Monday, December 30, 2013

Southeast Winter Trout Fishing Tips with Ken Hardwick

by Ken Hardwick 

At a point the weather pattern shifts and the app on your phone says it’s going to be cold for a long, long while.  The sunny and 75 is long gone and eventually you’ve wandered into the monotonous stupor of endless overcast and too many days at the tying desk. Time to add layers until you feel like Ralphie’s little brother in that famed Christmas classic and head out to the local run.
Winter has become one of my favorite seasons to fish. Along with the warmth most of the anglers have long since gone and the fishing pressure with it. Runs can be empty even on the weekends and that wary brown that you missed in the cut bank on a hopper back in August may be laid up in inches of water sipping size 20 blue wings without a care in the world. 
Winter offers up some great fishing though on the surface it can be sporadic. Midges, BWO’s, and little winter stones dominate your bug spectrum this time of year. In the mornings and evenings you are better off dredging the bottom. Pick apart your deepest water. Fast or slow, fish will congregate in these lies when the temps are at their lowest. It may be your 13th drift before you hit your first wily ‘bow of the day so don’t be in a hurry to move, the fish aren’t in a hurry either.
Even with temps in the mid 30’s you can find lots of activity. Add some extra layers and grease up your guides with mucilin line dressing to fight off icy build up and work your gentleman’s hours. Starting late and finishing early keeps you away from the hypothermic shiver and focuses your efforts on the warmest part of the day. As it warms look for fish moving into shallower water to feed. Keep a patient pace and take advantage of these low-pressure opportunities to work on some sight fishing. A majority of the nice trout I have caught in the winter I have seen first by scouting from a high bank or a good vantage point.
Frozen Guides
Convince your buddy to go. Having twice the fly selection in the water helps you get dialed in to what the fish are doing that much faster and you can take turns with one guy scouting and one working the run. If he’s a good friend he may bring a flask along for knocking that wintery bite!
By mid afternoon on a typical southern trout stream start looking for those dimples on the surface. This is usually the peak time for activity.  Look for blue wings or midge hatches but don’t forget about those little black things crawling on your waders. Here in the Davidson river area of North Carolina our winter stonefly hatches can show us some of the most bugs we’ve seen all season.
If all else fails don’t be afraid to throw that pink san juan or that big rubber legged stone literally chilling in the lost corner of your nymph box, or whip on that olive conehead bugger for some fun. Sometimes it takes a different approach to get fish moving. 
Its better to be on the river, even when your feet feel like  concrete galoshes. Some of my most memorable days are not the ones filled with fish, but the ones spent working a familiar run with banks blanketed in snow really learning how to appreciate sunny and 75.
Ken Hardwick is an experienced fly fishing guide with over 5 years of guiding clients for Davidson River Outfitters in Brevard, NC.  Ken has fished many Southeastern waters from North Carolina, Georgia, Tennesee, South Carolina, and beyond.  He has spent time fishing in Alaska while guiding for Great Alaska Fish Camp on the Kenai River and Alaska West Camp on the Kanektok River.  You can book your next trip with Ken on the Davidson River or other surrounding area rivers by sending him an email at

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Chattooga River - David Cannon Photography

by Matt Walters
Photo by David Cannon
We recently took a trip to the Chattooga River in North Georgia/South Carolina for a full day of fishing.  It was the coldest morning of the season so far and we were excited for what the river would hold for us that day.  We left Atlanta around 4 in the morning and arrived at the river before sunrise.  Meeting us there was David Cannon, an experienced photographer from Georgia and author of Fly Fishing Georgia: A No Nonsense Guide to Top Waters.  David joined us to shoot some photos while we fished.  We suited up in our waders and rigged our rods up while David got his camera ready for the day. 

I had met David a few months prior at our local Trout Unlimited chapter meeting where he did a presentation about fly fishing photography and gave some tips and tricks to snap better quality photos while on the water.  I took some valuable notes from that meeting that I still use on the water today in my own photos.  I was immediately impressed by the quality of his photos that were displayed during his presentation, the colors were amazing and the photographs seemed to tell a story from that day on the water.

Photo by David Cannon
We dropped in the river and were the only ones on the water the entire morning.  Breaking ice off of the rods was a constant chore, but the sun finally came out and burned off the morning chill towards the afternoon.  It was quickly realized that this was going to be an excellent day as we began catching a lot of great fish from the beginning.  The highlight of the trip were the large Brook Trout we caught and each of us was lucky enough to land at least one.  The day ended at sunset when we began our hike out in the dark down the fishing trails smelling wood smoke as we walked past a few anglers who decided to make the Chattooga their campsite for the night. 

Photo by David Cannon
Throughout the day our group shared a ton of laughs and there was plenty of healthy and hilarious trash talking between Ken and Matt about who was catching the most fish and the biggest fish . All in all it was a perfect day.  David snapped some amazing photos which I wanted to share just a few from the day in this post.    

Photo by David Cannon
To get in touch with David for your own photos or to pick up a copy of Fly Fishing Georgia: A No Nonsense Guide to Top Waters please visit his website at or find him on Facebook under David Cannon Photography.