There is only one thing in this world that I enjoy more than catching trout, catching big trout. I had heard there is no better place in the South than the Soque River near Clarkesville, GA to fulfill this lustful wish. This past Saturday morning, my good friend Shay Womack and I embarked on a two day fishing trip in pursuit of trout measured by weight, not length. We headed up into the North Georgia mountains to get away from the city for a few days and literally think about nothing other than getting the perfect drift through every riffle, pocket, and run we came across. It started raining the night before and didn’t really stop until we had been on the water for about two hours. I had only fished this river once before and was uncertain how this torrential downpour would affect water levels, clarity, fish activity, etc… Sure a small creek like this turns into Yoo-Hoo pretty quick after a big rain, but does that mean the fish will shut down? Simple answer: No.
Long answer: Rain does a number of things to trout rivers and streams, but most importantly it stirs up an abundance of aquatic insects both within the stream, as well as from the bank and overhanging brush. As the rain pounds the ecosystem, the water becomes more swift and violent, stirring up nymphs and other sub surface bugs from underneath rocks and also within the sand and mud. On top of that, worms and grubs get pushed into the water from the bank, and beetles and other terrestrials fall out of the trees and bushes. So if the trout’s vision is not impaired too badly and they can actually see these tasty meals floating through their feeding lanes, you could be in for an epic day on the water… I mean buffet.
We finally get down to the water and find that not only is it a caramel color, but the water level is way up and swift. I say bring it on. Now is the time to put away all those snobby little trout accessories that we are so often criticized for: 7x, size 22 Griffith’s gnats, neoprene booties, etc… Allow the redneck in you to come out (assuming you are fortunate enough to have it) and think thick leaders/tippet and flash-flash-flash! Within the first 30 minutes Shay and I each managed to land a fish in the 22-24 inch range along with a couple other guys in the 16-18 inch range. After that, I knew we were in for a special weekend on the water.
Between the two of us, we probably landed close to 25 fish over the course of the day. Among many other funny moments, Shay managed to catch ALL brown trout until his very last fish of the day. For those of you not familiar with trout fishing, brown trout are usually rarer than rainbows, but he seemed to be keyed in on these pre-historic monsters. We were supposed to be off the water by 5:00 PM, and it was about 5:45 at this point when I heard screams from an excited yet bewildered Shay who was just around the bend downstream of me. Finally, Shay had hooked a rainbow, and the biggest one of the day. I let him fight the fish for a few minutes before heading down to assist with a net job. This fish was playing hard to get so props to Shay for putting up a great fight. We finally scooped this beast and captured a couple cool pics before releasing him back to his stomping grounds. Truly an incredible fish and Shay’s biggest to date, coming in I would say in the 24-26 range. After an incredible day on the water, it was finally time to get into some dry clothes and head to the lake house for a warm fire.
We woke up the next morning to blue bird skies and 60 degree weather. Who would have thought after we froze our asses off in the freezing rain the day before? Maybe Al Gore was right after all… Anyways the water here was just as epic as the day before, if not better, and the fish on average were even bigger. I caught one of my biggest trout of all time which was exhilarating to say the least and hooked a big brown that would have topped the previous fish. But, no point in telling you about that, right? I can not say enough about how well this fishery is managed and what a beautiful untouched piece of property they maintain here at Brigadoon. The number of fish landed over 20 inches was sickening and I’m certain that my next fishing trip will leave me dreaming of the monsters that call this beautiful stream, home. By the end of the day, my coonhound, Fowler, was ignoring fish under 20 inches – ridiculous!!
The Soque was everything it was built up to be, with Blackhawk and Brigadoon both holding the monster trout they claimed. Both of these fishing lodges were incredibly well managed and the quality of trout were second to none. This is one hell of a fishery regardless of where you call home, and with respect to monster trout, I must say this place stacks up pretty nice with British Columbia and Alaska. If you have been fly fishing for years and never managed to land that trophy fish, book a trip at one of these two places and I guarantee it you will get smashed. Remember, when you find yourself in ideal water and the fish are cooperating, don’t take it for granted, because your next trip is sure to be a humbling experience.