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 68 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Wildlife activity is high.  I saw several wild turkeys in front of our house when I drove to work.  Human activity is low.  I saw two vehicles on my morning commute.  I usually see 15 to 20 or more.  I guess everyone slept in.

Little River is flowing high and fast.  Flow right now is 916 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 3.39 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 125 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:45 am is 61.2 degrees.

I would not go fishing in the Smokies today, at least not in the Little River watershed.  I don’t know about the others.  We are currently under a flood advisory and watch.  The conditions are perfect for flash flooding.  The rivers are already high and the ground is saturated.  We have an 80% chance for heavy rain today and tonight.  If you were standing in the river, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and  if what happened yesterday happened to you, you could drown.  We do not take beginner fly fishing customers on the stream if the Little River flow gauge is reading 2.5 feet or higher.

The Park Service has been issuing warnings this week to stay out of the rivers in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Yesterday morning, the gauge reading was 2.97 feet.  At around noon, heavy rain fell in the Little River drainage, probably on the East Prong.  It was sunny and dry most of the morning here. 

Witnesses reported very high water all of a sudden at Metcalf Bottoms.  Quickly, the water level at the Townsend gauge rose to 4.2 feet.  A rise of 1 foot may not seem like a huge fluctuation but it is.  In terms of cubic feet per second, the river discharge grew from 652 cfs to 1,200 cfs.  Flow doubled for all practical purposes. The river is wide at the gauge.  Water levels in constricted areas of the river rose much higher.  All of a sudden the flow in Little River rose to set a new record for the date.  The prior record was set in 1972 at 801 cfs.

We heard sirens and saw rescue vehicles passing the shop.  I drove down to the swinging bridge and walked out over the river.  The water was the color of coffee with a little cream mixed in.  I looked at the banks and wondered what it would be like to be hanging on to a tree, trying to get out of the river and waiting for help.  That is exactly what was happening.  I grew up on the Kentucky River.  I owned my own boat on that river since I was 14 years old.  I have personally watched two people drown and I’ve seen many accidents.  I’ve had several close calls myself.  I guess you could say I respect rivers and have first hand knowledge about consequences due to Mother Nature or ignorance.  Some people just don’t understand the power of a river.

People were tubing in town.  The water rose into the trees.  A 911 call prompted the Townsend Area Fire Department Swift Water Rescue Team into action.  Someone was screaming for help while hanging onto a tree in the swift water.  One of our policemen, while on patrol, heard the person and made the call.

Our rescue team is well trained and they get plenty of on the job training as well.  When they responded to the first stranded tuber, they realized there were other people in the same situation.  Our team called in the Blount County Rescue Squad for help.  Eleven people were rescued.  Nobody was hurt badly.  Nobody drowned. 

If our rescue team had not been on the site quickly, and if they lacked the rescue skills needed in a situation like this, things could have been much worse.  These brave men and women perform the same dangerous tasks as the U.S. Coast Guard.  They swim across flooded rivers with ropes to save people’s lives.  I know some of these people personally and I have a lot of respect and admiration for our Volunteer Fire Department. 

Our Fire Chief is Don Stallions.  Will McCampbell is our Assistant Chief.  Don and Will have arranged for extensive training in swift water rescue for the team and that has saved peoples lives.  Our Police Department and Fire Department are a team of super hero’s to me.  These brave men and women also perform rescues in the National Park.  They did one a week or so ago at the “Y”.  You can read the story on the Daily Times website by CLICKING HERE

Next time you drive by our fire station, stop in and tell the folks “Thanks”.  Donate some money.  I will be paying bills today.  I’m going to write a check to the Townsend Area Volunteer Fire Department as a donation.  If you see a policeman in town, pull over and thank them.  They will all appreciate that.  That’s what I’m going to do, again.

There is not much fishing to talk about today.  Not many people are fishing.  We are talking about the opportunities that lie ahead.  This rain will eventually be a blessing from a fly fishing perspective.  We expect good river flows and cooler temperatures in July and maybe August.  We may see higher than average generation at our TVA dams.  That could be the down side.  The lakes should be cooler this Summer.  That will be good.  The guides who float anglers down the tailwaters should have a great Summer of fishing. Lowland rivers will have plenty of flow.  I guess you can tell I’m expecting this wet spell to taper off.  It always does.

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

Byron Begley
July 7, 2013

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