Georgia’s Delayed Harvest a boon for trout fishermen
Rusty chinnis | Submitted
Rusty Chinnis shows the trout he caught
while fishing during Georgia's
Smith Creek undulated along the shaded walking path, dancing around boulders and sliding over granite outcroppings, sometimes sparkling in the early afternoon sun and then tumbling into shaded glens where the sunlight didn’t reach. Walking along the path with my five-weight fly rod, I looked for places that might harbor trout, while providing enough room to maneuver my rod and line.
Spotting a side trail that led to the creek’s edge, I discovered a stretch of the creek that looked like it might be the perfect lair of a rainbow or brown trout. I entered the water and began working my way upstream making casts to areas that looked promising. I was fishing a dry fly and had to make my casts carefully so the offering would float along the water’s surface without appearing unnatural.
The challenge was to not let the creek’s current pull fly line and fly, dragging the offering downstream. After making a number of casts and exploring several runs and pockets, I made a cast to the top of a pool formed by large boulders that temporarily impounded a portion of the creek’s flow. As I watched the fly slide downstream, a small rainbow trout came to the surface and inhaled the fly.
Instantly I raised the rod, set the hook and then enjoyed the feel of the muscular trout as it dove into the pool. The light weight rod took a smooth and surprisingly deep bend as the trout came to the surface, jumped and then ran upstream to the head of the pool.
I worked the fish slowly enjoying what would be my only fish of a short trip. As the fish tired, I bent to a kneeling position at the stream’s edge, wet my left hand and then used my right hand and rod to position the trout to land. The fish was beautiful by the stream’s edge in the muted forest light with distinct brown spots and a band of red toned colors from which its name was derived.
After a quick picture I released the trout and continued working my way upstream. I didn’t fish more than two hours that day, and although I only landed the one fish, I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the water. Rising temperatures had made the fishing tough in a stream that can offer many more fish on a good day.
I had spent my time on Smith Creek on the last day of a period known as Delayed Harvest, Georgia offers fishermen a unique angling opportunity with this program. These regulations cover five trout streams stretching more than 4,000 miles. DH is a management strategy that provides quality catch-and-release trout fishing from Nov. 1 – May 14.
Since each trout can be caught multiple times, angler’s chances at catching fish are increased. Quality fishing is further assured by periodic restocking of trout to compensate for those lost to injury or natural mortality. This program is popular with seasoned anglers while also providing an excellent learning opportunity for neophyte anglers. Although all types of gear (spinning, casting and fly) are used, fly fishing seems to be the most popular method used on most of the streams during this period.
The streams are stocked with three species of trout rainbow, brown and brook. The five trout streams managed under delayed harvest regulations are Amicalola Creek on the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area – from Steele Bridge Road downstream to Georgia Hwy. 53, Smith Creek at Unicoi State Park, the Toccoa River located on U.S. Forest Service land upstream of Lake Blue Ridge in Fannin County – from 0.4 miles above Shallowford Bridge to 450 feet above the Sandy Bottom Canoe Access, and the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta –Sope Creek, downstream of Johnson Ferry Road, downstream to the Hwy 41 bridge, and a portion of the Chattooga River from Ga. Hwy. 28 upstream to the mouth of Reed Creek on U.S. Forest Service land bordering South Carolina.
The DH streams are catch and release only, and restricted to artificial lures, including flies with one single hook. An added benefit for anglers is that the streams are located in some of the most scenic parts of Georgia. While the season is over for 2013, anglers who are interested in some excellent fishing might want to mark their calendars for the upcoming year. For a complete listing of streams, dates and regulations go to http://www.georgiawildlife.com/node/740 .