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

Welcome to the Fly Fishing Report from the Great Smoky Mountains.  It is foggy this morning, about as foggy as it gets.  A strong storm blew in from the Smokies late yesterday afternoon and dropped 1/3” of rain at the shop in just a few minutes.  Streets and culverts were doing their best to drain the rain.  It was kind of incredible.

Little River did not rise hardly at all.  Evidently, though the storm came here from the East which is unusual, it didn’t rain much in the Park.  So, we’ll see Little River continue to drop today.  Flow is currently 587 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 296. 

The water temperature was 58 degrees at the swinging bridge this morning at 7:50 am.  Again, that is the highest temperature I have taken all year in the mornings.  The water is fairly clear but water is still running off from the rain we got here yesterday in town. 

58 degrees is a magic number for trout fishermen.  The spring creek behind our house stays at about 58 degrees year round.  Some of the water in that creek comes from a trout farm across the road.  That is a good temperature for raising trout.  There is a small population of wild rainbows and an occasional escapee from the trout farm in the creek.  I have not fished there in years.

But, fishing is very good and getting better by the day.  Yesterday was the official first day of Spring.  From a temperature perspective, we have been experiencing Spring for over a month.  Plenty of aquatic insects are on the water.  The early hatches are all but gone in the lower elevations of the Smokies.  Fly fishermen are enjoying dry fly fishing like you would normally see in April.  I would use a Parachute Adams, Elk Hair Caddis, Neversink Caddis or a Stimulator.  Maybe a Thunderhead would be a good idea.  I don’t think it matters that much.  If it looks like food and you are getting a good drift, you should catch trout in the Smokies or anywhere in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.  Nymphs will work fine too.  The conditions are excellent.

On the Tennessee side of the Park the rivers are flowing above normal.  On the North Carolina side, flow is normal or below normal.  I can only get data from the few flow gauges that USGS has available, so there may be some variance in my assumption. 

You will encounter water that is higher than you might be accustomed to fishing here.  But, fishing will be very good.  Just be careful wading.  You could take a spill.

The lowland rivers exiting the Park should be fishing well for smallmouth bass.  With temperatures ranging from 58 degrees and higher, those fish are active.  Again, there is a lot of water, especially downstream in the rivers lowing into Tennessee from the Park.  I saw a guide in a raft floating Little River yesterday when I drove to Knoxville.  He had plenty of current to deal with and I bet the fishing was excellent.

I also saw Fort Loudon Lake yesterday.  It was muddy and there was a lot of floating debris on the surface.  The creeks were muddy too, including Little River’s embayment.  That muddy water coming from the smaller creeks is warming the lakes.  We should see some good shallow water lake fishing soon, if not now.

Searchers are still trying to find the man from our County who has disappeared in the Smokies.  It has been determined, because the large search party has checked all the trails in that area, that he is off trail.  A story in the Daily Times reported the hiker is a fan of “Survival TV”.  That gives me hope. It indicates he may be on a backcountry survival vacation. People, dogs and helicopters continue to search for him.  I hope he is OK.

Some people disappear in the Smokies and are never found.  This has happened only a few times.  Most of them are found. Another story in the Daily Times describes that and an older story on the KnoxNews website goes into great detail about lost hikers who were never found dating back to 1969.  The most famous case was the lost 6 year old Dennis Martin.  Another well known case, and I think I remember this one is the lost 16 year old girl, Trenny Gibson of Knoxville.  These are very sad events that remind us, things can happen in the wilderness and most of the Smoky Mountains National Park is a wilderness.  Read these stories and you will understand.  Never hike off trail unless you are fishing in a steam.  It’s hard to get lost on a stream.

Someone mentioned on our Message Board that our Park Superintendent does not like off trail hiking.  I know Dale very well and I’m sure he doesn’t like off trail hiking.  Neither do I.  I have known all the Smokies Superintendents dating back almost two decades to Randy Pope.  None of them liked off trail hiking.  I know for a fact they hated it because people got themselves lost.  It takes a lot of resources to find a lost hiker.  Most of them are found.  It happens often. Families, friends and search teams are put through the mill when this happens.  The search we have going on now started last Friday.  This is day six.

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

Byron Begley
March 21, 2012


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