Chattahoochee's Best Day Out... 30 fish!

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Posted by RJL on September 01, 1997 at 20:58:49:

I rolled over in bed only to see the time was 3:45 am. It seems that every
time I plan to get up early to go fishing, I can’t sleep. I’m always rolling
over, checking out the time to make sure that I don’t miss my alarm. In my
head I’m mapping out strategies on how I will approach the river and which
sections I would fish. 6:15 am rolled around and I got up, poured a cup of
coffee, walked into the living room and glanced at the morning paper.
“Princess Diana Dead.” I was shocked. I took a deep breath, gathered my
gear and jumped into the car for the drive up to the Buford dam. During the
drive I listened to CNN radio to fill myself in on all the gruesome details of
Diana’s death. What a way to start out the day!

When I got to the dam I decided to fish the lower section next to Bowman’s
Island. Last time I fished the hooch near the dam, about a month ago, I fished
the upper section with very little luck. The area seemed to be fished out by
the “corn” regulars. There are sure to be more fish downstream in an area
which was not as easily accessible. I also decided to fish for the sport, a
“catch and release” day. The only obstacle in my way would be the field of
kudzu and the overgrown hiking trails by the river. It’s been last spring since
I hiked the northern river trail downstream to Bowman’s Island. Would it
even be accessible? I assembled my rig, put my waders on and began my
journey. The muddy banks of the tributary were a crossing feat on it’s own.
Slipping and sliding like some slapstick cartoon. Next obstacle was the
Kudzu. In some places it had grown ten feet high. The path was completely
obscured. The only indication where the trail might have been, were some
bent and broken vines from another’s footsteps who had recently ventured the
same way. Did they make it? All I could think about were snakes. Please,
please hear me coming and get out of my way. I finally got to the other end
of the field and crawled through the last wall of kudzu back to the trail.
Fighting mass quantities of spider webs I continued down the trail till I
reached the shoreline just below the shoals next to the island.

Today I would start out using my most productive fly. I really wanted to
catch some fish and not experiment with some newly tied flies. I like using a
size 12 or 14 dry fly, with light colored wings as an indicator on a 7 1/2 foot
tapered leader. Behind the dry, tied directly to the hook I drop off a bead
head nymph on 3-4 feet of 5X tippet. Today’s fly would be the “Orvis one
fly” which Orvis sold at one time, but discontinued it due to demand. The fly
is cross between a hare’s ear and a soft hackle. Orvis tied it to lean toward
brown hues but I like it on the red-orange side. It begins with a copper 1/8”
bead on an unweighted Tiemco 3761 size 14 or 12 hook. The tail is natural
pheasant. The abdomen is dubbed in a tapered fashion using fiery brown SLF
and ribbed with copper wire. The thorax is a ball of peacock hearl and the
wing is a peppered colored partridge hackle. In the still drift I use the size 14
and in fast riffles I use the size 12.

I laid some line out and began my day fishing, never realizing it would be my
best day yet. It was about 9:30 am and a slight mist was rising off the surface
of the water. I began walking upstream, casting on the eddy line of the pool
which lay in front of me. Bingo! my first strike. Then another and another. I
was a little quick on setting the hook and missed them all but it seemed my
selection of fly was working. On the next cast I hooked a nine inch brown. I
have always caught a lot of browns on this section of the river. I think they
like the faster moving shallow water which is well oxygenated. One after
another I kept catching them. I landed 10 browns and a couple rainbows in
less than an hour. Was I dreaming or did I also die in Di’s car crash and had
gone to heaven? This was the end of Summer when fishing was supposed to
be terrible. The fish could not resist this particular fly on this particular day.
They jumped all over it. I even saw them jump out of the water when they
missed it badly.

I continued to fish upstream, into some of my favorite holes pulling 3-4 trout
from each of them. Since it was a “catch and release” day and a good day it
was, I decided to count my catch. Currently it sat at seventeen fish, all
browns with the exception of two rainbows. I decided to cross over the
island and fish the still side. On the still side of the island there are a couple
deep holes which lie up against large boulders in the middle of the river. If
you approach them in a stealthily fashion from 50 feet downstream your
chances are good you will always catch fish there.

I tiptoed into the slow moving current and proceeded upstream. Upon my
second or third cast I hooked a good size fish but it broke my line. In my
head I was thinking maybe, just maybe I could catch 20 fish today. A
“Montana limit” as stated in the story “A River Runs Through It” by Norman
Maclean. Though I don’t think today’s Montana limit is 20 fish. As I was re-
rigging my line I heard a couple of yocals hooping it up downstream of me.
Oh lord, please let me rig it in time to fish these holes before these yocals
come walking up. It seems that in Georgia most fisherman have yet to learn
or follow good fishing etiquette. If they see you catch a fish from a hole they
walk right up to you and cast right into the same hole. Fifty yards
downstream and moving fast were the three yocals. One of them was
pretending to be the alarm siren which sounds before the Army Core begins
to release water through the dam. They stopped. I proceeded to cast into the
slow moving current but had to compete with a stiff downstream breeze
which seemed to keep folding my line to the surface of the water. My dry fly
went down and I set the hook. For the next five minutes I fought a nice size
brown and landed him. Then a nice size rainbow. I had caught 19 fish. The
yocals stopped and sat on a rock and quietly watched me. From the look on
their faces they couldn’t believe I was releasing these nice fish back into the
eddies in which they resided and I couldn’t believe it when they stopped and
sat down. Every cast was a strike, number 20 was just around the corner.
The big number 20 was the smallest fish which I had caught all day. A seven
inch brown, but it was number 20. I continued to catch two more fish before
the yocals couldn’t resist it any longer and came walking up to me. “Hey
buddy what’cha using. You seem to be killing them. I ain’t caught a fish all
day” one of them said. I showed that one the killer fly while his buddy
proceeded to cast into the hole in front of me. The third yocal stayed a
distance downstream. Perhaps he was the one with some etiquette. After a
brief conversation, the yocals decided to call it quits and they climbed up the
banks and proceeded to head back to their pick-up trucks. As they were
leaving, I was lucky enough to catch one more out of that hole. Ah that one
felt good. It’s always good to catch another fish out of a hole just ruined by
poor fishing etiquette and it was even better that they saw it as they were

I was up to 23 fish and was getting a little cocky. I moved upstream to a high
rock which overlooked a couple holes. Pulling some line out I began casting
again. Just then a huge great blue heron flew up to me and landed on a rock
on the other side of the river some twenty feet away. I hooked another one.
Upon releasing the fish, the heron looked at me in the same fashion as the
yocals did, in disbelief. He must have been hungry. I caught another,
released it and then moved upstream thirty yards or so. I couldn’t believe it
when the heron followed me flying up the river trying to be close to me,
watching every move I made. Right in front of him I caught two more fish.
Upon releasing the first one, the fish turned in the water, swam up to me,
resting his head on a rock just below the surface, spread its fins and gave me
a stare in disbelief. Freedom came fast, too fast he thought. I had to shoo him
away into the swift current to make sure my great blue friend wouldn’t have
him for lunch. Was it my imagination or did the heron have a look on his face
that he might just think about get into fly fishing himself? Did I make it look
too easy? It was at that very moment that I decided to write this story. This
day had been too unbelievable.

I crossed the river leaving my blue friend behind. I proceeded to fish a long
deep run, a little upstream on the other side of the river. Immediately I caught
fish number 27, a very nice size rainbow which I fought for several minutes.
For the next hour and a half the fishing slowed down to nothing. No strikes at
all. I glanced at my watch and noticed that the Army Core would be
sounding the siren and releasing water in a half an hour. When the Army
Core releases water, the river rises quickly about six to eight feet. A very
dangerous situation to anyone still in the river.

Reality was setting in again. I was coming back down to earth. I was so
close to 30 fish but didn’t care if I got there. It was such a great day of
fishing, up to that point. Swiftly walking upstream I noticed to my right a
large sloping bolder with a deep hole at its base . Casting five or six times
into the pool by the side of the rock, I never got a strike. It looked too good
of a spot not to have fish. I tried again and again. Then finally I got a hit, set
the hook and stripped in fish number 28. I glanced at my watch again.
Twenty minutes till siren time. Could I get to 30? There had to be more fish
in that hole, it was too good of a spot. I cast again, got a strike but failed to
hook it. I was sure by now the fish in that hole were wise to me, but why not
try again and only fifteen minutes to go. I cast further upstream into the hole
this time, waiting for my dry fly to slowly make its way to the backside of the
hole. Patiently waiting. My indicator fly went down slowly and I set the
hook, fish number 29. My watch had ten minutes till siren time. I knew that
hole had to be blown by now so I decided to walk upstream another thirty
feet. My heart was racing and my casting arm was quite sore. Trying not to
tangle my line, for I knew if I had, my quest for number 30 would certainly be
over. I cast a half dozen times or so with out any results. The situation
looked hopeless. Time was running out. So close to number 30. After each
cast I thought, what if I hooked it, fought the fish, then lost it. The precious
minutes which I had left would be wasted. The siren was about to sound. I
noticed a log lying upstream just below the surface in about three feet of
water. Here goes. My fly line zinged over my head. I placed the fly right in
the spot I wanted. Please fish, take it. The dry fly went down and my rod tip
went up. Yes sir! With a huge smile on my face I landed my thirtieth fish of
the day. What a great day! Unbelievable! The sirens began to wail and I
myself, like the yocals began to hoop and holler. All the fish caught were on
the same “Orvis one Fly” pattern.

On the drive home I reminisced in my mind on the day’s happenings. A
blend of tragedy, happiness and the mysticism which fly fishing brings. It’s
days like this one which keeps us coming back to the river.

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