Wilderness Trout Fishing on the Jacks River

(An abbreviated excerpt from Flyfisher’s Guide To North Carolina & Georgia)

By Nick Carter 

While hiking the more than 6 nearly vertical miles out of the valley, my buddy stopped, sat on a rock and unlaced his hiking boots. Without saying a thing, he slung his new boots off the ridge into a hollow.

“I ain’t walking in them anymore!” he grumbled.

I suppose he was better off hiking in his felt-soled wading boots. It wasn’t until we arrived back at the truck that he showed off the angry red sores on his feet. That’s also where he discovered the 20 pounds of nice flat river rocks I had secreted in his pack before the hike out. That’s what he got for bringing a daypack to a three-night pack-in fishing trip. I had carried all the camping gear and food all weekend. I’m sure he would have brained me with one of those rocks if he hadn’t been so tired.

This was the aftermath of a pretty spectacular fishing expedition. Three of us had spent three days exploring and fishing the Jacks River in north Georgia’s Cohutta Wilderness Area. We had all caught fish, plenty of them. We also witnessed something that would excite any fly angler. After a late supper, three of us were kicked back around a campfire that was slowly dying from lack of attention in the damp river bottom. Full bellies and a full day on the river lead to lethargy. Conversation fizzled. The rush of the river and the drone of familiar night sounds lulled everyone into a comfortable sleepiness. Eyes fixated on smoldering red embers amplified the darkness around.

It was from the darkness they came. With a shout, one buddy shot upright, slapping at the back of his neck. Headlamps clicked on. Smack! It stung when one slammed full-speed into my right cheek. Within minutes, the campsite was abuzz with huge black stoneflies. There were dozens of them, 2 inches and longer, with orange accents and long creepy legs. After the initial excitement and a determination that the bugs could not carry us away without an organized group effort, everyone went directly to their fly boxes.

The giant stoneflies were gone the next morning, but the fish were still looking for them. All three of us caught trout on big red and black stonefly nymphs with double beads until all the flies were lost or unraveled. It was the standard Jacks River mixed bag of rainbow and brown trout from 5 inches up to 12 inches. We have caught a few fish significantly larger than that from the Jacks, but none of the huge browns the river is rumored to contain.

It is well over 15 river miles between vehicle access points to the Jacks River on Cohutta WMA. It’s about as deep into the wilderness as one can get in the Southeast.

Flyfisher’s Guide To North Carolina & Georgia is 218 pages of extensively researched information on the area’s best trout fishing. It includes more than 40 full-color maps, photos, driving directions, GPS coordinates, tips, and tactics. It is available on wildadvpress.com, Amazon and at fly shops, and signed copies are available by contacting the author at nsc8957@gmail.com.