Townsend, Tennessee
July 30, 2009

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is overcast and raining hard.  We had more heavy rain last night too.  The monsoon season in this temperate rain forest has arrived.  July is historically our wettest month.  This year July it is ending with a bang. 

The National Weather Service got mixed up yesterday reporting the rainfall at the Knoxville Airport.  Yesterday morning they reported the month to date rain totals at 6.76” and year to date at 35.44”.  Those are the numbers I gave you yesterday on this report.  Then at 1:45 am this morning the numbers are 5.50” for the month and 34.18 year to date.  They will update them again in about 20 minutes.  I don’t know if they made a mistake yesterday morning or early this morning.  I guess it doesn’t matter that much, we’ve had a ton of rain.

Little River is high and muddy.  And it is rising.  Yesterday the level peaked at 3 feet on the gauge.  Now it is down to 2.75 feet.  But, it is rising.  My buddies, Jack and Ronnie ventured into the Park yesterday afternoon seeking large browns.  I think they went to Metcalf Bottoms. There was even too much high muddy water for them and that’s what they like.  They fish high water by not wading much at all and chunk big ugly stuff into the eddys.  They catch large trout too.  This kind of fishing is for experienced anglers.  You have to be careful.  You can get swept down the river and drown. 

We have more thunderstorms and heavy rain headed our way today, tonight and tomorrow.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see Little River top 3’ on the gauge maybe several times over the next two days.  At that level it is dangerous for wading and fishing.  If you go fishing seek higher ground and be careful.  On days like this we send customers to Anthony Creek at the picnic area in Cades Cove.  Laurel Creek on the road to the Cove runs off fairly quickly.  Today the choices are few and it may be that way tomorrow and even on Saturday.  We won’t know that for a while.  These high gradient streams do recede quickly so the next two days depend on the rainfall we get over that period.

It is days like this one that some people, stupidly go tubing.  (I added the word stupidly to my vocabulary this week, I like it).  And as a result of those people we hear sirens as emergency vehicles fly through town.  Then emergency personnel perform rescue operations.  Fortunately, though there have been some tubing related injuries, there has yet to be one fatality this year in Little River.  I hope that trend continues. 

I have had more than my share of close calls on the water sometimes because I acted stupidly.  I grew up near the Kentucky River.  I’ve been driving boats since I was a kid.  I water skied, swam and fished in most bodies of water in many states.  And, I will continue to do that (not water skiing).  But one thing can be said that makes a lot of sense to me.  Most people do not drown if they are wearing a life jacket.  There are exceptions.  Kayakers have drowned wearing life jackets.  When I was a kid a houseboat that lost power went over a dam on the Kentucky River, during a flood and everyone on board perished.  The boat tumbled for a while underwater below the dam. They were wearing life jackets.  They knew they were in trouble and put them on.  

But for the most part, if you are wearing a life jacket you will be spared in the event of an accident on the water.  I just bought one the other day at Bass Pro Shops.  It was a nice one too.  It cost $45.95.  That is not too much to pay to save your life.  So why do people drown? 

Oh, you have to wear them.  That’s the problem, people buy them but they forget to wear them.  Then, there you are in trouble thinking to yourself  “I forgot that one important step”, and it’s too late. 

When I was a kid we had these pfd’s called ski belts.  They were made of foam and they were worn around your waist.  They kept you afloat.  But, if you were unconscious your butt stayed high in the water and your head was underwater. 

I started driving boats, un-chaperoned when I was eleven or twelve years old.  When one of my parents took me and some friends to the Kentucky River at Boonesborough where we had a boat it was the rule that we were to wear ski belts all day.  My buddies and I would put them on, start the boat, idle past the dock then hit the throttle and run around the bend in the river out of sight from my parents standing on the dock.  Immediately, the ski belts would come off and we wouldn’t put them back on until we came back to the boat dock that evening.  We did wear them when we skied but not when we were in the boat.  We never got caught.

But I don’t know how many times we would go flying around a bend in the river and all of a sudden, right in front of us was the bow of a huge barge being nudged along by a tug boat pushing a five foot wake.  We had to turn immediately and get out of the way.  Then ride out the waves. Once I had my boat overloaded with kids my age, we hit one of those waves and filled the boat with water.   I’m amazed I’m here today to tell you about it.  Luckily the boat was a Boston Whaler, they can’t be sunk and luckily it didn’t turn over. 

I don’t wear a life jacket when I am wade fishing, even in tailwaters.  You can be careful and not put yourself at great risk wading and fishing.  In the Smokies during normal conditions if you are careful you will be fine without a life jacket.  I don’t think I have ever seen a fisherman wearing one in the Smokies. But I wear one in small boats, especially kayaks and canoes in deep water.  Why? Why not?

Have a great day, wear them and live, and thanks for being here with us.

Byron Begley
July 30, 2009 

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