You turn a corner and you see it: the perfect 100-yard rippling trout run. It flows from a barrel-rolling ripple into a maze of boulders misted with the bouncing current that drops into a swift plunge pool framed with eddies, slowing to a flat tail-out. Not a soul has been here in years, or so you like to think. This is why we have a fishing license, favorite fly, or volunteer to face the contempt of the spouse when you return four hours late due to “car trouble,” which they know is just a huge fishing story.
For over a decade, I traveled the country, singing songs from dirty bars to country clubs to hip hidden brewpubs, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I became a two-tool troubadour: folk songs and angling. Recently I have written too many mediocre fishing songs that no one will ever get to hear. Come to think on it, I only can name a couple fishing songs that are worth even talking about.
Now I am getting older, and have had my first beautiful daughter. I knew I should be fishing and singing closer to my home in Rabun County, Georgia. We have gorgeous lakes and blue lines running down every mountainside with wild- and hatchery-supported fish. Television shows have covered our fishing. Books have been written. Now I love to hook a big largemouth or chase crappie on topwater as much as the next, but once I was given a Sage Discovery Fly Rod and hooked a 16” holdover Rainbow trout on the Upper Tallulah, my target was obvious.
Now I have gathered too many rods and leaky waders. Thread, feathers, fur, and hooks are also entirely too plentiful. As I started fishing on the Tallulah and began noticing few fly fishermen, I began to seek out where they fished. I learned that the good fishing for the wading feather slinger seems to be a well-kept secret or you must leave Rabun to White county or cross into North Carolina. North Carolina has some great water protected as delayed harvest/catch and release streams or tucked away high above the corn slingers. Oh yes, Rabun has a delayed harvest on the mighty Chattooga, but it is serviced by South Carolina. And we do have a small but satisfying fly shop at Reeves. For a tourist town, it seems we are missing a usually well-to-do clientele of fly anglers.
My time touring this great country as a musician is less with two kids, a gorgeous wife, and a broken music industry. So, before the daughter came, we began looking for a house that we could pay off in 30 years. Twenty properties later we found a spot listed as “A Trout Fisherman’s Dream.” The previous owner had built the spot in 1978 and lived here until his passing a few years ago. In those few years, all his gardens and bird sanctuaries had become jungles of briars and poisonous things. But that water looked very “trout-y.” I had to find out.
So one morning I ventured out and waded thru the weeds and overgrown trails down under the bridge. Within a minute, a large streak under the water came hurtling toward me and bumped my leg. It was too large for a fish in this creek, though my mind did immediately think catfish. After some days of pondering, I decided it was a muskrat who hadn’t seen a human in this water in a while. Although I did see evidence of some “fishing,” i.e. cans of corn and Busch Light, I started connecting with trout and horny heads immediately.
As I reached the top of the property, I had held 13 trout and lost a few more. There is a small section I later learned from DNR, right above the property, that is grandfathered in as public access right on the road. While casting from the sliver of land between the road and creek, a huge splash hits upstream from me. I turn upstream and a huge deer is swimming down the creek towards this hole. She doesn’t care I am already fishing there and comes right through. No less than 20 seconds later, I hook the biggest fish of the day from under the deer’s path: a 15” brown trout on a cream mopfly.
I rush home to the wife and tell her this is our future. My life of dim light bars and rickety stages may have to take a hiatus. I can see a future for the family. We can build a utopia. I mean, isn’t that what we all yearn for? Happiness, sustainability, community? I had found a private trout stream with a campground, set on the creek with a stage for songs and a field for permaculture. I had chased my dream of singing songs to change your day for a long time—not knowing if these shows were for me or them. But now I see a place for all of us and for the art of fly fishing and conservation of our beautiful region and culture: Hatch Camp and Art Farm. Search for happiness. Fish for peace. Live for art and culture. We can try.
Scott Low is a songwriter, fly fishing guide, and owner of Hatch Camp and Art Farm, a private Fly Fishing camp and guide service in Clayton, Georgia.