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Blake and I completed the Mobile Basin redeye bass slam a couple weekends back, catching the 4 native redeye bass of Alabama – the Tallapoosa, Coosa, Warrior, and Cahaba.  It was an awesome road trip through the state where we fished and camped on all sides of Birmingham.  The trip was every bit as fun as the cutthroat slam trip we took in Utah last fall.  A bit of backstory for anyone interested:

Earlier this year my buddy Matt published a book about fly fishing for redeye bass.  It was a good read about a fish that a lot of people down south overlook – the redeye bass.   The book brought back memories of the fishing I did when I lived in Northern Alabama for a year after college.  Admittedly though I never caught many redeye bass as I lived in the Tennessee River watershed.  Fishing dominated my life then and has been a passion of mine ever since.  The book profiled the redeye bass and the work that’s being done to define the species into seven further distinctions.  A redeye bass trip was moved higher up the idea list for me after reading the book, but then in March, it was moved to the top as Matt and a few other folks got together and came up with the idea for a redeye slam, and y’all know I just love a slam trip.  So after details of the Redeye Bass Slam 2018 were released I went ahead and began planning to complete the 4 species Mobile Basin redeye slam in Alabama and then finish the full 7 species redeye slam with a trip to Georgia at a later date.

Of course any time I’m planning a fishing trip I ask Blake if he wants in and usually it doesn’t take a whole lot of convincing to get him aboard.  After that it’s just picking a date to go and then we hope for the best.  We settled on early May to at least complete the Alabama portion of the slam as we’d be hammock camping and anyone from the south knows the further you get into summer the more unbearable it is to be outside, let alone try to sleep.

 

One thing that the redeye book lacks is any kind of range map of where you may find the fish, so embedded above is a map I created of the watersheds where redeye bass live in Alabama.  One thing to note is that redeye bass aren’t found below the Fall Line so don’t waste too much time on water below an imaginary line that runs from Tuscaloosa – Montgomery – Columbus.  I included the range of the Chattahoochee bass as well since it slips into the state.  I don’t know that they are found in any streams in Alabama.  We will target Chattahoochee bass in Georgia later this summer.  In order to try and catch the 4 different Mobile Basin redeye species in a 4-day trip we set out before dawn on Thursday and drove 6.5 hours to where we’d fish that afternoon for our first redeye species, the Tallapoosa bass.

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We fished a tributary to the Tallapoosa River that was loaded with shoals and grass with lots of shallow and deep water throughout – great river bass habitat.  We’re small water guys and even though this was a tributary it initially felt like big water.  Neither of us has ever fished shoals like this, so it was a new experience for both of us.  The water really didn’t feel that big once we started fishing and it didn’t take long to get into fish.  In fact the first set of shoals we fished were the most productive.  Blake got on the board first with a decent Alabama bass.

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Soon after I caught my first Tallapoosa bass, who took a buggy olive stonefly imitation I was hanging off the back of a hopper pattern.

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I followed that up with another Tallapoosa bass, this one though was loaded with iridescent blues, it was a beautiful specimen, no doubt the prettiest fish of the day for me.

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Blake soon caught a Tallapoosa bass of his own and the pressure of getting that first fish of the slam was off for both of us.

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After that it didn’t take long for Blake to upgrade his Alabama bass.  His dropper rig was hammered in some slower water toward the bank where a tree provided the perfect cover.  The big Alabama bass would be the largest fish of the trip that was caught and if you’ve been following the blog the past few years that’s just par for the course for “Big Fish Blake”.

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The action slowed down after the big fish, Blake and I did manage to pull out a few more redeye before the day was done, including one by Blake that pushed the 12″ mark.  At least that’s what we estimated it to be, we measured it against the rod, but truth be told I’m not sure we ever went back and measured the rod.  Either way, it was a fine fish.

IMG_5285Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

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After things went flat we got off the water and hit the road toward our first campsite.  We had an hour drive ahead of us to the Talladega National Forest where we’d camp in the shadow of the tallest point in Alabama, Cheaha Mountain.  Ribeye and beers that we bought at Filet & Vine in Montgomery were calling to us from the Orion cooler in the back of my truck.  We were in such a rush to get fishing that afternoon that we neglected to make or pick up lunch, so hunger was almost an afterthought at this point.

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I’m happy to report we were able to successfully set up camp and get a fire going before dark and before long we were tearing into some seriously good steaks.  Big thanks to Josh Rhodes who met us at the campsite with more beers, butter, and for helping collect wood for the fire.  Day 1 was a success and we had another big day planned for Day 2 where we had the Coosa bass in our sights and then a trip up to the Bankhead National Forest to camp.

On day two of our trip we set out to fish an old favorite blueline.  It is one of those rare creeks that has all three wild trout species in North Georgia, so catching a slam was a possibility.  We’d have to cover a good bit of water though to do it and to do that you’ve got to hike a good bit on the trail.

Much like the creek at the cabin, the water here was low and clear as well.  The action wasn’t as hot and heavy as at the previous small stream, but I found it fished pretty well with an oversized stimulator.  These wild trout are very opportunistic and won’t pass up a big meal.

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Tree cover on these small streams has never been a problem in the past, but it won’t be long before it will start to be.  Damage from the hemlock woolly adelgid was very telling, I saw a lot more sun shining on the water than I use to, those big hemlocks won’t last long without some help.

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As we moved up the creek we started gaining elevation, the water plunged over a series of falls and we quickly transitioned from rainbow trout water to brook trout territory.  I caught a brookie that had been washed down below the barrier, soon after that they were the dominant species.

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The big pools that normally produce multiple(or bigger) fish were mostly a bust, but I did find one pool that yielded three brookies for me and the biggest on the day.  These little natives are a fun fight on lightweight glass rods.

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We hiked out from there and headed on into town to quench our thirst and meet my parents.  No brown trout were caught on the day, so the slam was a bust.  In fact I don’t think a brown trout was caught at the cabin either, which is pretty rare these days.

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Blue Ridge is turning into quite a happening little place with three breweries now and multiple fly shops.  It’s a great town to head to if you want chase trout and drink beer in North Georgia.

 

After my trip to North Georgia in May I decided I needed to plan a return trip sometime in the near future.  I didn’t make time for any small stream fishing in May, but I had really been missing the blueline action so I needed to get back that way before it got too cold and the dry fly action shut down.  So a trip back was planned and Blake and I settled on a date in late September.

We made the drive up after work and stopped for supplies on the way.

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We gave ourselves three days to fish and day one was reserved for fishing at the cabin.  After an historic(at least in my life) flood over the winter, the script was flipped, and now North Georgia was dealing with drought-like conditions.  What that meant for us was that the water was low and clear pretty much everywhere we went and had the trout were pretty spooky.  That made for some pretty slow fishing.

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Around lunch time I finally stuck a good fish who absolutely hammered a Turk’s tarantula that I skated at the head of a nice pool.  It was an awesome strike and really surprised as we had only encountered sluggish fish until that point.

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After lunch we decided to head up the road to some smaller water and see how the little wild trout were doing.

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The blue line action was fast and furious.  Our dries were getting bumped in nearly every hole we tried.  That had me pretty excited for the creek we planned to fish the next day, which is one of my favorite small streams anywhere.  We ended the day with some excellent rabbit sauce piquante, courtesy of Blake, and life couldn’t have been any better.

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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!

Made the annual northeastern migration over Memorial Day weekend to my parent’s place in the North Georgia mountains.  The weather couldn’t have been better as every day brought blue skies and mild temps.  It was even a chilly 47 degrees upon waking up Friday morning.  The fishing was pretty darn good, most fish fell for stonefly imitations, but a few came on streamers and dries.  Day 1 yielded the best results with the action tapering off throughout the weekend- no doubt the fish were getting tired of seeing the same thing by day 3.  For the second year in a row I caught the biggest brown trout that I’ve ever caught and it could actually be the same fish that I caught last year – click the link, you be the judge.  Besides the brown, there are some real monsters in that little creek, I moved a few fish on streamers that would give that brown a run for the money.  I just wish I could have gotten them to eat just to see if my 7wt would have held up.  These trips are a lot of fun and I wish I could get that way more often.  Big thanks to my parents for having me over for a few days.  What they have there is really special and I know a lot of hard work gets put into it.  I truly appreciate every opportunity I’m given to enjoy it.

Day 1

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The big brown

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Day 2

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Day 3

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