fly fishing

Photo provided by Capt. Rex Gudgel

Capt. Rex and pal Rusty Chinnis preparing to release a feisty Georgia trout.

In the Sept. 26 edition of WaterLine, I wrote about possibly making a trip north to Georgia soon to see the grandkids and possibly do a little trout fishing up near Helen. For those of you who called and or emailed with curious intent: Yes, it happened. It didn’t happen quite according to plan, but it did happen.

I won’t bore you with all the details of this short turn-around trip, but suffice it to say I won’t be attending any big concerts again soon (tried to enjoy the Chris Stapleton concert in Tampa on the way up) due to the overabundance of rude, disgusting people. Also, I still can’t find any true redeeming qualities about Atlanta (sorry).

Thanks for asking, the grandkids are doing great! They will be Broadway dancers, engineers (not on a train) and pro soccer players as soon as they get out of elementary, middle and high school. In between all the runnin’ and gunnin’ taking the kids places, picking them up, buying groceries, making meals and doing homework, we escaped and made it to Helen for a morning.

Thank goodness our good friend Jimmy Harris, owner of Unicoi Outfitters, was able to spend time with us and fish. Rusty Chinnis — friend, outdoor writer, editor, photographer and fly fisher from Sarasota (believe it or not) — was by coincidence in the hills and joined us on the river.

As we put on waders and rigged rods, Jimmy told me how bad the drought had been up there and how unseasonably hot their fall had been so far. He was happy that we (from Florida) had brought the cool weather with us. It was 48 degrees that morning, and yes, it felt good! The river was in low flow condition and very slow-moving, but the trout didn’t seem to mind too much. They undoubtedly felt the coolness of the morning as we did and the relief it brought to their metabolisms.

We all stood in the river talked, laughed, cast, and caught up as old friends do. We even caught a few fish to add the proverbial icing on the cake. I got to fish both high-sticking and under an indicator, double nymph rigs, dead drifting through a few runs and was rewarded with several trout.

I even hooked a leftover striper drifting a Woolly Bugger and a No. 16 Hare’s Ear through a slow deep bend. The striped bass run up the river from Lake Lanier every summer and are usually gone by now, but minimal rain and low water flows just haven’t pushed them back to the lake yet.

Anyway, the fight was short lived as the striper blew across the surface, interrupting the dead quiet of the pool, and made short work of my 4x leader. Jimmy laughed as he asked me, “What in the heck was that?” I told him it was a striper, and he asked why I broke it off. I just laughed and said, “Hey guide, I need another rig tied on!”

Jimmy netted several 14- to 16-inch trout for me and a few for Rusty. Rusty is staying up there in the area for a couple of weeks, so he let me do most of the fishing since Diane and I had to leave. We didn’t catch any big browns or giant rainbows on this trip, but it didn’t matter. Really, it wouldn’t have mattered if we had caught any fish at all.

Jimmy’s wife Kathy showed up as we were about to get out of the river. Then Diane got back from her much-needed hike through the cool autumn woods and we all just enjoyed each others’ company for a few minutes before we had to hop in the car and drive back through Atlanta to pick up the kids for soccer practice. Sometimes it’s not just about the fish.

While we were on the river, Jimmy asked what was happening down our way fishing-wise. So I gave him the rundown. We’re pushing into fall just like they are there on the river. Things will be in transition for a while as the summer pattern falls apart and the winter one materializes, but it makes for good fishing.

Before we left to come up to Georgia I was still catching a few tarpon, both big and little. Good numbers of snook are still on the beaches along with a varied assortment big redfish, mackerel, kings, jacks etc.

In the backcountry, our resident reds are becoming more visible, lots of snook are in the shadows of the mangroves, speckled trout are finally becoming more abundant, and there are baby tarpon to 25 pounds. Plus there’s an assortment of various wonderful bycatch: Ladyfish, jacks, some pompano, Spanish mackerel and mangrove snapper. It’s been really good fishing lately.

Now that we are back home, I’ve been able to see that all that I told Jimmy is still true. Fishing is good right now with all the scenarios still in place and it’s still going to get better. We have a cold front pushing down that will be gone before you read this, but I expect the fishing to be great before it gets here and a couple days afterward will be great again — a pattern that will repeat over and over for the next few months.

The important takeaway here is that there’s no better time to fish than right now, whether you take advantage of the wonderful fishery we have down here or head for the hills. Grab a fly rod, a handful of flies, and a kid, a newbie, or an old friend and go fishing. Remember, sometimes it’s not just about the fish!

Stay fly.

Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit or

Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit or


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