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 58 degrees in Townsend this morning.

I jumped out of bed at 5:00 am and turned on my computer.  The news was bad.  Our government is shutting down.  Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closing and most of the over 300 employees will be furloughed.  Law enforcement and some maintenance workers will still be on the job.

I drove though town at 7:15 am.  I noticed a tour bus parked near the road.  The motels had cars parked in their lots.  The campgrounds had campers but they were not full.  I drove on to Great Smoky Mountains National Park expecting to be stopped by a ranger.  Nobody was there.  I drove right in and hung a right to the Tremont road. 

The Park will close sometime today.  I visited several websites this morning and last night, trying to determine how this will work and who will be affected.  This is what I read and I’m going by memory, which is a dangerous thing.  Also, everything I found was published by the news media before the shutdown at midnight.  So, things may change.  Plans may be different now. Here’s what I remember reading:

First, the furloughed employees at the Park may not get paid.  I did read something on a website pertaining to the last shutdown.  I think some or all employees were paid eventually. I hope that is the case here.  Many of the furloughed employees in the Park are friends of mine and many of them live in the Townsend, Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge area. 

Roads leading into the Park and within the Park will be closed except Highway 441 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee.  Parking areas and Clingmans Dome will be closed. Both sections of the Foothills Parkway will be closed according to what I read.

Pedestrians and bicycle riders will not be allowed on the closed roads.  Trails will be closed.  You should not be in the Park.

Campers will have to leave in 48 hours.  Their paid fees for days they will not be camping will be refunded.  Hopefully, many of those campers can find a spot at our developed campgrounds in Townsend and Walland.  Visit our “Plan you Trip” menu item above for a listing and links to campgrounds, hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and cabin rentals in our County.

From what I can gather online, you won’t be able to fish within the boundaries of the Park.

I hope all of this is not true.  I am hopeful that we learn things are not so bad.

Hundreds of thousands of people who plan to visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park are going to be disappointed.  October visitation in the Smokies is the second highest month of the year.  The economy of the United States will be harmed and to what extent we don’t know.  Also, the tourism industry and the prosperity of our citizens, including those furloughed by the Department of the Interior could be on shaky ground for some period of time.  Maybe this shutdown will be brief.  We hope so.

So, what if you have planned a vacation to the Smokies in October?  What should you do?

All of us in the gateway towns hope you visit us anyway.  Don’t cancel your reservations yet.  This problem could be over soon and there is a chance that legislation could exempt the Park Service and order funding for it. That was mentioned yesterday by a Senator. 

Many of you will be here to enjoy the Fall colors.  You can still do that even if the Park remains closed during your stay.  This is a beautiful place, outside the Park. 

I can’t find anything online that mentions the closing of the National Forests.  The roads may remain open.  We’ll probably find out today.  Those roads may include the Cherohala Skyway.  I think it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to drive to Tellico Plains from here.  That is a beautiful drive, especially in the Fall.

If you want to fish, there are plenty of other options available.  Bring your boat and fish one of the many lakes we have here.  Bring your canoe or kayak.  Hire a guide and float the tailwaters.  Fall fishing for trout and smallmouth bass is excellent right now. 

Fish in Little River outside the Park for trout and smallmouth bass.  I’m sure we’ll be contacting TWRA about extra stocking of rainbow trout this month if the Park remains closed.  You can hire Josh Pfeiffer to float you down the lower Little River in his raft and fish for smallies.  Or, you can rent a canoe and shuttle at River John’s and do it yourself.  I think the cost is about $40 per day. 

You can fly fish in the Little Pigeon River though Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville.  Trout and smallmouth bass fishing is excellent in the Little Pigeon.

I bet the tribal waters in Cherokee will be open for fishing.  There’s another option.

You can drive to Reliance, Tennessee and hire a guide to float you down the Hiwassee River.  That is a beautiful river.  I’m not sure it will be open because it is in the Cherokee National Forest.  If the forest is open, you can fish the trout streams there.  You can be in Tellico Plains or Reliance in an hour and a half or less from here.

There are many opportunities for you to try something new while enjoying your visit to Townsend, Walland and the surrounding areas near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

So, there’s my sales pitch.  Get online and start checking this out.  Make the best out of it.  That’s what we are going to do.  Three guides we work closely with are Mike Bone, Rob Fightmaster and Josh Pfeiffer.  You can visit their websites by clicking on their names.  There are many other guides near the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina.  You can find them easily online.

Some people will be canceling their reservations so you may be able to find accommodations though you don’t have a reservation right now.  You may not be able to camp at Elkmont or Cades Cove so stay in one of our developed campgrounds.  They are nice, really nice.     

Send me an e-mail and ask questions.  I answer every one that doesn’t get spammed out and most don’t.  You can also reach us by phone at 865-448-9459.  You can reach Daniel at

Our staff will not be furloughed so we’ll all be here to help you.  This problem may be over soon so please don’t over-react.  That might be a mistake.  I will keep you posted on what’s going on here.

UPDATE: There is discussion going on in the Senate at 11:23 am to fund the Park Service. This was also mentioned last night. It would take a simple bill, one similar to the bill that guarantees pay to our military personnel, which was passed yesterday.

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

Byron Begley
October 1, 2013

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