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The Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited July 25, 2008

I talked to Steve Moore yesterday.  He is the Chief of Fisheries at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I asked him to get some numbers together that I can use to promote the history of  Trout Unlimited’s relationship with the National Park.

It all started 15 years ago in 1993.  Actually it started way before that. It took over a year to get the ball moving. I was asked to form a Trout Unlimited Chapter to work with the Park.  We were the first TU Chapter to do so.  We formed the Little River Chapter to be a support group for the Smokies Fisheries Department.  The Little River Chapter was the first to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with a National Park.  We were not there to tell them how to do their job.  They are experts.  We were to be there for support, offering volunteer labor and fund raising.  I convinced Steve we would work well together and the relationship was born.  Now Steve and I are close friends.

It was my goal to also include the Great Smoky Mountains Chapter headquartered in Knoxville to be partners in everything we did.  That Chapter was large and there were and are a lot of talented people with experience in fund raising.  There are also a lot of people in the Great Smoky Mountains Chapter who are willing to work on projects.  It has been a good partnership.

With the success we began back then other TU Chapters and State Councils got involved.  Steve found volunteers and funding from TU folks in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. 

TU funded seasonal young people who would eventually become fisheries biologists through this whole 15 year period.  TU members worked on fish monitoring sites, streambank stabilization in Cades Cove, brook trout restoration and acid deposition monitoring.  For over 10 years volunteers from the Little River Chapter and the Great Smoky Mountain Chapter have hiked back into remote sites to take water samples and test for various conditions  on a regular basis. The lastest and largest project is the restoration of Lynn Camp Prong and it’s tributaries, 9 miles total to a pure Southern Appalachian Brook Trout stream.  That project is expensive and will continue for the next 5 or 6 years. 

So what do the numbers look like.  That is what Steve gathered for me.  I asked that the numbers be accurate and could stand up to close scrutiny.   First, TU volunteers from all chapters involved donated labor to the Park that is valued at $271,127 over the past 15 years.  That labor was leveraged to obtain matching funds for the work we have done.  By the way, all volunteer labor is tracked and counted for every project.  Additionally, TU has donated $309,550 in cash.  That was also matched with grants.  The total of the labor, cash and matching funds amounts to $2,206,858.  So, our relationship that started 15 years ago has funded the Fisheries Department at the Park with an average of $147,124 per year.  Not bad.

There is more to do.  A few streams remain that will become future brook trout restoration projects.  There will always be a need for seasonal young people to work on the fisheries team.  Those people will gain some of the best experience possible to help them in their career as fisheries biologists.  And then we have an acid deposition problem that needs to be quantified and rectified for the future health of the park and all of us who live in this region.  So, the work goes on.  I’m proud of all who have participated in this very important partnership.

Hazel Creek April 19, 2008

This morning the Bone Valley Tent and Anglers Club are starting their trek from Proctor on Hazel Creek up to Bone Valley to camp and fish for a few days.  Today marks 38 years straight, that this hardy group of guys have camped there.  Only one or two of them have done this for 38 years.  Some of the other guys joined later. Some are grown children of the original club.

I have known some of these guys for almost 14 years.

Hazel Creek is a special place.  I’ve camped there several times over the years.  The fishing has always been good.  Hazel Creek is seeping in history and tradition.   You can take a ferry from the Fontana Village Marina, which we have done.  But I prefer to paddle over from the campground at Cable Cove.  It takes a couple of hours.  One time Paula and I arrived at Cable Cove and the wind was blowing hard.  Whitecaps covered the lake.  There was no way to make it across in a loaded down canoe.  We had to scrap the trip.  But we made several more and I hope to do it again, many more times. 

A lot of people who visit Hazel Creek use Smoky Mountain Push Carts to transport their camping gear and food up to the many campsites available.  I think there are only two trails in the Park where this is allowed.  The trail is a wide old roadbed.  Our cart is an aluminum deer carrier made for hunters to get their game out of the woods and to the truck.  We always take a cooler full of  dry ice so we can make our own ice cubes for that evening beverage after a long day of fishing. 

On one trip with Frank, Mouse and Dwayne we decided to put all of our gear on the deer carrier for the trip out.  We had everything piled high and strapped on.  One of us held on to the handle and two others stabilized the load.  We took turns at those duties.  Everything went well for a while.  Maybe we became too confident.  The cart hit a rock with one wheel and the whole cart turned over.  Luckily Mouse wasn’t squashed by the load. 

On a different trip we were loading our canoes for the trip back and we ran into some other campers.  One of them told us he watched a mountain lion for a few minutes the day before.  I questioned him.  Actually I interrogated him.  “Do you know what a bobcat looks like?”  “This was definitely not a bobcat”.  I think the guy knew what he was talking about.  I know people around here who know what a mountain lion looks like and they have seen them in the Park.

The Smokies April 17, 2008

Townsend in the Spring is popular for anglers as we all know.  But there are two other groups that gather here in the Spring.  They are hikers and photographers.  Wildflowers draw in the photographers this time of year.  The Great Smoky Mountains has a diverse and broad range of wildflowers.  You will find more different wildflowers here than probably anyplace in the world.  The same holds true for trees and other plants.  You will see more species of salamanders here than anywhere else.  And, the list goes on.  Occasionally, since I have lived here new species of insects have been discovered.

Photographers are drawn to the Smokies for other opportunities other than wildflowers.  We have a large population of black bears of course.  And there is an abundance of other critters ranging from elk to voles and everything in between.  

The Smokies is Mother Nature at it’s finest. That is why I chose to live here.  Oh, don’t forget the mountains.  The spectacular views of these high peaks from the valley are impressive.  Views of the valleys from the peaks are nice too.  And to think that these 500,000 acres are open to the public and protected forever makes it all the more desirable to visitors and those of us who live here. 

Sometimes I am amazed that people don’t know there is a National Park here.  I’m serious.  We’ve had people actually say, right here in the store, “what Park?”  I bet they don’t know about the National Park Service. I bet they think Yellowstone is a rock and the Everglades is a resort.   They don’t know about the U.S. Forest Service.  This area is perceived to be different by some people, than it is by you and me. 

This area of Tennessee, which also includes Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and other smaller towns is within a days drive of one third of the population of the United States.  Millions of people visit Pigeon Forge every year and many of them never drive, hike or fish in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Thank God!  Those people find everything they want there and don’t need to leave.  They are happy.  That’s fine with me. 

I guess I’m different from the average American but more like all of you.  When I look at what I pay in Federal Taxes and then look at all the National Parks and National Forests, I’m getting a good deal.  Our U.S. Government gives me my money’s worth in protected public land alone, all over our Country.   And I have taken advantage of that benefit all of my life.  I have probably overdone it a little.  You won’t hear me complain about Federal Taxes.

I also feel fortunate to live in East Tennessee.  This is the land of water.  We have large lakes, small lakes, large rivers, small rivers, creeks and mountain streams plus hundreds of thousands of acres of public land that I can fish and camp on anytime I want to.  And we even have a National Park.  It’s called the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and it is only one of many.

Gun dogs and gun horses June 1, 2009

While I was walking Madison this morning I remembered my old English Setter, Sam.  They remind me of each other.  Madison loves people and so did Sam.

I was in the 6th or 7th grade when Sam came into my life.  We lived on a farm and there were a few quail sharing it with us.  I wanted an English Setter for a hunting dog.  At that time I was hunting alone which is probably a little unusual these days.  My mom and dad found a breeder in Western Kentucky.  We drove quite a distance to look at a litter that was ready to be sold.  One of the puppies licked me in the face just like Madison did when I met him.  The puppy came home with us.

I had seen a movie or TV show called Savage Sam.  Like most kids I was impressed with animals that did good things like saving lives, dogs like Lassie or Old Yeller.  I chose to name my new puppy Savage Sam.  He was a natural pointer.  I started shooting a .22 rifle around him so he would get used to gunfire. 

Then one day we left the house with a 12 gauge shotgun.  We walked through fields and Sam pointed a meadow lark.  The bird flushed and I shot.  It scared Sam to death.  I could see him running into the horizon back to his house.  I followed him and when I got to him he was shaking all over.  We tried the shotgun thing several times with the same result.  Savage Sam was gun shy.  I accepted that and he was just a good pet who gave a lot of love to our whole family. 

I had a horse named Mister Twister.  Actually he was a large pony.  Mister was a racking pony.  If you pulled his head up and dug in your boots he would take off  in the most beautiful rack you ever saw. 

One Christmas when I was a kid I got a leather scabbard.  It was so fine and I was excited.  I had and still have a .22 magnum lever action rifle that looked like a Winchester 94.  I couldn’t wait to try it out.  The ground was covered with a deep snow when I walked out to the barn with my new scabbard and rifle.  I hooked it up to a western saddle, caught Mister and saddled him up with scabbard, rifle and all.  I climbed on and we walked back into the woods just a half mile or so from our house.  We were in a valley where Calloway Creek makes it’s way to the Kentucky River near Clays Ferry.  I stopped Mister by the creek.

I pulled the rifle from the scabbard and carefully aimed at a tree.  I was not going to shoot over Mister’s head but instead off to the left.  When he heard the report from that rifle he went nuts.  I wasn’t holding on to anything but the rifle and I ended up on the ground.  Mister took off and ran all the way home.  I got up, grabbed my rifle and walked back to the barn where Mister was waiting.  From that point on the scabbard became a wall hanger.  I haven’t had much luck with animals and guns.  One exception was Suzie my short beagle rabbit dog.  She loved to hunt and loved the sound of a shotgun even more. 

Little River Journal November 10, 2008

Years ago we published a multi page newsletter called the “Little River Journal”.  It was very popular.  In it we had articles about fly fishing, gear and other human interest subjects.  We even bought the domain name “Little River Journal” just in case we ever brought it back to the internet.  We have talked about doing it for years.

Now we have decided to take it on.  That is why you are seeing the e-mail subscription box located several places on this website.  The subscription box and description looks kind of plain right now but it won’t in a few days. 

What you will get in your e-mail, once a month is a list of articles and topics with a graphic image and short description on the page.  But, you will have links to stories, gear reviews and human-interest articles that you can click on and read.  Our plan is to archive these stories on the website under the topic Little River Journal.  We plan to send out the first Journal or e-newsletter in December. 

Unfortunately, at first I will do most of the writing.  I hope and I am optimistic that we will enlist other writers.  For instance, when I talked to Lefty Kreh about this a few months ago he sent me several articles that he wrote for a newspaper.  He sent a CD full and told me to use them if I wanted to.  He also told me he had a lot more.  It is nice having a friend like Lefty.  He is always willing to help us any way he can.  Of course I would do anything for him.

Yesterday I wrote a gear review on the new Sage Click Reel and came close to finishing an article called Fly Fishing and Kayaks.  I plan to go through the past issues of the Fishing Report and re-publish some of the funny stories about the shop, my life and people I know.  That is almost three years of daily entries. 

I recently wrote a story about how Trout Unlimited got involved with Great Smoky Mountains National Park 15 years ago.  The story was edited by Steve Moore, who is head of fisheries at the Park. I worked with Steve and the Park Superintendent in 1992 to establish this relationship.  Most people don’t know that back then the Park would not work with Trout Unlimited. Also, the first Memorandum of Understanding between the National Park Service and Trout Unlimited started right here.  We were the first.  The story will be published.  It is interesting. We will also keep you informed about fisheries projects in the Park that you can sign up and be a volunteer.

There will be stories about the History of the National Park and Tuckaleechee Cove.  There is a wealth of information here and it is easy to obtain.  It will take time. 

We will remind you about events held in this area.  Troutfest will be one of them.  And, we will of course advertise products and services that we offer.

So, please sign up to receive this Journal.  You won’t get the first one until December.  The option to be on the list has only been available about 4 days.  This morning I noticed we had 192 people sign up so far.   I think that’s pretty good.

EDITORS NOTE:  The Little River Journal is one year old.  This is the story I wrote announcing the new e-newsletter. Today almost 2,500 people are on the Little River Journal mailing list after only one year. Byron

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