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Fish

We just recently got back from a family vacation to North Georgia. I was able to get a little fishing in on the creek behind the cabin while up there and I even snuck away to a blueline one morning to fish for some brook trout. The southernmost native range for the brook trout is found in North Georgia. Don’t mistake that for being fringe habitat, Georgia is a great place to target little wild brookies.

The water was low and clear the entire week we were up there, making fishing on the creek at the cabin a little more technical and a bit tough. I figured I’d be in dry fly heaven on a blueline trip, but waited all week to go and overnight a bunch of rain dumped in this little watershed that’s a tributary to the Toccoa River. I really didn’t know what to expect heading out to fish, but figured at worst I’d have a nice walk in the woods, so I was heading out to fish regardless.

Upon walking up to the creek, it was obvious the water was high and stained, but I could still see bottom in areas so I wasn’t completely disappointed. I just had to change up my dry fly expectations and focus on something subsurface. I tied on a jig bugger and went to work.

I’ve never fished this creek before so this was also a bit of a scouting trip. I knew it had brook trout based on research, but I really wasn’t sure how far up I had to go before I found them. I planned out my access from a topo map and would fish up to a road crossing from there.

The creek was a bit of a mess early on. Lots of downed timber and tight casting windows through rhododendron tunnels. Lots of bow and arrow casts were made. Water that would be perfect for a dry fly had the conditions been there for it. There were spots where it opened up a bit and eventually, maybe an hour into my trip, I even missed a strike. That was the glimmer of hope I was looking for!

A few holes later and I actually had my first fish on. When I got it into the net I could tell it was a brook trout and had validation that this indeed was a good place to access the creek.

It was a little guy, but a native brook trout nonetheless, mission accomplished. Pressure was off now, but I wasn’t done fishing. I kept climbing up the holes and the further I got upstream the better the water started to look. It could have been time since the last rain, passing up a big feeder creek, or a combo of both, but eventually I felt like I may be able to now catch them on a dry-dropper rig, so I re-rigged.

The re-rig wasn’t a failure as soon after I landed another brook trout, this one a little bigger than the last. He ate the dropper nymph, which was a little BHRLHE (beadhead rubber-legged Hare’s Ear). It was a good fight on my 3/4wt TFO Finesse glass rod.

Things were going pretty good, I was continuing to work my way upstream, and I felt like the fishing was picking up. It was about this time that God decided I needed a little excitement in my life. As I moved around a live tree that was downed in the water I went to cast to the next hole and got buzzed by a big fly. Next thing I know this sucker lands on me and I feel a big punch on my eyebrow. It was a big ass hornet! He wasn’t alone either. I threw down my rod, started swatting around my face with my hat, dropping my sunglasses in the process, got stung two more times on my left hand, and tore off upstream a short distance until there was a logjam I’d have to navigate over or around. I was hopeful this was far enough away that they were done chasing and thankfully it was. I swiftly and calmly recollected my things and nursed my wounds as I traversed the logjam now keenly aware of my surroundings. As far as I knew I wasn’t allergic to hornets and when I didn’t see any significant swelling on my hands I figured I could press on.

I was glad I didn’t panic and kept fishing because things were heating up. I caught two in a row shortly thereafter and then my biggest fish of the day. It happened while I was fishing a tight run under some overhanging rhodos. It was a good fish, longer than my hand, which was saying something for a North Georgia native. The sky darkened up on me just as I was landing the fish so the pics don’t really do it justice – it was so dark out that my phone was in night mode taking pics.

It was only a matter of time before the skies would open up, but for some reason that wasn’t much of a concern to mean until they did. I failed to pack a rain jacket or even an extra pair of clothes so it was sure to be a wet ride home. I managed one more little guy before I got to a massive barrier falls. I didn’t even know it was here as it wasn’t labeled on the topo map. It was impressive though. It was here that the rain started falling and it fell hard.

It was raining, it was lunch time, I had reached a surprise waterfall, caught a few brookies and survived a run in with some hornets. It seemed like as good a time as any to head out. It was cool catching brookies below this barrier falls, perhaps there was another one downstream. I know there are plenty of rainbows in the mainstream of this watershed so something has to be preventing them from getting up this far. I’ll have to re-visit this blueline next time I’m in town and see if I can find that point further downstream.

Back in June I got a wild hair to spend a morning fishing in City Park down in New Orleans. I wanted to target the non-native Rio Grande (or Lowland, apparently there may actually be two different species in the Park) cichlids that have made a home for themselves in the Park. I’ve caught a few in my life, but never really targeted them explicitly, so today was the day. I settled in on the lagoon where I’ve caught them in the past and went to work.

Southern Swamp Lily (Crinum americanum)

The water was super clear, as is typically the case in this lagoon, and probably a bit lower than normal due to our mild Spring drought (it didn’t rain 1000″ in South Louisiana this Spring). Temps were on the abnormally hot side for June which meant a pop-up thunderstorm could happen at any point. We had already reached our summer weather pattern here in South Louisiana. It was going to be a hot, humid sweatfest of a day.

This lagoon is pretty heavily vegetated aquatically and around the perimeter so you can really only cast in select spots. I popped into a few and eventually found one where I could see a pair of cichlids in the super shallows. They looked like they may have been preparing to spawn as they displayed some “guarding the nest” behavior. I’m not real worried about disturbing an invasive species during it’s spawn so this worked in my favor in terms of being able to sight fish them. After a few errant casts I was able to place a nymph close enough to illicit an eat. The eat was slow, but deliberate, and in short time I had my first cichlid on the day.

I botched an attempt at the other cichlid, a bigger one, that this fish was paired up with and after bidding my bird friend behind me adieu I moved on.

Yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea)

I switched from a weighted pattern to an unweighted nymph and that slower sink rate proved to be just the ticket in this shallow vegetated part of the lagoon.

As I worked my way around the pond I missed a couple more sightfishing attempts, including a fish on a beetle pattern I was using above my Tellico nymph, before bringing another one to hand. I had him all the way to the bank, a big one, but lost him as I went to lift him above the tall vegetation along the shoreline.

I was able to redeem myself though and did catch the next couple of fish on the beetle. The topwater eat was a very slow slurp, almost like a cutthroat sucking down a dry fly, so it took a little more patience to not pull the fly right out of their mouth.

Content with the handful of Rios I caught I decided to pack it up and head to some nearby canals to continue targeting non-native species and try my luck with a more discerning freshwater fish, the common carp.

The beautiful, majestic straight-line canals of Metairie hold plenty of carp and gar for the fly angler who likes to be frustrated. They aren’t hard to find, you can see them rooting around the bottom of the canal searching for food. I have a hard time connecting with them though, it seems like you’ve got to have everything perfect in order to get an eat. By perfect I mean the fly has to be right, the distance ahead of the fish has to be far enough so that it doesn’t spook on the splash, but close enough that it can pick it up while it hoovers the bottom, and then you have to be able to set at that critical moment when they do eat, which is often fairly hard to detect. This is why I’ve only previously caught only one of these bastards. Thankfully my second came about an hour into trying for them which, I’ll admit, could have been far worse.

It was lunch time at this point and starting to really heat up so I packed it up and headed on out. I’m not that dialed in on the carp so it seems to me like only someone who is a real glutton for punishment could enjoy carp fishing. That being said the challenge of trying to fool a carp was exciting and catching Rios at City Park was a lot of fun so overall the morning was a complete success.

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to get back out in the still-new-to-me kayak, the Crescent Crew, and settled on fishing down around Shell Beach, over in St. Bernard Parish. The wind forecast on the eastern side of the state looked a little more favorable than that of the central coast, which drove my decision to fish over there. I made it out after sunrise and paddled my way toward some familiar marsh. The water clarity was a little stained in some areas, but crystal clear over the thickly vegetated ponds. I started with one of the bigger Ron Braud stippled poppers I won last year, working it at the usual fishy looking spots – points, cuts, intersections, potholes, and the like. I caught a few cookie cutter 10-12″ largemouth bass and then decided I would start looking for redfish.

The white flowers of the arrowhead were blooming in the marsh, interrupting the sea of green of the Spartina grass. It was pretty cool to see so I stopped to snap a pic of one to help me figure out what plant was actually blooming; that’s when I realized that if I was taking pictures of flowers in the marsh than the fishing was pretty darn slow. Five hours passed, nearly the entire morning, before I caught my next fish. I caught those three bass pretty early and then had very few opportunities at redfish after that. Those opportunities I did get were all botched. Either I messed up the cast, saw the fish late and he spooked, or it just wasn’t a great situation to get a good cast off, nothing went right in that time. I did eventually put it all together and ended up catching three reds on back-to-back-to-back chances.

Those three fish all came after I tied on a new fly. I tried my darnedest to catch a fish on the awful Clouser minnow I tied at the first Flies & Flights, but it was honestly off-putting and scaring them away. I switched to a fly that David Rodgers gave me and it was just what I needed to be throwing. The flash tied in made the fly glow in the water and the slow sink rate was perfect for these grassy ponds. I took the pic above just to give anyone reading an idea of what the water looked like. The 30″ red was big fish on the day and he was one of the smartest fish I’ve ever caught. It was a hell of a fight on my 7wt! He would bulldog himself deep in the grass, I’d then have to paddle over to him and negotiate my rod trying to free him without coming up with pounds of matted grass on the leader, then when I’d get him out, he’d do all over again a little further away. It was a forearm workout for sure. I was thankful that my knot and my tippet held and I had something to post up for the fly rod category of the BCKFC Massey’s Fish Pics tourney. I failed to catch anything else after the stroke of genius I had catching those three redfish in a row. I didn’t stay out long after that, but there were more opportunities that were blown. I slowly made my way back to the launch content to call it a day.

A few observations I had on the day:

  • Gar were all over the place and the spawn was on for some of them. There were mostly spotted gar, but there were a few big alligator gar out there as well. I didn’t fool with them too much, but that’s as good a place as any to target gar.
  • I still need to figure out a better way to sight fish from the Crew. My paddle clip belt has worn itself out to the point where the paddle falls out unless it’s perfectly situated. As soon as the paddle falls out it makes a loud bang on the deck and you may as well be playing death metal underwater when that happens. Nothing will eat at that point. It seems like a long way down to drop a paddle and that deck is loud.
  • Speaking of long way down, I need to shorten the distance between the fly rod and myself while standing. In most of my Jacksons, I don’t remember that ever being an issue, but in the Crew it just seems so far away. The seat riser helps, but I’ve got to figure out how to raise up my rod without impeding my paddle stroke.

I’ve got a fix on the way, or at least ideas, for both of those situations, so hopefully I can hammer it down and be totally comfortable sight fishing out of this boat. I like it, it paddles great, but it needs a little help to turn it into a fishing machine.