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 Mountains.  It is sunny and 51 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Traffic was very light on my morning commute but I did see a lot of cars parked in the motel lots.  We must have a lot of visitors in Townsend.

Little River is flowing at a normal level right now.  Flow is 269 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.03 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 263 cfs.  The water temperature at 8:00 am is 53 degrees just inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It is going to be warm and sunny today.  The high temperature should reach 78 degrees.  The trees are growing leaves in the lower elevations so shaded water might be easier to find.  I would go later and give the water a chance to warm.

Most reasonable dry flies will work but I would use a Parachute Adams, Neversink Caddis or Elk Hair Caddis, mainly because they are easy for us to see.  I don’t think the trout care.  They are looking for food and there is very little chance for a specific hatch that would cause the fish to be selective on one aquatic insect species.  Get a good drift and stay well hidden.  Fish the shaded areas and the choppy water.  I don’t think a trout will be out in a slow pool today.  Use nymphs if they are not taking dries. 

The lakes are fishing better.  I’m hearing some awesome smallmouth bass stories.  Frank and I plan to fish for them tomorrow and Wednesday.  I think we will be fishing on the Little Tennessee River on Tellico Lake.  I know for sure we will be using Game Changers and 9 weight fly rods. 

The tailwaters are fishing very well, especially the Holston River below Cherokee Dam.  Those rainbows are big and fat.  I’m also hearing the caddis hatch has begun. 

The lowland rivers are in great shape.  Flows are normal and the water temperature is in the 50’s.  I’d like to see 60 degree water and you might today. 

I’ve been missing a lot of smallmouth bass on Game Changers and I think I know why.  Smallies like to bump a large baitfish or crawfish to stun it before eating it.  I’ve always heard that but never tried to develop a strategy until now to cope with this. 

If you notice, when your bass you just caught has a crawfish in it’s throat, the claws are sticking out.  They swallow them tail first.  Experts say these fish swallow baitfish head first after a pounding attack to disable the bait.

So, what we have to do is wait or strip strike when we feel the bump.  If you wait, the baitfish will fall and appear disabled to the bass.  If you strip strike, you will jerk it a short distance without pulling the fly out of the water and away from the bass. 

Now, saying it and doing it are two different things.  I’ve done a lot of strip striking while saltwater fly fishing. If for some reason you don’t hook the fish, your fly is still right in front of them for a second or third chance.  If you do a big “trout set”, you pull the fly away from the fish and probably out of the water. 

Seeing a large tarpon eat your fly is a thrilling experience.  In the early days of tarpon fishing, I couldn’t help but try to bury the hook in the tarpon’s mouth with a hard set the second I saw them eat the fly.  I lost a lot of big fish doing that. 

To correct this problem, we began letting the fish tighten up and feel it swimming away.  When we felt we had something in the mouth hooked, then we did the set.  Our hookup numbers improved dramatically.  Now, I think I need to do the same thing with these big baitfish patterns while fishing for smallies.  I’ll let you know how that works out Thursday.

I think we would all catch more fish on flies if we used the strip set more often.  First, you get a direct connection between your rod and the fish without losing strength through the bending of the rod.  Point the rod at the fish and jerk with your other hand holding the fly line.  Second, you won’t be pulling the fly too far away from the fish and you might get another chance.

It requires practice and concentration for trout fishermen to change to strip striking.  I know anglers who do nothing else unless they are fishing with dry flies or high sticking.  It’s practically impossible to strip strike when you are high sticking.  But, for streamer fishing which is what I do a lot of, I’m going to strip strike from now on unless I forget and do what I’ve done most of my life in freshwater.  It is a mindset.  I finally made myself do it in the ocean.  Now, I’ve got to change in freshwater.  Try it!

We are holding our first Intermediate Casting Class Saturday the 25th. This will be an excellent way for you to improve you fly fishing skills. Click on the button in the ad below to learn more.

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

Byron Begley
April 21, 2014

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