Townsend, Tennessee
July 17, 2009

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is warm this morning but not for long.  It is going to be a cool weekend.  I’m looking forward to that.  Little River has great flow and looks good.  Everything is lush and green, our town is not crowded at all but it will be tomorrow.  Park visitation is way up this summer.  I think more local people are staying home this summer and spending their off-time in the Park. 

This will be a great fishing weekend in the Smokies.  Conditions will be perfect unless we get a ton of rain today.  The higher elevation brookie streams are fishing extremely well.  The water is cool.  This weekend it will be chilly up high so take a jacket.  I would also take a fleece garment in case you fall in.  That would feel good when you get back to the truck and you could continue to fish while you are wet. 

Down low I would use terrestrial patterns, Yellow Sally dry flies including the Neversink Caddis and/or a Green Weenie.  Anglers are reporting exceptional fishing but it will be better early and late except in the high mountain streams.  We’ll see lows in the 40’s this weekend up there.  The water may be that cold too, up high.  It will be down near 50 degrees for sure.  In the low country the water will be warmer than that but still cooler than it has been.  Fish are going to be active. 

I stopped at the Visitors Center this morning to look at the back field.  It will be covered with three huge tents for Troutfest 2010 and I wanted to see what the drainage would be like in the event of heavy rain.  Of course I started talking to my buddy Herb Handly.  He is in charge of tourism for our County so we talked about that.  We talked about camping and fishing and looked at his new truck.  Time got away from me.  I checked my watch and it was 9:30.  I was late for work probably for the first time in 15 years.  The shop staff had a funny look on their faces when I walked in.  I guess they thought I had died.

I talked to our Wildlife Commissioner yesterday.  His name is Mike Chase.  I had met him before but never talked to him.  We had a good time.  He owns a bunch of restaurants including the Copper Cellar brand.  So, we couldn’t help but talk about business.  Our business was the reason for my call to him.  As I told you a few days ago we lose money on the sale of fishing licenses.  I want Mike to see the numbers and at least bring it up before the Wildlife Commission.  I’m going to e-mail them to him and he will bring it up.  Maybe I can talk to the full Commission when they have their next East Tennessee meeting.  I have addressed them before and felt good about it.

For one thing, I am and always have been a big supporter of TWRA.  I served on their support group organization which was called the Tennessee Conservation League back then.  We provide wading equipment to the biologists in East Tennessee at our cost.  I want those guys to have good equipment.  If I know there is an important fisheries issue that the biologists are in favor of I support that.  I think we have the best coldwater biologists anywhere.  They help the Park.  We used a TWRA hatchery truck and two biologists were there to handle the native Southern Appalachian brook trout we stocked in Lynn Camp Prong this week.

TWRA has a revenue problem.  Fishing participation is down.  Soccer is winning out over fishing and hunting with our young people.  That revenue problem is causing operating deficits.  Mike and I both agreed that an increase in fishing and hunting license sales is not a good idea.  They raised the license costs by 30% four years ago and the repercussions from out of state anglers was very noticeable. Our fee was not raised at that time.  

So, really their best choice will probably be to do nothing.  And, they probably won't do anything especially if it means raising the license cost or giving us more.  I won’t blame them. 

But maybe the solutions to our dilemma as an agent losing money can be found in other ways.  Quite possibly the internet will be the answer.  Maybe a self service kiosk in our shop will be one of the solutions.  Graphics that make it easier for out of state anglers to understand the many options will help.  Maybe we could charge a processing fee. 

The bottom line is this.  We sell $76,000 worth of fishing licenses.  And it takes about 10 minutes to sell each one.  Our dedicated phone line just sits there waiting for someone to purchase.  That costs 25 cents per transaction.  If the customer charges the license it costs us another 55 cents.  And we get paid 82 cents by the Agency.

Mike figured out right away that I’m not raising a stink.  I just want their help and understanding about a problem that they might not even know about.  This problem is mostly limited to stores like ours who are specialized fly fishing shops.  Often, we sell a license to people who do not fly fish and maybe never will.  So you can’t offset those losses by saying that the customer will always buy something else.  That just doesn’t work in a tourist town like ours.  But, the problem is not agency-wide.  It only affects a few of us.

We’ll figure something out with TWRA and we’ll still be friends, maybe better friends.

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

Byron Begley
July 17, 2009 

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