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

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is overcast and 66 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Everything outdoors is dripping wet.  Traffic was light when I drove to work.  I might have seen 10 vehicles on the roads.  The tourism business was pretty good this weekend despite it being the week after a holiday weekend.

Little River is flowing at 388 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 163 cfs.  With all the rain we got yesterday, I’m surprised the river has dropped to this level.  The water was fairly clear this morning, which also came as a surprise.  The water temperature at 7:40 is 61.7 degrees.

With the higher than normal water, some anglers may feel it is too high to fish.  The gauge is reading 2.47 feet right now. Heck, it was at that level much of the Spring.  I think you will have some good fishing, especially this afternoon if we don’t get any more rain.

Nymphs might work best early.  Try a Prince Nymph, Bead Head Pheasant Tail or a Green Weenie with some split shot clamped on your tippet a few inches up from the fly.  In the backcountry, on the smaller streams dry flies might work.  I would use a Yellow Neversink Caddis or Yellow Stimulator.  Drop a nymph 12” back from the dry.  You can tie a piece of tippet to the hook bend of your dry fly using an improved clinch knot.  Then, tie on a nymph to the tailing tippet.  The dry fly will act a strike indicator and a dry fly all at the same time.  This rig doubles your chances to catch trout.  It also doubles the chance for tangles.

The lowland rivers are probably off color right now, downstream from small tributaries that run through farms.  Many of those creeks add silt to the lowland rivers.  Some creeks feeding into the lakes might be turbid as well.

Yesterday was crazy here due to weather.  Little River started the morning with a gauge reading of 1.73 feet which equates to 128 cfs.  When I got here at 7:30 am the gauge had 1/10th of an inch in it.  Then, it started raining hard.  I updated the Fishing Report at 11:45 am.  By then we had 2 ½ inchs in the gauge.  I updated the report again at 1:45 pm.  At that point there was data that seemed unbelievable.  The rain gauge had about 4” in it.  The river flow gauge was reading 2.85 feet, which meant the flow was 581 cfs.  That was a record for June 2nd.  Little River’s former record for this date was 550 cfs set in 1974.

When I left the shop last night to go home, the flow had peaked at 800 cfs.  Sometime last night there was some more rain in the mountains.  The flow increased to 900 cfs before making its decent to what we see now.  The decent has been quick.

The Knoxville Airport reported 2.50 inches of rain yesterday, which broke a record for that date of 1.57 inches set in 1969.

I watched those storms yesterday on the weather radar.  For the most part, later in the day, the storms were a narrow band moving north east right up the spine of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  That’s why we got 4 inches and the Airport got 2 ½ inches.

Since we are in the fly fishing business and our success is at the whim of the weather, I was concerned about the lake levels.  Anglers who fish the tailwaters are affected by lake levels.  So are anglers who fish in lakes.  Our lakes have been very high this year.  That opportunity for cheap power generation, and trying to control flooding, kept the tailwaters almost un-fishable much of the time.  I looked at most of the lake levels on the TVA website this morning.  What I saw appeared to be good news to me.  The lakes didn’t rise much, at least not yet.  I thought Douglas Lake would be very high.  It was not.  Norris Lake was not up much.  Cherokee Lake wasn’t either.  I even looked at Fort Loudoun and Center Hill.  They looked OK

I don’t watch those numbers much so maybe they are not updated as often as river flows.  But, if the lakes are not way up, generation schedules below the dams might not change for the worse.  That would be good news for tailwater anglers.  Maybe the heaviest rain missed the Holston, French Broad, Powell and upper Clinch Rivers.  I hope so.

I read a troubling article in the New York Times this morning.  You can read it by CLICKING HERE.  The title is “A Fight Over Water, and to Save a Way of Life”. 

Georgia, Alabama and Florida have been in the courts over water flows in the Chattahoochee River.  Georgia wants to hold back water to serve needs in Atlanta.  That leaves less water for Alabama.  Alabama wants more water in their State.  The Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers merge near Florida to form the Apalachicola River.  That river runs through a wetland with bio diversity that is only rivaled in the East by Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Lack of fresh water flow and nutrients have severely impacted the oyster population and other fish in Apalachicola Bay. So, Florida wants more water too.  This is an article you should read if you are like me and are interested in these things.

We had a good May at the shop despite terrible fishing conditions early on.  Since Troutfest was not held this year, that changed the whole dynamic of our business in May.  Many of the people who attended Troutfest were already customers here and we advertised the event on our website. Due to that, the week before and the week after the event were always dreadfully slow.  Many of our customers waited until Troutfest to shop here. 

Then, during the event we crammed all of that lost business into one weekend.  Every year it was chaos at the shop.  Customer service was not good.  There were long lines at the cash register checkout.  I worked at least 12 hard hours each day during the event every year and in 3 of those years I was Chairman of Troutfest.  That meant I was at the event early, before our store opened, and late after we closed.  Most of our staff pitched in and got us through.  We even hired extra people just to talk to customers.

This year, our May business leveled out.  But, the first week or so in the month was slow, like I said, because of weather.  The final outcome was, our sales were down but our profit was almost the same.  It was also less stressful for the staff and me.  Most people thought Troutfest was a windfall for us.  It wasn’t.

I loved that event though I never got to attend except briefly to work there on problems.  Troutfest was a good thing for fly fishing and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It was great for those who attended.  It was great for vendors. The volunteers loved it.

To put on an event like this required about 5 leaders, working 200 to 300 hours during the year preparing for it.  It also required over 100 other volunteers working a lot of hours to make it happen.  Troutfest may come back.  The reason it did not happen this year is, the leaders who worked the 200+ hours to make it happen, got tired.  I was one of them. I don’t have the stamina I had when I was younger.

We are looking at the younger people to take our place and to continue the event. The Little River Chapter may look at alternative fundraising events that don’t require so much planning and preparation.  Most people can’t give up 200 to 300 hours per year for volunteer work.  I have become on of those people.  We’ll see what happens in the future.  I would not write Troutfest off.  There are some young and very capable leaders out there right now thinking about this.

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

Byron Begley
June 3, 2013 

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