When the weather gets hot and muggy, there's only one place to go

July 13, 2010 

When it gets as hot as it's been lately, all you can really do is act like some kind of troll and hide out in the air conditioning for relief. I felt that way for years, until I discovered this magical place called the mountains. And for nearly three decades I've made an annual pilgrimage to the mountains of north Georgia to fly fish and recharge the batteries that the heat down here has sapped out of me.

This past week, fellow Blufftonian David Donnell convinced me to drop everything, hop in the car and head north. He had precedent: David and I have a long history of fly-fishing in the mountains of north Georgia that goes back to the 1970s. The funny part about this history is that very little has changed, except a wrinkle here and an ache there (I might add that it isn't nearly as easy to walk up a mountain as it used to be). We still squabble about who gets to fish this pool and that pool, and of course we still have our ever-present competitive spirit.

I don't know what it is about the sound of flowing water, cold streams and rock canyons that mesmerizes me so much, but I find there is nothing quite like it. David and I share a passion for this sort of environment, so much so that after the long five-hour drive we don't even unpack -- we just go fishing. We do that from sunrise to sunset every day, and the time seems to stand still.

On this particular trip we fished the Chattahoochee River, an area we've both frequented for years. But this time around we were determined to fish the most remote section of the river we could find, an area where most anglers never go simply because it's so hard to get to. (One thing I know about average trout fishermen is that they are lazy. They go where the river is stocked heavily, fish alongside 20 or more other anglers, catch their limit and leave. David and I, on the other hand, would both rather fish all day long and maybe catch one nice native fish than ones that have been in the river less than a day. They are way smarter and take skill to catch, and when you do catch one their colors are vibrant -- unlike dull stocked trout.)

After scrutinizing a topographical map of the Chattahoochee for an hour or so, we struck off for an area that looked promising. But, of course, seeing a place on the map is one thing -- getting to it is quite another. More often than not, you arrive at the spot you think that section of river might be only to find there is no path and the mountain drops straight down to the river through thick woods and giant boulders. Going down would be suicide, and even if you did made it to the river it would be impossible to get back up the mountain to your car. But after driving from spot to spot for nearly two hours encountering that exact scenario, we finally hit pay dirt.

Following a waterfall down the mountain from a tributary that flowed into the Chattahoochee, we made it to the river -- and before us lay the most beautiful deep pools I had ever seen. There wasn't a footprint around, nor any sign that anyone had ever been there. It was all ours. David and I split up, leap-frogging from pool to pool. It was incredibly beautiful, and the fish had obviously been there for a long time, as determined by their bright colors and fighting spirit. Rainbow and brown trout would regularly shoot out from under rocks to grab the bait drifting by. We were in heaven.

We'd brought along a lunch of bologna sandwich, Vienna sausages and granola bars, and after a while we found a big rock near a waterfall, where we traded tales of the fish we caught (and missed). The fast-moving cold water seemed to grab the air, creating cool breezes that made the whole experience that much more invigorating.

Epilogue: I got back home Sunday, refreshed and relaxed, only to discover that my air conditioner was broken. I wonder if David would consider heading back up this week? Something tells me he would do it in a heartbeat.

Collins Doughtie is the outdoors columnist for the Bluffton Packet.

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