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

Welcome to the Fishing Report from the Great Smoky Mountians.  It is a beautiful Spring morning.  The skies are partly cloudy and the temperature at 7:55 am is 47 degrees.  Bradford pear trees are blooming.  That started yesterday.  I noticed new green leaves appearing on trees and brush on my way to work.  This is going to be an exceptional day to fish in the Smokies.  We have a chance for showers this afternoon.

Little River is flowing at 234 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.93 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 390 cfs.  Water levels are typically high this time of year.  What we have now is a good “summer flow”, especially fine for dry fly fishing.

Most anglers are fishing with dry flies now that the hatches are more predictable and longer lived.  There are all kinds of bugs on the water.  Most likely you will see quill gordons and blue quills.  Try those dry fly patterns in sizes #12 or #14 and maybe go down to a #16.  A Parachute Adams works well in those sizes this time of year.

If the trout are not taking your surface offering, try a nymph, or two nymphs.  Or drop a nymph off a dry fly.  I would probably choose a Pheasant Tail or Quill Gordon wet fly.

I don’t think you will have any problems catching trout today or tomorrow.  At times the fishing will be slower than others.  That is typical.

Smallmouth bass should be getting active in the lowland rivers now that the water has warmed.  It’s hard to beat a black Wooly Bugger right now.  Who knows, you might catch them on the surface.

We have a cold front coming through beginning tomorrow night.  And, there is a chance for snow Monday night and Tuesday.  Cold temperatures will give to warmth by next  weekend.  Fishing should be good again next weekend.  It is certainly very good right now.  Yesterday, the water temperature in Little River peaked at 50 degrees.  I expect the same or warmer today.

My old friend Larry Johnson came by yesterday and we went to lunch.  Boy, did we have a good time.  We were laughing so hard in the restaurant, after paying the bill I suggested we leave so we didn’t get thrown out.  Tears were running down my face on the way out the door.  Three guys walked out with us.  One of them said, “We’re laughing as hard as you but we don’t know what we are laughing at”. 

I opened a franchised printing company when I was 23 years old in Nashville.  I later expanded to Lexington, Kentucky with a partner.  Larry owned a printing company in Mobile, Alabama.  We always hung out at franchise meetings together.  I guess we’ve been friends since sometime in the 1970’s.  He moved here.  We’ll be getting together more often now.  He said he loves fishing but prefers to use a spinning rod, a worm and a bobber.  You know, there’s a lot to be said for that.  Now that would make me feel like a kid again.

I need to buy a spinning rod and give that a try sometime.

I called TWRA yesterday and talked to Carl Williams.  I’ve known Carl for about 20 years.  He is our state crawfish expert.  We have hundreds of species of crayfish in Tennessee.  I bet he could identify them all.

I started thinking about trapping crawfish last year.  The problem was, back then, you could not legally remove crawfish from the river or lake where you catch them.  That rule was implemented so exotic and invasive species could not be transferred to streams or lakes that don’t have them in their populations.  So, you could not take the crawfish home to eat them.  I caught and ate crawfish when I was a kid.   I always loved doing that.

I talked to Bart Carter who is our Regional Fisheries Manager last year.  Bart told me TWRA was working on new regulations for people who wanted to trap crawfish for consumption.

Sure enough, I checked the new regulations and there they were.  Crawfish can be trapped or caught using almost any method except explosives or chemicals.  

The issue for me, that prompted my call to Carl, was the description of the trap.  The crawfish trap I intend to use looks like a minnow trap with a larger hole.  Minnow traps are limited to a smaller hole in Tennessee.  I don’t want to get caught with an illegal trap and lose my fishing privileges for a year.

Carl said the trap with the larger hole would be fine if my intent was to catch crawfish and not other fish.

So, I’m planning to order some traps, put out a couple at night and harvest the mud bugs the next morning before coming to work.

I think it might be too early to do this.  I don’t think the crawfish are very active right now.  But, I’ll order the traps and get ready. 

I would like to set traps at the lake while I go fishing.  I’ve seen some lobster sized crayfish in the lakes.  I’m concerned about PCBs.  I can only imagine that a crawfish, living on the bottom of a lake around here, must be contaminated. 

Before you do this, check the streams where you intend to trap crawfish.  Some streams are off limits due probably to threatened species or maybe exotic species.  I don’t know.  I’ll have to ask Carl about that.

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

Byron Begley
March 22, 2014  

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