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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Day 4

Our last full day at Georgia was spent fishing at the cabin. Hard to argue the decision after the success we had our first day there; we were basically having withdrawals not hitting it the the day before. It was another good day with some quality fish caught, though not quite as many as on day one. On day one trout were holding all over the place, by day four water levels had dropped and clarity improved a good bit. Instead of getting hits on lousy drifts, you actually had to concentrate and work the water over, hitting every seam where they might be holding. When you got a hit though it was usually a quality fish. I finally lost the Upper Colorado rig that worked well the first day, but Blake had tied up similar stonefly patterns that worked nearly as well, one of them I’ll have up for an SBS pretty soon.

The first fish I tied into on the day was a strong fighter, made several jumps and ran me downstream to the point where I had to actually follow the fish (not quite River Runs Through It style).  It may not have been the biggest fish on the trip, but I’m really happy I didn’t screw it up and was able to bring this fish to hand.

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Then Blake got in on the action with a couple nice fish, the second one on actually came on the dry. Always a treat to watch a big trout rise and sip (or clobber) a big dry.

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The day went on like this as we picked our spots and worked them over. The first (and only) snake encounter we had on the weekend was with a black rat snake that just wanted to be left alone.

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Later on I landed a brookie, a rare treat on this stream which gave me a slam on the day.

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After that we grabbed a beer at the cabin then headed to the spot where we doubled on day one and I tried (and failed) to document with the GoPro. We approached the hole a little differently as the fish weren’t holding in the same spot. These fish were stacked up under some rhododendron so Blake stood on the bank and told me where my drift needed to go and after a short while I was rewarded with a good eat.

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We let the spot settle down, then tried our luck drifting through again, this time a bit further downstream. It wasn’t long before I had another eat and this time it was a better fish. The fish ran sideways and after a very short fight my tippet gave way. What a heartbreak. We pushed further down, beating the bank with nymphs and streamers. Blake threw at a downed tree and I remember telling him that looked like a good spot. I threw at it and had a massive take, then as I laid into him to set the hook deep, I came up empty. My entire rig broke off above the dry! Not quite sure how it happened, there was a lot of structure down there, so it could have run me up into there, all I know is that this fish seemed larger than any other we caught all weekend, now maybe he’s sporting some lip jewelry. Another heartbreak, I really wasn’t in the mood to tie anything else on after that. Blake fished on and caught one last fish before we went back to the cabin.

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It really didn’t take much to convince me to rig up again and I was able to land one more before it got too dark to see.

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Day 5

We woke up a little bit earlier to fish before the long drive back to Louisiana. Not much doing for me on the day, but I did land a couple of fish of note – another brookie and a “trophy” bluehead chub.

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BBQ and Lazy Magnolia at The Shed in Ocean Springs put a nice touch on the end of the trip – I forgot how good this place was. Another successful trip to North Georgia for Memorial Day weekend in the books. It’s too bad we caught a year when my parents were out of town and the girls couldn’t make it, but that certainly freed us up to do a ton of fishing. It was a good year for it too because the creek at the cabin is fishing better now than I ever remember. Hopefully it fishes the same next time I head that way, not sure when that will be, but I always look forward to it.

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Saturday we decided to hit wild water again, however this time we headed somewhere new, to a stream that I’ve yet to fish in the Cohutta Wilderness. It was a bigger body of water than the previous stream and one that we could only access by hiking in, which is always appealing because it keeps most of the riff raff off the water. We stopped at Blue Ridge Fly Fishing on the way in to see if we could re-stock our supply of flies that had been working at the cabin. They were also able to offer advice on what might work where we were headed. We continued on our way and parked at a trailhead along a headwater stream.

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The trail was a gently sloping downhill which took us two miles to where it met the river, then it was just a matter of finding a good place to start fishing. When we got down to the river there were some folks camping streamside and even a few other fishermen, so we hiked a bit further downstream before we began fishing.

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The river was beautiful and had more vertical water than I thought it would, no complaints here, that is something we were use to fishing on our smaller streams. Water levels were great so holding water was everywhere. It didn’t take long to catch fish either, I believe Blake had a hit on the first spot he fished while we were just crossing. We started with dries, throwing yellow bodied Adams, per the advice of the guy at BRFF, and that’s all I fished the whole day, I was getting hits relatively consistently. Blake switched it up and started nymphing the deeper runs and having success as well. The combo worked well since he could work the deep water and I was picking apart the pocket water. Fish size was slightly larger than the day before and I had a solid fish rise at the end of the day, but still no above average fish brought to hand on this day.

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We stopped in Blue Ridge to get dinner and pick up more beer before heading back to the cabin. A couple things to note: the food at the Black Bear Bier Garten was good, but the portion size of our sandwiches left us wanting more – in Louisiana it is generally the other way around, maybe I’m jaded. Also, for a “Bier Garten” the selection of beer was quite lousy, though I did have an excellent Mother Earth Dark Cloud, something I wouldn’t have been able to get back home. One would think that the “Beer Barn” would be an excellent place to find a selection of beer however that wasn’t the case, according to Dad we should have went to Ingle’s. Lessons learned.

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Friday we headed to one of our favorite small streams in the area. It is one of the few in Georgia that have wild, reproducing populations of all three of the state’s resident trout species – brook, brown, and rainbow. Normally this stream is a can’t miss, it has fished well for us every time we’ve hit it, which is one reason we keep coming back. It also tends to produce some larger than average small stream fish. This time was a little different though, it didn’t fish nearly as well. I blame the slight cold front that moved through the area overnight, dropping lows into the 40s. Yeah I know, it’s a convenient excuse to explain slow fishing, but it’s the best I’ve got. Still we had a good time watching the rainbows we did catch smash dries, too bad we couldn’t convince any other species to come out and play.

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We got off the stream early enough to head back to the cabin, grab a quick drink, then hit the creek before dark. It was still fishing pretty well, though I don’t remember seeing any of the bruisers we saw the day before.

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