Reel Time: Dragonfly on the Soque

Reel Time: Dragonfly on the Soque
Phil Culver holds a Soque rainbow trout that fell for a carefully placed nymph. - Rusty Chinnis | Sun

The mountains of northeast Georgia hold a special appeal for fly fishers and are one of my favorite destinations.

The countryside along the Sautee Valley was a verdant green and veils of mist floated over the rolling foothills as I made my way to Batesville and a rendezvous with my guide, Phil Culver. The early morning air was fragrant with the smell of honeysuckle, privet and wild roses and was, I hoped, an auspicious start to a day of fishing the Soque (pronounced so-qwee) River.

Today Culver was introducing me to a special stretch of the Soque run by Dragonfly, one of the top stretches of the river that regularly yields jaw-dropping double-digit rainbow and brown trout. Dragonfly’s section of the river is one of the South’s best trout fishing destinations, attracting neophyte anglers as well as seasoned fly fishers and past presidents.

We arrived at the river at 8 a.m., donned waders and rigged 5-weight rods for the day’s fishing. After crossing the river on a wooden bridge, we worked our way along a sinuous shoreline that was lined with blooming mountain laurel. After hiking about a quarter of a mile, we entered the river just downstream from a deep seam that undercut a bank and was in deep shade.

Culver carefully fished two small nymphs along the edge of the bank, then drifted them along and under the branch-covered bend. On his third cast he made a quick hook set when his indicator disappeared from the water’s surface and a deep bend in his rod telegraphed that he had a quality fish on.

The rainbow trout revealed its beautiful namesake colors in a jump before making several stubborn attempts to rub the fly free on the bottom. After a number of dogged attempts to lose the fly and two more jumps, we were able to net the trout, take a few quick pictures and release it.

The weather was clear and warm with a bluebird sky and, although the fishing was tough, we were both able to land and release a number of quality fish before we took a break and went to the Batesville Country Store for lunch. One of the pleasures of fishing the Soque is having breakfast before fishing and taking a lunch break at the store. Besides having excellent food, the ambiance fits perfectly with a day on the river.

The afternoon warmed into the 80s, but the temperature along the river was moderated by the shade and the cold flowing water. On days when the fish are not in the mood to bite, having a guide like Culver pays dividends. His 15 years’ experience on the river and a lot of fly changes yielded a number of fish for both of us. When we worked a particular section that he knew held a lot of fish, it would have been easy to doubt him had I not been able to see them with my own eyes. At the end of the day, it was, in a way, even more satisfying to have coaxed a number of fish to the fly when they were not in the mood to feed.

We had been near the end of the season when rising water temperatures prompt owners to begin limiting fishing in order to prevent stressing the big fish. I already have plans to return in October, when cooling waters turn on the trout’s feeding instincts. To experience the fantastic fishing on the Soque contact Phil Culver at 706-768-8922. Check out Dragonfly’s website or call Dave Sutton at 706-768-8800.

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