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 68 degrees in Townsend this morning.  I can’t believe May is almost over. 

We have low water in the Smokies.  The US Drought Monitor indicates we are in an area that is abnormally dry.  We are not in a drought, it’s just that rainfall amounts are below normal.  Rainfall at the Knoxville Airport is 5.13 inches below normal for the year, about an inch per month.  I’m not concerned but I’m not happy about it either. 

Little River is flowing at 105 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.57 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 187 cfs.  The water temperature at 8 am is 64 degrees.

Fly fishing in the Smokies is good, not excellent, due to the low water.  The temperatures are fine.  However, those who do not use low water tactics will not catch many trout.  Low water tactics include, lighter tippet, muted or camo clothing, keeping a low profile, and keeping your fly line away from your intended target.  You should fish the choppy, broken water.  Hit the pockets behind rocks.  Drift your fly down a deep run.  Try to fish shaded water. 

We should have some clouds later today.  The chance for rain is 50% this afternoon.  Cloudy days are good days to fish.  Right now it is sunny with no clouds.

The dry fly patterns that seem to be producing best are Light Cahills and Yellow Sally Stoneflies.  Green Weenies and other nymphs are working well too.

Some of our lakes are low.  Norris Lake for instance is about 8 feet below the high end of the Expected Elevation Range.  TVA tries to maintain that lake up to 1,020 feet above sea level during the recreation boating season.  It is currently at 1,012 feet.  Last year at this time, the level was higher than 1,020.

The TVA Operating Guide for Cherokee Lake indicates they like to have that level at about 1,068 feet above sea level if everything is perfect.  At midnight, it was 1,058 above sea level, a deficit of 10 feet.

Douglas Lake is at the high end of the Expected Elevation Range at 994.4 feet above sea level.  That’s good.

Tellico Lake and Fort Loudoun Lake are both operating at the high end of the Normal Operating Zone for this date.

Until we get some rain, dam releases at Norris and Cherokee Lakes may be less frequent and short lived.  I’m hearing complaints about that often from tailwater fishermen.  Fishing on those two tailwaters has been excellent despite the low water in the lakes abve the dams.  You’ve got to catch the water right for boating and wading.  Rocky Cox floated some clients down the Clinch two days ago and they did great.  Josh is experiencing very good fishing on the Holston below Cherokee Dam while drifting in a boat.  I will be fishing with Josh next week, probably on the Holston.

CLICK HERE to see the U.S. Drought Monitor.  You will notice that only the Southern Appalachians and a band running along the southern border of Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are affected by this rainfall deficit.  Right now, it is not serious.  Most other areas of the Eastern United States are in good shape.  Things look really bad in the west.

Frank Bryant, who owns Chota is coming by this morning.  We’ll probably spend a few hours together.  I’ll see a new product and we’ll talk about business.  We talked yesterday about the effects of the drought to our west on the fly fishing business.

The fly fishing industry can’t get a break.  Weather is hurting the industry.  Thankfully, the East, much of the Midwest and the Northwest are in good shape right now.  Elsewhere, things are not so good.

We had a tough year in 2013 due to weather and the shutdown of the U.S. Government.  They closed Great Smoky Mountains National Park during the peak of tourist season, October.  That was a devastating blow to the economy in our area.  Some businesses never recovered.  They closed or went into receivership.  Our business was down 33% in October 2013 compared to October 2012. 

We had high water and un-fishable streams and tailwaters during much of the Spring last year.  It seemed like the high water always occurred on the weekends. 

This year, fishing has been very good in the Great Smoky Mountains.  A little rain would help but fishing is still good right now.  Hopefully, we won’t have another Government shutdown. 

Business seems to be brisk in our town again.  I’m hearing it from several business owners. 

But, you never know what is lurking around the corner.  That is the challenge of operating a business.  You never know what’s coming next.  I may be whining about high water next week.

I must like the challenge.  I’ve owned a business for 40 consecutive years and this one for almost 20 years.  I love what I do.  I’ll be 63 years old in 41 days and I am not considering retiring.  I hope to be sitting here, writing a fishing report, ten years from now.

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

Byron Begley
May 30, 2014

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