Townsend, Tennessee
July 11, 2009

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is sunny and warm this morning.  At 8:00 am the temperature reported by my truck was 67 degrees.  The water temperature in Little River is warmer than it was yesterday at this time.  Yesterday was hot.  There appears to be some tourist traffic today but not like normal.  The forest is lush and green thanks to the rain we have received this year.  Fishing has been very good.

I did talk to one pair of anglers yesterday who did not do well.  They were fishing around Metcalf Bottoms.  I told them they would probably do better on the smaller streams.  One fellow said he did great there in March.  He reported catching fish all day on the East Prong in that area on a Blue Wing Olive dry fly.  I know that happened.  But, it’s different now.  This is a different season.  A lot of factors play in.  Some are just anglers theory, others are known truths.

One theory is the barometric pressure was high yesterday morning and rising.  That could be good or bad for fishing.  Another theory involves the moon.  It is close to a full phase, some anglers think trout feed at night especially when there is no cloud cover.  The trout are not as hungry during the day.  I don’t know for sure but I tend to believe it.  The East Prong of Little River gets a lot of activity because it is close to the road.  We have more anglers fishing, swimmers, tubers, rock skippers and onlookers.  Those fish there get pounded by a lot of activity that he did not experience in March.  Also, the size of the river in that section is wide and open compared to a smaller stream.  Sunlight is shining on the water.  Another point is hatches.  In March there were plenty of aquatic insects hatching on the rivers.  The trout were looking up.  That is all I can think of right now.  The East Prong can be a humbling stretch of water during much of the year.  Like I told him, I would fish the smaller streams where there are less people.

Terrestrials are working.  Try foam beetles and drop a Green Weenie off the dry.  A sinking ant back from the beetle would be a good idea.  Fishing a Green Weenie deep might be good.  Yellow Sally imitations are essential this time of year.  Fish early and late. 

We are going to see clouds and rain over the next few days.  We have a 30% chance today and then it goes to 50% tomorrow and Monday.  

Business must be very slow in Townsend.  We have been slow.  I heard one of our lodges is running a promotion on a radio station in Knoxville.  If you stay one night you get the second night free.  That is not a good sign that tourism is booming this year.  I talked to their sales person about it yesterday.  I asked why couldn’t they offer one night free with a two night paid stay.  She told me that didn’t work.

I have been meeting individually with our staff trying to figure out ways to improve our service and pull through this recession.  One stumbling block I keep running into is fishing license sales.  They take a lot of time, especially when the customer is from out of state, they don’t know what is required and they have not bought a Tennessee license before so the State database doesn’t know them.  Explaining everything and processing the license takes a lot of time. 

A few years ago Tennessee raised the price of their licenses but did not increase our fee.  Our fee averages 3% of the sale.  Last year we sold 2,737 fishing licenses for a total of $75,685 and our fees amounted to $2,278.  So we average selling 7.6 licenses per day.  In some months we sell a lot more per day.  For instance in March we sell 19 per day, April 14.7, May 15.5 and in June we sold 14.9 per day.

Our average commission on the sale of a license is 83 cents.  Now, if the customer puts it on a credit card that costs us 69 cents on average.  If it takes 10 minutes for the transaction and it can take longer that costs us over $1.  We have a dedicated phone line for the fishing license sales computer.  That costs about 25 cents per transaction.  So, our costs can run $1.94 and we get paid 83 cents.  Guess what?  We are losing money.

Yesterday I called Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency to plead my case and I probably got the wrong person.  Then I called our Wildlife Commissioner in Knoxville.  He was not in but I’m sure he will call me back.

There was a time when we didn’t mind losing money on these transactions.  If a customer came in, bought some fly fishing tackle or maybe they bought some in the past we consider selling them a license as “added value”.  It is just a free service you provide for your customer.

Things changed when a large store and campground in Townsend decided they didn’t like losing money by selling fishing licenses.  They stopped selling them.  They were a very large TWRA agent, probably not as large as us but they were a big player.  That left us and two other agents in town.  We started getting more customers who were not fly fishermen.  Many of them didn’t understand the rules around here and there are many.  A lot of questions have to be answered. 

“Are you going to fish in or out of the Park or both”.   “Why?”  Explain.  Out of state or state resident.  1 day, 3 day, 10 day, annual, one day is for residents only, you have to buy a trout stamp with that one-day if you fish in the stocked water in town.  I’m not going to keep the trout I catch, why do I need a trout stamp?  And sometimes you are not just answering questions you are defending the law of the State of Tennessee or Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Added value?  When it really becomes obvious we have a problem is when you see five people downstairs at the counter who don’t fly fish, won’t be buying even a single fly and you do the math in your head, we just lost $5 and our staff could not give their time to wait on fly fishing customers. 

That is the rub.  If there were not any fly fishing customers in the shop it’s not that big of a deal.  But when we spend time taking care of non-fly fishing customers at the cost of our fly fishing customers it is a big problem for me. 

And here is another rub.  If you buy your fishing license online there is a $3.25 internet transaction fee.  So we get paid 83 cents to personally help a customer buy a license and whoever handles it online for the State gets $3.25 and they don’t answer any questions, it’s automatic.  I’m trying to figure this one out.

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

Byron Begley
July 11, 2009


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