Oh, the sleigh bells ringing must mean one thing, it’s Christmas Season on the Chattooga and Chauga rivers here in South Carolina. Soon the jolly red-suited man will come down the chimney that special night, with your presents from Chattooga River Fly Shop, while you dream about enormous fish on your tightline. The rivers here are fishing awesome with a great number of large fish being caught. The remnants of Hurricane Nicole brought us some much needed rain in mid-November, and the rivers are pumped up for a while still, with the need for weekly rains to keep levels up. Many thanks go out to the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery for the huge fish delivered by helicopter into the Chattooga, in the Delayed Harvest section and back country areas.
By now, the fish released in November have caught on to the infamous “mop fly” eggs and squirmy worm arsenal, as we move into wintertime fishing. With periodic truck stockings, the hatchery will still provide great fishing with such flies but moving away from these access areas, the fly selection will become much different. Cold snaps moving in behind weather fronts drive the fish to the bottom for more suitable water temperatures, much like in the summer. The warmer water of the rivers in winter is actually further down in the water column. Lobbing and dead-drifting heavy weighted nymphs with small trailer flies is the trick. Using long leaders and smaller diameter tippet, along with these streamlined nymphs to plunge to the bottom, is the key to success. The use of tungsten beaded nymphs aid to the rapid descent to the river floor, along with flies, which do not have a lot of buoyant materials wrapped on the hook. Many of these flies represent the stoneflies of the river. Small nymphs, growing to reach spring maturity and some attractors as well, will produce many fish for the day.
Colder water temperatures, leads to the fish becoming a bit lethargic, and streamer fishing will need to be slower as well. Slowing down your strip and pauses will be the key to success. The use of a sink tip leader will keep the streamers down in the water column, especially while retrieving them when the water is higher and the temperatures are colder.
As the holidays are upon us, the “river crowd” tends to be a little less than usual, as many folks are shopping and attending holiday festivities. We have found that, even on a Saturday or Sunday, folks can have a great day on the river without having difficulty finding a great spot to fish.
From all of us here at Chattooga River Fly Shop we want to wish everyone and their families a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! We look forward to seeing everyone out on the rivers, and always remember, “Leave No Trace” out there.
Karl and Karen Ekberg are co-owners of Chattooga River Fly Shop, located at 6832-A Highlands Hwy, Mountain Rest, SC 29664. Give them a call at (864) 638-2806 and visit their website at www.chattoogariverflyshop.com.