Cherokee Chapter Trout Unlimited
In 1989 while driving along Route 11E from Johnson City to Greeneville, Tennessee, Bill Guinn saw a magnificent vista to the south – the mountain range of the Cherokee National Forest. It was at that moment that Bill (an avid fly-fisherman) thought about all the streams in those mountains and his desire help restore and preserve them.
Enlisting the only two TU members in the Greeneville area at the time, Bill and twelve other local conservation minded folks formed the Cherokee Chapter of TU (chartered in 1989) with the philosophy that cooperation with outside agencies was the most efficient way to get things accomplished. Serendipitously, Pete Irvine with the United States Forest Service (USFS) was very happy to work with the new TU chapter.
Inspiration – Conservation
Stream habitat improvement within the Cherokee National Forest was a high priority for the USFS; the need resulting from years of logging in the early 1900’s and subsequent storms which caused flooding, damage and debris. Working with USFS, the Cherokee Chapter was able to procure grants beginning in 1990 from Fish America Foundation and Embrace-a-Stream. From 1990-1992 the Chapter members assisted USFS is installing 40 instream structural improvements (i.e. wedge dams, boulder placement, etc.) and a handicap pier at Horse Creek as well as construction of a brook trout barrier along Dry Creek.
Subsequent storms in the area washed out roads, damage stream improvements (including the brook trout barrier) and felled trees. Additional grants from 1993 – 2010 were procured to remedy the damage and to expand the Chapter conservation efforts to also include Paint Creek, Camp Creek and Dillard Ponds.
In 2000, Cherokee Chapter member Bob Ross was instrumental in working with Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to institute a delayed harvest below the campground on Paint Creek which is still in effect today. In addition, stream cleanup at Richland Creek through the City of Greeneville was also added as a yearly Chapter activity.
One of the Chapter’s initial projects was Kids Fishing Day at Horse Creek in the summer of 1990. The event drew over 100 children! The event is held annually; today located at Dillard Ponds on Viking Mountain in the same Cherokee National Forest and drawing between 250-300 children.
In 1993, Chapter member Dan Nieves spearheaded an environmental program which placed aquariums in 4 Greene County schools; assisted by Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and TWRA. Thomas Scott was influenced by this program as a student and is now a fisheries biologist with USFS in Greeneville! Although the program went dormant after Dan’s departure in 2000, the Chapter revived the Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program in 2012 under the direction of Lori Paris and procured TU license plate grant funds to expand the Chapter efforts as well as assist other TN Chapters. Today there are over a dozen TIC programs spanning 4 counties in East Tennessee which Cherokee Chapter volunteers manage and over 50 TIC programs (and growing) throughout Tennessee.
In 2011, Chapter member Jonathan Huckaba chaired the Project Healing Waters in the East Tennessee Region. A program dedicated to help rehabilitate wounded/disabled veterans through therapeutic outdoor activities as well as fly tying, rod building, and fellowship of Chapter members to aid in their recoveries. Chapter member Russ Ambrose subsequently took over leadership of the program, who was instrumental in setting the foundation for a self sufficient ongoing program.
In 2016, Chapter members organized the first Fly Fishing Film Festival in the East Tennessee region. The event was designed to promote and educate coldwater conservation. Local, State and Federal agencies were in attendance to provide information on local projects and work efforts in our coldwater region and chapter members informed patrons about TU and our programs. This annual event has since evolved.
Through cooperation with the local South Holston River Lodge, our Cherokee Chapter Members, neighboring TU Overmountain Chapter, TVA, Orvis, US Forest Service and many other local fly fishing/conservation minded agencies/businesses/enthusiasts, the film festival has grown and combined with the March annual Bill Beazell and Allen Robbins Memorial Tailwater Roundup – a Watauga River and South Holston River cleanup effort.