Ultralighting the Annual High Water Fall transition.

Fall 2009 presented one of the most challenging times for fly fishing in Georgia. The Chattahoochee River and many north Georgia rivers were devastated by the flood of 2009, and we felt the effects for years following.

The good news: Lake Lanier had hit full pool and more for the first time in a long time. Lake Allatoona was way over full pool. The bad news - there was more rain coming our way. Nature seems to work that way. The good news was.....the bad news was over.

We were in the fall transition. In north Georgia lake water surface temps had dropped from the upper 70s to the upper 50s and low 60s. A middle Georgia pond I just fished was 68F. The greatest impact I saw in some bodies of water is the runoff and silt. You won't see the worst part - chemical pollution. In these situations however the trash, the silt, the sand wash-ins -- all of those things are obvious.

At one lake where I still enjoy fishing, lake access roads almost washed out. They have been repaired. For the most part dingy brown water is our challenge. That is a challenge that can be dealt with.

I was on the water recently and was reminded that regardless of how muddy the water is, fish can't leave the lake, pond, or river and go somewhere else! We can, but they can't. So assume that there are still fish in the water. My recent trips have proven that plenty of fish are still available - if only we will be patient, have a plan, and go fish!

Even with falling fall temperatures FISH HAVE TO EAT! We can provide something for them to dine on in a way to get them to dine on it. So it was with my biggest surprise of a recent fishing trip in stained water.

Below right is a 14 pound grass carp that took one of my favorite size 12 nymphs. It was so rowdy that I didn't want to hold it over the boat for fear it might break free of my boga grip and start breaking rods in the floor of the boat. It took me about 7 minutes to land this brute on a brand new Orvis ZGHelios 2 weight. This lends new meaning to carp-e-diem -- could it mean seize the carp? The trip included over 35 bass and about as many bluegills. Not bad in stained water!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record -- lighten up your tackle and SLOWWWW down your presentation. I really hate the BASS and tournament mentality, but I learned a lot from the discipline that underlies that entertainment-to-kill-fish-and-sell-equipment-for-big-money organization.

If one studies the scientific, logical approach to fishing and combines it with a good fly fishing presentation for conditions, one can catch fish VERY consistently. Then as a responsible fisher, one can actually carefully and immediately release fish so the fish have a chance to survive.

A few years back on a local river, I began applying this scientific angling approach through my fly tackle and had another revelation. In some of the muddiest water I'd seen, I probed slowly but surely with small flies, and caught fish scattered but available everywhere. The result was a great day of fishing in conditions in which normally I wouldn't even consider fishing.

So right now if your favorite lake is opaque brown, don't give up. Get dark high contrast flies together and get ready to probe that water for hungry fish.

Down size: Be prepared to fish as light as an ought weight, 1 or 2 weight and size 14 flies. Why? Again I was reminded of the incredible increase in feel in our hands when we downsize to a 1 weight from a 2 or 3 weight. An ought weight telegraphs even more fish activity. With a 3 weight I could just barely feel subtle takes. With a 1 weight it was like they were amplified 3 fold. If fish are taking your flies more aggressively, the 2 weight will be a good choice. On many trips I made that switch and it made the difference in my catching a huge number of fish, because I could feel the subtle takes. If the average sized fish is over 1 pounds fish a light, strong, fast 2 weight.

Small, dark (black) nymphs or heavily weighted streamers slowly fished across the floor of shallow areas VERY tight to any available cover may be productive. Pitch right into wood. Move your fly briskly and BE READY! In tight shallow cover I had many strikes as soon as my fly hit the water. Take a rod high attitude to skate your fish out of debris, then lower your rod and land it.

Pitch right into rip rap or boulders and fish that cover carefully. Really probe the water. Slow down and be patient. Make casts close together and cover every high potential foot of water. Fish all the way back to your boat.

Don't make assumptions about fish behavior. Don't be afraid to test surface flies. If you don't ask if the fish if they are interested in a particular presenation of a certain fly, you won't find out. When you find out, fish based on what the fish tell you. If they don't go for your first offering, keep testing until something works. Then stick with it 'til it ceases to work.

I always look forward to the seasonal changes, because they offer some the most wonderful fly fishing opportunities. Normally only in spring and fall can you sit gently rocking in a float tube in 70 degree, sunny weather, catching fat fish while enjoying our sport. Then on cool mornings, we are reminded that WINTER is coming. We can enjoy all species feeding up for winter on huge hatches coming off, with warmwater species still hitting surface flies, and with high temps starting to moderate.

In addition to the "high profile" fish available in the southeastern US region the opportunity for catching some of the fish that I rate some of the most fun available. Species like largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegills, redear sunfish, redbreasts, crappies, yellow perch are catchable in many of the southeastern states right through the fall and winter.

Clean your fly lines often while fishing in dirty waters. When I notice lines hard to cast, I take a break and wipe them down. When I get home I further clean them after fishing in such waters.

I have posted many articles on my site that will get you started, and explain tactics that will help you catch fall fish. So read them, then get out and try the suggestions so you can enjoy the wonderful fall fishing this year. Whether on those chilly days, or on those shirt sleeve days the fish are available if you just make the effort.

Thanks to my friend Charles Salter (retired outdoors writer AJC) for shooting the images of myself and the carp. Both myself and the carp are highly suspect, but Charles is accustomed to photographing and interviewing highly suspect subjects. -- Bill Byrd.


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