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Vol. 17 No. 32 - May 24, 2017

reel time

On the Soque

Reel time

rUSTY CHINNIS | sun

John Rice holds Bob Seeger's rainbow trout
for a quick photo before releasing it.

The undulating pastures of North Georgia's Sautee Valley were verdant green, veils of mist floating over the rolling foothills. The early morning air was fragrant with the smell of honeysuckle, privet and wild roses, an auspicious start for a day of fishing the Soque (pronounced so-qwee) River. My good friend and fellow angler Bob Seeger and I were fishing at Black Hawk Fly Fishing near Clarksville, Ga.

Black Hawk owns two miles of land bordering both sides of the river, one of the South's best trout fishing destinations. It is open year round when conditions permit, and the river consistently yields rainbow and a few brown trout from three to 12 pounds.

We arrived at the Lodge at 8 a.m. and were greeted by owners John and Abby Jackson. The Jacksons opened Black Hawk Fly Fishing in 1996. Abby J, as she's known, welcomed us and showed us around the property. Besides managing Black Hawk, Abby has a line of award winning sauces, Abby J's Gourmet (www.abbyjsgourmet.com)and is a co-founder and marketing director of Southern Farm and Garden, an agricultural journal that features a diverse selection of articles on gardening, farming and cooking.

Our guide, John Rice, briefed us on the day's fishing, and while he rigged our rods, we donned waders and boots. Eagerly we joined Rice in his truck for the short ride to the river. The large hemlocks that lined the dirt road shaded the river, and the mist hanging in the air was illuminated by the morning sun. The same scene greeted us when we reached the river, which was lined with blooming mountain laurel.

The scene was enchanting, and I watched as Rice led Seeger into the river and coached him on nymphing a swift moving run in the river. I stood by happy to take pictures of the scene. It didn't take long before Seeger snapped his wrist and was connected to a beautiful rainbow trout that leaped several times interspersed with runs back and forth across the river.

Now it was my turn and while Seeger fished, Rice led me 100 yards upstream to another fast moving run just above a beautiful pool. Action was almost instantaneous, but it took me several missed bites to finally connect. Trout are extremely sensitive to anything that feels suspicious and will pick up and drop a fly in a split second. We weren't using strike indicators and instead watched the end of the fly line and leader for any indiction of a bite.

Often fishing close to and just downstream from where the trout were staging, we employed a technique known as high sticking. This involved holding the rod high with the fly line just out of the water and following the leader with the rod to watch for a strike and to keep the fly from dragging. Anything that looks even the slightest bit unusual will prevent trout from hitting.

My first trout took the fly at the bottom of the run, and when I set the hook, it bolted into the pool, made a run for the far side of the river and jumped three times. The rainbow then changed tactics and tried to reach a nearby submerged brush pile. I palmed the reel, putting as much pressure as I dared on the six-pound tippet. Just before reaching the obstruction, the trout yielded to the pressure and moved back into the pool. Several minutes later after two more runs and three jumps Rice netted the 22 inches rainbow.

For the next two hours Rice hop scotched between Seeger and me netting the trout we hooked. At noon, we took a break and returned to the lodge for lunch. Abby had prepared three delicious chicken sandwiches for us, and we relaxed over our food recounting the morning adventure and reviewing the techniques we had used in anticipation of an afternoon of fishing.

The next section of river we fished was about a mile downstream. We traveled there in Rice's truck, unloading at a picnic table that was stationed at river's edge. The afternoon was warm but beautiful, and the fishing was excellent. Although the runs and pools that Rice led us to were often full of big trout, it definitely wasn't easy.

The fish proved to be a bit more selective as the day progressed, and I struggled to hook the trout that went for my fly. Seeger meanwhile was hooking fish after fish. Although a bit of a neophyte fly fisher, he quickly picked up the high sticking and was connecting with most of the fish that took his fly. Near the end of the fishing, my luck changed, and I caught my biggest fish of the day, a 24 inches brown trout.

Our day on the river ended at 4:30. While it was hard to leave such a beautiful and productive river, we were tired and satiated after almost eight hours of fishing. Returning to the lodge, we broke down rods, climbed out of our waders and enjoyed a cold drink while reminiscing over the day's fishing. It had been a beautiful day, and we both agreed that the fishing had exceeded our expectations. Black Hawk protects the river and trout by limiting the fishing to a maximum of eight anglers a day. To inquire about fishing, contact Abby at their website www.blackhawkflyfishing.com


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