Townsend, Tennessee - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is foggy and warm this morning, 47 degrees.  Townsend is quiet right now but it is early.  I saw three vehicles on the road during my commute to work.  We got some rain yesterday and last night.  Everything is wet.  I was surprised to see over a half inch of water in our gauge. 

Little River looked good.  The water was about 1” higher than it was yesterday morning.  Flow right now is 352 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 318 cfs.  The water temperature was 46 degrees at the swinging bridge.  The river appeared to be clear.  It was hard to tell because I was there shortly after dawn.  I could see my thermometer in the water close to me.  I would say it’s clear.

This weather is something else.  The low temperature last night was 51 degrees at the airport.  It was probably a little cooler than that here.  It usually is.  The high yesterday was 60 degrees.  After the fly tying demonstration yesterday, most of the big fish hunters I know headed for the Park.  That group included Joe McGroom, Josh Pfeiffer, Ross Shaver and of course Jack Gregory.  Jack was tying yesterday.  I bet someone caught a nice brown.  Maybe several.  Those poor fish didn’t have a chance.  Lynn is wearing a foot brace or he would have been there too. 

Fishing is only going to get better.  With lows in the 40’s and highs in the high 50’s that water will continue to warm up.  There is a good chance for rain over the next few days.  I guess the rivers could get blown out but these periods of precipitation don’t have a lot of storms connected with them.  A sizable thunderstorm blew through last night but nothing much happened.  I heard thunder, a little rain and it was over.  According to the radar it was on a direct course to our house.  That storm fizzled out when it hit the mountains. 

I would fish with large ugly nymphs.  Since most of the nymphs I tie are ugly, that’s about all I have.  Large and pretty store bought nymphs will work too.  There have been some nice large wild browns caught lately.  Heavy tippet and large flies with plenty of weight are catching these fish.  You will probably see some blue wing olives hatching at times.  Have some of those and some light tippet.  If the water temperature reaches 50 degrees you will see some pretty good trout activity from the normal population of rainbows and brook trout.  The browns are still hungry from the spawn.

It is amazing to me, how many people I talk to every day who read this fishing report.  I spend more than 500 hours a year on this project.  I get up in the mornings an hour earlier than I would if I didn’t have this task in front of me.  I go to bed an hour earlier too.  Ten hours a week, writing a fishing report is about ¼ the amount of work a typical American does. 

What is more amazing to me is, only 10% of our website visitors click on this report each day.  Sometimes I wonder if it is worth 500 hours to reach 200,000 people.  That’s 400 people per hour.  OK, it’s worth the time.  There are some people who read this report every other day on average.  Some say they read it once a week.  Other anglers check it before they come here to fish.  I think that is where the majority of the visits come from.

What do the other 90% of our visitors read?  Those numbers are all over the place but the online catalog and message board are at the top.

I do enjoy getting out early.  Believe me, If I am off and I know Daniel will be writing this report, I still get up early.  Herb and I were going fishing one day this Summer, together for the first time.  We were working out the details.  He lives in Wears Valley, a short walk from Metcalf Bottoms.  I told him to meet me here at the shop at 6:30 am.  He said, “Are you kidding me?” 

When Paula and I are on vacation we are on the water shortly after daybreak.  We used to go to Florida three times a year to fish for Tarpon.  Doug, our friend and guide would usually pick us up at the condo at 5:30 am.  Once, we were launching the boat at 4:30 am.  He knew someone was going to be fishing in our spot and wanted to beat them to it.  We won.  You can’t fish for tarpon until the sun comes up.  You can’t see them.  So, we spent a lot of time sitting in the boat in total darkness waiting for daybreak.

One thing that always made me uneasy or scared the crap out of me was running to the flats in a small boat doing 50 miles per hour in total darkness.  First, there is a line of telephone pole size channel markers made from poured concrete that we had to miss.  Doug would be driving full speed then get out his spotlight to find the markers. At times, he couldn’t see them.  As he searched I wondered if he should be shining that light straight ahead.

One morning in total darkness, after we made the turn around the spit of land and were in open water we hit something.  He said, “What the hell was that out here in the open water?”  I told him it was probably that 18 foot hammerhead shark everyone talks about.  Now, that fish is mad and he is larger than our boat.  “We need to get a bigger boat!” 

We ran aground at full speed one time in total darkness.  I will never forget that.  The GPS was not working right and we knew it at the time.  We were on a sand bar.  We hopped out of the boat and started pushing it to deeper water.  That is a little unnerving when it is pitch black and you can’t see your hand in front of your face.  There we were, a mile from shore, walking in the ocean and can’t see a darned thing.  That 18 foot hammerhead was probably watching our every move. I thought about that a lot.  That water is also full of bull sharks.  We’ve seen them as large as 9 feet long. 

But, over those ten years we never hit a concrete channel marker and didn’t get eaten by a shark.  Doug is a good captain. We caught a lot of tarpon too.

We did come very close to sinking another flats boat with a different captain and Jack Gregory was with us.  It was not a self-bailing boat.  I never heard that guy curse until the incident.  I am referring to the guide, not Jack.  I said a few choice words myself during that rare and memorable occasion. The bilge pump was clogged and waves were pouring into the skiff.  We were pumping with a hand pump and bailing with buckets.  Needless to say, cocktail hour came a little early that day.  

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

Byron Begley
January 8, 2012

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