October 11th, 1999

The Trout of Tootla Creek

By J.Jones, Temple, Georgia, USA

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On a cool, crisp March morning, my truck slides to a stop near several startled deer that are grazing in the hillside cove. Two young does bound away, tails at "full flag" dashing madly toward the crest of the pine covered mountain. I always stop at this small lush cove and say a small prayer, giving thanks for the chance to fish my favorite stream once again. This morning, the prayer includes a special "thank you" for the deer which seem to elude my eyes more often than I like. Such a marvelous place is this mountain...free and wild and far from the Atlanta's city lights, noise and hurried pace. As I grab the wheel and lurch the truck into first gear, I glance again toward the deer, which have long since disappeared into the pine and laurel trees. The creek is still half an hours ride, up through Winding Stair Gap, over the mountain's crest and into the next valley. It is an amazing place and I find it a great honor to share a small portion of it with you.

Blue Ridge region of northeastern Georgia

The first time I pointed the car north, toward the Blue Ridge Wildlife area, I had no idea of what to expect. Having been a trout fisherman for eight years, I thought that I "knew it all" and, being in my youth, that I "knew it all" about more things than just trout fishing!

So, I packed up the spinning rod and reel and a small tackle pack of spinning lures and set out to "slay" the creeks' resident trout. Surprise! This creek was just as I had heard. Absolutely full of wild, colorful brown and rainbow trout that would streak upstream at the slightest movement of rod or hand. Swift, graceful and agile, these trout were in no mood to be tempted by my shiny gold spinners that pushed forth a flash that must have looked like car headlights to them. These fish, these wonderfully skittish fish, sought caddis and stonefly, hoppers and ants . . .and to my dismay, I had no imitations of their favorite foods. As a matter of fact, the only flyrod I owned was an 8 ft. bass rod and it was sitting in the extra bedroom . . .120 miles away. Hardly enough to make the "brownies" shiver with fear. No doubt, this first trip was cloaked in desperation and disappointment but I found, that day, a new friend in a creek that I would call my home water for years to come.

In the next few years I succumbed to the madness of flyfishing. Consumed by the graceful art of the cast, the history and legends of a great tradition and the challenge of an ever evolving, lifetime passion. Tootla Creek was my home water, and I fished it almost weekly, despite the distance that I had to travel. It was, and is, like no other mountain creek. The shiny rainbows and dark, husky browns grow to very respectable size due, in part, to a minimum harvestable limit of sixteen inches. Living on their instincts, surviving the cold winters and dry summers feeding only on natural sources (which are extremely rare in our freestone streams) these are indeed some very marvelous trout.

Morning on the Tootla To be on the creek as the summer sun sets behind a high ridge. To watch a fish in the twenty-inch class rise under a laurel limb and smartly sip a small, # 18 caddis are two of the immeasurable joys of trouting...and some of the most intriguing moments of my desperately short "fishing lifetime." I am sure that this creek has been waiting for me to discover it. Tucked away in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, waiting for me to one day overhear a whisper of it's name, to hear about it's picky trout and to imagine all of the adventures that it holds along it's course.

If you ever happen to hear someone whispering about the trout of the Tootla, you may, with an open mind and unguarded heart believe what you hear. There are huge, monstrous trout hiding in it's small, pocket-water . . .but they are not easily caught and a day of sightseeing may be your only reward for several days of hardy pursuit. Please remember that this is a rare and wondrous place. A place where dreams can and sometimes do come true. Surely, somehow, I own a private part of this wonderful wilderness. Sometimes I can not help but to dream that it is my creek. At least in my mind, it is my creek . . .my secret creek, and I love it to this day. ~ J. Jones (aka "Owl")

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