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

Welcome to the Fishing Report from the Great Smoky Mountains.  It is very foggy and 62 degrees in Townsend this morning.  Traffic was very light on my morning commute.  It is obvious that there are very few visitors in town staying in motels.  The parking lots were not filled with cars this morning.  There were only a few.  Maybe the rental cabins, campgrounds and lodges are busy.  Maybe the motels are busy too.  I hope so.  We’ll know this weekend.

Little River is flowing at 139 cubic feet per second (cfs) or 1.77 feet on the flow gauge.  Median flow for this date is 79 cfs.  The water temperature at 7:45 am is 62 degrees, same as the air.

It is hard to write a fishing report narrowed to the Great Smoky Mountains right now.  Nobody is fishing.  They can’t.  The Park is closed.  Most of my information comes from guides.  They are not guiding in the Park.  Other information about fishing in the Smokies comes from friends.  My friends are not fishing in the Smokies.

We are however, discussing the dumbness of the trout.  They are getting dumber every day that they are not hassled by anglers.  When the Park re-opens, we’re going to have some fun.

When the Park opens I’m planning to go up there and try some of these new flies I’ve been tying.  They look realistic, like a 5” rainbow trout that is dying.  Attached to the fly will be 12 pound tippet and a 9 weight line, reel and rod.  The target will be one of those big male brown trout.  I may even spring for some of the new Chota camo waders.  My shirt will be camo, my hat will be camo, heck, I might even blacken my face like the do on Duck Dynasty.  Plotting and planning is almost as much fun as fishing.

I talked to two of the guides we work with yesterday, Josh and Rob.  They are busy setting up float trips on the tailwaters.  Clients will get a treat.  But anglers will miss fishing the Smokies.  This is prime time to fish anywhere in East Tennessee.

What few anglers we have in town right now are fishing Little River outside the Park.  I don’t know how well they are doing.  Not yet.  I told several people yesterday where to fish in town.  TWRA stocks Little River outside the Park with rainbow trout.

Since our business is slow, we are working on marketing and the shop remodel project.  The store looks disorganized because we are moving merchandise to hang slatwall and paint it.  Pegboard has been moved to the second level of our store.  The fly tying department will be on that level.  This whole thing should come together and be finished in about 30 days.  That’s our hope.

We are going to find out, for the first time, how much of our business is due to anglers fishing in the Smokies.  We have local business from several counties.  People come here to shop and they may not be fishing in the Park on that particular day.  We have a mail order business.  Anglers buy online and by calling us. 

Right now, the first component of our customer base is gone.  We do track the mail order component.  We know how much that is. 

It’s the “drive to shop here” compared to the “fish here and incidentally shop here” components that has always been a mystery.  In October, lots of people fish here and incidentally shop here.  Now, we can identify that number.  That may prove to be invaluable to us in the future.  This is going to be an extremely costly test. 

We also track fishing license sales.  That component is almost zero right now.

We do get bits and pieces of information pertaining short term shopping habits of our customers when the rivers are flooded.  High water hurt our business this Spring. Our business is and always will be dependent on the weather, here and elsewhere in the United States.  When these things happen, we adjust.

It makes me nervous and cautious knowing that our business is subject to natural disasters or in this case government decisions.  We know floods and snowstorms harm our business.  We have not been through a major forest fire but that is always on my mind when the conditions are dry.  We know what recessions do.  This last one was the worst. I’ve been a continuous business owner through many of those since 1973.  After selling the first company, I got into this one.  I have learned that recessions are not fun. 

What if the Park decided that people could no longer fish there.  That would change our business model.  We are getting a bitter taste of that now. 

Owning a small business offers many interesting challenges along the way.  What matters is how you react, positive or negative.  One thing about a small business like this one, we are nimble.  Major decisions and changes can be implemented within hours, not days, months or years.  I guess that gives me comfort.  I feel good right where I am today.  I am not concerned at all.  When you have been in business 40 years, you have pretty much seen it all.

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

Byron Begley
October 4, 2013

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