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Waterfall

A much better night’s sleep was had on night two.  I could have done without the dog in the adjacent site that growled at me every time I moved, but at least it didn’t make noise through the night, or break free from its leash and try to murder me as I slept peacefully in my hammock – that may have crossed my mind at some point.  Luckily the dog was well-behaved, just protective I guess.

Much like the day before, that morning we ate breakfast, packed up, then headed down the road to the river.  This time, though, there was a lot more people in the parking lot where we were planning to fish.  They weren’t fishermen though, it looked like a group of Boy Scouts was getting ready to go on a hiking trip into the Bankhead National Forest.  A short ways up the trail we encountered some boys swimming, which was a little unfortunate because their swimming hole looked like a great place to fish.  We fished a bit downstream of them before walking around where their group was camping in the middle of the trail.  I don’t know why one would pick the middle of the trail, or at the base of a waterfall, like we saw another group doing, as a good place to camp, but what do I know I was just here to fly fish.  Speaking of fishing, Blake managed to catch an Alabama bass in that first spot we tried before we moved on.  After the early fish I was feeling optimistic.

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We went around the boys and continued to fish.  This river was much sandier than the two we fished previously, it actually reminded me a little of the rivers back home, though it didn’t have massive sand bars like you see on rivers south of the Fall Line.  Like the rivers back home it required quite a bit of wading between fishable water.  It definitely had a different feel than the other redeye streams we fished.  We went from stacked shoals on day 1 to high gradient for day 2, now we were on a fairly low gradient stream with lots of sand – we were definitely seeing a good variety of the water Alabama has to offer.  Despite the differences it was just as beautiful as the others, with some of the clearest water I’ve seen in a river, but we found out pretty quickly that it was also a tough place to fish.

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We covered a lot of territory without a bite and I was getting pretty nervous about catching a Warrior bass here.  I was within site of where I planned on turning around and heading back to the truck, but I got lucky and caught one as I floated a woolly bugger near some woody debris on the bank, it came out from a deep spot and nailed my fly.  I had my Warrior bass in hand and there was a little hope for this stream after all, so we kept fishing.

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We gave ourselves a little extra time on the water to see if Blake could land a Warrior bass.  If we didn’t have any luck soon it was onto Plan B.  I wanted so badly for this stream to work out for both of us, but it wasn’t in the cards.  I’m not sure if redeye bass numbers here are low or if the fishing was just tough, either way, we needed to get Blake a Warrior bass before dark and we weren’t having luck here so it was time to make the move.

One of the reasons I wanted to fish here was actually for the hike out.  The trail that runs along the river is one of the best in Alabama, every feeder stream that flows into the river has to go over a massive riverside bluff, so there are numerous waterfalls you pass along your hike.  It’s a really cool place to visit, whether you’re hiking or fishing, one of the prettiest in the state.

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We had been watching the weather all morning and as we hiked out the skies finally opened up.  I couldn’t help but think of how much harder it would be to catch a redeye if Plan B was high and muddy.  Our only hope was that whatever rain that came down would be brief, not only did Blake still need a Warrior bass today, but we still had to catch Cahaba bass tomorrow.

We hit the road toward our next destination, which was a little closer to Birmingham and drove through some serious weather.  It was the kind of storm that makes you put on your flashers when you drive and that’s something I never do.  Zero visibility would not be an overstatement.  We drove far enough east to get to our next creek that we had driven ahead of the line of storms, but that just meant we’d get it again soon.  Blake was out of the truck as soon as we parked, he was a man on a mission.  The dry spell didn’t last long however as the skies opened up again.

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Things weren’t looking good, but luckily the rain, although heavy, was short lived.  He hadan hour, maybe an hour and a half, before we had to be off the water – we were actually in a park that closed at 5:30pm, so the clock was ticking.

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Much like the last stream the fishing was tough.  I did spook a couple of fish that looked like redeye bass near the bank, so we at least knew they were in here, but things were looking bleak. We were down to our last 20 minutes when it finally happened.  He caught a fish and it was a Warrior bass.

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Who would have thought catching an 8″ fish could be so exciting!  What a relief that was, we had already talked about having to swing back through here when we were en route to Georgia for the second half of the slam, but thankfully we wouldn’t need to do that.  It was a tough day of fishing period.  I only caught one, thankfully it was a Warrior bass, Blake only caught two fish, we got seriously lucky.

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We got out of there shortly after that fish and headed south toward the Cahaba watershed, which held Cahaba bass, our final species needed for a Mobile Basin slam.  We found some primitive camping available at Brierfield Ironworks State Park.  We showed up after hours, but that didn’t seem to be a problem, there was plenty of primitive camping available.

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We were in North Georgia for most of the past six days, spending quality time with my family and I was able to do a bit of fly fishing as well.  The fishing wasn’t as stellar as it has been in years past, but then again I wasn’t in top form either.  Lots of missed hooksets, flies in trees, and too much time spent de-tangling terrible casting decisions.  Low and slow water didn’t help, but was hardly to blame.  Despite all that, there were times everything came together and I landed a few nice fish.

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I always enjoy fishing at the cabin but I think my daughter may have enjoyed playing with her cousins more.  It was a very relaxing trip, but we still found plenty to do beyond fishing and hanging out with family.  Hiking, tubing, catching crickets, four-wheeling, waterfalls, a festival, and a brewery visit – we had a blast.  I cherish every trip we take to Georgia and wish we could make it that way more often.  Huge thanks to Mom and Dad for having us!

2015 is over so here’s a look back at my (outdoor) year in pictures.  Click on any pic to read more from that day.

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The year started off solid, with my first ski trip with a big group of friends.  It was a ton of fun and really set the bar high for a non-fishing trip.  Then came a personal best brown from Memorial Day weekend, which was actually the same pb brown I caught last year – what are the odds?  I think the high point though will be the Wyoming Cutt Slam trip in August.  Five days of incredible dry fly fishing with a great friend is tough to beat.  It was a fine year and like any other year it had its share of ups and downs, but I’m ready to see what 2016 brings.

 

 

 

Had some work to finish up in Georgia the week before Mardi Gras, which took me on a driving tour from Columbus to Macon, up through the East side of metro Atlanta and finally toward Chattanooga.  When I finished I found myself in the NW part of the state near a park I had always wanted to check out in person – Cloudland Canyon, which is on the western part of Lookout Mountain.  It was late in the day and I had about two hours left of daylight, but the folks at the front office assured me I had plenty of time to see the sights.  They were spot on too because in no time I was treated to this view.

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Cloudland Canyon was full of scenic vistas like this one at the top of the canyon.  Being a sucker for waterfalls I hiked the waterfall trail which was basically a there-and-back trip down to the bottom of the canyon.  It was a breeze going down, but I had to take my time coming back up – lots of stairs.  It was a really cool trail though with a lot of exposed rock.

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Daniel Creek lies at the bottom of the canyon and looks like it would be fun place to sling some flies.  I’ll bet it has it’s share of redeye bass.  It also boats a couple impressive waterfalls that I’m told become trickles in the summer – so I got to see them when they had decent flow.  I’m sure they rage after a storm.  Daniel and Bear Creek meet a short ways downstream at that point of my first picture as they flow through Sitton’s Gulch, views extend over both canyons via an overlook trail.

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Cloudland Canyon made for a nice end to my sojourn through Georgia, definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself up that way – it is not too far off of I-59 near Trenton, GA.  After I left the park I made my way down to Attalla, AL to have a beer with my buddy Josh before I made the drive home the next morning.  He told me that those crazy Jacksons run Bear Creek when it has enough water.  Wasn’t too hard to find some film of this: