It’s December. That is hard to believe, the year is almost over. Looking back, it has been wet. At this point in the year, rainfall is ten inches above normal. The rivers and streams in the Smokies have been brimming with water all year. Sometimes there has been too much water. Usually that happened when I planned to go fishing. But we won’t be complaining will we? No way. Fishing this year has been good in the Park.
2009 has been the year of events in the Smokies. Great Smoky Mountains National Park celebrated it’s 75th birthday. A lot of activities, centered around this celebration brought National attention to our Park. Senator Lamar Alexander played the piano with the Knoxville Symphony in Cades Cove. Community leaders and citizens gathered at Newfound Gap for a re-dedication of the Park. Dolly Parton sang songs about the Smokies at the event. And there were many more ceremonies and special events celebrating 75 years.
When we started planning Troutfest in the summer of 2008 we knew it would be different. I was the new Chairman and quickly found volunteers for a steering committee. Well, that committee did an excellent job. We lined up people like Lefty Kreh, Joe Humphreys, Bob Clouser, many national manufacturers of fly fishing tackle and a lot of fly tyers; we put together a program and banquet that we felt would be popular and well attended despite the recession that had just begun that year. Vendors found our website and signed up for booths.
Everything...revenue, attendance and profit that would be donated to the Park exceeded our expectations. We couldn’t believe how many people showed up, there were several thousand. Actually we were overwhelmed. But, every volunteer worked hard and we made it happen. Including a grant we obtained from Trout Unlimited National, the Little River Chapter of TU donated $40,000 to the Park Fisheries Department and the Friends of the Smokies Fisheries Endowment. We held back $6,400 as seed money to be used for Troutfest 2010. Next year the event promises to be bigger and better. You will be hearing a lot about that later.
Lynn Camp Prong, which is the “Favorite Stream” for many of us is going through a huge brook trout reintroduction program. The carrying capacity of that stream is 2,000 to 2,500 fish per mile. It was populated with rainbow trout which is a non-native exotic species. Those trout were removed last Fall using fish toxins. This summer, insect studies verified that the benthic population was back already so there would be plenty of food for the brook trout when they were released. Some wayward rainbows were found in small tributaries and removed. Then, this Fall the Park Service Fisheries Crew and many volunteers, including me, released 1,500 native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout into the stream. They are scattered all along several miles of the main stream. They were stocked prior to their spawning time. We should see small brookies and their parents swimming around in the stream this Spring.
So, now we wait. When the brook trout population rebounds to a sustainable level Lynn Camp Prong will be open again to anglers. That will be a proud day for a lot of people.
The Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited was founded in 1992 and chartered in 1993. We were the first TU Chapter to have a memorandum of understanding with a National Park. Our partnership would develop and expand over 16 years. Money raised for the Park and volunteer labor that can be traced back to that beginning amounted to $2.2 million according to the Park Service. They are updating their numbers now. I was told the other day that the new number is around $2.5 million.
This Fall, our friend and co-worker, Ted Myers passed away. This was a shock to all of us. He was a kind man with a huge amount of fly fishing and outdoor knowledge. Ted did a great job here and he has a lot of good friends. Our small company and we feel the loss. We miss Ted.
A lot of big things happened this year. Our business fared well despite the economic turndown. The Christmas and other holiday selling season has started extremely well. I guess we’ll call next year "Twenty Ten". Thanks to all of you, our customers, friends and supporters for allowing us the opportunity to serve you.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you.
December 1, 2009