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.  The sky is clear and it is 37 degrees in Townsend this morning.  This is going to be a nice day with a high temperature of around 53 degrees.

Little River is flowing at 425 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 2.57 feet on the gauge.  Median flow for this date is 369 cfs.

Fly fishing in the Smokies is fair.  The water is still somewhat high though certainly fishable in many areas.  The current is strong in Little River so use caution when wading.  Try not to wade much anyway.  That spooks the trout.

Start with nymphs if you go today.  Get your flies deep and near the bottom of the stream you are fishing.  The water temperature is chilly and most trout will be hunkered down for a while.  As the day progresses and the sun warms the water, they will become more active.  If you see bugs on the surface and trout rising to them, switch to dry flies.  If you spot a big brown and want to pursue that fish, tie on heavy tippet and a nymph.  These fish are not easy to catch but you might make it happen.

Fishing in Little River through Townsend has been pretty good.  Some very large rainbows have been stocked in the river.  Try a Olive Wooly Bugger for them.  A nymph fished under a strike indicator might work. Give a Clouser a try.

Lots of people are wondering about the fishing conditions beginning this coming weekend, which will be the beginning of the holiday visitor activity.  We have plenty of people in Townsend through New Years Day.  I have received several e-mails from visitors who will be here next week and the week after.  They are wondering about the fishing.

Of course, everything depends on the weather.  It is going to be warm this weekend and we may get some rain.  High temperatures Friday through Sunday should be in the 60’s.  It will be overcast.  The rain, if it happens will be warm.  I think fishing will be pretty good this weekend.  We’ll have to wait and see what the weather will be like after that.  The long term forecast calls for lows in the high 20’s and highs in the high 40’s through Christmas.

Christmas is a week away and we are busy.  We are selling a lot of Gift Cards.  The store is stocked very well and we are seeing a good number of customers here.  Mail order is still strong as we can get gifts out and delivered right now.  We will be very busy through New Years then it gets very quiet here until March. 

What we do to create activity during the two slow Winter months is hold special events on Saturdays.  Our lineup of events this year will be interesting, varied and not just focused on fly tying.  Sure, we will have many fly tyers demonstrating on Saturdays but there are some other special people who you will want to meet.  CLICK HERE to see the schedule.

Clayton Gist will be tying for you this Saturday, the 21st.  Clayton loves fly fishing for trout in the tailwaters.  I can tell he has some unique fly patterns due to the materials he buys here.  You will enjoy watching and visiting with Clayton.  He will be here between 10 am and 2 pm.  It’s Free!  Just show up.  Register to win a $100 gift card while you are here.  We give one away every Saturday that we hold a special event.  The drawing happens at 2 pm.

Most people don’t know how special the Great Smoky Mountains are during the winter.  First, there are almost no people.  This is the most visited National Park in the United States but after January 1st, you’ve pretty much got it to yourself. 

You can see so much more when the leaves have fallen.  I notice more details in the streams during the winter.  The mountain views are spectacular.  The cold air is clear so you can see long distances, much more than you can during the hot months.

I like to hike in January and February.  My favorite place to hike is along the Middle Prong of the Little River.  If the gravel road is closed to traffic which it often is, all the better.  Trekking along the gravel road allows you to concentrate on the stream and not where you are placing your feet. 

Frank, Wayne, Mouse and I found the Middle Prong of the Little River over 30 years ago.  Walking along that stream brings back so many memories.  I know the trees are larger but I don’t notice any change, nothing notable, dating back half of my life.  It looks the same.  Those huge boulders endured the flood of the century without budging an inch.  I love that place.

I locked the store last night and walked to my truck.  I could hear voices.  Steve Moore and Mark Sollenberger were in the parking lot.  Steve has been in charge of the Park’s fisheries program since the early 80’s.  I’ve known Mark since I moved here over 20 years ago.  He was a very active Trout Unlimited volunteer.  He did the grant writing for many years.  He had a knack for that.

I chatted with Mark and Steve for about half an hour.  Now that brought back memories.  The three of us worked together to raise money for the fisheries program by writing grants.  We were part of the first partnership between Trout Unlimited and the National Park Service. 

The funding of the massive brook trout restoration project started pouring into the Park when TU volunteers decided to work with Steve.  The original partnership between Great Smoky Mountains National Park began with the Little River Chapter and Great Smoky Mountains Chapter of Trout Unlimited in the early 90’s and it has continued to this day. 

Hundreds of Trout Unlimited volunteers have given their time to provide labor and funding to do all of this work.  The total value of that exceeds $2 million. The way it is done might be new to you.  Volunteer labor and cash donated to the Park, is leveraged to obtain matching funds from other government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Matt Kulp, a young fisheries biologist joined forces with Steve early on. Matt is smart and likeable.  He understands the value of volunteerism.  He will carry on, now that Steve is retiring next month.  I look back at the work that can be accomplished, when a few hundred anglers pitch in and back a fisheries program and we realize, without volunteerism, this would not have happened.  I’m proud to have been one of those volunteers.  What we have now are many restored brook trout streams in the Smokies that are open to fishing.  Most of them were closed to fishing two decades ago.  Hard work pays off.

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

Byron Begley
December 17, 2013  

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