TOWNSEND, Tenn. – “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after,” said Henry David Thoreau, famed writer and amateur fisherman.
Walden Pond’s most famous angler knew a little something about the true purpose of the pastime: escape. That same motivation carries thousands of fly fishers to the Smoky Mountains every year.
“Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest wild trout fisheries in the eastern United States,” said Daniel Drake, owner of Little River Outfitters. “It is very accessible to many people – within a day’s drive for most.”
For more than 20 years, Little River Outfitters in Townsend, Tennessee has helped visitors to the Peaceful Side of the Smokies find their river getaways.
“Anglers can fish near the side of the road or hike back into the woods,” Drake said. “We believe everyone should have the opportunity to be on the river and enjoy themselves fishing.”
Little River Outfitters is located in the heart of Townsend at 106 Town Square Drive, nestled near the banks of the Little River in the shadow of the Smokies. The staff equips and informs anglers wishing to bask in the mountains’ fishing bounty.
Little River offers fly fishing classes, detailed information about the area’s streams and a full array of products, from introductory staples to premium supplies. The ultimate goal: helping anglers navigate the delights and challenges lurking beneath the water.
“The Smokies are not an easy place to catch trout, so when someone starts to have success it’s a wonderful feeling,” Drake said. “Having people come back to let us know that they had a fun and successful trip to the stream is a great reward.”
To earn that reward, Drake and his team make serious investments. Chief among them: a daily fishing report available 361 days each year, composed with care by company founder and fishing expert Byron Begley.
“The fishing report is a daily commitment of two hours a day seven days a week,” said Drake. “Customer service is our primary goal.”
Little River Outfitters invites anglers of all skill levels to enroll in its classes. Subjects range from fly tying (beginner, intermediate and advanced levels) to fly fishing to aquatic entomology. Nearly 200 people enroll every year.
“Our fly fishing classes are an in-depth way for people to learn the basic skills and also to improve their fishing techniques,” Drake said. “Quite a few customers took a school from us when they were young and now their children are becoming fly fishers as well.”
Little River’s 7,000-square-foot shop is an ever-flowing spring of supplies from every major brand. Its tailored service includes helpful advice, area fishing maps and a wide range of equipment.
“When you walk into the shop you will see the largest selection of fly tying materials, hooks and tools that you have probably ever seen,” Drake says. “But when you talk to us, you will see that we are not as big as we look. Our friendly service is like that of a small store.”
If Little River’s vast inventory doesn’t satisfy every need, fishers need not fear. The shop also has a mail-order division with access to supplies around the world – and doesn’t even charge for ground shipping. It’s yet another courtesy that reflects the heart of the company: building bonds with anglers who treasure their Smoky Mountain escape.
“Many of our customers have really become friends,” Drake said. “Even when they are home in Ohio, Florida, even Hawaii, they read the fishing report so they can keep up with what is going on in Townsend.”
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