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 Smokies.  We have light rain and a temperature of 34 degrees in Townsend at 8 am.  The mountains are fogged in. It could be snowing up there.  It probably is.  Tonight’s low in the valley is supposed to be 22 degrees.  After tomorrow, it will warm up again.

Little River is flowing at 217 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.88 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 361 cfs.  The water temperature is 45 degrees right now.

Now that the water temperatures in the streams have held steady below 50 degrees, the fishing must be slower.  Tomorrow morning will be colder.  Some aquatic insects will be hatching and on the water.  They will have trouble today drying their wings, making them an easy target for a trout.  You may see some action today on top or using nymphs.  I don’t expect fishing to be like it was last week.  It will be much better than we had during the Winter, of course.

Wait until Thursday.  It’s going to be much warmer.  Fishing this weekend should be good, maybe very good.  We’ll have highs in the mid to high 60’s this weekend and lows in the 30’s.  It’s hard to say what the water temperature will be.  I will be warmer than tomorrow’s number.

Next week looks awesome with highs in the 70’s and lows in the 40’s.  I’m going fishing.  I’ll be off tomorrow getting the boat and our gear ready.  Then we’ll go fishing next Wednesday.  I’m hoping the smallmouth bass are moving into shallow water on the lakes.  I’ve heard they are doing that on Douglas Lake. 

We have a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency creel clerk working on Little River and the lakes around here.  He came by to see me yesterday.  We have 4 creel clerks in our region.  One works exclusively on Norris Lake. 

I don’t think we’ve had one working on Little River since I have lived here, 22 years now. 

There are two ways to gather data on a lake or river.  One involves capturing fish using either shocking devices or nets.  Fisheries biologists and technicians do that.  The other is creel clerks.  These folks interview fishermen.  They fill out a small form as they talk to each angler.  Recorded data includes numbers of different species caught and released, and the size of each fish that has been captured.  They actually measure the fish that have been kept. The creel clerks develop a database of information pertaining to hours fished and fish that are caught.

Fisheries managers use this information to make decisions concerning regulations and stocking. 

I am anxious to see the new Little River data.  I’ll probably have to wait a year. 

Extensive fish population monitoring has been done in the Smokies for decades.  They have data that shows increases and decreases in trout populations and other fish in the streams.  We know, fishermen have very little impact on fish populations in the Smokies.  Droughts and floods have huge impacts on populations.

More fishermen in the Smoky Mountains practice catch and release.  In the old days, it was common for a fisherman to keep any legal trout.  So, in some years, when there are minimal impacts due to droughts and floods, the trout population density is so high, there is not enough food to go around.  More, trout, less food per trout = smaller trout.

Conversely, when we have a drought that kills fish, or an age class of young trout are wiped out due to a flood, the fish are larger the next year. 

Right now, in the Little River watershed, the rainbows are larger and the brown trout are larger than normal.  Most fishermen who live here and fish here every year will tell you that.  I see the pictures too, just about every day.  Last fall and winter there were many 26” brown trout caught by friends of mine.  I didn’t see many if any over 26 inches.

Two years ago, a few browns larger than 26 inches were caught.  One 30” fish was landed by one of my friends.  Another, in that size range was lost by another friend of mine. 

I am really expecting a very good fishing year in the Smokies, hopefully better than last year.  We had a great Summer due to the abnormally high water.  Fishing in the Spring was not so good due to the same conditions, high water.  This year is starting out closer to normal.

I think fly fishing in the lakes will be better too unless we get pounded again with floods.  Last year, lake fishing was very unpredictable.  To quote most anglers, “Everything is running late”.

Again, fishing in the tailwaters will be better unless the weather patterns change.  Last year was awful during the Spring due to very high water.

So, here are my predictions.  As usual, I am optimistic. 

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

Byron Begley
March 25, 2014

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