TROUTFEST 2009 - TV Coverage
Festival strengthens native Brook Trout, reels in tourism
Troutfest 2009 reeled in thousands of fishing enthusiasts to Townsend for the largest turnout in the event's history. The event nets dollars for Brook Trout restoration and dips another line in the water for tourists to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
"This is the largest group we've ever had, by far," said Byron Begley, owner of Little River Outfitters and organizer of Troutfest. "We had two-to-three times as many people as last year and raised more than $30,000. And everything we raise goes to the Smoky Mountain Fisheries Department."
The Fisheries Department uses the proceeds for its ongoing effort to restore the park to its natural state before man disrupted and destroyed habitats. Key among these is the restoration of the native Brook Trout, a fish decimated by the logging industry and the introduction of other types of trout. The last few years the Park Service has relaxed its 30-year ban on Brook Trout fishing.
"You don't find Brook Trout many places anymore," said Randy Fridlund, a vendor who traveled from Indianapolis to sell hand-crafted bamboo fly rods. "I think this is one of the few places where it's a pure strain of native Brook Trout. It is just fantastic from the scenery, these beautiful fish, and the people are so nice that I'm definitely coming back on my own time."
Organizers of the festival say the festival and Brook Trout restoration provides yet another attraction to the park, be it fishing enthusiasts or eco-tourists.
"The park is a major resource for this community and this country," said Rufus King of the Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited. "We want to make sure there's a little bit of everything for everybody to enjoy the park."
"As far as tourism is concerned, it's one other opportunity [tourists] may not have at streams near where they live," said Begley.
In addition to the funds generated at Troutfest, King said the large turnout bolsters the park's fund-raising ability by demonstrating public demand for habitat restoration projects.
Visitors at the festival said restoring the Brook Trout is important to preserve family traditions.
"I brought my family here because we enjoy so much fishing," said Greg Grime.
Grime and his wife brought their two sons to Troutfest on Sunday afternoon.
"We got to do some fly-casting." Grime added, "This is something [my children] can enjoy later in life and show their children. I think it's very important."