brown 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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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?

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

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!

Thanksgiving through C&R

The fly fishing community is a small world, and when you catch and release an incredible fish in a small stream you usually never know who will catch it next.  Thanks to the internet and social media, those dots are being connected a lot easier now a days and it sometimes allows you to see who benefited from your own catch and release practices.  A few weeks back a young local angler, Nathan Crowe (@nathan_crowe18 on IG), caught a fish of a lifetime and after some spot comparisons he sent us a message on IG saying he thought it might be the same fish that was shown in the Salmosearch video.  After comparing our own notes on the fish and where it was landed, we confirmed it was the same fish, almost a year after I had caught it. Here is Nathan's story:

"I had fished this stream a long time ago back and was glad to be back in these waters once again. I knew there were big fish here and I am acutely aware of the big browns that lurk in the deeper holes and slower stretches of water. After fishing my way downstream and not hooking up with or catching a glimpse of a nice sized fish, I found my confidence waning and for some reason, something felt wrong, I was throwing a big ol’ green squirmy worm due to the tinge in the water but unable to coax up.  I love throwing huge stuff in and after the rain. I settled into a nice hole with a deep, slow tailout and made about three drifts and my line just stopped dead.  I set the hook and instantly knew it was big, but I had no idea how big until the fish backed out of depths of the hole , I saw what it was and I about crapped myself.  She bulldogged me like crazy and refused to come up to the top.  Surprisingly, she never jumped but she did head-shake hard a couple of times.

Sure enough, that big broad kept trying to rap me around that rock at least five times.  At one point, she took off upstream went up to the hole just above where I hooked into her and then right back down,  Thank God the drag on my reel performed flawlessly.  Sometimes my drag doesn't want to cooperate on bigger fish, but it did for her and I was so grateful.

I finally got her into the net and saw where she was hooked and It was a big relief as I had a really solid hookset. I was fishing 5x mono that I had already landed two fish earlier in the day so I knew it was probably a little frayed which definitely had me nervous.

Once I netted her, I couldn't breathe.  Like everyone who has ever taken up fly fishing, a fish like that was on my bucket list since my first day on the water.

I remembered watching the #Salmosearch video months back and I had my sights set on a fish like that ever since.

Never once did I think that I would get a shot at that one…"

-Nathan

Nathan, Congrats on the catch of a lifetime and thanks for sharing your story with us!  It’s funny that you say you felt something was wrong all day because that is exactly what happened to me.  I hadn’t caught a thing all day up until I set into that brute.

For me personally, the picture of Nathan’s catch was an amazing thing to see.  It may sound ridiculous to some, but catching that fish last year meant everything to me.  I had just lost my mom to cancer a month earlier and simply being back on the water was all I was looking for that day.  Hooking into this fish was affirmation to me that no matter where my travels would take me, my mother’s spirit was with me.  Physically she is gone, but never once during this past year have I felt abandoned, lonely, or lost without her actually here.  I goes without saying the I miss her dearly, but I see things like Nathan’s catch happen and I can say that, without a doubt, she is here and speaks to me every day…all I have to do is look for her and to listen.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wet Dreams, Vol. 2

When Justin mentioned doing a series of post's dedicated to our "bucket list" fishing trips, my mind instantly began to race. Like Justin, I spend a lot of time dreaming about fishing far off locales and even more time trying to figure out how to make it happen. Most of us aren't fortunate enough to be able to ride off into the sunset at the drop of hat. Aside from the money, the biggest hurdle is finding the free time. Most of us answer to the man from 8 to 5 and to the family the rest. Those that are fortunate enough to travel the world and fish, consider this guy jealous of you! Again like Justin, my first bucket list trip has been there since I picked this sport up many years ago. I cut my teeth fishing the Chattahoochee River for trout and have always been a trout guy at heart. Big Brown Trout really get my motor going. And while I think the south is way underrated when it comes to fishing opportunities on the fly, specifically trout, my mind as a young fly flinger was constantly wandering to the crystal clear waters of New Zealand and the over-sized Brown's that inhabit its waters.

The south island has been drawing fly fisherman to its bright blue waters for many years. Rivers like the Mataura, which runs through the town of Gore, (known as the Brown Trout capital of the world) are known for not only their beautiful scenery but also their high density of 2 to 5 lb Brown's. The opportunities on New Zealand's south island range from from spring fed creeks, to glacial lakes and from some easily accessed locations to heli-fishing trips. The south islands numerous rivers are noted for their reliable hatches and if you're unfamiliar with the year of the mouse, do yourself a favor and check out On The Fly Production's 2006 film "Once in a Blue Moon". If the footage from that film doesn't make you want to hop a plane the next day then you may want to have your pulse checked! Seeing footage of huge Rainbows devouring mouse patterns will ruin anyone, much less a young kid with Trout fever. Trips to the south island can run upwards of $8,000 for 7 days, but you can't put a price on a bucket list trip can you?

Drop us a comment if you have a far off destination that keeps waking you up at night with damp sheets!