Townsend, Tennessee - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, East Tennessee and Western North Carolina

Welcome to the Fly Fishing Report.  It is sunny and 68 degrees in Townsend this morning.  It is also Memorial Day weekend.  AJ’s restaurant was packed when I drove by.  We are probably going to have a crowd in town until Tuesday.  We have a beginner fly fishing class today.  We have 8 students, our maximum. 

The Park is fishing well, very well.  Brian Courtney called me yesterday just when I was finishing this report.  He and Rob Fightmaster fished the West Prong of the Little River on Thursday.  Brian said he bought a fish counter, something he clipped to his vest.  He said they are made for crappie fishermen who like to keep track of how many fish they catch.  He said he caught 26 trout and Rob caught around 30.  They were probably on the water about 6 hours and hop scotching around each other.

Yellow Sally Stonefly patterns are working great.  In the evenings, the fishing is fantastic.  Spring is the best time of year to catch large numbers of trout.  April is awesome, May is prime time and June is good too. 

This weekend there will be a lot of traffic in the Park, you will find tubers floating down the river and there could be some fishermen on the water.  Get out early or late and you won’t have those problems.  I mean, really early and really late.  

I never know how many fish I catch in a day unless it is almost none.  I had one of those days on Thursday.  Jack Gregory and I were fishing for smallmouth bass using topwater flies.  He caught ten or more and I caught two.  His catch is my estimate.  My catch is a fact.

But, Jack was in the front of the boat most of the day.  OK, he also has his fly in the water about 5 times more often than I do.  I get tired and sit down in the boat.  He casts, non-stop all day.  On Thursday that amounted to about 9 hours.

But that’s not all.  Jack casts with pinpoint accuracy.  I don’t.  He can see things in the water that I don’t see.  He understands the habits of fish much better than I do.  I have fished with Jack all over for many different species.  He always catches many more fish and his are larger, whether the species is trout, tarpon or bass.  So, frankly, Jack is a much better angler than I am.  I don’t mind a bit.  I’m accustomed to it.  He’s like a brother to me and what I enjoy most is being with him.  In July, on my birthday I will have officially been a fly fisherman for 50 years.  I started when I was 11 years old on my birthday.  You would think I would be an expert like Jack.

I read this morning that Bob Miller is retiring from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I’ve known Bob about 20 years.  His is known as the voice of the Smokies.  He’s a great guy.  I have always said, “He has a photographic memory”.  That may not be true but he has a brilliant mind, nobody would dispute that.  When you ask him a question he does not think for one second.  The correct answer just comes out of his mouth, immediately. 

If I need something from the Park I call Bob.  I know Dale the Superintendent and Kevin the Assistant Superintendent.  But I call Bob.  When Bob needs to know what’s going on in Townsend, he contacts me.  I am really going to miss him.  He plans to fish more during his retirement. We are the same age.  You can read about Bob on the KNOXNEWS WEBSITE HERE.

During Troutfest weekend the thought of retirement went through my head many times.  We do two weeks worth of business in three days.  I worked 14 days straight without a single day off.  I tracked my time.  I averaged 11 hours per day.  The week before and after are dead.  Overall our May has declined since Troutfest became a fly fishing exposition.  That is because a large percentage of those who attend are already customers of ours.  And, they are spending money at Troutfest.  But that weekend is something to see at the shop.  We don’t have enough people working here to handle that many people.  I think our customer service suffers.  I don’t like that at all.

Physically, I am having trouble handling the workload during those three days and the preparation before the event.  The preparation is extensive.  We let our inventory deplete then re-stock the store for Troutfest.  After Troutfest, we re-stock the store again.  That’s what we are doing now.  I will work all day today on a fly tying order. 

So, during Troutfest I often think I’m getting too old for this.  After Troutfest, I bounce back.  This year I bounced back physically.  But this time, I’m not going to forget what I went through mentally during those two weeks. I’m starting to feel my age.  I know I can’t do this forever.

It was exactly one year ago, on Memorial Day weekend, that I made the decision to come to work early.  For 6 months I got here 1 3/4  to 2 hours earlier every day than I used to.  Now I’m here 1 to 1½ hours before opening.  Guess what?  I get a lot more done.  It’s amazing what an extra 500 hours per year can do for your efficiency.  It has been a great experiment.  I plan to continue.  I work 6 days a week and usually take off on Thursday.

I remember the 70’s when I was young and owned a printing company. Sometimes we ran printing presses all night long then worked the next day.  We had customers such as Shoneys, First American Bank and Tennessee Pride Sausage among others.  We made customers happy.  We did everything we could to get those $20,000 orders.  That was a lot of money in the 70’s.  The company was bigger in the 80’s and we didn’t work all night very often but the service we offered in those early years is what made the company grow, by 30% or more per year. I was in my 20’s.  Things are different now.

So long Bob.  I will miss working with you.  Maybe we should go fishing.

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

Byron Begley
May 26, 2012

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