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 overcast and 70 degrees in Townsend this morning.  It is dark over the mountains.  A fairly large thunderstorm is dropping rain to our east in the Park.  We have a 50% chance for thunderstorms today. 

Little River is flowing at 125 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.65 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 123 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:50 am is 68.8 degrees.  We did get some rain last night at our house and in the Little River watershed.  We didn’t get any at the shop.

Fishing in the Smoky Mountains is good.  Trout are taking dry flies well.  Use a Yellow Sally stonefly imitation, Elk Hair Caddis or a black foam beetle.  Those beetles are producing well.  Nymphs will work too.  With our higher flows, you might do very well with a weighted nymph, such as a Copper John, Tellico, Prince or Pheasant Tail. 

Evening fishing is awesome right now.  The trout are hungry.  The water temperature is not bad and the water levels are normal for July.

We are getting showers and small thunderstorms almost every day.  It’s that time of year.  It was very dry early this month, but those rain events are really improving the fly fishing conditions.  Let’s hope that continues.

After today, it appears the rain is over until Sunday. 

Rain should not keep you from fly fishing.  Some of the best fishing I have experienced was during rain events.  Much of that could be attributed to cloud cover.  I love cloudy days and even try to schedule my day off each week when I know it will be cloudy.  That doesn’t always happen but I try. You do need to be careful and watch for rising water in the Smokies when storms are in the area. These streams can rise quickly.

There is always the option of going fishing very early or late so the bright sun doesn’t cause the food supply and the game fish to go deep.  Since I only fly fish, it is much more fun and productive for me when the fish are in shallow water.

I’ve found that trout and other game fish prefer deeper water on sunny days.  That is not always the case though, sometimes, it is just the opposite.  For the most part, where I fish, especially on the lakes, I do better on cloudy days. 

The bottom of the food chain is plankton in lakes.  Plankton is light sensitive. Some species of plankton can move up and down the water column.  That’s why you often see fish feeding on the surface, early and late.  The forage fish that feed on the plankton are usually found where the plankton is.

The game fish feed on the forage fish.  So, it makes sense and it has been proven, that game fish in the lakes tend to be near the surface during the darker times of the day, either because of cloud cover or due to the time of day, before the sun rises or after it sets.

There are always exceptions when it comes to fishing.  It is difficult to define rules. 

For me, sight fishing is difficult on cloudy days.  I don’t see the fish well.  Or, when I do, it’s too late.

Many times, we’ve been sitting in a flats boat, on a shoal, waiting for the sun to rise so we can see tarpon.  One day we were doing just that.  Paula and I were in one boat with our guide, and in another boat nearby was a guide and his client.

We talked with each other for a while, waiting for our time to fish.  The guide in the other boat had a client who had never fly fished for tarpon.  So, the guide stood up, grabbed a 12 weight and stripped off some line.  He intended to show his client what he needed to do when they started fishing.  The guide made cast pretty close to us.  When that fly and line hit the water, several huge tarpon exploded in the shallow water.  They were all around us and we didn’t know it.

And, to make matters worse for the guide, a tarpon took his fly.  The guide was able to shake the fly loose from the fish.  That’s a rule in fly fishing.  Guides don’t fish.  Clients fish.  That incident reminded me I should be casting instead of waiting and talking.  It’s hard to blind cast a 12 weight rod for long.  It is usually not productive and it will wear you out.  I wish I had done it that morning, before the guide did.

We are in the midst of tourist season in Townsend.  Our town changes from a very quiet place during the winter months, to a very busy place during the summer and the fall. 

Early in the year, sometimes even in February, most tourism activity comes from fly fishermen.  They find out the bugs are hatching and they come to the Smokies.  Rooms are readily available and rates are low. 

As the temperatures warm and the wildflowers emerge, we see photographers and nature lovers visiting.  Depending on the weather, that can be April or May.  At that point we have fishermen, hikers, nature lovers, campers, backpackers and photographers but still, it’s not that busy in town.

We get a spike in tourism during Spring Break.  College students appear in March.  We see some families, but still, our town is not that busy.

Late June and July are very active.  Families with young children flock into the area.  Townsend is very busy then.

The kids go back to school, earlier than they used to.  That begins in August, not that far off right now.  It gets quiet in town again.  Years ago, August was a pretty busy month here.

Then the leaves change in October.  The people are back in droves.  Tour busses arrive.  Motels and cabins are booked.  Restaurants are packed.  People love the Smokies when the leaves change.  Last year, the U.S. Government shut down the National Parks for two weeks.  That was a devastating blow to tourism here.  Some businesses never recovered.

Then, by early November, the leaves are gone and so are the people, except for the fishermen.  They are back.  The crowds are gone and fishing is usually good.  We often have frost and even snow in November but it doesn’t last long.  The days are usually fairly warm.

Activity in our store drops off during July and August.  Fishing conditions can be tough during that time if the water is low.  I think fly fishermen tend to stay away when our town and the Park are busy.  This July has been much better than normal, business is way up from last year.  Much of that is due to mail order, not people coming in the store.

This is a great place to live.  Our seasonal change is not only climate in nature, but also people in nature.

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

Byron Begley
July 24, 2014

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