I’m taking some liberty here with the term steelhead, but the creek behind the cabin has several rainbow trout in it that certainly look the part. I caught a few of them when I was last there and missed many more. These fish aren’t migrating up from anywhere, so don’t let it be mistaken, North Georgia does not have a known steelhead run, lol.
It seemed like the size of the fish I caught decreased as the week wore on, but I began to size my flies down too, so that outcome could have been predicted. I began to pick up river chub when I did, which are always prevalent. I’ll never complain about a tug on the line, especially when it’s from a native fish.
I just wanted to share a few fishing shots from the trip North Georgia. It’s always special when we head up there and this year was no different. We fit in a ton of excursions away from the cabin this time around and I think the kids really enjoyed it. The whitetail population is doing very well up there as this is the most we’ve ever seen, lots of mommas with fawns.
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.
The first three days of our Georgia trip were devoted to bass fishing. We were able to wrap up our redeye bass slam and as a bonus I was able to get the Georgia bass slam as well. Now that we had made it to the cabin it was time to switch gears and target trout.
We hit the creek at the cabin early Saturday morning. I had two rods rigged up; one with a big honking streamer that Blake tied for me and another with my standard hopper-dropper rig.
I had a follow on the streamer in the first spot I fished, which had me excited, but then things were quiet as I fished subsequent spots. Blake had an eat from a big fish, but it spit the hook early on in the fight. It was beginning to look like we might skunk at the cabin that morning, but I finally made it to a spot I could effectively fish and I had another fish follow and even an attempted eat, but I pulled the fly out of his mouth. I stuck with it though and luckily got another good eat and I stuck him with a strip set this time.
Not the biggest rainbow we’ve caught at the cabin, but it was cool to get one on the big ass streamer. I released that fish and went back to work and just downstream of my first eat I got another one. This one was a little better fish.
Getting to watch fish chase down and eat a big streamer was very cool, but it was obvious that throwing one was not a great way to fish every spot on the creek. Hell you couldn’t fish every spot with one because there really wasn’t enough room for it in most places. For the 3 or 4 spots though where it seems like it will be effective I’ll make to sure to have a streamer tied up every time I fish them from now on. We headed up for lunch shortly after that and then hatched a plan to fish some wild water that afternoon. Blake had brought a 1wt on the trip that needed to be fished.
After lunch we headed up the road to what has become our favorite small stream in North Georgia. We were looking forward to some wild trout on dry flies as we had not had much topwater action this trip. After a short hike into the stream, we dropped down off the trail and toward the bottom of the valley into the creek. It was a little disturbing to see as much hog sign as we did on the walk down, but what are you gonna do, feral hog are everywhere now. I let Blake fish the first good looking pool so I could tie on a nymph dropper and he took advantage of the opportunity and hooked a nice wild rainbow.
It’s not often you get into wild trout over 10″ on North Georgia small streams, so this fish was pretty special. We continued working our way upstream catching tiny rainbows in pocket water and nicer fish in the plunge pools and deeper runs.
I hooked a fish in one pool that gave me a heck of a fight on the glass 3wt. I was standing on the downstream side of a debris filled logjam fishing the pool upstream of it when the fish came up and hit the dry toward the back of the pool. He ran all over the pool and under the logjam. Thankfully I was able to keep the line tight and he wasn’t able to shake the fly. I was able to pull him out of the logjam and back into the pool to land him.
It was a heck of a wild rainbow that pushed 12″. One of the best blueline rainbows I’ve caught in a long time. We fished for a little while longer hoping that maybe a rogue brown trout would show up.
No browns showed up, but it was a heck of a trip for 8-12″ rainbows. The fish looked fat and happy too, which was nice to see because there are other concerning things happening in the valley. At one point while we fished we saw a small pack of hogs which confirmed the hog sign we had seen. We saw them again on the hike out. It’s kind of a bummer they’ve discovered this valley. Besides the hogs the hemlocks are continuing to die off due to the hemlock woolly adelgid and there is not much we can do to prevent that as treatment involves treating individual trees. My hope is that other canopy trees will fill in for the dead hemlocks and continue to provide the shade these trout need.
We headed back to the cabin to catch the Tiger game. We left Sunday before dawn as it’s a long drive back to Louisiana. We had a heck of a time fishing in Georgia. This was the most diverse fishing trip we’ve ever done in Georgia and it was awesome. I plan to make more of an effort to fish different bass water from the cabin. Coosa redeye, shoal bass, and smallmouth bass are all fairly close.
I want to extend a big thanks to all the folks who helped us as we completed the redeye bass slam. I came up with a plan of attack for the slam, but then bounced it off as many people who were willing to listen. If you listened, thank you. Thanks to Matthew Lewis, who wrote the book on redeye bass fly fishing. His passion for the fish is infectious. He was the inspiration for me to tackle the slam. He completed it last year and when he and a couple buddies put a formal slam together this year I knew I had to give it a go. I’m glad Blake was along for the ride. Thanks to Andrew Taylor, a Georgia boy in Oklahoma, who was very influential in helping us decide where we needed to target these fish. He has done some really great research on bass in Georgia. Thanks to Jon Hummel, fellow Jackson teammate, he completed the Georgia bass slam last year and gave some great suggestions on where we could target fish in North Georgia. We ended up spending most of our time further south, but his help was not in vain – I did get my shoal bass! Thanks to Chris Lynch, Mark Miller, Josh Tidwell, James Eubank, and Josh Rhodes, these Alabama guys were more than willing to help point us in the right direction as we fished our way across their state.