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

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is cloudy and 70 degrees this morning.  Everything is soaked.  We had 3 ½ inches of water in our rain gauge this morning.  I believe it.  Though last nights storms were scattered, it appears we were hit by every one of them.  I woke several times during the night to thunder and rain.

Little River is muddy and high.  It is still rising.  Who knows how far it will go before the crest.  Right now, flow is 1,040 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 3.56 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 124 cfs.  The water is muddy.  The spring creek that runs through our property is muddy and high.  The city drainage system is muddy. 

Frank, one of our policemen was parked next to the swinging bridge.  They keep an eye on the river when something like this happens.  Across the river from where he was parked is Dark Island.  This strip of homes that were built right next to each other can be cut off from the mainland by high water.  At times, the swinging bridge is the only means of escape over into Townsend. 

Adding insult to injury, there is a good chance for more thunderstorms through tomorrow night.

Some streams in the Smoky Mountains were hammered just like us and others were not, or not yet.  The Little Pigeon gauge looks about like ours, 3.39 feet and rising straight up.  The water is beginning to rise a little at Cataloochee Creek.  I checked that gauge early this morning and everything looked normal.  The gauge at Ononaluftee River rose some but it has presently crested.  It appears Tellico River was missed.  There is no change in flow there right now.  That may change.

So, you are going to find many streams in the Smokies blown out and you might find some that are fishable.  Right now, I would not consider wading at all in Little River unless one of the prongs was missed by the rain. 

Before planning your fishing vacation to Townsend this weekend, keep an eye on this report and I will update it as needed.

Paula and I fished the Little Tennessee River yesterday.  We got up at 4:00 am and launched the boat at 6:30 am.  Something seemed strange.  There was almost no visible fish activity.  There was no activity.  We only saw two trucks at the ramp.  We didn’t see smallmouth bass, trout, bluegill or minnows.  There was no movement on the water.  We did see a bald eagle.

Fishing was very slow, probably slower than it’s been all year.  I did not catch one smallmouth bass.  Paula read her kindle and lounged in the bow of the boat.  I tried fishing at several depths.  I used Byron’s Knuckleheads on top, Black Wooly Buggers down deep and Puglisi Threadfin Shad patterns at all depths.  Nothing!  We found abandoned shellcracker beds with no fish on them.  I didn’t even catch a bluegill.

Finally, a fish hit a wooly bugger where I was fishing in an area that I had never fished before.  At first I thought it was a smallmouth bass.  The fish turned out to be a yellow perch, a big one.  That was the first yellow perch I have ever caught.  Since they have a reputation as excellent table fare, I thumped him in the head and Paula put the fish in our cooler.

When we got home, Paula was in the kitchen watching a video on how to clean a yellow perch.  Some young guy was doing things to a dead fish I had never seen before.  First, he clipped all the fins with scissors.  Then he cut off the head.  After that, he sliced the skin down the backbone and using his fingers, pulled the skin off the carcass. 

I decided to do things my way.  I’ve cleaned thousands of fish.  I am at least three times as old as that kid.  After getting stuck by fins several times I did get out some kitchen shears and cut those off.  Then, I used a spoon to scale the fish on a cutting board at the kitchen sink.  Those scales would not come off.  I found my Troutfest knife which has a scale-blade on it.  That should work.  Nope, the scales would not come off.  Finally, I gave up and did everything that kid did in the video.  We are going to eat the fish tonight.

I froze the head and entrails to use for bait in a crawfish trap.

I knew this was a large yellow perch based on pictures I have seen.  I looked online to see what the Tennessee state record is for this species.  It turns out the record is 15.5”.  I measured mine.  It was 13 inches long.  Hey, I missed the record by only 2 ½ inches.  The state record was not caught on a fly rod so maybe I was holding a line class state record on the fly.  It doesn’t matter. 

I release almost everything I catch, especially trout and smallmouth bass.  I have never kept a smallmouth bass and probably never will. I do wish we had taken a picture of this trophy fish.

Yellow perch are not native to Tennessee.  I checked the TWRA website to see what they had to say.  According to them, some yellow perch migrated down the Ohio River, swam though locks and found their way to Tennessee.  These fish have also been found in impoundments that don’t have locks.  The perch can’t swim up a TVA or Corps of Engineers Dam.  According to what I read on this website, TWRA fisheries folks believe they fish were introduced, probably by people from the Midwest who moved here to retire.  Yellow perch, though non-native or exotic as they say, are not considered to be a nuisance species. 

I hope you can find some fishable water today.  It is not here in Townsend.  We’ll see plenty of cars and trucks with kayaks attached today.  Surely there won’t be people tubing.  We may have some rescues today.  That happens often when the river is this high during the tubing season. The tubing outfitters won’t let people go today.  It’s the independents we have to worry about.

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

Byron Begley
June 27, 2013

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