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 55 degrees in Townsend this morning.  I know, the weather websites say it is warmer.  I check two thermometers.  It is 55 degrees.  We haven’t seen that number in a long time.  Traffic was fairly heavy.  I saw maybe 20 cars on my way to work.  Otherwise, August is quiet time in our town. 

Little River is low and it is going to get lower.  There is almost no chance for rain through Sunday.  Flow is currently 53 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 115 cfs.  The story is the same in other mini-watersheds in the Smokies.  I don’t know about the Little Pigeon, that gauge is not funded so there are no reports.  The water temperature in Little River was 65 degrees at 8:05 am. 

Fishing has to be getting tougher in the Smokies.  You can catch trout but you are also more likely to be seen and scare the daylights out of the fish than you would if the water were higher.  To be successful you really need to stay low and blend in.  Fish the faster water.  Hit the pockets behind rock in the riffles.  Dredge a nymph into the deep runs.  Use lighter than your normal tippet size.  Fish early and late.  Concentrate on shady water.  Fly patterns don’t matter as much as presentation. 

This is a very good time to be in the Great Smoky Mountains.  The temperatures are cool compared to what we had to live with in June and July.  Everything is green and lush.  The Summer crowds are gone. 

September is a fairly slow month in the Smokies too.  Labor day weekend will bring out the masses.  When the temperatures cool, and if the streams are full of water, the fly fishermen will become active.  Sometimes that happens in September.  It can be as late as October.  It depends on the weather.

Leaf lookers show up in mid October.  Tour buses will be here during that time.  We don’t see many tour buses until October. 

Around the 1st week of November, the leaves are falling or maybe they already have.  We often get our first frost in early November.  But, we have had snow in October.  Paula and I were backpacking on Halloween weekend one year and a fairly deep snow fell.  That was one of our most memorable backpacking trips.  We have been backcountry camping in the snow at other times.  That one was special.  The snow clung to the trees.  When my pack hit a limb, snow fell down the back of my neck.  But that was a great trip.

I’m looking forward to the lakes cooling down and getting back into fly fishing for smallmouth bass.  Threadfin shad flies work great in the Fall.  The work well all the time but they seem to be the food of choice in September. 

I tie our shad patterns using the 3-D technique and Enrico Puglisi materials.  I tie them using white body material and color the backs with a gray marker.  I tie them in all sizes down to a #4 egg hook.  That wide gape hook helps sink the fly and even thought these little guys are only 1 ¼” to 1 ½” long, you will hook a lot of smallies.  I’ve had good luck just casting them out and letting them sink.  I keep my line tight so I can feel the strike.

Last year Paula and I were fishing for smallmouth bass on Dale Hollow Lake.  The water was warm and the fish were deep.  I was casting an 8 wt with a sink tip line and a large Puglisi shad pattern.  I think it was tied on a #2 saltwater hook.  I felt a tug and after setting the hook I could see a large light brown fish swirl.  I thought I had a world record smallmouth bass.  That thing dove deep.  My 8 weight was bent double.  I battled that fish for a while.  Finally he gave up.  I netted a 8 pound flathead catfish. 

That was not exactly the species I was targeting but as you know, “It’s the not knowing that makes fishing so much fun”. 

“Not knowing” is what got me so into fishing early on and all my life.  When I was a child I would cast out my hook, sinker and bobber and wait.  I did not know what was down there in the depths of the Kentucky River.  Every fish was a surprise.

Sight fishing is my favorite form of fly fishing.  You can see a tarpon heading toward you and you start shaking. You prepare to make your only cast.  You don’t know what that fish is going to do.  You can cast a popper next to the bank in the lake.  The popper sits there.  You know a fish knows the popper is there.  You watch and you see a dark profile of a fish rise to the surface.  You don’t know what that fish is going to do.  It’s the not knowing thing that keeps me going back.

You may spot a big brown trout laying near the bottom of a river.  Or you may see a trout feeding on the surface.  You finally make that cast, hopefully the perfect cast.  Will you spook the trout?  You don’t know.  Will the trout eat your fly?  You don’t know.

Fly fishing in dark or deep water is another remarkable thrill.  You don’t know what is down there.  Is there a ten pound bass or a 20 pound brown looking at your fly?  Maybe there is a big redfish cruising the oyster beds.  You don’t know. 

When the fish finally takes your fly and you get a hookup more unknowns play into your sport.  Will the fish break off?  Will it tangle you in some submerged brush?  Will your hook just pop out of it’s mouth?  You don’t know.

Life is full of unknowns.  Some unknowns scare you to death.  Fishing unknowns make your life good.

Business is like fishing.  You never know what’s going to happen next.  When you think everything is going great, something new jumps out to get you.  I guess that’s why I have always liked owning a business. 

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

Byron Begley
August 22, 2012 

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