April 21, 2014

Autumn Angling in Appalachia

By Neil McGahee

As summer makes its final stand before the russet-tinged invasion of autumn, the fly angler’s thoughts turn to one of the South’s best places for fall flyfishing — the Upper Chattooga River.

In the gap where North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia converge, ice-cold water from high mountain springs usher the newborn river along 150 miles of fast rapids and deep pools. One of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in the South, the Chattooga — the “star” of the movie “Deliverance” — boasts legendary wild brown, rainbow and brook trout fishing.

The first 10 miles of the Upper Chattooga is considered one of the top 100 trout streams in the United States by Trout Unlimited. Browns are the dominant species, except for an area from Burrell’s Ford downstream to the U.S. Forest Service campground, which is heavily stocked with rainbows and brook trout. Access to the river above Burrell’s Ford is by foot only but the hike, although lengthy, isn’t particularly difficult.

Downstream from the campground, lies the most rugged portion of the river. In this three-mile stretch, brown trout make up roughly two-thirds of the population. General creel limits are in effect in September and October, but delayed-harvest regulations apply from November through mid-May and anglers must observe catch-and-release fishing only. This section is accessible only by foot from parking areas at the S.C. 28 bridge and Big Bend Rd.

Autumn mayfly hatches — mahogany duns, slate drakes and brown sedges — although sporadic, start in mid-August and may last into December. However, most anglers opt to use terrestrial patterns —grasshoppers, beetles, ants and inchworms — especially inchworms or moth larvae, which occur in large numbers.

In addition to terrestrial and aquatic insects, the Chattooga offers lots of baitfish including crayfish, sculpins and black-nosed dace. Streamer imitations of these and other minnows are especially effective when the water is slightly off color. The ubiquitous Wooly Bugger in black or olive can be especially deadly.

A 9-foot, 5-weight fly rod is tailor-made for fishing the Chattooga. You may hook a tree trout here and there, but the opportunity to make longer casts and have better line control easily atones for that. Try using a nine-foot 5X leader for starters, but bring extra tippet material in a variety of sizes to handle everything from midges to muddlers.

To get there from Clayton, Ga.: From Hwy. 441 turn right (east) onto Warwoman Rd. Go approximately 15 miles to the intersection with Hwy. 28. Turn right (south) on Hwy. 28. Go 2-3 miles then turn left on Burrell’s Ford Rd. Travel approximately 7 miles, cross the Chattooga River Bridge. The parking area is ½ mile past the bridge on the right.

 

Picking Your First Fly Rod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You see them every time you cross any north Georgia stream; lone figures standing waist-deep in rushing water waving slender sticks like one of those Chinese ribbon dancers. It looks so serene, so inviting. At that moment, you decide you’re going to take up flyfishing. But first you’ll need a fly rod.

 

“Well, the first thing to consider is the species of fish you will be going after,” says Andy Bowen, owner of Cohutta Fishing Co. in Cartersville, Ga. “Your first rod should be versatile, but also appropriate for the type of fishing you will be doing. Some of the things to consider are length, action, weight and budget.”

 

Action

“Fly rods are made with three different actions — full flex, mid flex and tip flex,” Bowen says. “Action refers to where the rod bends after the line straightens completely on the back cast and begins the forward cast. A slow action, or full-flex, rod tends to bend closer to the handle, a mid-flex bends in the middle of the rod and a tip-flex bends on the upper 12-18 inches of the rod. Novice to intermediate fly anglers should choose a mid-flex rod for all-around use.”

 

Line weight

Line weight should match the specifications for your rod — that is an 8-foot 6-inch, 6-weight rod should be strung with 6-weight line. The higher the line weight means more power and distance, especially when casting larger flies in the wind. Lower line weight fly rods offer greater finesse and presentation, especially important when casting to spooky fish.

Length

Longer rods are better suited for distance casts, especially with long leaders, better for mending line and generally better for nymphing.  However, longer rods are harder to cast into the wind and tend to be heavier. Shorter rods are easier to cast into the wind and the lower weight results in less arm fatigue, but they are limited when it comes to casting long leaders and nymphing.

 

“I think a 9-foot, mid-flex 5-weight rod is the most versatile rod in the world,” Bowen says. “It’s the ideal rod if you plan to fish lakes, creeks and rivers. If you have no idea where you are going to fish, buy a 9-foot 5-weight.”

 

Budget

“Consider your budget, then buy the best rod you can afford,” Bowen says. “Don’t go crazy on the front end, but do make sure you buy a quality rod. Beginners and experts alike benefit from using a high quality fly rod.”

 

Patagonia: Misplaced Progress?

By Neil McGahee
Thanks to ongoing protests from a coalition of groups in Chile, plans to build a $3.2-billion complex of dams across some of the best fly-fishing water in the world have been put on indefinite hold.  Wild, remote Patagonia , also called the Aysén, region of southern Chile is safe — for now.

Flowing through the foothills of the Andes Mountains, the Baker and Pascua rivers are legendary among fly fishers, its crystalline waters home to large populations of brown and rainbow trout usually ranging from 12 to 20 inches. Fed by snowmelt and glacial waters, the Baker tends to be at its best between October and Christmas and later from mid- March until the end of the season in May.

All that breathtaking beauty could be lost, critics say, if the project, called HidroAysen is allowed to continue. Critics claim the purpose of the project is to provide cheap energy to mining companies, not consumers as they claim. Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council says the plan is a “political and financial folly,” but Chilean President Sebastian Pinera remains solidly behind the project, saying the dams are necessary to reduce Chile’s  96 percent  dependence on imported oil.

But fewer and fewer people are buying that argument.

“I understand that we need more electricity in the future, but this isn’t the kind of discussion we can have over spreadsheets,” said Patricio Segura Ortiz,  director of Patagonia Sin Represas, another national organization opposed to the project. “When you look at a mountain full of forests do you see furniture and plywood or do you see a national park?”

Seguro Ortiz said the biggest lie about the dams is that they are being built for Chileans.

“HidroAysén is not for hospitals or schools or anything that has to do with the common people,” he said. “HidroAysen is there to provide more energy to the mines. They want to run gigantic power lines through our most natural areas to support the copper mines in the north. We asked them to look into alternatives with less environmental impact, but they won’t do it. There is just too much profit to be made from a project of this magnitude.”

So what does that mean for visiting fly fishers?

Just as happened in the western U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, the installation of dams usually results in a pronounced degradation of the fishery that may take decades to restore. Even more disturbing is the loss of  the natural beauty of the region.

To keep abreast of developments, email:  kross@internationalrivers.org

 

Carpin’

 

By:
Garner Reid

Fly fishing for carp. Mention this
to some folks and you will more than likely get a raised eyebrow or even
disgusted look on their face. I am pleased to see the tide is changing
and many anglers are discovering the drag screaming awesomeness carp provide.
There is something about these rubber lipped, bottom feeding ditch dwellers
that will get in your blood. Some call them the redneck bonefish, a name they
live up to very well. Carp are a very worthy opponent for the fly angler. Leave
your dainty little 4 weights at home and bust out your light saltwater gear and
tighten that drag an extra click or two tighter, your going to need it!

Carp have a reputation for being slow moving, bottom feeding dwellers. It’s easy to write a carp off as a trash
fish, I mean, they don’t always live in the prettiest of places. Don’t write
them off until further investigation. They are quite a hardy species; you can
find them almost anywhere in our area. Most of our area lakes and rivers boast
healthy populations of carp making the fish readily available to almost
everyone. The most productive way to target these fish is in any kind of
shallow water flats and back water sloughs where they can be sight fished.
Stealth is the key when pursuing these fish on the flats. Having several
sensitive lateral lines, they are keen to changes in their environment.
Spooking a single carp may also render a large area of a flat unproductive
since they have the ability to communicate chemically by releasing a ‘danger’
pheromone, alerting all of his rubber lipped pals of your presence and
ultimately giving you the middle fin salute. Presentation for these guys is very
much like presenting a fly to a redfish. There is a delicate balance between
landing your fly too close or too far. The ideal scenario is to find a
‘mudding’ or tailing fish, these fish are actively feeding, meaning the right
presentation will get ate. I have great success on a handful of different fly
patterns most of which resemble small crawfish or damsel fly nymphs.

Remember,
the key is to put the fly in the sight of a feeding fish. Also, DO NOT trout
set when you get ate! Strip sets are essential for a good hook up. This serves
as great practice for any angler preparing for that once in a lifetime salt
water flats trip. Trout setting a carp is much less heart breaking than trout
setting a Permit or Tarpon in the keys, trust me. When selecting your gear for carp
I prefer a 7-9 weight rod paired with a good salt water grade reel. With the
growing popularity of carp fishing Rio now
offers specialty carp fly lines on the market. I still find that most salt
water fly lines such as Rio’s Redfish and
Bonefish Quickshooter lines are my favorite to fish with a 9-12ft 10-15 lb
leader. We have all of these items and then some well stocked in the shop so
feel free to come in and ask questions and gear up for these golden
beauties!

 

 

In Search of Wild Trout

by Neil McGahee

Georgia boasts more than 4,000 miles of trout streams, but the state is at the extreme southern end of natural trout water in the eastern United States, so many streams that can support stocked fish, can’t sustain natural reproduction. The Jacks River, a medium-sized steam flowing through the breathtakingly beautiful Cohutta Wilderness Area, is an exception to the rule. The Jacks offers excellent angling for wild rainbow, brown and brook trout from its headwaters in Fannin County until it joins the Conasauga River near the Georgia-Tennessee border.

But there’s a catch!

You have to work for these fish.

Unlike much of North Georgia, the Cohutta Wilderness has managed to escape the developers. Ninety miles of trails crisscross more than 60-square-miles of wilderness — and not a road to be found. The 16.3-mile trail paralleling the river requires more than 40 crossings; all of them fords. Most of the trail traffic is hikers enroute to a sixty-foot high waterfall. Few anglers fish this stream — not for a lack of good fishing — but because it’s difficult to access. Those that do go to the trouble to make the hike may be well rewarded. Jacks’ trout are much larger than those of its neighbor, the Conasauga River. Most are rainbows but it also holds some nice wild browns. A word of caution , look out for rattlesnakes.

Jacks is a gin-clear freestone stream, so these trout are extremely spooky. A stealthy approach and careful presentation is mandated. Rainbows in the 12-to-14 inch range aren’t uncommon, and browns, although fewer in number, have been known to top nine pounds.

Fly fishers should spend mornings working the deep, slow pools with size 8 or 10 stonefly nymphs, then try running #16-18 dry flies through the riffles in the afternoon. After an hour or two, you quickly learn that the preeminent mayfly on the Jacks is the blue-winged olive. Pack plenty of BWO imitations, nymphs and emergers. Other effective dry patterns include green and slate drakes, light cahills, quill gordons, black and tan caddis, and midges. In the summer months pack a good supply of terrestrials including black and cinnamon ants, inchworms; and grasshoppers. Streamer patterns, especially wooly buggers and crayfish are also very effective.

To get there from Atlanta, take I-75 north to exit 293 (US 411) Go north on 411 to Cisco, GA. Turn right onto Old Hwy 2/FS 16 and follow until it ends. Continue on the gravel road, turning right at a fork in the road. From the 3-way intersection with FS 51, continue straight on FS 16 for another 8.7 miles. Bear right at the next intersection and the parking lot/trailhead a short distance away near the Tennessee/Georgia state line. Start walking.

 

The Hooch; Georgia’s Tailwater Treasure

By Neil McGahee

The lower Chattahoochee is one of the finest trout streams in the Southeast, but it wasn’t always held in such high regard. Until the completion of Buford Dam and the creation of Lake Lanier, in 1956, the river, except for the extreme headwaters, was a warm-water fishery. In fact, the Chattahoochee’s reputation as a premiere trout fishery has been earned more by the tailwater trout population than the fish in the upper reaches.
The first trout, 5,000 rainbows, were stocked surreptitiously in 1959 by a group of fly anglers. Now, the Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources annually stocks more than 250,000 brown and rainbow trout in the Chattahoochee.
The lower river is made up of four sections. The first section extends from the dam downstream to the Georgia Hwy 20 bridge in Cumming. Because the river bottom is scoured daily when the floodgates open, there is very little natural food, so this stretch is regularly stocked. Best flies include caddis and attractor dry-fly patterns and streamers like the Wooly Bugger.
A word of warning! After the floodgates open, this part of the river can become a torrential deluge is a matter of minutes.  A personal flotation device should be worn at all times.
The second section of tailwater extends 15 miles from the Hwy. 20 bridge downstream to Hwy 141 at Medlock Bridge. It is primarily a float-fishing stretch with an artificials only designation, although Fish Weir Shoals, just downstream of the Hwy. 20 bridge is an area where it’s possible to wade. Most trout here are found around brushy piles or around downed trees.
The third section of the ‘Hooch flows from Hwy 141 to Ga. Hwy 9 in Roswell. Some of the biggest fish in the river — browns up to 16 pounds have been caught here — call this stretch home. This section is open to all types of fishing, but bait casters rule the realm. However the stretch is far enough downriver that the surges from the floodgates no longer scour the streambed creating an environment for some impressive caddis hatches in the warm months. Particularly enticing to fly fishers are the wadeable areas around Jones Bridge Shoals and Island Ford Shoals.
The fourth section runs from Hwy. 9 to Peachtree Creek in Atlanta and is one of the most popular stretches for the fly fisher. The first few miles are made up by the impoundment from Morgan Falls Dam, followed by four shoal areas and nearly five miles of delayed harvest waters that create a flyfishing Nirvana.
Delayed harvest regulations are in force from November 1 through May 14. All fishing is catch-and-release using artificial lures or flies with single hooks. All types of angling as well as harvesting of fish are in place the rest of the year.
Weighted nymphs like the venerable gold-ribbed hare’s ear or the bead-head prince, streamers like the Wooly Bugger, or dry patterns like the elk hair caddis or mayfly patterns like light Cahills and sulfurs work well in sections 2,3, and 4.
Because the lower Chattahoochee extends nearly 50 miles, please consult the DNR map http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/ngto/ for best parking and river access areas.

 

Fishing the High Hooch

By Neil McGahee

Georgia’s longest river, the Chattahoochee, begins as a trickle high in the Blue Ridge Mountains above the little resort town of Helen and 430 miles later, empties into Florida’s Apalachicola Bay. It is one of only a handful of streams that offers the opportunity to catch all three of Georgia’s trout species — brook, brown and rainbow.

The best-known portion of the upper Chattahoochee is the stretch that runs through the resort town of Helen. Wading and access is easy and rainbow and brown trout are stocked regularly from early spring through mid-summer. In winter and early spring, trout anglers have the place all for themselves, but as the temperatures warm, the number of inner tubers increases too.

Upstream of Helen, the river supports wild trout although it still gets a fair number of stockers. Even farther upstream, where access is limited to foot traffic, wild trout predominate. The remote headwaters, upstream of the confluence with Henson Creek, is home to a good population of wild native eastern brook trout, protected from rainbow and brown trout by a barrier waterfall.

Below the waterfall the river widens and both hatchery and wild rainbows and browns share the water. Several feeder streams, Low Gap, Jasus and Spoilcane creeks, support decent populations of stocked and native rainbow trout. Those streams run down from Unicoi Gap alongside Georgia Highway 75 north of Robertstown. Access is relatively easy although some sections flow through private property, so check before trespassing.

Spring and early summer hatches include caddis, sulfurs, blue winged olives and midges, so bring plenty of size 14-20 black and brown elk-hair and deer hair caddis patterns. Good dry fly choices include blue-winged olive, blue quill, sulfurs and Adams parachute patterns in sizes 16-18. Nymph selections should include prince, hare’s ear and zugbug patterns in sizes 12-16 or size 12-14 pheasant tail patterns. Anglers hoping to hook a huge brown should fish a weighted Woolly Bugger or a big streamer slowly in deep water.

Forest Service Rd. 52 slices down the eastern boundary of the Chattahoochee WMA, providing varying degrees of access to nearly every stream. To reach FS 52, travel north from Helen on Ga. 75. Turn left on Ga. 356 at Robertstown. Cross the bridge and take the first paved road on the right (FS 52). After two miles, the road becomes gravel. FS 52 crosses both Lost Gap and Jasus creeks and continues up to Henson Creek, although the road degrades significantly as you approach the brook trout water.

For further information or to answer any questions you may have, call your friends at Cohutta Fishing Co. 770-606-1100.

 

Fly Fishing Film Tour Huge Success

We finished up last week with the Fly Fishing Film Tour and it was absolutely awesome! The films were great and enjoyed by all, although we had to pause half way through reel 1 due to a Tornado warning and actually watched it go over the City Cellar and Loft was pretty darn crazy! After a 20 minute pause in the action I was very pleased to see that 98% of the attendees went back in to see the rest of the show. I want thank F3T for putting together such a great line up of films this year, my staff for helping us pull this one off, and to all the attendees who came out in the bad weather and helped make it such a fun environment! The cool thing for me was seeing so many familiar faces that are our customers at the show, thanks again to you all for your continued support! Ok local fishing – well right now the white bass and hybrid bite has been really good in most all local rivers. The striper should be here soon and look forward to some good summer striper action this season! Also, our private water for trophy trout is fishing extremely good right now, with the rainfall we have received has made for very good spring flows. So if you want to get out and catch some really quality fish, call the shop to book a trip! Our calendar is filling up fast for guide trips so don’t let this killer spring fishing pass you by! Until next time, tight lines and go get you some!

Good Fishing to you all!

Andy

3rd Annual Fly Fishing Tournament!

This past weekend we had our 3rd Annual Fly Fishing Tournament outside of Ellijay, GA. The weather turned out to be very nice and the fishing was excellent! Our eight-two man teams managed to catch over 500 inches of fish in just two 2.5 hour sessions! In First place- Mark and Ryan King won two new Sage rods, Second place- Joey Dean and Patrick Crowe won their pick of any Korkers wading boots, Third place- Mitch Wilson and Nick Wishousky won $100 Gift Cards to the shop and True Flies apparel. We want to thank everyone who attended, judged, and helped behind the scenes to make this event happen. We would also like to thank our sponsors Sage Fly Rods, Korkers Wading Boots, True Flies Apparel, Yellow Dog Fly Fishing Adventures, Montana Fly Company, and a big shout out to Paul Kirbabas for keeping us all well hydrated with Sweetwater Brewing Company’s Lowryder IPA and 420.  Also a special thanks to the judges: Dane & Fletcher Law from Southeastern Anglers, Davie Crawford from Deep South Anglers, Bob Davidson, Tim Barr, Kurt Russell, Ben Austin, Will Watters, and Conner Jones (our Fly Tying Instructor) for taking time away from their families and guide trips – thanks again guys!  A very special thanks goes out to my wonderful wife for catering the food and putting up with all us all day! Can’t wait to until next year to do it all again! On a totally different note, we are very fortunate to have dodged todays violent tornadoes and storms and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families in Adairsville and other parts of North Georgia who were affected by todays storms.

Good Fishing to you all,

Andy

Welcome to 2013!

I want to thank all of our customers that supported us through the recent holidays!  I  also hope that you and your families had a safe and enjoyable holiday season and want to wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous New Year! We have an exciting lineup at the shop this year with various speakers coming  to discuss their guide services and fishing experiences. Beginning with Cameron Cipperoni from Frying Pan Anglers on February 12th and we have Eric Stroupe discussing fishing spring creeks in central Pennsylvania on March 12th. Also we will be hosting our independent Fly Fishing Film Tour show here in downtown Cartersville at the City Cellar and Loft on April 11th. In May we look forward to our first group travel trip of the year, we will be heading to Belize to hookup on some salty critters! On a totally different note, but something else to look forward too; I have been working with the local downtown authority and we are planning to bring  a bluegrass festival to downtown Cartersville this spring, stay tuned for updates! In 2013 our 2 Day Fly Fishing School will be offered twice this year once in April and once in October, check our classes page on the website for school dates. As always we look forward to serving you for another great year in an effort to make your fishing experiences better and more enjoyable! If anyone hasn’t visited  our new location in downtown, stop by and check us out! The move has allowed us to expand our product lineup including Sage rods, Nautilus reels, Orvis, TFO rods, Go Pro cameras, and Beretta hunting apparel. We are located right on the square in the heart of historic downtown Cartersville, we look forward seeing you soon!

Great Fishing and Tight Lines in 2013!

Andy Bowen