All’s quiet in the Tennessee Smokies after Labor Day Weekend

I kind of feel like Garrison Keeler when I say it’s been a quiet week in my hometown, Townsend on the edge of the Smokies. I’ve been out on the water with folks a few days this week. Last Sunday I walked above Elkmont with Craig Ward and his son Anderson. Craig went to Hazel Creek with us last spring and spent his first day on Little River. Water level were the best they had been in a while after some good rain. Fishing was pretty good; not anything to go nuts over, but better than we’ve come to expect in the dry weather. I’m guessing that the dry weather kept most anglers in on Labor Day weekend since we didn’t see any other fishermen and had the water to ourselves.

Smoky Mountain black bear
We’ve seen this guy several times this week.

We saw a black bear making his way down the river’s edge. He paused to sniff the air, look at us, and continue on his way. He turned up again later in the day as we were hiking back down the trail to the car. He’s about average for the size of bears we see in the Smokies and his behavior was typical. He acknowledged us but kept on going; not really afraid of us, but not really interested either.

On Monday I took Jay Follis and his father Jerry over to the Holston River to fly fish for smallmouth bass. Jerry fished spinning tackle all day and received sporadic action on a Zara Spook, small Rapala, and a white fluke. Jay saw far more action on popping bugs. A #8 Peeper Popper did pretty well, but most of the smallies came to a #6 Sneaky Pete. The fishing was a little slower overall than we’ve seen in previous weeks, but it was still OK. My favorite moment of the day was when Jay said, “There’s one!” as he cast the popper to the fish. He popped it once and the bass rose on the fly slowly and deliberately. He got a couple of jumps and runs out of the fish before it shook free, but still very cool nonetheless.

Yesterday I took Joe Love up the Little River above Elkmont. Overnight temperatures were very cool and the fish were active in spite of low water conditions. Autumn seemed to be in the air. The fish responded better to #18 BWO Parachutes than they did ants and #16 Parachute Adams, another sign of autumn. Joe caught a number of nice rainbows in the 6-9″ range and missed plenty more. We saw a good number of brown trout, several 14″ or larger, but they were pretty flaky in the low water.

Charity and I are preparing for our annual Western fly fishing odyssey and should be able to make reports from the road. We’re hosting a group at Kelly Galloup’s Slide Inn September 16-22 on the Madison River. We always have a great time fishing the Madison and Yellowstone Park. We also have tentative plans outside of those dates to fish the Big Horn at Thermopolis, Wyoming, the Yellowstone River, and the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park.