2nd Annual PHWFF Gear Drive

Last holiday season we were humbled and excited to be given the opportunity to help host a gear drive benefiting Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing. In all honesty last years event was thrown together with minimal formal planning, sparked by a last minute idea and we were blown away by the generosity of the fly fishing community; which is why were even more excited to announce the PHWFF Gear Drive will officially become an annual event! And as hard as it will be to top last years event, our long term goal is to not only collect gear, but to also raise awareness for Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing and to ask everyone who enjoys the the sport of fly fishing to give, if not in the gift of gear, then to help promote the efforts of PHWFF so that others can give to those who sacrifice so much to defend our freedom. Before I dive into details about this years event, I would like to take a moment again to thank all of the Companies, Shops and Individuals that stepped up and made last years event an overwhelming success. Because of your efforts we were able to raise $50,000 in gear that was placed in the hands of veteran's across the United States. That's pretty amazing stuff!

Much like last year we will be partnering with Pig Farm Ink and enlisting the help of fly shops to serve as drop of points for your gently used fly fishing gear (This post will de updated with participating shops), as well as accepting donations by mail. The gear drive will end on January 15, 2017,  and like last year, PHWFF will be hosting a social event on February 4th 2017 after the completion of The Fly Fishing Show in Atlanta, in which all of the gear collected will be handed over to Project Healing Waters.  The event will be held at Tin Lizzy's Cantina, located just steps from the Fly Fishing Show venue. Tin Lizzy's has committed 20% of each person's check that is there for the event to be donated back to Project Healing Waters.

The following fly shops are participating drop of locations: (and please check back as we will continue to update this list as more shops come on board.)

Alpharetta Outfitters – 79 S Main St, Alpharetta, GA 30009 – (678) 762-0027
Unicoi Outfitters – 7280 S Main St, Helen, GA 30545 –  (706) 878-3083
Southern Highroads Outfitters – 253 Georgia Hwy 515 East, Blairsville, GA 30512 – (706) 781-1414
Blue Ridge Fly Fishing – 490 E Main St, Blue Ridge, GA 30513 – (706) 258-4080
The Fish Hawk – 3095 Peachtree Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30305 – (404) 237-3473
Orvis Atlanta (Buckhead) Store - 3275 Peachtree Rd, Atlanta, GA 30305 - (404) 841-0093
Cohutta Fishing Company – 39 S Public Square, Cartersville, GA 30120 – (770) 606-1100

North Carolina:
Tuckaseegee Fly Shop – 3 Depot St, Bryson City, NC 28713 – (828) 488-3333
Rivers Edge Outfitters - 61 Big Cove Rd, Cherokee, NC 28719 - (828) 497-9300
OGRE Outdoors – 5750 Asheville Hwy, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768 – (828) 877-8622
Hunter Banks Asheville - 29 Montford Ave, Asheville, NC 28801 - (828) 252-3005
Hunter Banks Waynesville -  48 N Main St, Waynesville, NC 28786 - (828) 251-9721
Davidson River Outfitters - 49 Pisgah Hwy #6, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768 -(828) 877-4181

Orvis Plano Store - 2412 Preston Road, Preston Towne Crossing, Suite 200, Plano, TX 75093 - (972) 596-7529

Overwatch Outpost - 97 Main Street, Charlemont, MA 01339 - (413) 339-8800


If instead, you would like to mail your donations you can send them to: Pig Farm Ink, 1275 Castleberry Dr., Buford, GA 30518 or Alpharetta Outfitters, 79 S Main St, Alpharetta, GA 30009

If mailing your donations, please be sure to mark your package PHWFF Gear Drive and include a copy of the In-Kind donation form you can print by clicking here.

If you're interested in finding out more about the event please contact info@wingedreel.com. We will be using social media to spread the word and encourage all of you to share posts regarding this event on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. If you're not familiar with Project Healing Waters then I encourage you to visit their site and check out this amazing organization!

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season!

The Winged Reel Crew

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

Stream Etiquette: To High Hole or Not...(seriously?!)

We've all been there; six years old racing your buddy to the best spot on the creek, lake, or local farm pond. What we didn't realize then, that came to light as we grew into adults is that there are enough fish to go around. Sure the honey hole may be your best bet, but as adult anglers we've all come to realize that the fish we chase will often hold in locations and behave in ways that defy six year old logic! Fast forward thirty years within my group and there are no more races. No more counting numbers. No gloating over big fish rights. Hell these days we're all pretty content scooping fish for the other guy. There's just as much pride in seeing someone new to the sport land their first trophy trout or seeing your buddy check a new species off the bucket list, as reaching those milestones yourself. I think its safe to say that the natural evolution anglers experience removes the six year old Ricky Bobby thought of "if you're not first, you're last" from your way of thinking. While this is true for most, some folks truly never grow up. Their Medulla Oblongata never full develops and it fails to send out rational signals. The one's that tell the angler not to jump in and fish asshole to elbow with a complete stranger. Maybe there's a cure for it. A pill you can take; I'm not sure. I'm no doctor, but I can tell you those folks are sending the wrong message to all future anglers. On three recent trips I experienced this moronic behavior in all of it's glory. One experience though, lead me to believe there is still hope. There are actually those who get it. Let me explain, and I'll begin with the bad.

On two separate occasions while fishing with my fiance, on two different stretches of DH water we had other anglers come down the bank and fish the same pool we were currently fishing. Not a "hello", not a "hey do you mind if I join you", nothing. I have to start by saying I don't get to fish with the better half often... mostly that's by choice, but nonetheless she has gotten pretty good at catching fish on a fly rod. I've used days on freshly stocked DH waters to have her work on her hook-sets, fish-fighting, and other skills that are easier to understand with actual field time. I think most will agree it's pretty stupid fishing. Don't get me wrong, there are times when a day of punching stockers in the face is exactly what I need, but you won't find it on any travel brochures. The thing that blows my mind is that during your typical DH stocking local hatcheries load the water with fish. Take a walk downstream and there are fish in almost every single pool, run, and riffle. The fish are by no means hard to locate. But because you see a dude and his future wife catching a few fish, that automatically makes you assume "that's as good as it gets"?! There are miles of stream void of anglers and the pool I'm fishing is the "promise land"? (Rolls eyes)

The good news is there are still anglers out there that get the code. On a separate trip last month to a popular DH stream known to be stocked with larger fish, we got an earlier start to beat the crowds. While rigging up right at sunrise, another passing angler stopped his truck and politely asked which way we were planning to head. Obviously we were the first to arrive that morning and he found it important enough to stop, say hello, and ask which way we planned to fish so that we could all have an enjoyable day on the water and not be fishing on top of each other. Was this guy going above the norm? Probably so, but our days on the water would be so much more enjoyable if we ran into that guy on each and every trip!

I'm sure I will come off as an asshole to some but to me it's common sense. If you run into another angler fishing a particular spot, give him or her space. Whether or not you had that specific spot in mind to fish, makes no difference. He/she was there first. "The early bird gets the worm" or "you snooze you lose" may be appropriately used here. If you have a specific spot in mind, get up an hour earlier and then this whole article may be a moot point. The bottom line is that it's honestly hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that some anglers find it ok to drop in and fish a spot where someone else is currently fishing. The thing is, if you go about it the correct way, strike up a conversation and be polite, odds are you may very well be invited to fish with said person. Let's all make it a point to do the right thing and set a positive example for all future generations!

Traffic Jam On The River?
Traffic Jam On The River?

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.


Photos by Matt Bornhorst


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.


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

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