United States. Forest Service. Southern Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Cohutta Wilderness in the Chattahoochee National Forest for Rainbow and Brown Trout

United States. Forest Service. Southern Region, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsFishing has long been one of my favorite pastimes. Once I started driving most of my road trips were to places I had never fished before. One of them was the Cohutta Wilderness in North Georgia. It is a wonderful place with few people. There are a ton of native plants and undergrowth that you won’t see in other locations.

My friends and I would embark on a weekend or longer trip anytime we could. Most of these trips were ill-funded, poorly planned, and were aimed at fishing mainly. From time to time we would plan these trips to do some hunting also. Generally, they required a bit of improvising. This wasn’t always bad but it wasn’t always good either.

The destination this time was in the Chattahoochee National Forest in 40,000 acres of the Cohutta Wilderness of northern Georgia. There’s plenty of wilderness to find and there are many places that are only hike in spots not readily accessible except by foot or horseback. You might run into horseback riders on the larger trails.

This particular, and fairly secluded, area was not stocked with any regularity that we know of. I think this trip was a result of talking to one of the Rangers on a previous trip to the general area. We purposely targeted this area to get away from the masses as we tried often to do. Everything that we took had to be carried in through switchbacks and steep inclines. No one noticed the (*as the crow flies) at the bottom of the map for mileage. We would reach the crest and be relieved our calves were getting a break only to find that our shins would soon be aching for rest on the way down.

It’s a good idea to go with someone else for safety reasons. On this particular trip one of the guys had a mishap that could have ended not so great. You plan but it’s the things you don’t anticipate. We were crossing a stream that was a swift deeper run and we didn’t want to get wet. Don’t always take the easy way out just for comfort.

With about 60 or 70 pound packs we decided to rock hop across. The last one across had a foot slip and landed sprawled on a huge rock. It took the wind out of him when he landed on his stomach and his pack was holding his head underwater. The rock was too slippery underneath for him to push himself above the water. Had he been alone I think he would have quite likely drowned there. We pulled him off and across and he caught his breath and we were off again.

All of our drinking water and food for four days as well as equipment had to be carried in. This is not the best time to try to get used to a new pack or pair of hiking shoes. It, however, is very rewarding to hike most of the day and not see another human being. Always make sure someone knows where you are however in case you run into problems. Looking back we did not plan this trip to be as easy as we could have. We could have gone in much closer to the road and done far less hiking. I doubt the fishing would have been the same though.

I don’t know how many actual miles the trek was. I want to say it was two or three miles “* as the crow flies) that was listed on the map we used. We finally arrived at a nice site next to the river and set up camp which didn’t take much with how little we took. It wasn’t long before we set out to do some fishing. This particular area of the stream didn’t hold a lot of trout or very big ones it seemed either.

I had taken a fly rod and an ultralight spinning rod. We caught several trout that first afternoon but nothing large enough to be overly exciting. The first day or two is the most exciting, generally, especially if you are catching fish and enjoying the scenery.

Most of what we caught was in the 4 to 10-inch range for rainbows. One or two went maybe 12 inches. It started to get closer to dark and we were hungry so the three of us made our way back to camp. We were using Elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, Copper John, and Wooly Bugger artificials.

We hiked our way back alongside the creek. The three of us had found a small waterfall and a site with an old campfire spot. No one thought much about the noise roaring from that waterfall until it was time to go to sleep. Chainsaw wielding murdering wind chimes could have surprised us in our sleep and we would have been none the wiser.

It wasn’t late enough to not fish anymore. We had a few minutes of daylight and decided to pull out our spinning rods after putting away the fly rods. The pool right in front of our campsite looked like a good place to fish anyway. Why hadn’t we tried it when we started out?

Derek threw a small Roostertail into a small turbid section foaming with white bubbles directly under a waterfall section. No sooner than the lure hit the water and started drifting in the current his line went tight. Then it drifted downstream. Dead still going with the current.
“Hung up!” I remember thinking smugly as he had quite a reputation for this kind of thing. It was funny until he horsed the non-combatant biggest stream brown trout I’d ever seen right up to the bank. Only when I tried to pick it up from the water did it try to run.

After hefting him from the water we realized how big he was for the stream. As fat, as it was, it must have only been sitting in one spot eating. We didn’t have a scale but it was 21 inches long. That first evening pretty much ruled the rest of the outing.

We had to cross a stream quite a lot to get where we were going. On a subsequent trip, one of our group members took his brother and they got trapped by rain for a couple of days. Rain made the stream unsafe to cross for several days. If you go, pay attention to the forecast or don’t cross the stream any more than you have to.

by Edward Johnson

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