Sometimes in life things line up perfectly, as if you couldn't have planned it any better if you tried. For many this describes Winter fly fishing in the SouthEast. We are fortunate to live on and have had grown up on one of a few Tailwaters in the SouthEast that hold and grow an abundant population of both wild and stocked trout. Not to only limit it to one, because there are several others in close proximity, but the Toccoa River is the one that we call home, and have called home for our whole life.
As many other states seek for shelter from the frigid temperatures or are shoveling snow just to get out of the driveway, most trout are doing the same thin, laying low in an attempt to essentialy just get through the Winter. However, in the SouthEast like here in Blue Ridge, Georgia for example, things are just starting to get good. To the same point our Summers are long and hot finding the trout in a similar situation grinding it out just trying to get by, which makes them all to happy once we do start entering into our cooler Winter months.
- "What to expect while winter fishing in Blue Ridge?"
I've found that weather plays a huge role in what your day is going to look like as far as tactics, fish behavior, the types of flies you use, tippet, rods, all these factors come into account. On a colder clear blue bird day in January on one of our boats you may find yourself throwing a 4 weight with 12 ft leader and 6x tippet with some tiny little flies on the end. To the other end of the spectrum if it's overcast, rainy, basically nastier type weather it's very feasible to think you could be throwing a 7-8 weight rod with 350 grain sinking line and a triple articulated streamer. Point being Winter fishing offers a wide array of opportunity for any kind of fisherman, whether you are new to the sport and want to learn, or a life long avid angler with specific styles and goals you want to go after it can all be achieved this time of year.
I get the question all the time "What is the best time of year to come to Blue Ridge to fly fish?" After several years of guiding this river and seeing year in and year out I can tell you that without fail the best fishing of the year is going to be between December and May. Obviously I have my favorites inside of that time range if I had to say inside of that general time frame Feburary and March would be my two most favorite, but honestly you can't go wrong anywhere in there. Not to be redudant, but again growing up in the area there are reasons why those particular months are my favorite and it revolves around a bug! If you can believe that. The black caddis hatch. To give you a little back drop I'll tell you a couple quick stories of how this hatch really ignited my passion for Winter fishing.
Growing up here the farm I was raised on was surrounded by a small mountain stream named Skeenah Creek and it was full of litttle wild rainbows. So it started there and most of my time fishing with either my Papaw, who taught me, or friends was on smaller streams, to be honest we did not fish the big rivers as much. As time went on though we began to float the Toccoa and learn the river more, but at this point we would often times even just be using spin tackle. Before I knew it I found myslef in a fly shop just a kid trying to figure somehthing out on how to catch these trout on a fly rod and just so happended that day a fella by the name of Art was working that day. If memory serves me correctly my friend and I may have had enough money for a dozen or so flies at best, but Art was more than happy to help. He gave us a cup full of black elk hair caddis and a little dropper to tie off the bottom, as he said this is all you need right now.
It was a Sunday in early Feburary my friend and I didn't even have waders but we had began going to Curtis Switch every Sunday and would fish. This particular Sunday as we crossed the bridge heading to the parking lot our windshield was already being pelted by hundreds of Caddis flies swarming up out of the river, surely a good sign and more than enough to get us excited about the day ahead. We started out into the water, no waders keep in mind, but bugs everywhere and in almost any direction you looked you would see a rising trout. We began throwing our dry dropper setups and the day did not dissappoint everytime you would look up one of us would be hooked up. It was getting toward the end of the day and my friend decided to jump up to a new run that we had not fished yet and out of sheer curiousity I followed. He throws his caddis into the run and to this day one of the biggest rainbow trout I've seen in that river, certainly at that spot, came up an took his fly. It was on! As I mentioned earlier we didn't have waders so it may not come as much of surprise to find out that were not equiped with a net either. So here I find myself chest deep in the cold water trying to somehow help get this fish landed, it was a fairly chaotic seeen to say the least, then to add on to that I look up and three boats are about to float by to add to the pressure. Low and behold in one of the boats is our good buddy Art, as he began to watch and cheer us on as my friend fought this enourmous
fish on the exact fly that Art had given to us.
To shorten up the story a bit my friend got the fish in to me I was able to get it in my arms, we seen it, touched all of that, but then it flopped out of my grip and back into the river. Everything but a picture. Art and all his buddies watching from the bank couldn't help, but laugh at our inexperience , and at that point I believe we did to. They came down to the river bank
through us a net and said "you boys are learning, keeep this for next time looks like you're going to need it." I'll never forget that whole experience and from then on I anticipated that time every year.
Our town has changed a lot since then, but one thing remains the same. That's the river and the caddis, they are always there. Since then I have been able to make countless life long memories with all of the folks ,many who are now great friends, that I have had the pleasure to guide. Everyday that you go out in the Winter/Spring it could be the day that you talk about forever, and when it's all said done those memories, experiences, and moment's that we all get to share that's what really matter's in life. It's hard to put a value on things like that, honestly I think you just have to be grateful that you were there and know that was your day.
So it's just the tip of the ice berg right now, as fishing is good, it will only keep getting better. If you are in the Blue Ridge or North Georgia area and wanting to go wet a line, give us a call we would love to share a day on the water with you.