I was in Helen, GA, March 29th and 30th (Friday and Saturday). The town’s annual trout tournament (24th overall) was held Saturday 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tagged trout were worth $500, $250, $100, $50, and $25. The higher the dollar value, the fewer trout were tagged. No one caught the sole $500 tagged trout. So, next year’s jackpot will be worth $1000 (rollover with this year’s $500 jackpot).
At check-in time, there was one $250 trout, one $50 trout, and about 10 $25 trout. I was one of the “$25 trout” anglers. Something is better than nothing. All tagged trout were rainbows a minimum of three (3) pounds! Thank you Tellico Trout Farm in Tellico, NC.
I will spare the many details of the layout of the tournament format. I consider it worth noting that the tagged trout are stocked at different points in the Chattahoochee River in Helen after midnight the morning of the tournament so that no angler knows the exact location of the fish. Untagged trout, rainbows and brookies, were stocked the day before by the Georgia DNR to assure plenty of fish would be caught (brown trout would be caught, too). Only tagged trout (again, all tagged trout were rainbows) needed be brought to the check-in.
The one I caught was a 20-incher between three and four pounds. I gave it away to a family since I was not able to keep it alive at check-in time. Otherwise I would have clipped the tag and released it. I kept it alive till check-in time, but then it died for being out of the water for so long. 🙁
It was a lot of fun. Admittedly, I did not know what to expect since this was my first competitive fishing tournament.
Everybody around you looks at you when you hook a fish! Everybody wants to hold it, touch it, get close up view of it, especially the kids and teenagers. I do not mind. Showing your catch at a tournament is part of the fun.
I have made a few trips recently on parts of the Toccoa River above the lake. I was able to really take advantage of the full DH section with the last trip starting way upstream a few miles above VanZandt’s Store by using the little 12′ Stealthcraft driftboat. My first two outings were for two to three hours on Saturday and Sunday about three weeks ago. It was only my second time to use the boat while fishing, so there were still some learning experiences…all passed safely and with no YouTube evidence. Both days I managed to catch quite a few rainbows, brooks and a few browns. Despite it being a weekend with many other waders, I was able to hit less wading accessible waters AND NOT hit any waders. I admit, I did have visions of my hitting waders like bowling pins as I ineptly floated at the mercy of the river. But I managed pretty well only bumping a submerged rock once or twice each day.
But the best day came last Thursday, March 28th. Rob Kissel drive down a day early for his pending Chile fishing trip and met me in Blue Ridge. The guys in the rod and flyshops suggested that with my little boat, the flows were sufficient to put in above VanZandt’s and take out at Sandy Bottom Canoe Launch. After Rob spent some time with Bill Oyster “test” casting Bill’s new bamboo proto-type (a HOLLOW bamboo rod), we finally left for the river.
As the guys said, the water above the DH held and/or produced fewer fish, but it would have opportunities for perhaps bigger fish. The DH section would have numbers of fish. When Rob would occasionally have to re-tie, I would pull out my 6wt sink tip and dredge the deep channels. This rainbow was 21″. Rob managed this nice one just a bit later. THEN he hooked into a fish I told him he couldn’t land because he didn’t have a salmon tag. Unfortunately as he tried to get it to the net boatside, it broke off. It had to be at least four or five inches bigger than mine. After that he kept saying, “This was fun. We gotta do this again.” True to the guys’ words, we didn’t get very many above the DH, but they were some hosses. The wind picked up, the clock spun fast, and we ended up rowing through a lot of water to get to the DH section in good light. Strangely, as warm as it was we never saw rising fish. Next time!
AFFC Membership Chairman