Premium Trip Report
feb. 21st-23rd 2020
2020 Blackhawk (Premium Trip) Fishing Report
February 21-23rd, 2020
White Wet Fly!!!
Our 2nd trip to Blackhawk for 2020 had striking similarities to the first. Another big rain event in the lead up to the trip was once again making national news and like last time; it was another opportunity to load up the ole trout truck in rainy pea soup weather.
Oh well; like last time we continued the trip and
anxiously anticipated catching just as many as we
did on the previous trip. Hopefully for me; I will
be able to actually catch a few fish on this trip
and not experience the long distance releases
like the previous trip.
Upon our arrival to Blackhawk we were graciously
greeted by owner Abby Jackson and guides
Andy Brackett and Eli Crumley. After unloading
gear and checking out the cabin our attendees
broke out the rods and Andy and Eli began the
process of rigging up our fly rods for the day. As with any trip we assign the guides to coach, mentor and assess the skills of our newbies who may be fishing Blackhawk for the first time. Yep, one can be experienced but a Blackhawk fish takes catching a fish to another level and for this trip we were honored to have Shane Connor and Dewayne Bohannon as the latest folks to be introduced to the Soque (SO-KEY) River and its massive trout. Attendees for this were Mike Strong, Howard Pendley, Bob Grimm, Harry Huntley, Mike Greene, Ed Walshe, Shane Connor and Dewayne Bohannon and yours truly Keith Cloud.
Like two weeks ago; we started with a bit of high water fishing; but the level was more manageable than previously. A bright high sun shined brilliantly as guides Andy Brackett and Eli Crumley indicated that we would be starting with 7 ½ foot 3 and 4X leaders and tippet material. Our top fly’s consisted of tan and brown mop fly’s with tungsten heads. The dropper fly’s were rs2’s along with WD40’s hopefully would look appetizing to the trout of Blackhawk.
As we paired up for Friday’s arrival; we made certain our newbies started with the guides beginning the process of learning how to fish at Blackhawk. Guide Andy would work with Shane Connor fishing on the upper end at a place called the honey hole. Guide Eli would take on Dewayne Bohannon and fish the lower end of the stream on the property. As for me, I paired up with Shane and kept a watchful eye should a hook-up occur and a net man be needed.
As we fished, one item of interest was immediately
viewable. Shane did not use an indicator when
fishing. Quite frankly, I thought it would be a bad
decision and felt confident he would regret that
strategy. However to sum it up; Shane and all of the
group had experienced several hookups. Overall
the fishing was slow; however as the water warmed,
the hot fly became an olive green soft hackle used
primarily as a dropper fly.
Once done fishing; I made way back to the lodge
and set out the appetizers served prior to our
evening meal. The appetizers consisted Lobster
spread, Chicken Salad, Onion Dip, and Cheddar
Ranch dip served with pretzel flats, potato chips, and crackers. As the fellows arrived back to the lodge the snacking and chatter would begin. Shane and Dewayne would begin to do what everyone does on their first trip as they spoke of the tenacity and excitement of hooking their first Blackhawk trout and as host, this kind of reaction never gets old.
The sun had given way to darkness and our evening meal would certainly not take a back seat to any meals thanks to Harry Huntley and Sherie Cloud. Yep, Harry graciously donated a Honey Baked ham to the outing and Mrs. Cloud (Sherie) knew exactly what would go with such a generous contribution to the trip as homemade Mac n Cheese, Collard Greens, Cole Slaw, Smokey Baked Beans, and Sweet Hawaiian Rolls rounded out the meal. As for dessert, it was homemade pumpkin pie and pecan pie served with optional whipped cream for the finale.
Saturday morning a good hearty breakfast of grits, eggs, sausage, biscuits, fruit salad, and hot coffee got our anglers going. It would be a chilly morning; but temps in the mid 20’s did not phase our gang as they were charged up for a big day of fishing in the North Georgia Mountains. Our customary swapping of ends of the river and keeping the same guides would start our day. The upper end of the river guide Eli would take Mike Strong, Howard Pendley and Dewayne Bohannon and Bob Grimm and the action would be steady as the morning proceeded. Mike Strong attempted a bit of Czech nymphing with heavily weighted fly’s as he drudged the bottom hoping for trout that would match the early morning temperature in the upper 20’s. As for the lower end; poor Andy would have five of us and be stretched pretty thin dedicating time to each individual. For this trip I decided to go with nine attendees instead of the optimal eight. Leading up to leave time; I knew Dewayne really wanted to go and actually had to cancel for the first Blackhawk trip due to a knee injury. As for me; I decided that if he (Dewayne) could possibly attend this one; then I was going to make it happen; for I can’t think of anyone who was wanting to get in the stream as much as Dewayne. In fact, I did not know if I was a go for fishing anyway. Once again my aching back would create question marks on to whether I would be able to host and fish on the trip. A big thanks to my fishing partner Dr. Shane Connor (Collaborative Chiropractic) Lexington and helping me to recover enough to participate and to actually fish.
The fishing on the lower end started a bit slow with the low temps. I fished the canyon area and this was one of the times where the water was clear and a keen eye could spot the fish. As I gazed across the stream I saw a nice big trout slowly meandering just downstream from a large mountain laurel on the opposite side. To have a shot at catching the fish; I had to cast far enough upstream with distance of 10 to 12 foot from the mountain laurel. The goal was go get the fly to drift under the laurel and the fly line not to touch the laurel by keeping a tight line to the drift of the fly. The fly also had to have enough weight to get the lead fly; Mr Tan Mop and the dropper an olive green soft hackle size 20 into the feeding zone. (About 4 to 5 foot deep). One cast into the laurel and you were done and retrieval of the fly was not an option. This type of cast would be easy for a right handed experienced fisherman; but the problem was that I am a lefty and being a lefty on the Soque has it’s challenges.
A lefty has to take chances and believe they have a
shot at catching fish in this type of situation. Finally
after sizing up; I made the cast and BAM a big
hungry rainbow got bit by Mr. Soft Hackle and the
fly line tightened up as the rod bent. Within a few
moments I would soon be posing in a nice picture
with a big fat rainbow approaching 21 to 22 inches.
Lunchtime at the Lodge Abby J’s famous Chili was
on tap to greet our fishermen; and like the Chili,
the afternoon sun warmed us as it beamed brightly
in the blue clear sky while feasting at the large
picnic table outside the lodge. It was all smiles as we dove into the chili with the gusto of a hound dog. The fishing was picking up and it was only going to get better as the day proceeded. It was a perfect time to break and rest up for few more hours of catching. Speaking of catching; Bob Grimm had been doing plenty of it and as he took a siesta in the back bed of his truck; I snapped a picture of Bob looking at the backside of his eyelids.
The afternoon fishing took us back to the upper end. I decided on a change in my approach and try a fly never used on previous trips. Recently while attending the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show I was able to purchase a few soft hackle patterns and other pattern just labeled as wet flys. They were on sale and I thought why not give them a try. So I tied on a white wet fly behind a Brown Mop fly and began to pick up trout as I fished fast water approaching an area called Abby’s Run. As I looked upstream it seemed like every time I looked up Mike Greene was catching a fish. Make a few cast and look up and Mike was hooked up again. Upon seeing this; I thought I would take a break and watch Mike and see what he was doing. After a few moments, I realized he had the same fish on needed help in landing the fish and was deep into the backing on his reel. In fact it was the same fish he had on for what seemed to be a very long time and he was never casting. So on my way (bad back and all), trudging upstream I was finally able to (after many failed attempts) net the fish. When I think back on the moment and we took pictures; I can’t say who was the most bushed. Was it Mike or the Big 22 inch
Brown or YOURS truly?
The netting of Mike’s fish had my back as tight as a
banjo; but the day was still young and Mike had
ventured on to another location. I decided to go
back downstream and eventually work my way back
to the area where Mike caught his big fish. The area
needed a break and based upon Mike’s big catch;
I knew there were some big fish in Abby’s run, but
I was going to let the fish settle down and check
back with them in 30 minutes to an hour. With my
brilliant strategy, I began casting downstream from
Abby’s run and as soon as the white wet fly (WWF)
hit the water I witnessed an incredible attack on the WWF. The fish that hit this fly meant business and quickly removed line from my reel as I began to yell for assistance in the rapids of the Soque. I kept looking around and no net man was in sight. Meanwhile the fish showed no signs of tiring and like John Paul Jones in 1779 “he had not yet begun to fight” as I began to search my vest for something called a safety whistle. Yep, the fish had me down to the backing and once the whistle was found I began to see if it would make a sound. Soon the whistle had Andy on the way and it was a welcome relief to see him appearing through the thicket. Finally we began to make progress on the landing the fish. Like any smart fish; they save the best for last. One final attempt at freedom as the big rainbow made a dash up and across stream to a log up against the bank. Andy yelled for me to lower the rod almost down to the water level on my right hand side and I did as instructed. The fish had made it to the log and into deeper water. My indicator was hung on the log and although I felt plenty of tension there was no action on the tension. The fight was over as Andy who could barely wade across and was hoping the fish was still magically on the line; discovered the fish had won this round and gained the freedom he was after. Boy ole boy what a fight; but the white wet fly would be saved. You can bet that it would be used again in the very near future!!!
Back to the cabin for another wonderful meal provided by the Cloud house and The Villa Restaurant. Our evening supper featured lasagna purchased from The Villa on Bush River Rd. The owner Mr. Scarborough has been a member of SRTU for quite some time and when in a pinch and running short on time, we always have a successful meal serving its lasagna pair with the now FAMOUS SRTU salad and Garlic knots. As for dessert the homemade pecan pie and cherry crisp (for Harry) and whipped cream managed to take care of the sweet tooth. Our last evening at the Lodge brought out opportunities of sharing the many pictures and sit by the warm outside fire on a very cool clear night at Blackhawk.
Sunday morning would bring a clear day with a bright blue sky and after an excellent breakfast of quiche, sausage links, hash browns and biscuits our attention would turn to fishing. As for me, I could not wait to get back into the water. It was our last chance for the Soque and as we were gearing up, I noticed a stranger outside assisting in rigging the rods. Suddenly I was approached by Andy who indicated that the other guide Richard was there to fish with Howard and that his (Richard’s) services were acquired on the previous day as he worked on the property assisting in dealing with a water issue with the Lodge. I had no idea on how to handle this, but the problem was quickly solved as Howard stepped up and indicated he would gladly pay for Richard’s services in addition to the price we would all pay for the guided fishing at Blackhawk. Howard had bonded with Richard and felt a deep desire to help him on one hand; but on the other hand, it would be a great opportunity for more one on one instruction for Howard.
As with any trip to Blackhawk our attendees all pay the same price and the fact that Howard was willing to pay extra did not bother me. In fact, Howard graciously asked that I fish with him and Richard at no cost to me. Well, that was an offer I could not refuse. It would give more individualize guide time to all in our group and this was a win-win. So to start the morning; we (Richard, Howard and I) fished the lower section and the area all the way down to the property line. It did not take long to get fish to bite and Howard and I proceeded to have a great time as we fished a lot of fast water flowing on the lowest end. Eventually the action for me died and I asked Richard if he minded me tying on my white wet fly. “No not at all; it may work” said Richard.
Work and work it did!!! The action was fast and furious and the White Wet Fly was something the fish had not seen and they were liking what they saw. As our morning was done; by this time we had made our way upstream to the canyon and I decided to take one more shot and Mr. Mountain Laurel as I spotted another big trout hanging out in a quite familiar feeding lane. Instantly the white wet fly was something that could not be passed up and the line tightened and rod begin to bend. This time the big fish did what a lot of the big ones do and that is to make a run downstream and take their chances as they attempt to break free from the hook set. Just like the day before; I looked down and I was down to the backing on the line. The only difference was that the big fish was making a downstream run and the similarity is that the fish is once again attempting to seek freedom via the I’ll swim to the log approach. Richard the guide was quick with the net; but in order to net this one, we were going to have to do some rock hoping and wading down the rapids leading down to a gravel bar on the lower end. It was an epic battle as Richard netted the fish just shy of the log it was seeking and the Reference Point (How I choose to remember) the trip as I posed for a nice picture with a big FAT 23 inch Brown Trout thanks to the White Wet Fly and Richard and Howard.
Another fantastic trip to Blackhawk in the books
SRTU Outings Coordinator