Sunday, September 29, 2013

Frogtown Creek: My First Trout on a Fly!

Mornin' Folks,
  Today I thought I'd share some pictures with you.  These are all cell phone pictures, so the quality isn't the greatest.  The weekend before last I spent a great evening visiting with my grandparents up in the North Georgia mountains.  I got up and left early Sunday morning to do some small, mountain stream fly fishing.  I had yet to catch a trout on the fly, so I was hoping that this would be the day.  I stopped first at Helton Creek Falls and fished the pool at the bottom of the lower falls.  After about 10 minutes I started seeing some fish moving in the pool and showing interest in my Prince Nymph.  Just when a trout looked like he was going to take my fly, I heard a loud thud behind me and the fish took off.  I turned around to see a rather clumsy looking "photographer" had come down the stairs behind me and was jumping from rock to rock taking pictures.  The brush was just too thick to head down stream, mostly because of the cut Chestnut trees, and the "photographer" didn't appear to be leaving anytime soon, so I decided to pack it in and try to find another stream. 
  I'm a little fuzzy on the stream access laws of Georgia and it seemed like every nice place I found to fish had a house sitting next to it.  So, I headed down to DeSoto Falls Recreation Area in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. 
  In the past, I've hiked the trail of DeSoto Falls, but set out too late to make it to the falls themselves, but I was surprised to see a 24-site campground with shower and restrooms in the recreation area.  I'm going to keep that in mind for a later camping trip. 
  The banks of Frogtown Creek were pretty overgrown.  Stream access wasn't bad, but I couldn't cast from the bank.  The only waders I have are neoprene chest waders, which are way too uncomfortable for a warm, late summer day so they were left at home.  Frogtown Creek is a freestone stream so I thought I'd just rock hop.  I was wearing waterproof boots, so figured I could walk through the shallows.  After I slipped off the first rock I decided the day was warm enough to just wet-wade! 
  I had a great time fishing this stream.  There seemed to be a fair amount of fish in the water.  I got a lot of splashy refusals and a couple missed bites.  I didn't see any fish rising, and no insect hatch that I could detect, so I tried to stick with the nymph style flies.  The fish seemed interested, but I just couldn't get a hard take.  After catching my last small nymph in the trees, I tied on the only small fly I had left.  I'm not exactly sure what the fly was, I think it came in an assortment pack that I got as a gift years ago, but I think it was a deer hair Caddis fly in about a size 18 or so.  I would've posted a picture of this fly, but I lost it not terribly long after tying it on.  Makes me wonder if I tried hooking trees if I'd catch more fish...
  I wish I had tied on the Caddis sooner!  On my second cast next to a boulder in the middle of the stream I got a big splashy strike, but I missed the hook set.  Most of the reading that I've done on trout fishing says that trout spook very easily and if you recast to the same fish you can scare it off.  I think I probably cast to this fish a half dozen times and he splashed at it every time.  He finally took the fly and I had my first trout on my fly rod!  This guy put up a way better fight than the little bluegills I've been catching in Lake Lanier.  I fought him for a few minutes, reveling in the bend of my 2 weight TFO rod.  Since the water really wasn't that cold, I didn't want to fight the fish too long and risk over stressing him.  So I brought him to hand, dropped him a couple times, but I got my picture.  I had finally caught my first trout on a fly, a very nice little rainbow, about 7 inches long and full of energy.
  Having caught my first trout, and promptly losing the fly I caught him on, I decided it was getting late and I had homework and things waiting for me at home.    I look forward to camping at DeSoto Falls, hiking to the falls and doing some more fishing in Frogtown Creek.  And I can't wait to catch another trout!!!

Helton Creek Falls in Union County.

All of the American Chestnut trees were cut down along the trail due Chestnut Blight.

This is why they were cut down, otherwise they would fall. This stump was easily 3 ft. across.

The lower falls of Helton Creek Falls.

Frogtown Creek just below DeSoto Falls at the DeSoto Falls Recreation Area.

My 6 ft. Temple Forks Outfitters 2 weight rod.  Perfect for the small Frogtown Creek.

Further downstream.  Trout don't live in unattractive places.

My first trout on a fly!  Not huge, but he sure was fun. Definitely hooked now, I can't wait to do some more coldwater fly fishing!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Midday Train Through Georgia.

Evenin' Folks,
Aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway Car 2929.
  You know, summertime is typically a time for vacations and relaxation. My Little Girl and I (uh, significant other, not offspring) usually try to take a small beach vacation each year when we can, anything from a long weekend to a full week. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and Ponce Inlet, Florida are two of the most memorable.
  This year, due to a health scare, all of my vacation money went toward paying hospital bills so, no beach vacation. It would've been a great one, too, we found an awesome deal on a package to Aruba AND I found a fly fishing guide on the island!  But, Aruba will just have to wait until next year.
  As so often happens, the summer flew by and without even realizing it, school was about to start back.  We ran out of time for our beach trip, so instead, we decided at the last minute to do a quick over-nighter in Blue Ridge, Georgia.  We got online and started checking out things to do and see and places to stay.  This was on a Friday afternoon, we wanted to head up the next morning and spend Saturday night.  While online we found a great looking little hotel, Serenity in the Mountains, with all suites and very reasonable prices.  Unfortunately, it was too late in the evening to get a reservation.  I tried to call when they opened the next morning, but, unfortunately again for us, they were booked solid for the whole weekend.  Our quick over-nighter turned into a quick day trip.  We will be going back to stay at Serenity, I just have to make the reservations quite a bit further in advance!
A gorgeous little homestead with views of the river, when the train isn't passing.
The Suburban Angler himself.
It was tough to get a good shot of the river from the moving train.
  We were able to get tickets for the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway before leaving home, so we headed up into the mountains bright and early.  For me, there is something about being in the mountains on a cool, drizzly morning that is just instantly refreshing.  We've had an unusually cool summer here in Georgia this year (I'm not complaining) and with the rain and the smells of the mountains, it was like fall had come early.  We got to Blue Ridge with a bit of time before the train departed so we went to the L&L Beanery for a cup of coffee and some pastries.  The location the we visited (they have three) was directly across from the train station in a historic bank building.  Inside you're greeted with the smell of coffee, a very large bank-vault door and pressed tin ceilings.  There were plenty of cafe tables, but we opted for the leather couches by the fireplace.  The coffee was good, the pastries were ok, but the chai tea managed to elude them.  It was a great, comfortable place to wait for the train, though.  With my fondness for L.L. Bean pipes and outdoor sporting equipment, I was, honestly, drawn to L&L Beanery by the name!
The only bend large enough for a full train shot.

After killing a little time with our coffee, we lined up and boarded the train.  The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway is a 4 hour, 26 mile round trip train ride following along the Toccoa River north (but, oddly enough, downstream) to the twin border towns of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN.  We were in one of the open cars, the rain was light enough that we didn't get wet, so we were really able to take in the scenery.  As is typically the case for me, we chose the wrong side of the train.  There are views to be seen on both sides, but one side has the river, so there is a better side.  Luckily the porters ensure that everyone changes sides for the return trip.  There wasn't a whole lot to see and do in McCaysville and Copperhill.  There are a few hometown restaurants and junk/"antique" stores, but, aside from the street preachers, that was about it for entertainment during the layover.  I was able to pick up a walnut pipe rack for way cheaper than ebay, so I happy about that.  I was hoping to find a fly shop to check out and possibly pick up a patch with the town's name or the river's name change.    Which, I guess, is the other attraction in McCaysville/Copperhill, the north-flowing Toccoa River changes its name to the Ocoee River when it crosses the state line.  My normally good sense of direction was way out of whack while here, I think the river running the wrong way was throwing off my internal compass.
A beautiful river.
Lots of kayakers on the water.
More kayakers and a 100 year old bridge.
I love vintage signs.
  When we got back to Blue Ridge we took a stroll around the sidewalks and checked out some of the little shops in town.  Mostly junk/"antique" stores, there is a vintage book store (E. Quinn Book Seller, I think) in which the proprietor is a pipe smoker and fly fisherman, a stand-up guy in my book.  Being a fly fishing town, there were no vintage fly fishing books to be had.  Blue Ridge does have two fly shops in town.  Sorta.  The first I stopped into was Blue Ridge Fly Fishing.  This was a full service fly shop with everything from fly tying supplies to waders and full rod outfits.  They really seemed to have a fantastic selection for such a small shop, they carried all the best brands like Sage, Orvis, R. L. Winston, Patagonia, Simms and others.  It's probably a good thing that I didn't have much spending money, because I could have easily signed over a few paychecks to them!!  The next shop, literally next door, I liked even more.  Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods is a rod shop.  The store is quite small, but there are picture windows in the rear of the store looking into the workshop classroom.  Not only does Oyster Rods build and sell rods, they also teach rod building in the store!  My bucket list has just gotten one item longer!  When you walk in the store you are greeted, not only by the gentleman behind the cash register, but by the smells of a woodworking shop, leather and gun oil.  In addition to the displays of bamboo flyrods that scream to be picked up against better judgement, are traditional clothes that would make Orvis take notice, a glass case of Hardy reels easily worth more than my car, and half a wall-full rack of some of the finest double guns going.  Oyster Bamboo Rods didn't look like a fly shop, it looked like the man cave of my dreams!  As soon as I win the lottery I'm signing up for one of their rod building classes and buying two of everything in the store!  I wanted to take pictures while I was there, and kick myself for not asking permission, but it was the kind of place that I felt taking pictures would just be impolite.  So just take my word for it, and go yourself if you get the chance. 
  Believe it or not, we were able to cover just about all of Blue Ridge in just the one day, but we certainly plan on going back soon.  The Toccoa River was busy with fisherman, but I think I'd like to take a stab at it myself.  It looks like the perfect river to flyfish out of the kayak while the Little Girl is getting spa treatment and I wouldn't mind drooling in Oyster Bamboo Rods a bit more.
  I'll put links below for the businesses we checked out, but leave me a comment if you've been to Blue Ridge and know of something we missed that we need to see next time.  Thanks for reading.
  Tight Lines and Happy Fishing,


Oyster Bamboo Fly Rods
Blue Ridge Fly Fishing
Blue Ridge Scenic Railway
E. Quinn Booksellers
L&L Beanery
Serenity in the Mountains Spa and Suites
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