Townsend, Tennessee
September 27, 2009

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  The sun is shining and the air is clear.  The temperature is cool.  It is a beautiful morning in the Smoky Mountains.  When I pulled out of the driveway this morning I saw a gobbler and about 12 wild turkey hens in our neighbor’s orchard.  They just kept eating bugs as I drove by. 

Yesterday was not a beautiful day.  It started raining hard in the morning.  And it rained off and on all day, sometimes very heavy.  During the past 24 hours we collected 3.40 inches of rainfall in our gauge.  The Airport reported 3.04 inches which was a record for the date there.  The prior record was 1.10” for the date in 1945.  We had some high water issues in Townsend.  The creek that runs by the IGA flooded the parking lot and filled their retention pond.  I saw a couple of houses that were close to being flooded behind our store.  Our catch basins, retention pond and drainage system performed well. 

Little River is rocking and rolling and the water is stained.  At 7:50 pm yesterday the gauge read 7.81 feet which equates to 6,460 cubic feet per second.  For yesterday’s date the record high was 713 cfs in 1989.  We don’t usually get these high water events in September.  Overnight the flow dropped to 4.5 feet on the gauge or 1,860 cubic feet per second. 

Yesterday, Little River was the highest it has been since 2003.  That year on May 6th the gauge reading peaked at 12 feet or 15,600 cfs.  The highest level recorded on Little River was 15.75 feet or 27,100 cfs in March of 1994.  That was our big flood.  Data only goes back to 1964.

All the main Park roads are open.  Parsons Branch Road, Rich Mountain Road and Sparks Lane are currently closed due to high water issues.  Elkmont Campgrond was evacuated yesterday.  I don’t know if it is open now.

I wouldn’t go fishing in the Park today.  Some people will but they will mostly be standing on the bank chunking big nymphs in the stained swift water.  Wading in most if not all streams is dangerous today.  This would be a good day to hike.  I’ll ride my bicycle tonight after work.  I bet the tailwaters are generating all over Tennessee.  And, many of the lakes and their tailwaters are probably muddy and full of floating debris.  Ponds are muddy, the Spring Creek behind our house is up and muddy, it’s just not a good fishing day in East Tennessee.  There may be some exceptions but I don’t know where they would be.

Hopefully we won’t, but we may have some kayaker rescues today.  Our 3-person Police Department just took a class in swift water rescue a couple of weeks ago.  With more tubing activity every year and people making bad decisions, water rescues are fairly frequent now.  We had 8 in one day this year.

The good news is it is going to be cool this week.  The water will be cooler and fishing will improve.  It’s already 2 degrees cooler than it was yesterday morning.  The water in the streams will recede.  There is almost no chance for rain for the next few days.  This high water did not wipe out a spawn, that’s good. The dams and chutes built by tubers in Little River are probably flat and back to normal until next year.  A lot of garbage and flip flops formerly in Little River are now down in Ft. Loudon Lake.  The forest is green and healthy.  Wildlife food is plentiful.  The bears will be fat and healthy because of that.  Acorns are the largest I’ve seen here and they are plentiful. 

I was reading TWRA’s website last night about our black bear population.  It keeps growing.  Some of that has to do with protection in the Smokies and close monitoring of poaching everywhere else in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.  Another reason is the maturing oak trees and acorns.  The oak trees in the Park are at 75 years old now.  And they are bearing more food for bears and other wildlife every year except when Mother Nature steps in with a freeze at the wrong time. 

When the mast crop fails, and who knows when that will be we are going to have bear problems like we have never seen.  When the population keeps growing like it has and all of a sudden the food supply is limited some serious consequences will occur and we will be among the most affected humans.  Hunters are harvesting record numbers of bears.  I bet there are a lot less bear hunters too.  I think I read last year was the highest recorded harvest in Tennessee.

The same is true, like bears with wild boar and feral hogs.  Their population is running wild.  A pig can have up to three litters per year.  A pig becomes capable of reproducing at 6 months old.  They are wary, cunning and destructive.  The hunting season is year round and there is no limit on wild hogs.  TWRA is actually pleading with hunters to kill all they can. 

I went up to the Heritage Center yesterday to take some pictures of the Farm Fair they held.  The parking attendant gave me a special parking spot because I was taking photos for our County’s tourism effort.  Even with the rain it was very well attended and as always well done.  I spent some time talking to the mule skinners.  Mules and draft horses were pulling logs as a demonstration.  Some of the guys warmed up to me when I told them I have a neighbor who owned and maybe still owns a mule that can rack. They said they had heard of it but never saw one. That same mule was also one of the stars in the TV show about the school teacher in Southern Appalachia.  I can’t think of the name of the show.  Yes I can, it was Christy.

I saw a working miniature hay baling machine.  The guy who built it would feed dried grass in manually and a tiny hay bale would pop out the back.

But the most fun thing I saw was the annual greased pig contest.  The contestants were kids.  A County Deputy walked by me in uniform and I said, “Get out there”.  He said “You do it”.  I told him my back was giving me problems or I would.  I don’t think he believed me.  All the contestants had to take a pledge for the protection and health of the pig.  If a pig is actually caught by someone there is to be “NO PILING ON”.

I didn’t see anyone catch a pig though several tried.  These pigs were small and fast.  I’m sure they are bred specifically for the sport like race horses and coon hounds.

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

Byron Begley
September 27, 2009

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