Townsend, Tennessee
November 18, 2009

Welcome to the Fishing Report.  It is cloudy and a thick fog high off the ground masks the mountains from my view.  It is clear at ground level.  We got some rain last night, over 1/3 of an inch.  More rain is expected today.  Little River is rising slightly.  It warmed up too.  This morning the water temperature in town is 54 degrees, up from 50 degrees yesterday at the same time.  The water is clear and on the high side.

Fishing should be good but there are not many anglers out there.  Townsend is very quiet.  There is hardly any traffic on the streets.  We are slow at the shop. 

The brown trout are active.  The big question still is:  Will the brown trout start spawning again or is it over?  The bigger question is:  What happened during the high water a week ago?   Will the Fall spawn be un-successful?  I don’t know the answer to those questions.

I do know conditions are right to catch some nice trout in the Smokies today and it should continue to be that way unless we get a lot of rain and the rivers rise.  That is not expected but you never know.

I would be fishing with weighted nymphs.  Put a piece of split shot or two on your tippet about 6” above the fly and let it drift deep.  You might catch your Smokies trout of a lifetime. 

Yesterday I got more responses from my comments in the Fishing Report, by far, than ever before.  I got more than I did after my cell phone tower rant over a week ago.  I mentioned yesterday that our business is down.  I said I have been in business for 36 years, been through a lot of recessions but I’ve never seen anything like this.  My experience has been limited to mostly flat sales during downturns.  I guess I was and still am “fishing” for ideas to re-invent our business and get it back to growing again. 

The number of fly shops in our region are half what they were 10 years ago according to one of our sales reps who always tells the truth and knows what he is talking about.  Many have closed and were not replaced.

I received a lot of good ideas and encouraging words from you and I appreciate your time and thoughts.  Please keep them coming.  Some people mentioned that we should get into the hiking and backpacking business.  That is probably not an option.  We were in that business at one time.  We didn’t have the passion for it. It is the same for people in the fly fishing business, you really need to have the passion and broad expertise to be successful.  By broad I mean experience in all types of fly fishing, not just for trout in your home waters. 

Some other interesting comments were expanding into hunting, fly fishing and sportswear clothing.  I really like that idea.  We got out of the clothing business several years ago.  Maybe it’s time to get back in. 

I spoke to two friends who work for Orvis.  They are both very bright and knowledgeable.  I found out that our business is not down nearly as much as the overall average.  Our store is doing way better than the average fly shop in terms of percentage decrease from last year.  That makes me feel better.  There are some shops that are actually up from last year but they are rare. 

If we get back into clothing we can get a lot of help from Orvis.  They know how to sell garments.  Actually, help is only about 25 miles away at the Orvis Sevierville Store.  My buddy Kris is a manager there and I would be welcome to spend some time at the store and see how they do it.  My Orvis Regional Manager is a second generation outdoor retailer.  His father owned a hunting and fishing store and he grew up in the business.  He understands the rod and gun business better than anyone I know.

Whatever we do will take time and we won’t see great results overnight.  We are working on a long term plan.  For the short term, we are doing fine.  What I think we are up against are three influences on the small fly shop business: big box stores, used equipment sold on the web and decreasing participation in fly fishing. The economy is not helping either though there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Unemployment in October peaked at 10.2%.  Normal for the decade so far has been between 4% and 6% until this year.  The worst years in history dating back to 1920 were: 1932 (23.6%), 1934 (21.7%), 1936 (16.9%), 1938 (19%), 1940 (14.6%), 1976 (7.7%),  1980 (7.1%), 1982 (9.7%), 1984 (7.5%) and 1992 (7.5%).  The year with the lowest rate of unemployment was 1944 at 1.2%. 

Wow, there are 28 cows in the field and 11 are laying down.  Maybe the conditions are not as good for fishing as I thought.  I don’t think deer hunting would be good today either. 

Have a great day and thank you for all of your help, friendship and support.

Byron Begley
November 18, 2009

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