Big Trout, Small Water, Southern Hospitality

Out West this, out West that; but out West isn’t the only place to put BIG fish in the bottom of your net. Being a college student breaks seem to be few and far between, especially when all you are capable of thinking about is putting a fly in front of a fish’s face. That leaves lots of time to tie, write, and plan trips to different places that trout call home. Rivers that aren’t finicky in early Spring are almost impossible to find around my usual stomping grounds. When I sat down to explore my springtime options I decided that tailwaters, 6x, and size 24 bugs were just not on the menu this March. A buddy and I had the bright idea of heading East when trying to solve our “problem” of where to toss a fly. Something we had never experienced before, and frankly knew close to nothing about. I was quickly drawn to the Northern tip of Georgia, more specifically Blue Ridge and the mountains that surround it. After all, they say it’s the trout capital of the South. Will Taylor and Justin Pickett, with Fly Shop Co. were the fishiest guys I could find East of the Mississippi. Countless emails, phone calls, and texts during the winter set our plan in stone. I started tying obsessively; which is always a tell-tale sign I’m itching to get on the water. We were stoked to see what these new mountains and water had to offer.

March rolled around quicker than we expected, as we had been distracted by midterms and homework. I threw a few pieces of clothing in a bag, packed up way more fishing gear than I needed, and somehow fit my whole tying bench in a few small bags (just in case, I told myself). A long drive through unfamiliar country awaited us, but we were eager to see what all the fuss was about regarding these Georgia toads we had only seen pictures of. Hopping on the road the first morning we realized we hadn’t made any sleeping arrangements except “oh yeah no worries, we’ll find somewhere to put up a tent”, which is exactly what we did. Honestly, we didn’t sleep much that first night. I’m still not sure if it was the 18-degree weather or the idea that I had the chance to see a 25-inch fish holding in two feet of water in a creek no wider than the truck we were in. After some pondering, I came to the conclusion that it was a lot of both. Little did I know what those Georgia mountains had in store for us.

Will and I had become fast friends over the phone, but meeting him in person was when I realized I was going to learn from him, fishing and photography wise. Not to mention getting a glimpse, and hopefully a chance at, the stud trout he built his business on. It didn’t take long for us to put the rods to work, first on a few trees and bushes. The casting is a bit like threading tippet through a hook with no eye. The first fish to hand was a healthy rainbow, probably an 18-inch fish. Now, on any other day or trip I would’ve had the camera out for that fish, but this place was just a little different. Blue Ridge was quickly satisfying the hopes we had for the trip. The 3x tippet and size 8 bugs were just what I had in mind. With the mountains standing tall over us, creek through our legs, and our bugs finding fish I realized we were in a Mecca of Southern trout. Over the course of the next few hours, we stuck some absolute giants…

There’s a bunch of dudes in the industry that can talk the talk but have some trouble walking the walk. Justin Pickett is not one of those guys, very far from it actually. Plain and simple, the man can fish. Picking his brain and following him up a North Georgia creek was a learning experience as much as it was a fishing experience. We talked funky flies, casting techniques, writing, fish behavior, and so much more. Every once in awhile we would get interrupted by a subtle strike or an aggressive streamer eater. We took on that day with a hunting mindset. Gin clear water, overhangs, and underwater structure made the fish easy to spot. Getting them to eat was the catch. Working away at a single fish like that can provide a huge reward, but more often than not it’s a slap in the face to remind you why you keep coming back. A few fooled fish, and big fish at that, made for a day that had us stoked all the into our Waffle House feast that night.

Our exploratory trip in search Southeastern trout was a major success. There’s so much water in the general area to satisfy whatever type of fishing interests you, or that you’re used to. We hiked some blue lines where bow and arrow casts were the plan of action, bombed streamers on the Toccoa, and found some hidden small water hogs with Will and Justin. If you’re looking to change up your scenery and have a chance at a stud, put some serious thought into a heading up to Georgia. Give Fly Shop Co. a shout with any questions, or for a guided trip.

For more of Maxwell’s adventures, check him out on Instagram! Special thanks to Garrison Kinsel and Will Taylor for the photography work!

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