carolina just over the hill.  I am not able to find a number of river miles of free flowing warmwater streams but they are extensive.  Little River below Townsend is one of them.

Do you like lakes?  I do.  TWRA has a list of reservoirs in our region of the state (Region 4).  They are:  Boone, Calderwood, Cherokee, Chilhowee, Douglas, Fort Loudon, Fort Patrick Henry, Melton Hill, Norris, South Holston, Tellico and Watauga.  If you combine the total acreage of those lakes it amounts to 153,136. Some are small at 541 to 872 acres.  Others have between 6,000 and 14,000 acres.  The larger lakes boast 16,000 to 34,000 acres.  I like fishing for bass and bluegill in our lakes around here.  The tailwaters below many of these dams provide excellent fishing for several species including trout, stripers and smallmouth bass.

If you live in Townsend or visit here, you like to fish or just be on the water, what are your options?  Most people who visit here like to wade and fish for trout in the Smokies or Cherokee National Forest.  There are hundreds of miles of wild trout streams.  You may choose the backcountry streams to get away from people or park along a road and just get out and fish.

There are also many easy access streams that are stocked with trout.  Little River in Townsend, the Little Pigeon River in Gatlinburg, several streams in the Cherokee reservation and even more streams south of us in the Cherokee National Forest are available for you.  There are several tailwaters near us that are stocked with trout.  The Clinch River, Holston, Hiwassee, South Holston and Watauga are not far away and the fishing can be excellent for trout and other species. 

If you like floating in a drift boat or canoe the tailwaters are a good choice.  A canoe or kayak can also get you down some of the smaller rivers, Little River is a good example. You can rent a canoe from River Johns and he will provide a shuttle.  You can float and fish 7 miles and end the day back at your car or truck.

Canoes and kayaks are also great craft for exploring or fishing the many lakes in our area.  There are 8 lakes nearby. Power boats are great fishing craft to have if you live or visit Townsend.  Tellico Lake is close to us and is very popular for anglers in power boats or canoes and kayaks.  That lake is very fertile downstream from where the Tellico River enters the lake. Fishing for stripers, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, walleye and bluegill is excellent. 

Some visitors to our area venture off and try some world class whitewater rafting.  The Pigeon, Hiwassee and Ocoee Rivers have numerous outfitters who will provide the rafts and river guides.  You can also rent kayaks and float the Hiwassee, which is a beautiful river that requires only moderate skill levels in the lower sections.  Expert whitewater kayakers wait until rivers in the Smokies are at very high levels and experience some technical whitewater paddling.  Don’t try this unless you know what you are doing.  That sport can be dangerous.

For a 58 year old kid like me, who loves the water and fly fishing, this is the place to be.  That’s why I’m here.  I moved here years ago because I wanted to change my lifestyle and be near all of this water and away from the city.  I love the mountains too.  I love it all.  I think about, talk about and write about rivers, lakes, fishing and the Smokies every day, all day long. I love my job.  


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