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 foggy and 53 degrees in Townsend this morning. Today is a Fall day, maybe not technically, but the hints are believable to me. Two wild turkeys were standing in our driveway next to the forest as I pulled out this morning. They slowly moseyed into the dense cover when my truck got within 20 feet of them. It reminded me of Thanksgiving. When I stepped out of my truck at work, a large flock of honking Canada geese flew over just above the roof of our store. Even that close, I could not see them well due to the fog.

Lynn caught 14 brown trout Thursday in 3 hours. The largest was 18”. He was fishing in the Park. Obviously the brown trout think it is Fall.

Leaves are turning too. I saw a lot of that this morning. Some trees are shedding.

Little River is in perfect shape. Flow is 247 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.12 feet on the flow gauge. Median flow for this date based on 49 years of data is 75 cfs. The water temperature at 7:55 am is 59.2 degrees. We’ve got a pretty good chance for more rain this week, 50% to 60% on Wednesday. That’s my day off of course. So, this trend of much better than average flows in the Smokies are likely continue into the Fall.

This may be the fly fishing Fall of a lifetime.

Trout are still taking dry flies with vigor. Yellow stones and beetles are the most common choice right now. Other patterns will work. Try an Orange Stimulator. To me, this is nymphing time. With nymphs, you have a better chance to catch that trophy trout in the Smokies. I would not rule out streamers. If you have learned to tie the “Game Changer”, color one up to look like a rainbow and give it some action that speaks “I am dying”. It might get eaten by something big.

The guides are excited. They haven’t seen an early Fall like this either. What is different are the stream flows. What we have now is a guide’s dream. They like to think about clients catching big browns or smallmouth bass. This could be their best year. They had a tough Spring due to high water but it is paying off now.

I will be rigging 8 and 9 weight outfits tomorrow. If we don’t get weathered out, Paula and I will be fly fishing for stripers and maybe big smallies on Wednesday. I’ve been tying baitfish patterns in the 5” to 7” range. I’ll need to make some short 12 pound to 16 pound leaders too.

Do you ever think about fishing for trophy brown trout in the tailwaters? They are there. Browns get up to 30” long in Little River. They are rare. One of my best friends caught one last year. Another of my best friends hooked and almost landed one two years ago.

These fish get bigger than that in the tailwaters. I saw a 22 pound brown caught in the Clinch. Biologists have shocked them larger than that in the Clinch. Those trophies are lurking in the South Holston too. Jack says they are in the Little Tennessee River. He lost one once that he thinks weighed about 25 pounds. I hooked one in the Cumberland River in Kentucky. It was as long as my leg. A professional guide I was fishing with almost fell out of the drift boat when he saw the fish. Unfortunately, I was using 6X tippet. But, we did get to see it. That was enough for me. They should be in the Caney Fork. They used to be there.

What do these monster trout eat? They eat other fish and rodents. They eat little stuff too. They eat crawfish. I would be trying to cast the largest rainbow trout looking fly I could in the Clinch or South Holston. Back it up with a heavy leader like you would use for salmon, at least 12 pound. Pick cloudy or rainy days. Maybe I’m just dreaming but that’s what I would be doing.

Jack and I were fishing in the Madison River near West Yellowstone, Montana with some other guys a few years ago. It was the last week of October. The big browns were spawning. Someone was fishing next to Jack and I can’t remember who. Maybe it was Roger. He hooked a large whitefish. It was probably 17” long. Suddenly his line went slack. Did the whitefish get off? Nope. It was eaten by a brown trout.

I was upstream and saw the commotion. I had no idea what was going on. Imagine the size of a brown that could eat a 17” whitefish. Those are the kinds of things that keep you up at night. I ran down there but it was too late. They almost beached the brown. It finally turned loose of the whitefish. I heard estimates of up to 35 inches describing the trout.

Jack did catch a 32” brown the next year in the Gibbon River. I have a picture of that somewhere.

These fish are out there folks and they are ripe for the picking. All it takes is a mindset, the right equipment, the fortitude to live with failure and patience. Skill certainly plays in. A lot of luck would be good. October through February is the time of year to do this. That’s when these big fish become less wary.

I hope I’m not keeping you from concentrating on work today with all this dreaming I’m doing. Great fishing, big trout, big smallies and Fall just go together. It’s that time folks.

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

Byron Begley
September 23, 2013

 

Respond to: byron@littleriveroutfitters.com


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