We were after hours guests at Brierfield Ironworks Park and the on-site hosts were very accommodating. As I understood their instruction, any place we saw fit was available for primitive camping, though there were some designated spots with picnic tables and fire pits. We picked a spot, recommended by the host, up on a hill overlooking the rest of the park as it had some suitable trees to hang our hammocks. It was the warmest night of the trip, but not too warm to where it was tough to sleep. In fact I got great sleep that night and I needed it. The camping spot was away from everyone else so there were no dogs to growl at me and there weren’t any whip-poor-wills going berserk – it was the best camping spot we had all trip. We also stayed dry, the rain moved quickly through the area and didn’t linger. We looked forward to a blue bird morning fishing for Cahaba bass. A huge bonus to staying in a State Park was that we were actually able to shower that morning. A hot shower after a couple of days of living in your own filth does wonders. We left the park re-energized and ready to cap off our slam.
We had a short drive to fish a tributary of the Cahaba River right where it dumps in to the main river, giving us the option to fish either. We are small water guys so fishing the tributary was more appealing than fishing the shoals of the Cahaba. If we had an entire day we would have done both, however it was Sunday and we still needed to drive home, so we really only had a half day to devote to fishing.
After traversing a long, bumpy gravel road we were at our destination and began making our trek upstream. We split ways after stepping in the water with Blake fishing downstream of me as I began working my way upstream. It wasn’t long before I heard him holler that he had caught his Cahaba bass.
After a long day of feeling the pressure the day before I’m sure it was a big relief for Blake to knock out his slam early and put that pressure back on me. I wasn’t too worried as it was early and his fish ate aggressively. I fished on and actually missed chances at two separate redeye in places by pulling the fly out of their mouth. Meanwhile Blake pulled out a redeye behind me, after that I switched from my hopper-dropper to a subsurface fly. Soon enough I was catching fish.
They just weren’t the target species. The bluegills were feisty that day. We had very little luck on topwater this entire trip, which goes against everything I read about redeye. The trusty woolly bugger was catching fish though. I finally fooled a bass, but to be honest I couldn’t tell if it was entirely redeye or if it was a hybrid. I went through the slam protocol as if it were a Cahaba bass, but I still felt like I needed to catch another one, just to make sure.
This creek had no shortage of good-looking water and we fished every fishy looking part. Much like on other creeks they weren’t holding in the mid-water trout-type holding areas, we had much better luck catching them in slower water, so we worked the pools and any other slow water pretty hard.
We ran into a stand of Cahaba lilies on this tributary. They are similar to the spider lilies that grow in ditches on the side of the road here in Louisiana, but the Cahaba lilies have a much more specialized habitat, living only in shoals in the middle of rivers above the Fall Line in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. They bloom around late May, early June so we were a little early for their peak, but it was pretty cool to at least catch a few blooming.
Cahaba lily (Hymenocallis coronaria)
We weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire catching fish. It was slow, not as slow as the day before, but still slow. Things did start to pick up as it got hotter out. I finally caught another redeye, it was a baby, and then I caught another baby. There’s no size requirement for this slam so I was fine with the micro fish. I was now confident that the slam was in hand. Blake would catch another one as well and it had to be bigger.
We got to a big pool and decided that this was it, it was past noon at this point and we still had a six-hour drive ahead of us so after the pool we would turn around and hike out. It was the right call as we both managed to catch decent sized Alabama bass from the pool. I always like to end a trip with a good fish and this was a pretty sweet way to do it with us both catching nice fish in the last hole.
Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica)
After a walk through the woods we made it back to the vehicle and chowed down on some sandwiches before hitting the road. It’s funny how nonchalant we are when we finish trips like this. There is a sense of accomplishment in putting together a successful trip, but we’re not hoot-n-holler kind of guys, so we just smile and keep fishing. It was a great trip, we fished a ton of awesome water, caught a bunch of fish, and had a good time hanging out with each other. Now it’s time to start putting in the work to plan for Georgia. The Altamaha, Bartram’s, and Chattahoochee bass are all we have left to finish our 7 species redeye slam and I can’t wait to do it.