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 54 degrees in Townsend, Tennessee this morning.  It is Saturday and the Park is still closed.  It was hard to see the parking lots at the motels this morning.  I did see what was going on at the Best Western.  Their parking lot was full of cars.  I did notice a lot of traffic around town last night.  When I came to work this early this morning, I had the roads mostly to myself.

Little River is still flowing above normal.  Flow right now is 98 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.61 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 66 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:50 am is a perfect 58 degrees.

I know the brown trout are active and out in the open, during the day in the Smokies.  The problem is, not many people are enjoying that view.  Don’t worry, they will still be out and active when the Park re-opens unless this goes on for the balance of the year.  Some of the best brown trout fishing in the Smokies occurs in November through February.  That’s when the big fish are caught.  Most anglers I know leave them alone when they are actually spawning.

Fishing in the Smokies is good overall right now.  The conditions are perfect.  Dry flies are working well.  We’re still recommending yellow dry fly patterns though others will work.  Fishing in the Tellico River drainage in the Cherokee National Forest is very good.

You can fish in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Just go to the Townsend entrance, park and walk in.  The rangers don’t care.  You will be a short distance from all three prongs of Little River.  I would choose the Middle or West Prongs.  The rangers will tell you to be careful.  Don’t get lost and don’t get hurt!

Smallmouth bass fishing in Little River has been good too.  I’m sure that is true of all the lowland rivers flowing out of the Smokies.  This is an underutilized fishery, especially this time of year.  You are most likely to see only local anglers.  And, you are less likely to see any right now because some hunting seasons are open.

We are going to have nice cool weather for the next 10 days.  However, this weekend we will see high temperatures in the upper 70’s.  Next week we are expecting highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s.

If you can get on a tailwater, the fishing has been good for trout in the upper sections and smallmouth bass downstream.  It looks like you have some opportunities today on the Clinch until this afternoon.  The same holds true for the Holston below Cherokee Dam.  Check the TVA schedule and develop a strategy.

I keep hearing the Hiwassee is warm but the trout fishing is pretty good.  I would imagine, if you hired a guide, the fishing would be even better.  Those guys know how to put you on trout.

The same holds true for our local tailwaters.  Hire a guide and you can enjoy an all day float and excellent fishing.

Guides are not allowed to do business in Great Smoky Mountains National Park while it is closed.  We can’t take students into the Park for a class.  We all have a commercial use permit.  We have all been notified to stay out of the Park.  So, if you want to fish the Smokies, you will have to do it on your own.

Our governor is working with Congress and the Department of the Interior to re-open the Park.  Estimates from one organization of retired park employees has put the loss so far at over $23 million dollars since the Park closed.  October is a huge revenue month in the towns nearby. It costs about $50,000 per day to staff the Park and keep it open.

Our business is down over 40% since this shut-down began.  Before that, business was up from last year.  We stopped ordering merchandise temporarily but we have not cut any of the staffs hours.  We are spending our time remodeling the shop and that is going well.  I spent much of yesterday afternoon on a ladder retrofitting lighting fixtures and moving others.  I woke this morning sore, especially my fingers, from twisting wire and tightening wire nuts.  Bill Hey was doing the same thing.  We will both continue today.

We will open the pipeline for merchandise shipments next week cautiously.  If the park re-opens we’ll open the valve all the way.  Most of our Fall merchandise was ordered under what we call a pre-season order.  Our reward for doing that is extra margin and more time to pay.  In many cases, we will sell the merchandise before we have to pay for it.

That system continues into and through the next year under the pre-season order programs.  The problem is, we have to manage it successfully like some of our competitors do.  On the other hand we can guess wrong and not manage it well.  The same thing happens to some of our competitors.  Right now, we manage it well.  If you don’t manage it well, you will probably go broke.

We don’t believe in, nor have we ever financed our inventory or anything else.  Little River Outfitters has never had debt, not since we bought the store 19 years ago.  I don’t think you could stay open in this business if you had debt.  You would have to be a super star manager to make it work.  You would probably have to run a very low payroll and not give good service to survive.  We do have a small mortgage on our building but we could pay it off today if we had to.  Most of the some 300+ fly shops that have closed during the past few years probably had debt.  That’s my opinion.  We would have closed too.

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

Byron Begley
October 12, 2013 

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