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, Tennessee this morning.  Traffic was almost non-existent when I drove to work.  It is quiet in town.  Normally, we would be very busy.  The Park is still shut down.  Business is bad.

Little River is flowing at 110 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.66 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 72 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:50 am is a perfect 58 degrees again.

Though the Park is officially closed, rangers are allowing pedestrians to enter through the Townsend entrance.  Fishermen are included.  I would Park and check with a ranger at the entrance before going in to fish.  You never know, they may change their mind.  Letting people in is an un-official policy. 

From the Townsend entranceyou can easily walk up the East, West or Middle Prongs of the Little River to fish.  Walk on the roads.  There is almost no vehicle traffic to worry about. Rangers are using the roads and that’s about it.

The flows are perfect for dry fly fishing in the Smokies.  Any yellow dry fly will do.  Green Weenies and Pink Weenies are working well.  Try terrestrials like beetles and ants.

Anglers are searching elsewhere to fish due to the Park closure.  The South Cherokee National Forest (CNF) is a good option.  Tellico River and it’s tributaries are a good place to start. The Tellico River is beautiful right now.  Heck, it’s always beautiful.  Fishing is good too for stockers and wild trout.

The tailwaters are fishing well for trout and smallmouth bass.  It looks like you may have an opportunity on the Holston for wade fishing for a while today.  TVA will be generating at Norris Dam all day. Check the TVA website before you go.

The lowland rivers may be fishing well.  I have not heard anything positive or negative during the past few days.  Water levels are higher than normal but normal this time of year is pretty low.  The water temps are good.

Since our route to the lakes is closed (Foothills Parkway) I’ve stayed home on my days off for a couple of weeks.  I’m tying the heck out of flies.  For a while I tied “Game Changers” for Paula and I to use.  Now, I’m tying Knucklehads.  That is the only fly I tie to sell in the store.  We have been out of Chartreuse and Firetiger.  We’ve got plenty of Chartreuse Knucleheads now with more to come.  I’ll have the Firetigers stocked by the end of the week.

I have not seen, heard or read any news for about a week.  That is certainly unusual for me.  Frankly, I’m over it.  I’m sick of what is going on in Washington so for my own happiness, I am not going to worry about it.  I can’t do anything about it anyway.

Can you image what the animals are thinking in the Smokies?  Right now there would be thousands of cars driving around the Cades Cove loop, bumper to bumper, every day.  Now, there are none.  Think about the deer and bears that are hassled all day long by tourists trying to get a closer look or a picture.  They are gone.  There are no tourists. Every varmint is subject to continued harassment in the Smokies during October.  Not now.

It’s like, the critters are on vacation! I can just see the bears laying on the roads asleep, feeling the warmth of the pavement and no interruptions.  By the way, bear food is plentiful this year. 

The elk are probably walking out of the woods late in the day and wondering where the people are.  They may be out in the fields all day now.

For the most part, trout are enjoying a period of low to no fishing pressure.  We all know what the lack of fishing pressure does to trout.  They get dumb. Their most feared predator, humans, are not on the streams.  The fish will be reckless when we return.  Trout that exhibit a “risk taking” behavior equates to excellent fishing.  We know it and we are waiting.

Remember when there were trout fishing seasons?  It has not been that long ago.  I remember when the Park Service opened Abrams Creek to year round fishing in the 80’s.  We were all jumping up and down with excitement.  The elimination of trout seasons changed our whole game.  For instance, when the Quill Gordons hatched in the Smokies, people couldn’t fish.  The season was not open.  Now, when these bugs hatch, we are there.

I believe, when the Smokies re-open, fishing is going to be unbelievable.  I know, I’m like most of us, we usually predict better fishing than we actually get.  Fishing is typically unpredictable.  Some days we expect the norm and we catch fish hand over fist. 

All indications of perfect conditions can be offered up on a particular day and the fishing is terrible.  We don’t know why.  We come up with excuses like barometric pressure or the moon.  Maybe the wind is blowing from the east. 

Then, for no apparent reason, fishing is excellent. It is the best day of the year. 

You’ve got to admit, we like that unknown outcome.  It keeps us going back.  When we have a slow day, we know there are better days to come.  Some people don’t understand us.  Some people enjoy knowing that success depends entirely on their personal performance. Golf comes to mind.  Golfers can’t blame a bad day on the barometer or the moon phase.  I guess they can blame the wind.

Fishing success and happiness can also be dependent on “being at the right place at the right time”.  That requires skill and it requires luck.  We all know there are times when luck plays into our success and happiness.  Think about it.  How many thousands of times have you heard the words “luck” and “fishing” used in the same sentence?  How many times have you heard the question, “Having any luck?”  Maybe you have asked anglers that same question, thousands of times.

We cherish those wonderful lucky moments and share them with our fellow anglers for weeks or years.  Now, we can snap a picture with our cell phone and share the moments instantly.  I have been a fisherman for nearly 60 years and a fly fisherman for over 50 years.  The sport has changed over that time.  But the passion, heightened anticipation and the reason for going are the same. That will never change for me.

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

Byron Begley
October 10, 2013

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