Anything Fly Fishing

Meeting the River of Stone

5 Mins read

For centuries Native Americans called the river “Thronateeska” meaning “flint picking up place.” During its discovery by Desoto in the 1500’s it was referred to as the Rio Perdernales, meaning “flint” in Spanish and its name was eventually translated into the “Flint River.” I renamed it “Awesome.”

The river begins in Atlanta, Georgia and runs free for more than 200 miles south through Georgia where it meets the Chattahoochee River, forms the Apalachicola River and empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Before fishing a new river, I like to research with Dr. Google and learn something of its history and facts. Reading and discovering how this river drainage impacted Georgia and U.S. history only added to the anticipation of seeing it firsthand.

I was spending the day with an old friend, Kent Edmonds, on a fish-catching, discovery mission. The weather would be perfect to wet wade with high temperatures reaching the low 80s.

I was in awe looking at the river from the bridge overhead, knowing the its path had basically remained unchanged for centuries. It was wide enough that kayakers, float tubers and fishermen could all have their piece of the river and not infringe on each other. This particular shoal had rivulets of water spread through indentations carved in the rock over time, creating fingers of riffles to be fished.

I wanted my introduction to the Flint to begin by casting one of Kent’s well-known fly patterns, the Stealth Bomber. Of course, I had tied up an overabundance of them and carried a fly box full of assorted colors and sizes of the topwater foam-based fly. I was thankful they weren’t weighted flies. Otherwise it would have been similar to wading with a pocket anchor causing me to sink if I stepped in a hole. Kent may have saved my life and didn’t know it.

The light fog was lifting as we found a path through the woods and finally reached an open outcrop from which to start. It’s interesting how a fishing trip can be full of positive or negative signs reflecting the day’s outcome, even before the first cast. As we neared the river, being so focused on its beauty, the many riffles and runs cascading across a large mound of rock, we failed to look down and see the water snake at our feet. Thankfully, it wasn’t a venomous variety, reinforcing my “sign” theory that it would indeed be a great day.

Kent had mentioned that first appearance could be deceiving as the bottom may look shallow, maybe 1-2’ deep, but the river rocks contained holes and crevices where the native shoal bass hide and ambush prey. Native only to these three rivers, the shoal bass provide an explosive reaction to a top-water gurgling fly, becoming airborne once it realizes it’s hooked, and putting a nice arc in the fly rod.

Entering the shoals’ edge, this first rocky run was bordered with short grass along the back eddy and looked extremely fishy. The water dropped off an outcrop creating a foam line turning left away from the grass edge, creating a nice inside pocket for my bomber. The first cast caused a rise and a miss, but the second was a hook up; my first shoal bass.

Casting six-weight fly rods made using the larger Bombers easier to roll cast and land beside or near the targets. With each hook-up, these fish made hard runs, leaps and surges that continuously brought chill bumps to an old man as the day progressed. I never tire of catching fish, even small ones.

The top water bite began to slow as the sun began to rise above the treetops. We both put on a lightly weighted damsel fly dropper behind the bomber and skirted both flies across the ledges from riffle to riffle. I eased around one crevice where the river created a deep angled slide, bubbling downward with some degree of velocity as it emptied out into the pool below. I was entertained by a bale of turtles taking turns swimming to the head of the pool and then gliding along the swift current to the back of it. I couldn’t determine whether they were feeding or just enjoying recess and a free ride provided by nature. Maybe even swimming lessons for the younger ones?

Several nice shoal bass were caught during the turtle intermission, no doubt caused by me getting too close to the water’s edge during their show. Each fish hit the damsel dropper. During the fish-catching commotion, the turtles finally realized I was a spectator and here only to fish. Quickly they returned to their synchronized event.

Standing there looking around trying to inhale my surroundings and the low humming and soothing sound of so many shallow riffles, I became enamored with a long run on the far side of the bank. It was bordered with big rocks and high grass and appeared especially deep. I reminded myself that I was here to discover and investigate. Basically, I convinced my inner-fish-being the grass was greener, and the fish were bigger, on the other side. It was time to completely dismiss and disregard the old adage of leaving feeding fish to find more fish. There is this innate urge always to see what’s around the next bend. The mystery of what fish was next to be caught, pulled hard at my soul and this new run looked more inviting.

Moving deliberately across the river, trying to focus ahead while looking back to imprint which rocks I had actually stepped on to cross over, had become a habit due to lessons learned the hard way. Sometimes intently focusing on the fishing ahead has caused me to forget the path that took me to them.

Wading and climbing over rocks to get to my destination rekindled flashbacks of the past. I recalled wet wading for smallmouth bass in the French Broad River above Asheville, NC years ago. Again, I was determined to reach the other side and visually paid no attention to my path. I managed to zig-zag, wade around deep holes, and cross over on rocks to get there, and it was worth it. When it got dusk, I looked around and all the rocks looked the same. The headlights were bright from my buddy’s truck and he was probably drinking my beer. With too many rocks and surrounded by deep water, with darkness approaching, I put my fly rod in my mouth and swam back across. I learned a valuable lesson and never told my wife.

Intermingled with the shoal bass, we also caught and released bream and a rather large shellcracker. Fishing up an appetite, we found shade, ate a sandwich, and discussed the fish we caught and the ones we didn’t. Though not extremely hot yet, the sun was intense and the shade was a welcome respite. Our fishing discovery mission was successful and we were thankful for the invite and an opportunity to experience this wonderful fishery. I sat and tried to imagine the river as it was hundreds of years ago. It’s still free-flowing, clear, and clean, due to the hard work of many agencies and volunteers.

For the remainder of the day Kent and I fished and climbed around to new areas. We found some deep holes, came across new runs, and caught fish. We basically fished with the same two flies all day, and I was glad because my bifocals were left in his truck.


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