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

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is sunny and 75 degrees in Townsend this morning at 7:50 am.  It feels like Summer.  It is Summer.  There was a low lying fog in Dry Valley that was beautiful earlier.  You could barely see the ground but the mountains were poking out of the mist.  We have some beautiful sights here in the mornings.  This is a great place to live.

Little River is getting extremely low.  Flow is 77 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 136 cfs.  I guess “extremely” might be an overstatement of the facts.  Extremely low was 18 cfs in 1997 or 1998, I can’t remember which year.  I do remember the 18 cfs.  The water temperature was 68.3 degrees at 7:50 am this morning.

Trout fishing in the Smokies is different from what it was just two weeks ago.  Not only is the water low, it is getting warmer too.  Those two conditions drive the fish into the riffles for cover and more dissolved oxygen.  I was talking to Rob Fightmaster this morning.  He was waiting for some clients.  He said they are catching trout but his clients are having to work harder for them.  Rob is working harder too.  He is also driving up higher into the mountains to find more suitable fishing conditions. 

Josh told me yesterday his clients started catching trout when they went into the backcountry to get away from the people.  Remember, right now you need to stay low and hide from the trout.  Josh was encountering people walking up to where they were fishing yesterday and probably spooking the fish.  He took his folks into the backcountry to get away from the people and started catching trout.  There are a lot of visitors in the Park right now.  They are walking around, swimming, tubing, skipping rocks and all kinds of behavior that is not good for the angler. 

I talked to David yesterday.  He is doing well on Little River outside the Park.  My guess is he is talking about stocked trout.  I think he knows about a spot where there are springs cooling the water.  Little River is getting very warm during the day, especially outside the Park.

Since I started fly fishing for smallmouth bass and other fish species on the lakes I read and consider different strategy and take in new information every day.  Being in the fly fishing business, publishers send me all kinds of fishing magazines at no charge.  One that arrived recently was In-Fisherman.  There was not one fly fishing article in the whole magazine.  But, there was plenty of valuable stuff to read pertaining to fishing on lakes.

One article that caught my eye was a good one on “Swim Baits” and Northern Pike.  Swim Baits are very expensive, realistic and articulated lures.  They look like a fish and they swim like the real thing.  I found some online that cost $30 each.  They come in sizes up to about 12”.  Large Swim Baits require different rods than most anglers use.  You are casting a very heavy lure. 

So, what does that have to do with fly fishing?  Jack and I have been working on flies that might possibly swim and resemble a Swim Bait.  I have some Puglisi minnow imitations that are 6” long.  It is hard to tie a 12” realistic baitfish that can be cast with a fly rod but we may find out how to do just that at some point.

Another interesting statement in the article described the notion that fish become accustomed to a particular lure or fly and shy away from it.  Fish that have been caught and released learn lessons.  One lesson they learn is, don’t eat anything that looks like the fly that just caught them.

Tarpon have learned lessons that are not forgotten.  They are a very popular gamefish that live long lives and grow to be over 200 pounds.  Tarpon are not good to eat so for the most part, after they are hooked and played for hours, they are released.  Tarpon are known to live as long as 63 years.  So, during their life there is a very likely chance that they have been caught by humans, maybe several times.

When I first fished for tarpon in the Keys, we cast large baitfish flies to them.  That is what anglers used back then.  When those large flies stopped working in the Keys, the guides resorted to smaller flies.  They worked.  Meanwhile, in the Florida Panhandle, where some of the fish may come from South America as well as the migratory fish from the Keys, those tarpon still ate large baitfish patterns. 

And now, guides in the Keys are thinking that they should go back to larger flies and I know one guide who is trying it.  The tarpon that once ate large flies, eventually shunned them and they were caught using smaller flies.  Now, maybe they are accustomed to seeing the smaller flies and shunning them.  Remember, these fish have been around a long time.  Some of them were probably caught by Lefty when he was in his 40’s.  There may be tarpon swimming around that have been caught by Joe Brooks. 

Trout flies have changed drastically over the years.  Parachute and bead head flies came along during the past 25 years.  Foam flies have only been around for a couple of decades, maybe less.  Green Weenies are relatively new.  When will they stop working?  They may not.  Trout don’t live as long as tarpon.  A rainbow in the Smokies has an average life span of 3 years.  There is always a new crop of eager fish here that have never seen a Parachute Adams.  Brown trout live longer.  Maybe they will start shunning the Green Weenie or a Pheasant Tail.  Who knows.  It is all speculation but fun speculation.

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

Byron Begley
June 20, 2012


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