Premium Trip Report
feb 7-9th 2020
Blackhawk (Premium Trip) Report
let it snow!
feb 7-9th, 2020
It’s hard to remember any trip that had such question marks heading into it than this one. In the lead up to the trip; the entire southeast had an epic rain event. News and weather reports sure painted a picture of doom for anyone who had a fishing trip planned. Privately I wondered if the supplies purchased for the trip would instead be taking residence at the Cloud House should we be unable to go. Fortunately for us; the rain subsided at Blackhawk around 9pm on Thursday night (the night before) departure. One thing that was in our favor was the Soque rises fast and falls just as fast. Looking back; I would not have given 10 cents for the ability to fish on Friday. I had really resigned myself to having a Saturday and Sunday fishing event.
As I was in route on Friday; I received text from
Abby (the owner) and it was music to my ears.
“The river is high but fishable. We are going to
be able to fish; the river is stained and it will fish
well on the falling water levels. We are going to
have a great day.”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 newbie 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 Howard Pendley and Robert Myers as the latest Saluda River Chapter of Trout Unlimited members to be introduced to the Soque (SO-KEY) River and its massive trout. Attendees for our first trip of the decade were Mike Strong, Howard Pendley, Bob Grimm, Mac Brown, Robert Myers, Kerry Lineberger and yours truly Keith Cloud.
As we paired up for high water fishing; we were also going to experience a couple of extra items in relationship to our day of fishing. The storm system had passed thru; but the cold and the high winds would now be something we would experience as the day moved forward. Guide Eli would take Mac Brown, Kerry Lineberger and Robert Myers who was on his first Blackhawk trip. Unfortunately for Eli; he drew the short straw and also had to fish with yours truly (Keith Cloud). Guide Andy really lucked out having the opportunity to fish with fine folks like Bob Grimm, Mike Strong and Howard Pendley who was on his first Blackhawk trip.
Eli along with Robert and Mac would begin fishing the upper end of the river and soon Kerry and I would join them after briefly stashing away supplies at
the main lodge. Upon arrival; it did not take a great
deal of time to figure out where they were. Just
hearing Robert with a broadcast sound of catching
a fish lead us to the very upper end of the river.
Already the fish were cooperating and cameras
were taking pictures of great fish and it did not
take long for Kerry and me to get in on the fun as
we fished a chocolate colored river. My first fish
was a nice fat rainbow north of 18 inches and after
a quick picture or two; I was back in the action
eager to catch another when I heard Kerry utter
words that would make me sick. “Did anyone loose
a fly box; I saw one floating by but could not
grab it?” I took a look at my vest and sure enough
my pocket was empty and the brand new fly box
with about 110 fly’s was no longer there. The irony is that I never got to use one of my brand new fly’s in my brand new box. In fact I spent part of my Thursday at work getting the box loaded for a fantastic Blackhawk weekend. My only hope was that if someone downstream could see it and catch it; then I would be one fortunate fellow who probably should by a lottery ticket if the box was retrieved in the high water conditions we were experiencing. Oh well, the box was history and it was time to get into fishing and have fun as the action was hot and heavy on the upper end. Kerry ended up catching a tree trout and loosing what was rigged on his rod. I tied on a coffee nymph and BAM fish on and Kerry began to get back in on the action. Eventually Eli took Kerry under his wing and tied on an articulated streamer and begin instruction on how to fish it. By the end of our day; the articulated streamer (brown in color) had really put on a show and Kerry had a 24 inch brown to pose for a nice picture.
Returning to the Lodge shortly after 5 pm the smell of homemade chicken and dumplings left simmering in a crockpot caught the attention of everyone. It was the cocktail and snack time hour and the fish stories had already begun. Those who fished with Andy had a fantastic day as well and had some excellent pictures to show to the rest of us who fished with Eli. Typically for each outing prior to the meal we have introduction time and I lay out the plan for the next day and remainder of the trip. Finally around the 7:30 hour we blessed the food and it was time to turn attention to a wonderful meal of chicken and dumplings, cabbage, lima beans, carrot salad and fresh from the oven biscuits. Deserts featured apple pie and chocolate chip cookies. To sum up our day; the catching was great; and as I looked back on the day, I can safely say that I was very much surprised we were able to fish at all.
Saturday morning a good hearty breakfast of grits, eggs, sausage, biscuits, fruit salad, and hot coffee got our anglers going. All our participants felt strongly about keeping the same guides and the normal swapping ends of the river. As we were leaving; someone asked if the fish bite well in the snow? I must say that in my mind, I had focused so much on the rain event that I never considered there to be a snow event as well. The fishing would start between 9 and 10 am and the expected snow was to arrive very soon and the bright blue sky would not be with us for long. The forecast ranged from 1 to 3 inches of snow and right on time, the snow begin to fall around 10:15 am.
After parking at the lower end; we (Kerry and I) could hear the sounds of the morning. Yep, Eli had positioned Robert and Mac on a gravel bar and the trout were cooperating with a morning appetite. Eli positioned Kerry and I in the canyon located upstream from the gravel bar and as we cast out our nymph and dropper combination, we managed to hook a couple; but the trout in the canyon did not get the message about being hungry. Meanwhile Mac with a streamer tied on; was into some nice trout. As I looked downstream; the site of the snow falling was a sight to behold and we are at times hardly able to see thru the snow that was falling.
With yours truly not having a great deal of success;
Eli and I ventured downstream to an area called
the plunge pool. Fishing the plunge pool can be
quite exciting but one must be ready as the fly
(with a lot of weight) for the short drift makes its
pass thru the deep pool. As I made the cast I hit
the jackpot or so I thought. The fish (a big rainbow)
was fought for several minutes and in the end;
schooled me. Little did I know that loosing fish
would eventually be my trademark for the
Time for lunch and as we decided to drive back; it was very apparent that for the drive back to the lodge, that my Toyota Tundra (without 4 wheel drive) would not make it back. Yep, the 1 to 3 inches in the forecast was well past the estimate and thankfully Eli and Mac both had 4 wheel drives and Kerry and I hitched a ride with folks who spent the morning catching fish as we headed to the Lodge.
Abby J’s famous Chili was on tap to greet our fishermen; but before taking in the meal, we decided to pose for a group picture by the Blackhawk sign with snow being the focal point of the picture. As the pictures were taken and the smiles were exhibited, I realized I had just encountered my Reference Point (How I choose to remember) the trip. With a weekend having very little hope of fishing, we were indeed fishing and the scenery was simply fantastic and it was indeed a great time with a great group of folks. Upon return to the cabin; the chili was just the right thing to have after a morning of fishing in what is now close to 6 inches of snow.
The afternoon fishing took us back to the upper end and the fly of choice would be a RW2 used as a dropper fly behind a nymph pattern. Many hookups on the upper end for me; but quite frankly I just did not have it as I continued my day of losing fish. If you could think of a way to lose a fish; I pretty well had all the angles covered for this day of fishing. In fact,
I conducted a clinic on how to lose fish. I guess
the only thing positive was the ability to take in
the beauty of the snowfall and net a few fish for
others who unlike me were catching fish.
Back to the cabin for another wonderful meal
provided by the Cloud House and specifically
Sherie Cloud. Our evening supper featured
homemade Salisbury steak served in honor of
Mac Brown. It’s one of Mac’s favorites and side
tems of steamed cabbage, mashed potatoes,
tiny green lima beans, and carrot salad certainly
took the edge of any hunger worked up for our band of trout catchers. As for dessert the homemade pecan pie 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 taken and for a snowy day in Georgia; we definitely caught our fair share of trout.
Sunday morning would bring a clear day with a bright blue sky and after an excellent breakfast of quiche, sausage links, grits, and biscuits our attention would turn to fishing. As for me, I wanted a return to the lower end and fish the plunge pool. My hopes were for a rematch with the trout that schooled me earlier in the trip. After what seemed like a hundred cast; it was apparent that no one was home so I decided to venture up to the gravel bar where Robert and Mac had such success. Upon arrival I decided to tie on a brown wooly and drift it by a log that lay up against the bank on the side of entry to the river. Immediately the Brown wooly was struck and the rod begin to shake and bend with hints of a big fish. The battle was on; the fish made a run across the river and suddenly the fight was over. My line and rod relaxed and no tension was felt. I thought about a four letter word; but held it in. To analyze the hookup; the fish knew what he was doing and used the bottom of the stream and a nice jagged rock that cut my line clean and crisp. It was that kind of weekend for me fishing. Oh I caught my fair share; but it’s the losing that messes with the mind. To sum up the weekend; we as a group WON. When no one gave us a chance of fishing; we got it done and the many pictures from Blackhawk prove it.
SRTU Outings Coordinator