2X Kinda Day
Something I never did in Sandy Point was fly fish. I did have a rod and reel that I guess may have come from Western Auto and it had a braided line that always seemed to be fouled up. I had never heard of 2X Tippets and Leaders. I Knew nothing about a fly rod or lines. More fish were caught with a cane pole, a cork bobber, and some night crawlers or crickets. You would see several members of a family headed to a pond, lake, creek or river with the long cane poles sticking out of pickup truck or tied to the top of the car and they would spend an afternoon fishing.
There were no Yeti Coolers and sometimes only a jug of water that was put in the water in the shade to keep from getting too hot. Bait was dug up out back near the chicken coop or cow pen and put in an old coffee can. Bait and tackle shops were for the rich people.
There was no “catch and release”. It was all catch, cook and eat. Sometimes the smallest fish was kept.
Most of the places that people now take for granted did not exist back in that time. Lake Tobesofkee near Macon was not around until about 1967. Lake Sinclair near Milledgeville was created in 1953. Lake Sinclair was where I rode in my first power boat as far as I can remember. Lake Lanier was still filling up when I moved to Gainesville in 1963. We had a small farm pond built in about 1954 on some farm program and we stocked it with fish. Mostly bream. The springs that fed that small pond have long since dried up and so has the pond.
My dad did not fish and neither did either of my grandparents. They were more gun people. I really got into fly fishing about 30 years ago.
“Let’s see if we can find a place to go fishing, Dad.” That was a call I received from my son who lives in Alabama. “I have a few days off and we will come and spend some time there. Maybe you, I, and Garrison can get into some big trout somewhere.”
Now, of course, that sounded like a good idea except that we were now into the hot weather months and the outfitter run fishing spots were shutting down for the summer. It seems that warm water and the stress of being caught, handled and released can greatly increase the mortality of the trout. So, to protect the fish these places started shutting down during the hot (and low) water months. Restrictions are in place in many parts of the country now to curtail, eliminate or otherwise reduce the fishing pressure for the same reason. Montana has something called the Hoot Owl Restrictions.
Calling around, I found a couple of places that were still open but they were getting close to shutting down and I was able to find one place that could take us for a day trip on a day that worked for us. Expensive is the best way I can describe these places but it is not something you do every day.
There were about 10 fishermen there when we arrived and most were using the guide services. We chose to not use a guide although it is usually a very good idea when fishing a water for the first time. More money, of course, but that can often keep from throwing away a lot of rod fee money with no results at the end of the day. But, we were feeling somewhat confident.
I asked the lady when we checked in to advise us on what flies had been working and she did. I also asked what weight leaders and tippets she recommended. “With the water being stained a little today, I would suggest 2X,” she said.
Every sport and fishing activity has its own vernacular and equipment. Fly fishing, long steeped in mystique has plenty, too. Fly lines get stronger and heavier and bigger as the number goes up. A 2 weight fly line would be small and generally used for small fish. That would normally be teamed up with a 2 weight rod. A heavier, stronger, 5 weight line is a common fly line size in this area and would be matched with a 5 weight rod. A person bone fishing might use an 8 weight and for tarpon, a 12 or 14. That relationship between rod and fly line is a discussion all to its self.
But, for some reason, the leaders and tippets that are used on the end of the fly line use a reverse designation system. Maybe this was done to add to the fly fishing mystique that I mentioned. When fishing for small and spooky fish one might use a 6X leader and tippet on a 3, 4, or 5 weight line and rod setup. Here, the bigger the number the smaller the leader and tippet thickness and subsequent strength. So, when the lady said a 2X leader and tippet would be her suggestion that implies you will be hooking big fish and 2X leaders and tippets are not in use on many of the area waters. They are not required, in most cases, on local waters. Usually for me, a 3X is about as big as is needed around here so I was rigged with 3X and sometimes 4X Tippet on a 9 foot 6 weight rod. I asked for, but did not necessarily adhere to, advice for the local water. Hardheaded, maybe?
The morning was very slow for us. We were wading and to say we had to get our feet wet in the new river before we started catching anything sounds cute so that’s what I’ll say.
I think my son caught one fish and it was close to 30 inches! Trout fishermen will recognize that as a pretty darn good trout. A bass fisherman would like that size too.
He has a carved replica of one close to 36 inches that he caught in The Little Red in Arkansas. I caught nothing in the morning and had only one hit.
At lunch, it was clear that it was a slow day for everyone as the guide that had shown us to our fishing spot had said, “It’s pretty slow today.” An official opinion, you might say.
That afternoon, we started catching some fish, however. We kept changing flies and set ups until we hit on using a big stimulator dry fly with a dropper. The fish were hitting both the big dry and the small black quill nymph fly I was fishing weighted and submerged. It was beginning to be a good day.
Late that afternoon, I found a large run that emptied into a large pool. After a few casts, I started casting out and skipping the big stimulator back to me across the water. This proved to be both successful and frustrating since I caught several really nice fish but also had a number spit out the stimulator which was a very large fly with a small hook.
In the fast water of the seam, a large number of huge fish were hanging out and when one hit the big fly there was one giant fish that would leap out of the water behind the striking fish followed by two or three more each time. An incredible sight and a fish of gigantic proportions that I never hooked.
Before the day was out, the three of us had a very good day although the guide, who had been fishing in the same area with his three first time fly fishermen, was a little down because they had not had a good afternoon. We did not let on how well we had done. Nothing gained by doing that.
We decided a couple of days later to take another crack at the river and I think we were the last ones there until the fall as they were closing it down. We were the only people there. This time we started out rigged up the same way we had finished two days earlier and the fish were not at all interested.
The place we entered the river was a large, slow pool full of fish. Lots of big fish and the saying about shooting fish in a barrel comes to mind. But they would watch the fly drift toward them, move slightly to let it pass and then move easily back into their spot. We wasted a lot of time on these fish with no results.
After experimenting with a variety of droppers from A to Z, I broke out the heavy artillery: one number 6 black bead head Woolly Bugger and one olive one and tied the olive behind the black. When fished on a long leader, these flies can get right down on the bottom in fast water were the fish are holding. With a little luck, they can be a serious weapon in fly fishing.
My first cast resulted in a big strike and I landed a very nice fat rainbow. And they hit it for the rest of the day; mostly the olive but once in a while the black. Some hit with such ferocity that they ripped off both flies on several occasions because I had just stayed with the 3X. Why had I bothered to ask for advice, anyway? The 3X would handle the normal big 20 inchers but when the really big ones hit with all their might, it was bye bye leader, tippet and flies. That happened about four times. And, of course, there were some down stream releases and one really mean trout that took my line over behind this sharp rock and cut my line. I wonder if he had done that before.
So this was not a place for the faint hearted and it was not a place for the idealist that will only fish dry flies; not this day. It was a place to listen to the advice of the person who ran it. This was a 2X day and a 2X place. And I was glad I came! Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll be using 2X!