-By Rich Miller
After getting skunked fishing while I was on vacation, I thought I might try to redeem myself with a trip a little closer to home. I have been trout fishing on the Chattooga River since I was a little boy. I grew up following my dad around the river trying to keep from falling in. All the years that I have been going to the Chattooga I have just made day trips, but I’ve always wanted to pack into the rural camping area and stay for a couple of days. The place I was planning on camping is only accessible by foot so I was going to pack light and that is something that I am not very good at. I have a deer hauler that I use when hunting walk-in areas so I figured I could load it down with all of my gear and make one trip from the truck to the campground.
I invited my uncle and he said he was in, so we planned on heading up Thursday afternoon when I got off of work. By the time we arrived, got everything hauled in and the tent set up, we didn’t have very long to fish the first afternoon. However we did manage to catch five or six each before darkness fell on us. It was a shame it got dark because we were still catching fish. It gets very dangerous trying to wade in the dark, much less walking the trail back to camp in the dark also.
Friday morning we were awake and finished with breakfast before the sun came up. We hit the trail for a two hour hike up to the area we wanted to start fishing. Trying to catch some of these bigger trout is no different than trying to kill a trophy buck; you have to get away from the crowds where they haven’t been pressured very much. Usually, when we go to the falls we never see another fisherman.
Even though we started off in the dark we made pretty good time. We got to the falls in less than two hours. It was pretty refreshing stepping into that cool, mountain water after the long hike. I bet I had not made three casts when I caught a nine-inch rainbow. The problem is the limit is eight fish, so I didn’t want to start keeping smaller fish early in the day and then have to release some bigger ones later in the afternoon.
After catching one or two smaller fish below the falls, the fish just shut down and we were not getting a bite. Even when we moved above the falls we still were not getting the bites like we normally do. Now, whenever you are trout fishing you always want to fish up stream. Trout almost always will be facing upstream and feeding on bait that comes floating by. When a fisherman starts fishing above, the trout coming down stream the fish will not only see you but they also know something is in the river because of the debris that the fishermen have been stirring up while coming down the river.
I am sure you have guessed our problem, when we made the turn above the falls there were two guys coming down the river toward us fishing. This just shut the big fish down and I feel like that was the reason we didn’t catch very much below the falls. We got past those guys and there was another really good stretch of water that we always catch some good fish in. As we came around the next bend in the river to start fishing this great stretch, there were two more guys standing in the middle of the river. You talk about being disappointed.
Once we passed these two guys we decided to take a break and eat a bite and let everything settle down a while. After waiting about thirty minutes, we started fishing again and it did pick up a little bit the further we got up river. I managed to catch one brown trout that was about fourteen-inches long and lost a rainbow that was about the same size. My uncle caught a nice rainbow that was about twelve inches. I ended up catching around twenty five fish the whole day, but I never got the really big fish that I was after. We both managed to bring out a decent limit of fish but we had to work our tails off for them.
We got out of the river around 5:30pm and after a 40-minute hike we were back in camp. When we got the fish cleaned it was time to do a little cooking. I don’t know about you, but after being in the river all day I really work up an appetite. We grilled up a couple of deer burger steaks and fried up some potatoes and onions. I don’t know if it was because I was so hungry or what, but I don’t think a meal in a five star restaurant in New York would have been any better. After getting our bellies full it was all we could do to stay awake until we got everything cleaned up. I don’t think I moved until the next morning when we got up and started packing. We had planned to leave Saturday morning because that is when the river gets crowded. Of course, I don’t know if we would have seen many more people than we did on Friday.