Trout

Snow Days

I watched the weather carefully over the last week.  Promises of snow here in the Atlanta area are rare.  Growing up in Massachusetts I’m no stranger to snow.  As a child, snow had a way of bringing excitement, and drew me to the outdoors.  Some days it was sledding down snowy roads with friends, others we would just venture off into the snowy woods, crossing frozen creeks and charting new paths through areas we hadn’t explored.  When snow blankets the ground it’s like a new world.  Everything seems quiet, bright, and new, washed in white. Now that I’m grown, and partially conditioned by the local fear of snow covered roads, my default is usually to hide inside with the rest of the masses.  I’ve been taught to always think; “what’s the worst that can happen”, and plan from there to be safe.  But all too often enough, I don’t plan for “what’s the best that can happen”.  Because you just don’t know the limits of how good of a day it could be.

I rounded up a crew the evening before the snow started to fall, and planned a trip only knowing one thing; it was going to be a beautiful day in the snow covered mountains.  In my excitement I didn’t even check the highs for Saturday until I woke up an hour before I was to leave.  I then stepped outside to warm up the truck and was surprised to find there wasn’t much snow this far south of the mountains, mostly solid ice.  I ignored the temperatures (high of 24F) and my own nervousness of navigating icy roads, packed my rods and camera gear and headed north towards Blue Ridge and Noontootla Creek Farms (NCF).

To my surprise, everybody showed.   Even though what would normally be an hour and a half drive turned into a three hour white knuckled slip and slide, we all arrived unharmed.  Of course the day was filled with the standards woes of the season (frozen guides, hands, toes, etc.), but we enjoyed what makes winter one of my favorite seasons to fish.  No crowds, clear water, and the flow is beginning to return to some sense of normalcy after the summer drought.  Just as we were winding down the day, I was reminded that risk sometimes results in reward.  I set the hook on what felt like a log, and as he worked his way out of a frigid deep hole, I saw gold in a world of white.

An awesome day with friends surrounded by beauty and abundance.  NCF is an excellent fishery year round.  Book a winter trip, grab some hand warmers and pray for snow, you won't regret it.

Photos from Matt Bornhorst and Kyle Vaughan.

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Ode To The Brook Trout

Sweet Release
Sweet Release

We've had the opportunity to catch some pretty amazing Brook Trout lately and I think it's high time we southerners give the often small Brookie some love. Brown's and Rainbow's reign supreme in our neck of the woods but I'm not sure if there's a more impressive looking trout, than a Brook Trout. From the myriad array of spots, to the crisp white tipped fins, the Brookie is something to behold.

Small and Mighty
Small and Mighty
Boss Brookie
Boss Brookie

Nice Pack Co

So I’ve been in possession of a Midge Pack from Nice Pack Co for a little over a year now.  I’ll be honest that I’m generally guilty of carrying too much and have never been a lanyard user.  I carry enough gear to easily switch between nymph, streamer and dry rigs and of course, I can’t forget the other essentials like (in order of importance): A beverage, vittles, camera gear and the occasional rain jacket.  Most places I fish are far from where I park and even if I am close, I like to make the most of my time on the water and not waste a single minute.  So there you have it; my excuse. This year’s hot summer has pushed me to the hills and I’ve been much more focused on photography, and carrying less fishing gear in an attempt to keep things simple.  And that’s exactly what the Midge Pack is, simple.  I was able to carry my photo gear in a traditional backpack while having an arsenal of dry flies and supplies right there under my chin.

I don’t think a lanyard fits every occasion on the water, however if you find they work for you or you are considering using them, the Nice Pack Midge might be a solid alternative to the traditional “fly fishing necklace”. There’s no fancy pukka shells, beads or hemp here; just solid, durable, thick materials and buckles that you know will last.  Getting this pack also forced me to purchase my first Tacky box, which the pack was designed to hold.  I have to say, I’m also a fan of these box's slim, lightweight design and quality materials.  What also makes the Nice Pack Co Midge Pack attractive is they are made here in my home state of Georgia by a couple of "fishy" dudes who had a vision of how they could "loose the lanyard" and make a better micro pack.

Overall I’m glad I gave the Nice Pack Co Midge Pack a shot this year.  It’s found a home in my go-to-gear for small stream, simplistic fishing.

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Photos by Matt Bornhorst

Cryptofishing

Chris recently sent us this note on Facebook:

Facebook Question
Facebook Question

I began to reply via Facebook and quickly realized how ridiculous it would be to type this on my smartphone.  I also thought it’s a topic interesting enough to post and share here on our blog.

So let me begin with this statement; I’m in no way a fisheries biologist and my opinions are only based on what I think is most logical, but not ruling out the possibility for something unusual.  My opinion has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

The oddly colored and sparsely spotted trout in question came from a section of river that lie in Georgia’s largest Wilderness Area, the Cohutta Wilderness.  I totally agree with the comments Chris left on our Flickr page; they almost look like a “cutbow”, without of course the one distinguishing feature that gave the cutthroat species its name. And most likely it’s not likely they have any relation to the cutthroat species since I can find no record on the ole’ Google machine of any hatcheries in the southeast raising cutthroat.  I've caught more than one of these unusual looking rainbows on this wild section of river, so I know it's not a fluke or “one off”. I also know that I've only caught them in a certain section of the river.

Here’s some thoughts to consider: If you’ve spent enough time in the forest of the Cohutta Wilderness, you quickly realize it’s a place like no other.  I don’t just say that because of its size alone.  I say that because it’s like its own little planet.  From about 1999 until 2002, I volunteered for the Forestry Service in Chatsworth, GA doing trail maintenance and trail improvements inside the Wilderness Area.  After a friend introduced me to the area, I quickly became fascinated.  The rivers are fairly wide to be spring fed from the mountains in which they run through (large enough we call them rivers and not creeks).  The water is crystal clear and because of the areas geology, the river is loaded with giant boulders and unusual barren viens of white quartz that traverse the river bottom reminiscent of something from "Middle Earth".  When you explore out there, you start to find things you’ve never seen before, or in unusual abundance.  I’ve seen unusually large hatches of flying insects (Mays and Caddis) as well as some large and/or unusual bugs I haven’t found in the same numbers anywhere else in the North Georgia Mountains (Beetles, Millipedes and Dobsonflies).  In a way, the Cohutta Wilderness area lives up to my expectations of what a Wilderness area should be, mysterious and filled with possibility.  So mysterious that the area is host to cryptozoology stories; including that of monster Brown Trout over 20 inches and of course let’s not forget Bigfoot (as well as a few unexplained creepy and paranormal experiences of my own while camping) yet there are no hard evidence of either.

All that being said, the trout along this section of river probably have a very unique diet that may not be common or as prevalent elsewhere in the state.  That diet may have allowed these fish to grow in a completely natural state in this very unique area, creating these unusual looking rainbows. That would be my best logical guess.  However, if waterfowl can transport fertilized fish eggs to remote ponds on their feathers and webbed feet, I suppose Bigfoot may have carried in cutthroat eggs from out West between his hairy toes.  Like I said when i started this post; logical, but not ruling out the possibility for something unusual.

Now after all this discussion and reminiscing on past trips, I’ve got the itch to get out there and torture my leg muscles.  Chris, keep us posted if your trout research reveals any other answers or interesting facts.

In Deep Appreciation

It's hard to believe that out of all the time I've spent in Georgia fishing trout waters, I had still not made the time to chase native Brook Trout.  I enjoy all types of fishing, however something didn't seem appealing about chasing these tiny trout high in the mountains of thick, twisted brush.  Part of me wants to blame it on my youth.  Growing up in the Northeast where brook trout of the 8-12" range are prevalent and made up the majority of what we caught growing up.  I suppose I was immune to the allure some southern trout fishermen have for these tiny trout of Southern Appalachia. This year has been extremely hot, last Friday marked 50 days over 90 degrees in the Atlanta area.  Couple that with a lack of rain and it's the ingredients for a really bad summer of trout fishing here in the Southeast.  Water levels are extremely low, which have forced most fishermen to either fish the cool tail waters of our dam controlled lakes, or head to the shaded mountains of the high country.  With that said, it seemed it was time for me to finally put some miles between me and a vehicle and do some exploring in pursuit of the states one true native.

Exploring itself is a part of what most of us love about fishing.  There are times when you get far enough off paths and roads and contemplate the last time someone fished the section of river you stood in.  There is always a curiosity about what's around the next corner and when it's time to quit, it's often with regret that you may have missed out on what lie just ahead.  I suppose that is what I can appreciate about the Southern Brook Trout.  You have to work for them, and in doing so, you find what nature hides from those unwilling or able to go deep into the wild.

Also worthy of appreciation is the resilience of the species here in this section of the mountains. Although colder, the water is still low in the mountains and these fish live in tiny infertile streams.  With food sources low, these tiny warriors are fierce.  I'm used to having one shot at a hook set, but it wasn't uncommon to have these fish strike multiple times. And of course, who can't appreciate the colors and patterns of these fish?  Brook Trout, no matter the size, are certainly like no other trout.

What these mountain gems lack in big fights and trophy sizes, they make up for in the fact they are truly wild and connect you to what nature was like centuries before before stocking programs and scientific anglers.

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Show Me Your Thing

Written By: Kyle Vaughan    

Many anglers go through a process of maturing or finding themselves within the recreation of fishing. Through this process of maturing and learning, it helps us figure out what type of fishing or water we identify as our favorite, or our "thing"- what we enjoy the most.

For me, a small, wild trout stream is what I would call my "thing". I typically get all Early Cuyler wild and rowdy thinking about these types of fisheries. If you were to give me three things, I would be set for a good day in the mountains fishing: my 3 wt Sage TXL, Abel Creek reel, and a stream no wider than the rod's length in width.

Several weekends ago Jamie and I headed north to one of our favorite small, wild trout streams. We met up with some friends and family stream-side to hangout and cook over the campfire. And, f0r Jamie and myself to inevitably chase our fishy friends: small stream wild Brown Trout.

Jamie and I got started fishing a little later in the day after hanging out with our friends and family for a few. Both of fished dries, a Stimulator and a Parachute Adams with good luck on each. One feisty little trout jumped straight out of the water with my dry in its mouth and he had some hang time! At one of the deeper drop pools, after a few dry fly drifts and no luck, I tied a Greenie Weenie off the hook-bend of the Stimulator. Two drifts later I was laying the wood to a trout that fell for the Greenie Weenie. We had to good time and got a few wild browns to hand before heading back to eat dinner with everyone at camp.

This stream does not promise big trout. There could be a big surprise waiting on us to fool it and I hope to be surprised one day. What this stream does offer is some of the most gorgeous and aesthetically pleasing brown trout you will ever see.

Enjoy a few photos from our trip!

Lots and lots of spots
Lots and lots of spots
Bushwacking
Bushwacking
Salmotrutta
Salmotrutta

To Seine or Not To Seine

Hands Free Seine
Hands Free Seine

One of the oldest debates within the fly fishing community is "proper drift vs proper fly pattern", and which one holds the most weight. Ask this question around a group of half boozed up fly anglers and you're likely to get a split between the two with various reasoning's behind their argument. Personally I feel like there are times when any properly presented fly will suffice and other times when having the proper pattern will be the only way to put fish in the bag. There are of course numerous factors that play a role in this, such as stream fertility, conditions, and fishing pressure, to name a few. In all reality though if you want to take your trout fishing to the next level, ultimately putting more fish in the bag, becoming efficient at making a proper drift and matching it with the proper fly pattern will be key. All anglers should make a habit of observing the water, turning over rocks and seining the water, and observing fish behavior before jumping right into fishing. While turning over rocks and observing fish behavior requires minimal effort, seining the water for aquatic insects is not as simple. Typically, a majority of anglers will carry a paint strainer that affectively slips over the net basket to search for underwater trout snacks. While these strainers are relatively cheap, they work best on larger guide/boat nets and require a little effort to set up. The other day while cruising the web I came across the Hands Free Seine site. The Hands Free Seine uses a weighted net attached to a retractor which allows the seine to be used at different depths, while also being used hands free via the attached belt clip. The compact size of the Hands Free Seine also allows it to be stored easily inside of your vest or pack. For $30 this seems like a great deal for a quality seine, that can be deployed easily without the use of a net. While I have no experience with this product, I can tell you having a way to seine the water has saved numerous days on the water for me when I couldn't decipher exactly what the fish were eating that day.

I love seeing new and innovative products hit the market because like most I'm always trying to improve my fishing game and get a leg up on my quarry. Drop us a line if you have used the Hands Free Seine or have additional unique ways to seine the water for bugs!

Trout Snacks
Trout Snacks
Trout Snacks
Trout Snacks

A Retrospect: Unfamiliar Waters, Familiar Feelings

By: Kyle Vaughan    

About a week ago, I came across this writing from 2013 and I am not exactly sure what I wrote it for. I'm glad I did though. It brought back a lot of memories from this trip that I had forgotten.

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On Saturday Jamie, Byron, and myself set off on a day trip up to the Chattooga River on the Georgia/South Carolina line. After a breakfast from the local Bojangles for our morning sustenance, we hit the road. I had never fished the Chattooga, but in the past I took a trip to its tributaries and loved those small mountain streams.

Upon our arrival to a roadside parking lot we unloaded and setup our rods with the all to familiar bullshitting and trash talking our fishing family is accustomed to. There always seems to be some colorful characters in those roadside parking lots. The two we ran into that day were a 50+ year old man and woman getting geeked for a day of Appalachian Trail clearing. From their conversations I took that they were really passonate about their chainsaws and weedeaters.

Chattooga Brown
Chattooga Brown

Not to tarry any longer, the crew hit the road on hoof to the bridge to see what we were dealing with for the day (with the sound of two stroke motors blazing from across the way). The day started out with sunshine and cotton clouds moving across the blue skies. Our view from the bridge gave us a promising outlook on the day's fishing ahead. After a short walk to the riverside we broke the surface of the river like three baptism candidates at your local Baptist church: on our tip toes and tight fisted as if it would subside the cold water's effects on our non-wader shod bodies.

We spread out and started hitting the water on a mission to catch some trout. It took a little while for us to hook-up with one, after a few hits, missed hook sets, and countless drifts and swings. It didn't hurt our egos too much, and if it did we were not letting on that it did. Personally, I was enjoying every minute of it! It just reminded me that the human element of fishing is why I love it. Man is fallible, but when everything aligns whether it is due to luck or skill, the tight line and shimmy of the trout felt through the rod to your body brings back the rush and excitement of why I do it.

Every one of us caught fish and had a great time hanging out with nature and each other. At one point during our session, I stood in the middle of the river basking in the glory of the day and admiring the handiwork of the Creator: Mountains, trees, wildlife, sunshine, and the unseen breeze moving through the valley. The blissful breeze blew in an ominous looking grey cloud cover that brought rolling thunder and heavy rain. The crew fled to the banks of the river seeking refuge in the dense cover of mountain laurels and anything with thick, full foliage. This little storm that blew through soaked us and had us huddled up like a covey of quail in a thick bush about to be flushed by bird dogs doing their job in the field. The storm ceased and we got back at it working some runs for some trout.

At the end of the day, there were six or seven brought to hand with a few missed. It was a great day to be out and get away from everything back home: work, school, and responsibilities. After a short hiatus from my once often visited and honest recreation of fly fishing due to a summer full of rain, prior commitments, and other unforeseen circumstances; the yearning to get back to a trout stream set in earlier that week and did not cease until this past Saturday. I would not say it ceased but reminded me why I love fly fishing. This trip inspired a promise to never stay away from it and let this busy life intrude upon my passions. If you are reading this, do what makes you happy and don't stay away from your passions no matter what. Make time and do it often.

Kyle has been toting around a fly rod since his adolescent days and we're excited to have him on board as a new contributor. Look for more of his work in the future!