Standing in a River Thinking with Scott Low

“I guess we are a bit crazy,” I said to my fishing buddy as we waded upstream against the current in a small stream a few miles from home. I was referring to how we suit up and hit water many times a week all through the hard winter. We justify it because “We will have the water to ourselves” or “Its been over freezing for a couple days the fishing should be great!” It feels so good to start shedding layers as we fight through the last March cold snaps. County stocking trucks start getting warmed up and the weekend spring/summer crowds start making plans.

The thing is most fly fishers believe the season only slows in the heat, and the trout most likely agree. I personally dread water temps approaching 70, the fear comes that I will feel guilty fighting and possibly hurting trout in the warmish water. Here in North Georgia, we are skirting the water temperature line for these cold water fish. Itʼs hard enough for a trout to survive when his training ground was a cement hatchery then to become faced with tourists feeding them alien snacks they have never encountered. Remember when we had a trout season and they got a respite? I would hate that idea for my angling needs but endorse it for these fish. Ironically, I believe they call that a Catch 22.

I only really eat fish if I am camping and try my best not to judge folks raking these fresh spring stocked fish right back out. But seeing as how we are the southern border of trout habitat we should probably work on protecting as many of these fish as we can as well as addressing the rise in earthʼs average temperatures. Remember the droughts and wildfires? Boy, I would be sad if trout didnʼt live here by the time I didnʼt live anymore as I donʼt plan on ever leaving.

Would I follow the trout? If the southern ranks of browns and rainbows start creeping north due to warming landscapes, then we may have to chase. Or just move to Montana where a stocking truck is a freak occurrence. I love my Georgia mountain home and donʼt want to leave. So, we continue to work for conservation and protection. We continue to clean up the trash left by the guys from out of town who caught more than their limit and left all the beer cans. We keep releasing fish hoping they will survive the season.

If I think we are crazy for fishing thru freezing temps, the fish must think we are alien terrorists. I canʼt even imagine the shock of that first tight line to their jaw. Pulling toward an involuntary end possibly being set free again to swim away, or strung on a string or stuffed in a bag for later… Crazy people go into the wilderness miles and miles to find a few inches of colorful magical trout. Normal people stay home and watch the news. Letʼs go crazy.

~Scott Low, local songwriter, fly fishing guide, and owner of Hatch Camp and Art Farm, a private Fly Fishing camp and guide service off Warwoman Rd. in Clayton, Georgia.