December 2006 Cannon’s Creel

My wife and some of her friends from college head to the mountains every fall for “girls weekend,” and Stephanie loves it. They relax. They catch up. They cook. They eat. They laugh. Simply put, they have a great time. But because we got married and went honeymooning in the middle of October, I didn’t think “girls weekend” was on the calendar for this year.

So when Stephanie informed me that “Estrogen Fest ‘06” was a go and that the festivities would take place in the heart of Rabun County, I realized something had to be done. The only thing that could save our northeastern-most county from the empending estro-tsunami would be an equal and opposite wave of testosterone.

So the emails were sent, the phone calls were made and the troops were given their marching orders. Mission: Chattooga DH “Camping” Weekend.

Alright, so the word camping in that last sentence is in quotations because, well, we ended up “camping” at the Days Inn in Clayton. You might be thinking that we didn’t exert enough testosterone to save Rabun County and all the Rabunites because we wimped out and opted for a room over a campsite. But that’s just not true. And, dang it, it was cold!

After chowing down on some Mexican food at the local restaurant, we headed to the rooms and made up for our recent lack of machismo. We told fishing stories, browsed through some fly fishing magazines and recent issues of GON and watched SportsCenter, Dane Cook on Comedy Central and finally, one of the greatest man-movies of all time, Rocky III. So, the county was safe so far.

We woke up the next morning and were excited about heading to THE RIVER. We weren’t excited enough to get up on time, which was seven o’clock. But again, it was cold. The trout wouldn’t have been active at that time of day anyway, right?

By 11:00 we were geared up and on the trail paralleling the river. It’s always great to be on the water, but there really is something special about this place that separates it from the rest of the pack. And on this day, that feeling was intensified as I caught my first glimpse of the Chattooga. The water was clear and running strong, flowing at near-normal levels, which hasn’t been seen in months. It was great to see her back to her old self.

As we made our way upstream via the snakey trail that pushes through rhodedendrons and hemlocks, our group of seven started to spread out, with some fishing near the lower end of DH, some of us making it all the way to the top of DH at the mouth of Reed Creek and the rest scattered somewhere in the middle.

Fishing was good, as it always is no matter where you are, but the catching was a little slow. I didn’t have a thermometer on me, but after landing a nice, chunky 15-inch rainbow that hit a beadhead prince on the swing, then releasing it, my hands told me all I needed to know about the current water temp; it was cold! I had briefly chatted with The Ole Rabunite just the day before and he told me of one of his outings that week. “At 2:30 the water temp was 46 degrees,” he said. “You have to get the fly deep and put it right on their nose if you want them to hit.”

As he usually is, The Ole Rabunite was right. A healthy dose of split shot was just what the doctor ordered. And even though our entire group only landed about a dozen fish for the day, a few of the guys were fly-rod-fingerlings, so those one or two they netted made for a memorable one.

One member of our group had a particularly good day on THE RIVER. Andy, who is an old buddy of mine from high school, caught the three biggest trout of his life that Saturday. Three of us were fishing a certain run of the river that is a straightaway for about a quarter of a mile and Andy was the farthest upstream. He was barely in sight but well within in earshot, as we found out, when his yarn indicator plunged violently below. Andy, who wasn’t even technically a Rabunite, in an instant transformed into one as a big “WaaaaWhooo!!” echoed up and down the river corridor. The big fish that found itself stuck to a wooly bugger jumped and ran and bull-dogged, but Andy held his ground.

I started running upstream as fast as any goofy white man wearing felt-soled boots safely can, and arrived just about the time the big DH rainbow was scooped headfirst into the net.

After a high-five and a few quick pictures, the ferocious 17-incher was released back into the current from where he was pulled, except now maybe a little bit wiser.

The rest of the weekend followed suit as the catching was slow, but fairly steady. And as the credits rolled at the end of Rocky IV on Saturday night, we knew Rabun County was safe, at least for one more year.

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