Unicoi Outfitters is north Georgia's premier guide service and fly fishing outfitter, located on the Chattahoochee River near alpine Helen. Look for fishing reports, gear and book reviews, and general musings here from our staff and guides.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fish of the New Millenium

As I drove south on GA 400 before sunup on Monday morning, I found myself wondering why in the world I let Henry Cowen talk me into this.  Traffic was beginning to build as I cruised closer and closer to the epicenter of that alter-universe commonly known as Atlanta.  Who drives into Atlanta to fish when they have the southern Appalachians right out their back door?  It was a conundrum; I had no answer.  But Henry's Brooklyn accent was obviously dialed up an octave or two when he called to invite me down to try "the most challenging flyfishing you'll ever see."  Though I pulled into our appointed meeting place 10 minutes early, Henry was already there, checking all the details on his G3 shallow water boat like an airline captain before takeoff.

With Fall officially still two days away, there was no mistaking that Summer was fully in charge this day and my long sleeve shirt seemed like a mistake as we pushed off from the boat launch at Azalea Drive on the Chattahoochee River.  But the cold water that originated in the bottom of Lake Lanier provided a chilly air conditioned zone that hovered above the water as we were enveloped by the dense fog of early morning.  Henry's fleece jacket felt pretty good, even on the short ride downstream.  Quietly, we slipped into one of the many oxbow lakes lining the channel of the river and began scanning the surface for our quarry, the golden ghosts of the mud flats and the object of unwarranted derision in the fly fishing world.  CARP!

If you've ever been bonefishing or cast a fly to trophy reds in the saltwater marshes of the southeastern coast, you've experienced one of flyfishing's most challenging quarry.  And while these species garner well deserved recognition for being among the most difficult fish to catch on a fly, the unpretentious carp finds honor difficult to come by and is more likely to be the object of ridicule than respect.  That's because the vast majority of the criticism comes from anglers who have never tried to hook and land one of these guys. A humble attitude should be the first thing you pack when heading out for carp.  Otherwise, you'll come home mumbling to yourself.

We immediately began to spot fish and within the first five minutes I had cast to three different fish... to no avail.  With Henry on the poling platform at the back of the boat, and my eyes straining to pick up movement in the shallow water surrounding us, there was almost never a period when we weren't stalking a fish as they rooted around, occasionally waving their huge tails in the air, looking for aquatic insects and crustaceans.  Henry's instructions to me were to be able to quickly cast to a target the size of a paper plate 40 feet away and, if I missed by more than 6 inches, to immediately pick up and cast again.  My 7'11" Ross Essence 8 wt. with Sharkskin line should have been up to the task.  The big question being, "Am I up to it?"

The next two hours were about as much of an adrenalin rush as I've ever experienced in flyfishing.  It's like a big game hunt where you're stalking your prey in hopes of being good enough to make the shot when the opportunity presents itself.  I probably cast to 30 or 35 fish and got one to eat.  And that one was worth my trip.  In less than 10 inches of water, the big fish picked my fly from the silty cloud, made a huge boil as it swirled against the pressure of my hookset and took of like a scalded dog on an 80 foot run.  I slowly worked the fish back to the boat but it was in no mood to let Henry grab it's bottom lip.  After running under the boat and out the other side three times, almost pulling the rod out of my hands on every surge, we finally landed it.  It was not an easy chore.  All the while Henry has a sly grin on his face that said, "See, I told you so."

1 comment:

  1. Jimmy,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog recapping your recent trip with Henry in pursuit of Hooch carp. And the photo of you holding your first carp on the fly was outstanding; what a beautiful fish! Congratulations Jimmy.

    Gary L.