Townsend, Tennessee - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, East Tennessee and Western North Carolina

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is overcast, raining and 58 degrees in Townsend this morning.  A thunderstorm could be heard from our house earlier.  We had a brief heavy rain at that time.  I looked at the weather radar this morning early.  It looks like we are in for some heavy rain and storms, today and tonight.

Since the USGS web page that displays the water temperature in Little River is inoperable, I stopped at the swinging bridge to take the reading myself.  The water temperature was 54 degrees at 7:55 am. 

The flow in Little River has not shown much of an increase yet.  I think it will.  Currently, the flow is 70 cubic feet per second (cfs).  Median flow for this date is 218 cfs.  The rain is still coming down hard.   

Fishing in the Smoky Mountains has been great.  We didn’t see many anglers last week until Thursday.  After that we saw more and many of them reported very good fishing.  The fly pick was certainly a Blue Wing Olive dry fly in sizes #16 down to #20.  Though the water is low, rainbows were slamming the dry flies on top. 

That may not be the case today.  When strong fronts move in the fishing can be very slow.  Sometimes, fronts can turn the fish on.  I’ve looked at all the weather websites this morning.  I really don’t think it is a good idea to be fishing in the Park today.  We may get some strong wind and lightning.  That may not happen but it’s better to be safe.  I would not go.

A cold front will dominate our weather starting tonight.  The low is expected to be 35 degrees.  Temperatures will dip into the high 20’s tomorrow night through Thursday night.  The water temperature will drop.  The daytime temperatures will be pleasant and more normal than they have been.  The weekend looks better, but right now the weather sites are predicting rain on Saturday. We have a 40% chance. 

Steve Moore came by yesterday.  He runs the Fisheries Department at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Steve has been in charge there since the early 1980’s.  He brought Paula 3 deer livers.  He does that at least once a year.  She makes deer liver pate and it is great. 

Steve and I talked for about an hour.  I have not seen him much this year so we had a lot of catching up to do.  I always learn a lot of cool fisheries biology stuff from him.  And we always talk about fishing.  He is a very good fly fisherman.  He kicked my backside on Lynn Camp Prong one time and he sometimes brings that up in conversations.  Since we are good friends, we give each other a lot of crap.

We talked about Cataloochee for a few minutes.  The fish population has changed there.  I hear it all the time.  Anglers are catching brook trout in the lower elevations.  It seems to me that happened after the two terrible droughts we had a few years back.  Steve said he was working over there and fished Cataloochee Creek one day, down near the first bridge below the campground.  He said he caught a 11 ½” brook trout.  That was unheard of 25 years ago.

I remember the old days, camping and fishing at Cataloochee.  Back then, you could pull into the campground, fill out an envelope and stick some cash in it, drop it in the slot then set up camp. We pretty much had the creeks to ourselves during the week.  The campground was only full on weekends and that was rare when we were there.  I think the campground had about 60 campsites.

Then, elk were introduced into Cataloochee Valley.  They are doing well.  People flock to the area to see these magnificent animals, lots of people.  Now the campground has a reservation policy, it’s on the grid.  Stocking elk was a good thing and I’m glad the elk are there.  It’s just different.  So, we don’t go there anymore to fish.  We haven’t been in years.

So, why have brook trout taken such a strong hold in the lower elevations over there?  Steve said it could be the lower water.  We have had several years of low water in the Smokies.  Brook trout do fine in small streams and brooks.  Maybe that is the answer.  He has not tried to prove it scientifically and is only speculating that the lower flows could make a difference.  We’ll probably never know until we have a long stretch of wet years.  Then the answer may become evident. The brook trout will move into the higher and smaller streams and the rainbows will take over down low.

I still wonder why the elk have not found Cades Cove.  They did wander down to Cherokee from Cataloochee and established themselves there.  Some biologists say things might be different if the elk were re-introduced into Hazel Creek.  I think that was one of the options.  From there, it would be more likely that they would find Cades Cove.  I think it will eventually happen.  The bulls don’t get far away from the cows in the Fall.  If a few cows find the Cove, the bulls will be there.  I hope that happens in my lifetime.

Having adult elk running around outside the Park could be a safety issue.  This morning I was driving on Old Cades Cove Road, going to work.  I went around a curve and there were three wild turkeys standing in the road.  I drive slow, but I hit the brakes, stopping in plenty of time.  The turkeys wandered off and I drove on.  What if I were driving that road at night and came upon a 1,200 pound elk standing in the road? When they populate here I’ll be driving even slower.

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

Byron Begley
December 10, 2012  

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