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

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is foggy and 58 degrees this morning in Townsend.  It feels great outside.  I thought about a couple from Atlanta I talked to yesterday.  They were camping at Elkmont.  It told them “It is going to get cold up there tonight”.  Traffic was light this morning.  There were several people walking along the bike trail and the sidewalk on the other side of the road.  We have several miles of an off street bicycling trail.  That is one of our assets in addition to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cades Cove, Little River and numerous lakes in our area.  I could fill a few pages with a list of our assets.  I forgot to mention 800 miles of fishable wild trout streams.

Little River is running lower this morning.  Flow is currently 105 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 144 cfs.  The discrepancy is caused partially because the median flow for this date is high.  Median flows have been running around 115 cfs lately.  August 12th or the day before have a history of rain over the past 44 years since this gauge has been here and reporting data.  The water temperature is lower than I’ve seen in a while, 65.7 degrees.

The weather forecast has changed.  It is not going to be as cool as predicted a day ago.  But, it is still going to be cool, not much above normal. 

Fishing is good.  The streams are in great shape in the Smokies.  They are cooler.  Trout will be active.  These are dry fly conditions.  I always mention the Yellow Sally patterns as a choice during the summer.  I know, because we sell a lot of them, that they are used throughout the Park this time of year.  Small Yellow Stimulators and yellow Neversink Caddis are the most popular patterns.  But let’s not forget about the old standard that we’ve been selling for the past 18 years, the Parachute Adams.  Maybe it’s time to tie on a Parachute Adams.  Or, maybe you should use the older version, “the Adams”.  They will work. 

Let’s not forget the Elk Hair Caddis, one of my all time favorites.  I like them because they are easy to tie and they float like corks.  You can tie them in a variety of colors like olive or yellow.  I tie in some chartreuse calf body hair in front of the wing so I can see it on the water.  I usually tie mine without hackle so they ride lower on the surface.  If yours have hackle, you can trim them off underneath the fly.

The Green Weenie is still a stellar choice.  Maybe someday the trout will figure out the green inchworm can sting.  That’s not too likely in the Smokies.  The rainbows only live about three years here.  The brook trout have a short memory.  But the browns, they don’t forget.  They are constantly on the defensive except during the spawn.

The lowland streams should be clearing and smallmouth bass fishing should be getting better.  I have not seen lower Little River in a couple of days.  Here in town, it looks great.

I talked to Caleb yesterday.  He works on the fisheries team with Steve Moore and Matt Kulp.  We were talking about brook trout populations.  They have been sampling brookie streams off and on all Summer.  I rarely mention those small streams by name on the internet. They are alive and well and there are plenty to choose from.  We will tell you personally where they are.  Most people around here know.

Caleb said they are finding some 10” Southern Appalachian strain fish.  Though density may be low in some of the streams, anglers will not know the difference.  Like Caleb said, “If you catch two trout out of a pool, your are happy”.  Since most people practice catch and release, the lower density streams will fulfill an anglers expectations for years to come. 

There are other streams that have high density populations.  Overall, the brook trout restoration project that has been underway for at least 20+ years is working and we’ll be able to enjoy more pure brook trout streams in the near future.  I’m waiting for the day when Lynn Camp Prong is re-opened.  I will be there opening day, God willing.

Fly fishing author John Ross is in town.  He was fishing in the Park yesterday.  I see John often though he lives in Virginia.  He is an avid trout angler and conservationist but he also shares my passion for smallmouth bass fishing.  He was telling me about some awesome smallie streams in Virginia that I had never heard of.

I have had the best opportunity of anyone I know to meet interesting people.  Yesterday’s winner is a tug boat captain.  This guy lives in Kentucky and flies out of Lexington to wherever his company sends him to push barges up and down rivers.  When he is pushing three barges, the total length of the connected vessels is 1,000 feet.

He told me about one river in Illinois that he navigates often.  At one point the depth is only 10 feet.  A loaded barge drafts 9’.  His tug drafts 10 feet.  How does he do it?  His pilot’s bridge is mechanically extendable and retractable.  Evidently, when he drives under a low bridge, he hits a button and the whole pilot’s bridge lowers, allowing him to pass under.  The one problem is, he can’t see over the barges.  That’s a scary thought. 

On some rivers he has to know where the pull-offs are.  Some of the rivers are only wide enough for one barge in the channel. The tug boat captains are in constant contact with each other.  When they approach each other from different directions, one has to pull over a push the barges into the shallow water so the other can pass.    

I know other barge captains.  We have one who is a contributor on our message board and I have met him personally.

I grew up on the Kentucky River and was a young unofficial captain during my younger years.  I encountered tugs and barges in those days on the river.  The locks were closed at some point and the big boats went away.  Before the locks were locked, I often drove my boat 110 miles from Boonesborough to Frankfort by river.  I always took friends with me and we camped along the way.

On one of those excursions, we encountered some nasty weather.  We pulled into a boat dock at Camp Nelson.  The dock owner let us sleep under the cover on his pontoon boat.  We awoke the next morning to see barges lined up to lock through.  That would take hours.  We drove my Boston Whaler over to talk to one of the tug captains and the lock master.  They agreed to let us lock through with one barge and a tug.  The barge was placed on one side of the lock and the tug on the other.  We were in front of the tug.  That plan was designed to keep us from being crushed by the barge should it break loose from the lock wall.  I will never forget that day.  I had locked through with plenty of other pleasure boats, but never with a barge. 

I told someone the other day, I want to drag our boat back to Kentucky and cruise some of my old haunts that I visited from the time I was a toddler until my late teens.  Those were great times. 

It would be of particular interest today since we have depth finders.  Sonar was used by the Navy back then.  We didn’t have them.  Now you can buy one for $80.  I would like to know how deep that river is and how close I came to running aground all those years.    Maybe it’s better that I don’t know.

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

Byron Begley
August 12, 2012 


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