Trout expedition shows two very different sides to Mother Nature

May 25, 2011 

Some people are spontaneous and some people aren't.

As for me, some of my best memories come from the times when an impulse hits me and I act on it. This past weekend was one of those moments.

It was my longtime friend David Donnell who sparked my latest adventure. This went down much like the cartoon picture of a man with a little angel sitting on one shoulder and a little devil on the other shoulder, whispering opposing encouragements in his ear.

In my case, David was the devil.

I hadn't been feeling all that great, yet David somehow convinced me to drop everything, hop in the car and head to the mountains of north Georgia for a whirlwind weekend trout expedition. It was one of those "Collins, come on, dude ... fresh air and rainbow trout will make everything better" scenarios. So with fly rods in hand we headed up to the area around Lake Burton, Ga. -- the same place the two of us have fished since way back in the early 1980s.

If you have never been in this part of the country, you should give it a try some time. There are trout streams everywhere and some, like the Soque River, are world-famous for the monster trout that are caught there. But in my case, I prefer the smaller streams where there are very few people; and even though the trout rarely exceed 18 inches there, it is challenging to pick the right pool or eddy behind a rock where a beautiful brown or rainbow trout is hiding. It blows my mind just how small a pocket of water a trout live hide in, and yet you never see it. Their camouflage is just that perfect.

After arriving at our destination Friday afternoon, it didn't take 20 minutes before David and I headed to a place called Wildcat Creek for a late afternoon session. Rounding the corner just before the road that heads up along Wildcat Creek, I stomped on the brakes and we both sat in stunned silence.

Now remember, this is a place we have fished for nearly 30 years, but what we saw this time was totally alien territory. We found that our favorite trout stream was the location of one of the horrible tornados that ripped through Georgia a couple of weeks ago. It was amazing.

I have seen first-hand the damage a hurricane can do but never a tornado, especially an F3 tornado. I guess I never thought tornados went up and over mountains. Now I know.

What was especially shocking was how effortlessly the tornado had ripped up the massive trees you see in the mountains. The best way to picture the devastation is to imagine a giant pushing a massive lawnmower up the side of a mountain and then back down the other side. From what the locals told us, it was nearly a half-mile wide and, from start to finish, went nearly 50 miles. In my mind's eye I tried my best to imagine what it must have been like, but I finally gave up. It was Mother Nature throwing a temper tantrum, and the power was beyond belief.

Dodging downed trees and pieces of homes, we managed to get up past the destruction and fish. David had brought two walkie-talkies so we could stay in touch as we hop-scotched from pool to pool. The main reason for radios was so we didn't fish the same pool. After I finished fishing, I reached my car, set my walkie-talkie on the front seat and waited for David to show up. Just about then, two game wardens pulled up behind me, got out of their truck and walked up to check my license and see how many fish I had. At that exact moment my walkie-talkie blared, "Collins, I sure hope you're legal because the game wardens are heading your way!" It was a rather uncomfortable moment, to say the least, and I am 100 percent sure they heard his transmission.

The next day we headed to the Chattahoochee River and found that area also had been flattened by the tornado. Where normally we can fish miles of the river, downed trees restricted us to less than a mile.

Did we catch fish? We figured out that over two and half days we caught nearly 150 trout. We had to work harder at it but I guess staring at those beautiful trout streams and listening to the flowing water was just what the doctor ordered.

I came away from this trip with two conclusions. The first is that nature has a way of healing, and the second is that it can be equally brutal. I guess that is why I love it and, at the same time, I respect it.

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