New Covid-19 Policies

As information and news with the current pandemic seems to change week to week and sometimes day to day, we will be updating this post accordingly. These are strange times for everyone and we will be conducting business a little differently for the time being. Fortunately, I am just one person so I have the ability to be flexible not only in adapting policies to the changing conditions, but to your specific needs should you decide to book a guided trip during this time. Listed below is the most current information I have to share. Scroll to the bottom for current social distancing guidelines for guide trips.

June 5th, 2020 Update: Phase 3 of Park Opening to Begin on June 7th

Visitor centers are scheduled to open on Monday, June 8th. Most campgrounds will be opening at that time as well. The only notable exception is Elkmont, which is scheduled to reopen on June 15th. For a complete, specific listing of openings check the park website.

May 19th, 2020 Update: Phase 2 of Park Opening to Begin This Weekend

Today, the park reopened Clingman’s Dome Road and this Saturday, the 23rd, they will begin Phase 2 of the reopening process. This will include all trails and many of the secondary roads. So now, anglers will have realistic access to places like Tremont, Big Creek, Greenbrier, etc. Some picnic facilities will open but campgrounds and visitor centers will remain closed. Those are projected to open no earlier than June 7th.

Probably the biggest thorn still remaining in the side of fishermen is the road to Elkmont. Until that road opens, which apparently won’t happen before June 7th, it will be very difficult to access the upper portions of Little River and Jakes Creek. But we have access to WAY more water than we did!

May 1st, 2020 Update: New Park Info and Recommendations for Guide Trips

I’ve received a little more clarification on what roads will and will not be open. Pretty much none of the secondary roads will open on May 9th which means there are a lot of spots, particularly trailheads for backcountry locations, we’re not going to be able to get to. It also means that few spots we can get to will likely be pretty crowded.

If you are currently booked for a trip in the mid to latter part of May or considering a booking for that time, I would still recommend a destination like Cherokee National Forest if it works for you. Of course, I can take you to the park after May 9th, but I think it will be first of June before things really get back to normal there. Please feel free to call or email to discuss.

April 30th, 2020 – 2nd Update

Great Smoky Mountains National Park just announced that they will begin a phased reopening of the park beginning May 9th. Phase 1 will include the opening of major roads and restrooms but not campgrounds, visitor centers or secondary roads. They hope to begin opening those facilities, secondary roads, etc. approximately two week later.

At this time, I am still unclear which “secondary” roads will open during the initial phase and which will not. But it appears that we will be able to access at least most of the places we normally fish.

April 30th, 2020

While there has still been no official word from the park service on a reopening date for GSMNP, it seems highly unlikely that we will see a May 1st reopening. This is purely speculation on my part, but I think we’ll see some sort of limited, phased in type of opening when it does happen. Exactly what that would look like I don’t know and exactly when that will happen I don’t know – hopefully in the next couple of weeks. I will update this post as soon as I receive any official word.

April 27th, 2020

As of the week of 4/27/20, the state of Tennessee is phasing in business openings while still requiring social distancing practices. This means out of town customers wanting to come fish the area should be seeing more lodging availability in the coming days and weeks.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where I conduct most of my guide operations is currently closed. The last official correspondence I received from the park said the park would be closed until 4/30/20. On the park’s website, it states only that the park is closed until further notice. Hopefully we will receive and update this week – I will post it here as soon as I know more.

In the meantime, I will be conducting guided trips to other destinations on a limited basis. If you’re interested in one of these trips, I recommend calling at 865-607-2886 or emailing me directly to discuss. Social distancing guidelines will be adhered to on all trips and are pretty easy to follow on the stream. But there will be a few changes to the logistical side of the trip that we will be following from now until further notice.

  • While we may still meet at a convenient location, clients will need to follow in their own vehicle to the stream or trailhead.
  • Clients are encouraged to bring their own rods and wading gear. If needed, you may still use mine at your own risk. I will be cleaning any loaner rods and wading gear before and after each use.
  • I am still happy to provide lunches for full day trips and assure you that the prep and packaging process will strictly follow all necessary guidelines. However, I realize this may make many uncomfortable and you are more than welcome to bring your own food without fear of offending me! Just please let me know with as much notice as possible.
  • I will be practicing social distancing guidelines on the stream and washing my hands throughout the day. I would ask all clients to please do the same.
  • You are encouraged to bring hand sanitizer along to regularly wash hands. I will try to provide it but it’s a little hard to come by right now!
  • Health and safety take precedence over service and profit right now. If I do not feel healthy and well, for your safety, I will cancel the trip. I expect all clients to to the same.

The bottom line is we still want to go fishing, right?! But we want to be safe and responsible in the process. If there is anything else I can do to accommodate or make your trip more comfortable, please let me know.

April Coronavirus Update

I tried to get Dr. Fauci to join me for this update but he is apparently tied up. So unfortunately, you’re stuck with me. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting weather, hatches and tourist migration patterns, but I’m afraid I’m still trying to learn as I go with pandemic predictions. I’ll mostly tell you what I know with a very little bit speculation thrown in.

The Big Picture:

  • Tennessee has joined many other states with shelter in place recommendations and mandatory closing of nonessential businesses. Restaurants, breweries, etc. are operating with only carryout and delivery options.
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park is currently closed to all visitors. They are scheduled to reopen to the public on April 6th but still keep facilities like visitor centers, campgrounds, restrooms etc. closed. We’ll have to wait and see, but I predict that on April 6th, they will decide to keep the park closed completely until the end of April. Again, this is pure speculation on my part.
  • National forests (like Cherokee National Forest) are still open to the public but facilities are closed.

What I’m Doing:

Like most of you, I’m taking this one day at a time but can’t help speculating. I think we’re going to see bans like we have now in place until at least the end of April and more likely until the end of May. All trends just seem to be pointing that way. Since most of my customers are not local, you’re probably not going to have a place to stay when you get here, if you can get here at all.

If you have a trip scheduled with me in April or May (especially April) chances are good it will need to be rescheduled. Again, purely speculation, but I think you’ll be safe rescheduling it for a date after June 1st. I am totally flexible and willing to wait and see before we reschedule anything, but am mentioning this now so you have more date options. I am removing vacation dates, etc. from the calendar and opening every date I possibly can between now and the end of the year to accommodate reschedules and new business.

The same offer certainly applies to local customers, but some of you may still want to go and I will take you. Hopefully the national park will reopen as a destination for us. Tailwaters like the Clinch may be a possibility soon if we can ever get a break from this rain. Streams in Cherokee National Forest will be our other option. It may just require a little longer drive to get to them. For any locals still wanting to go, I can assure you that I am feeling healthy and have been adhering strictly to social distancing guidelines. If that changes, I’ll tell you and we’ll reschedule the trip. I trust that you will do the same.

These are truly weird times and I appreciate everyone’s understanding and flexibility. Don’t hesitate to contact me by phone or email with an questions or concerns. We’ll get through this mess eventually!

Reusable Water Bottles

My grandfather always thought it was absurd that people bought water in plastic bottles. That someone would go to the store and pay for something that comes out of the kitchen sink, throw it away and do it again absolutely blew his mind. Even worse he thought, were all the plastic water bottles people didn’t throw away – the ones he regularly found at the places he hunted and fished.

My grandfather fly fishing for “channel cats” mid 1930’s

No, he wasn’t an environmental activist. He was an insurance claims adjuster from a small town in the Midwest who rarely had anything at all to say about politics or activism. Instead, his perspective likely came partially from that common generational reluctance to embrace a different way of doing things. He was from the canteen generation. But his perspective was also greatly influenced by living through the Great Depression, when most folks simply couldn’t afford not to reuse everything.

My grandfather’s approach to the simple task of taking water into the woods was born purely out of necessity and common sense. Now there’s a whole lot of data that says he was right for reasons he knew at the time and for reasons he couldn’t possibly have foreseen: the overflowing landfills, the wasted oil, the wasted energy, the leaking toxins, the impact on wildlife and the mountains of plastic waste that end up in our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans.

However, my intent is not to write a detailed article on the specific detrimental impacts of single use plastics. There are an overwhelming number of articles and studies on the topic already. If you are unfamiliar with the problem or don’t believe there is a problem, I recommend taking a little time to research.

When it comes to fishing trips, I have always used reusable containers to carry my water. When I was a kid, I used a canteen like my grandfather did. In more recent years, I’ve been using hydration bladders or stainless steel water bottles. The choices today are vast from simple, inexpensive containers to those heavy, high dollar Yetis that will keep ice for days. As with any other piece of fly fishing gear, you just have to find what works best for you. All are better alternatives than buying water in single use plastic bottles.

Partly because I do consider myself an environmentalist and probably more because of the influence of my grandfather, I try to reduce waste as much as possible, whether it’s water bottles or anything else. If you have ever had one of my guide trip lunches, I provide real forks and cloth napkins not to be fancy (as some have commented), but because they are reusable. Lunches are also packed in reusable containers. There are a few things in the lunches that need to be wrapped either for practicality or sanitary reasons, but I’m proud to say the only thing that gets thrown away from one of my lunches is two pieces of cling wrap!

The fact is it would be way easier to pick up a boxed lunch full of disposable containers, paper napkins and plastic utensils and just throw it away at the end of the day. One of my least favorite things to do at the end of every day is to go home and clean all the lunch containers. Yes, it is WAY more work but to me, it is worth it.

I’m not trying to preach here or act superior because I produce less waste. I’ve used my share of disposable containers and I have certainly succumbed to the convenience of a single use plastic water bottle. After all, we do live in a world of convenience and sometimes you just don’t have a choice. But sometimes with just a little more effort, you do.

For years, while carrying my personal water in reusable containers on guide trips, I provided single use water bottles for clients. Yes, those water bottles were recycled after use but there are a lot of questions about the viability of recycling single use water bottles. I have always wanted to eliminate those plastic bottles altogether from my guide trips but thought I didn’t have a choice. It turns out I do. Much like my lunches, it will require a lot more work (and a little more expense) on my end, but like the lunches, I think it’s worth it.

New guide trip water bottles

Effective immediately, I will no longer be providing plastic water bottles on guided fishing trips. Instead, I am encouraging each client to provide his or her own reusable container for water. Many of my clients do this already. For anyone who does not have their own water/container, I will provide aluminum bottles of water. These bottles will be cleaned thoroughly at the end of each trip and reused for future trips.

Sure this will cost me a little more money and it will definitely be more work, but it’s worth it. As someone once told me, “I may not be able to make this world any better, but I sure as hell don’t have to make it worse!”

2019 Holiday Sale

The annual holiday sale is upon us! I started this tradition several years ago for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons is to say thank you to my regular customers with an opportunity to save some money. As a matter of fact, the only place I advertise the buy one, get one free deal is in my newsletter. I don’t post anything about the sale on my social media accounts until the “freebies” are gone… which is usually in a matter of minutes! So, if you are new to this, read the rules and act quickly.

If you’ve been around the block a few times, you should still read the rules as a few things may have changed. Thank you all again for another great season and good luck on the 2nd!

Santa Claus Tying FliesThe Overview: On Monday, December 2nd, the first ten people to book a guided trip or purchase a gift certificate for a guided trip will get a second guided trip free.  If you’re not one of the first ten people, you can still buy one guided trip and get a second for 50% off anytime between December 2nd and December 20th. Just mention this offer.

Read below for full details and frequently asked questions…

 How many can I buy?  The only restriction is on the free trips.  For those first ten people to contact me, there is a two-trip limit on the freebies, meaning you can buy two and get two free.  Past that, there is no limit on how many you may purchase for the 50% offer, so if you want a total of twenty guided trips, ten of them will be half price.

Do I have to book the date(s) when I purchase?  No.  While you are welcome to reserve specific dates, I can also just mail you a gift certificate.  You may book your trip(s) at a later date and apply the gift certificate.

Do all gift certificates have to be for the same person?  No.  Use two as gifts for the same person or for two different people.  Give one as a gift and keep one for yourself.  Or use them all for yourself – I won’t judge you!

How do I purchase gift certificates?  Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a way to offer this deal on gift certificates online (though I’m working on it).  To purchase, just call me at 865-607-2886 with a credit card (see next paragraph for exception).  I’ll get some basic information, like who the certificates are for, and mail them to you.

On Day 1 of the sale, December 2nd, there tends to be a mad dash to get the free trips.  Since I am just one man with a cell phone, I am requesting that you email me at guide@fightmasterflyfishing.com and just indicate that you’re interested in the offer.  I will call you back that morning to get information.  The first ten emails I receive will qualify for the buy-one-get-one-free offer.  If I get twelve emails at the same time, I’ll honor the offer to all twelve people.

How early can I contact you?  Don’t try sending me an email at midnight on December 2nd.  That’s cheating.  The sale officially begins at 8:00 a.m. EST on December 2nd. All emails received at or after 8:00 a.m. will qualify.

How do I redeem my gift certificates?  You can book online using your gift certificate!  Go through the online booking system as always and at the payment screen, enter the coupon code on the gift certificate.  Of course, you can always contact me via phone or email and I will make the reservation for you.  Just mention that you have a gift certificate.

 How long will I have to use my gift certificates?  All gift certificates will have an expiration date of 12/31/20 and I ask that you please be mindful and respectful of this.

Why is there an expiration date?  In addition to this annual offer, I donate multiple trips every year to charity fundraisers.  I am happy to do both, but when free trips from years past blend with free trips of the current year, my calendar gets so full of free trips that I don’t have enough available days to produce revenue.

Are there any other restrictions?There are no seasonal or weekend restrictions. If the date is available, you can reserve it with your gift certificate.  All of the same cancellation policies apply and there are unique policies for gift certificates.  You are encouraged to view all Policies and Restrictions found under Booking and Rates on the web site.