Broken Arrow Creek

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Equipped with a new pole, and some newly gained American catfishing experience from NC, I set out to try the Chattahoochee River again, this time at a landing near Broken Arrow Creek. This was behind the “Pet Cemetery” at Fort Benning and I had heard good things about it from others. To get there, you have to navigate through a maze of unimproved dirt roads, often flooded over with water, so a off road capable vehicle is a must. The lift on my ’04 Jeep Grand Cherokee was good enough, but I could see it being impossible in a rainier time.  When you reach the end, there’s a couple of different landings to fish, some on the creek itself, and some on the river. I decided to set up on the river.

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Naturally, using a worm as bait for my first rod, I come up with a gill. I was trying to set up my other rod, but kept getting tags on the first one. Next was this little guy:

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That’s a baby channel! Cute little guy. I was using a medium action rod, and the issue was that I didn’t have enough weight attached to it to cast it as far as I wanted. So basically, I was catching the little guys. This next one was a bit of a surprise though since usually they only go for live baitfish!

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Yup, that’s a schoolie! My very first striped. These guys fight like hell though; it was hard to get him to stop flopping to even take the picture.

Unfortunately, after I got my second rod set up, I really didn’t come up with anything so I packed it in after a few hours and called it a day. Definitely will check this spot out again and see if I can catch a true striper!

Johnsen Lake

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On the way home from Nimblewill Creek, we decided we wanted to get some bass fishing in, and took to Fishbrain to scout out a good lake. Right off SR-19 near the town of Cumming, there was Johnsen Lake. Though it appears to be right off the road, there’s actually no access to it from there. You have to swing around, go down Northgate Pkwy, and park at the roundabout at the end of the road near Cladding and Compound Solutions. From there, there is a dirt path that is fairly easy to follow.

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It’s only a couple minutes walk, just take caution in there’s a lot of wood and metal scraps on the ground in the beginning. Once you cross a small stream bed, you’ll run right into the southern tip of the lake. Right away, there’s all these downed trees and logs that just look perfect for bass to  be lurking under.

20170618_120115Today, Dan went with a light green senko on a 6/0 offset hook, wacky rigged. I decided to get rid of our remaining live bait, and toss some worms and crickets out there on a 14 treble hook. Both of us were slow pitch jigging. No shit, on the first cast Dan comes up with a bass!

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Little fella, but a bass nonetheless. It took me a couple more ins and outs to finally get one. myself.

20170618_121552Pretty skinny.  Couple reasons a bass could come up real skinny in an otherwise healthy lake. Too much algae/vegetation, not enough food/insects/small fish, harvest slot fish, an old timer on his last legs of life, or even swallowing too many soft plastics that clogs up the fish’s digestive system. Regardless, he got a worm today, and we were playing C/R.

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Dan ended up catching a total of four, alternating between a wacky and a texas rig.

 

As usual, I caught a ton of gills.

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But at last, a second bass. And a pretty healthy one at that. Caught on crickets.

Johnsen Lake was a hidden gem by the expressway that had a lot to offer. Definitely a great bass population in that lake that are eager to eat up!

Nimblewill Creek

Get ready, this is going to be a long post! It was easily one of my favorite trips so far. Dan and I decided we wanted to try our hand at trout fishing in Georgia again. We did extensive research using the Fishbrain App (A great app for finding where folks have caught certain fish, as well as more or less the angler’s instagram– my user is shipyard if you want to follow me there!) as well as other online resources. Our first stop was the Chattahoochee just South of Lake Lanier since it was about 2.5 hours from Columbus, where I live. Well, as it turns out it’s solely Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area down there which does not allow primitive camping… or DOGS! They had campgrounds such as Sawnee on the Southern portion of Lake Lanier, but they were all booked up anyways. Besides, the no dogs is a deal breaker. Seriously? It’s the 21st century! Dogs are people, too!

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I mean look at that face. Side note, since moving in with Dan she’s gotten a little chubby (Or as the vet put it, she’s on the “upper end of where she should be”) so she is on a diet.

Anyways, we scrambled around all over the place to try and find a new location that wasn’t too far away from where we were. Dan honed in on Nimblewill Creek– a creek that advertised primitive camping areas all along a trout creek only about an hour north into the Chattahoochee National Forest near Dahlonega. Just what we were looking for!

A note on the advertised directions– know that google maps will NOT lead you to the creek and will instead take you down toward Bull Mountain parking area. You can use the directions off Dahlonega.org  however, FS 28-2 is not indicated on maps other than local maps. Instead, if you’re using a google map or something similar, FS 28-2 will be listed as “Nimblewill Gap Road.” There ARE signs on the road that say FS 28-2 once you reach it, though, and it’s no the same as FS 28-1…It took us a good 45 minutes to an hour of driving around aimlessly to figure this one out. It’s also a no service area, which is great for being unplugged, not so great for navigation without a local map. Feel free to contact me if you want more info about getting there.

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Finally, around 3p we arrived. The creek parallels a long dirt road with multiple pull offs on either side that serve as primitive camping sites. There were a few other folks there, so we just drove until we found a free site.

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Here’s what it looked like; A sectioned off area for the tent, and a rock fire pit. Ignore that bottle, that’s avocado oil that I brought along. The tent we use is a Coleman 4-man pop-up tent that I got off Amazon. It’s weathered through massive rainstorms before, even with just the small fly it comes with. Also it pops up which is really neat and sets up in 3 seconds. We went for the 4-man because Brook sleeps in there with us and she really likes to sprawl out.

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We could head in maybe 50 feet from our campground and the creek bed was right there. We grabbed our fishing supplies, which today consisted of my Shakespeare Ugly Stik GX2 Spinning Combo Light and Dan’s Shakespeare Ugly Stik Elite Spinning Rod Ultralite. We used 4# test line, and size 14 treble hooks with 1/16th inch split shots. I prefer to use a split shot, but you do not have to use any weight when trout fishing. For bait, we had dead crickets, Berkeley Powerbait Trout Nibblers (In neon green, yellow, pink and orange) as well as general canned corn. This is all valuable stuff we learned from my friend when we went to Dick’s Creek the last time we went trout fishing.

Directly in from our campsite, the creek was shallow and clear enough to see directly to the bottom and not see any fish. So we headed downstream through a small goat path. The whole area was empty enough that we could let Brook loose. We were actually the only people we saw fishing out there. It didn’t take too long to start getting nibbles and catch the first rainbow, even though we were skeptical that there was even trout in the creek!

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Key was throwing the bait into pools beneath small waterfalls, as well as near overhanging rocks. I didn’t even see this guy; he was hiding in a small cave. One thing we realized quickly was that we forgot a trout line. Easy solution here– tie a bowline using paracord, thread the free (long) end through the gill, and then back through the loop.

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We continued moving downstream and throwing into these pools. Brook was so well behaved, sticking by us the entire time. The score was 2-1 Dan at this point (we always end up competing…) Eventually, we came to an area where there was a family camping nearby. A woman told us that yesterday, anglers were having luck in this particular spot so we decided to cast our lines. From the side I was working with, I had to cast through branches which was a little tricky… not to mention I’ve lost countless lures and rigs to the trees. But from here I could actually see dozens of trout resting in a pool. 20170617_165748

Quickly caught two more, but the family took notice and then the little kids started wading into the area I was fishing, wanted to toss their lines in. I would have stayed longer, but of course I wanted to respect their space…and not hook a small child, so we moved on. After approximately 2 hours, we called it a day and returned to our site to clean the fish. Victory poses:

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We ended up with a total of six trout, which wasn’t bad at all, especially for starting so late in the day. We went to the creek bed by our site to clean the fish and prepare it for cooking.  Here is our guide on How to Clean a Fish in Three Steps which is the method we utilized. Here is the end result:

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It was then that we realized I completely forgot some of our supplies at home… namely, butter, salt, pepper and tin foil. We threw some ice on the pan, tossed it in the cooler, and had to make an almost hour round trip into town to the gas station to get the supplies.

Once we returned, we were ready to go. Dan is the primitive cooking guy, so he seasoned and primed the trout with simply butter, salt and pepper, wrapped them up in tin foil and tossed them onto our camp grill.

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We lit up a fire as well, consisting of one tee-pee fire and a second long fire. We had local logs, and ignited it using the twig method, along with toilet paper as our manmade tinder (it was pretty wet everywhere, since it had been raining the past few days).

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While the trout was cooking, we sliced up some potatoes, threw them in a pan with avocado oil and tossed it in the long fire to cook. A quick explanation of the long fire– basically an extension of your main flame, only you make it horizontal instead of vertical. We used two logs and braces, with kindling and twigs in between (on a lower plane) which we lit. The fire is kept contained by the braces, that way you can place a pan atop the braces, directly over the twig fire.

We covered the top of the pan with tin foil because potatoes tend to take a while to soften. When the trout was done, we just placed the foil packets aside, added fresh diced onions, cheese and mushrooms (STORE BOUGHT! In general, even in a survival situation,  if you can prevent it, it is not wise to consume wild mushrooms. Often, highly poisonous mushrooms can look strikingly similar to edible mushrooms and cause a host of ailments, including but not limited to death– both from consumption, or the inhalation of smoke produced from attempted cooking).

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Once it all cooled down, the meal was complete and ready to eat.

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Nothing is more satisfying than a catch and eat meal. If only we had grown the potatoes in our own vegetable garden as well! The trout was cooked absolutely perfectly, though. It was falling off the bone. Trout does have a lot of pin bones to avoid, though.

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Yes, we did bring out plastic cutlery, but rest assured we brought in and hauled out a contractor bag with all of our trash.

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No feeling quite like the peace and calm of a night out in the woods, no cell phones, no internet, and nothing but us and our dog. The stars were stunningly beautiful above, and the silence breathtaking.

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Had to bust out the marshmallows to complete the good ole American camping experience. Good thing I also brought napkins because as you can see, Dan got it all over his face.

Now, what was Brook doing during all this time? We fed her the same time we ate; we brought her special food from home. She was off leash, and is smart enough not to go near the grill or fire, luckily. For the most part, she spent her time right behind us. Brook is a great dog to have in the woods at night. She goes into full guard dog mode, and literally stands at her post all night until bed.

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There’s her guarding right behind Dan.

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Here’s her guarding next to our tent. She looks/listen/smells what we can’t and always alerts us of human or animal movement at night. Knowing that we have no phones, and are fairly isolated in this area, it’s a reassuring habit.

At around midnight, after chatting, talking, laughing and enjoying the wilderness all night, we bunked down in our tent. Equipment wise, we brought thin inflatable sleeping pads and thin blankets. I brought sleeping clothes, though Dan didn’t. I’d recommend it if not just for feeling cleaner and more refreshed in the morning. Brook sleeps in the tent with us because she is our daughter.

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She stole my blanket… she also absolutely loves that spot right behind my knees when I sleep on my side.  But in this picture, you can also see the sleeping pad and blanket I brought.

For protection, we had our knives and bear spray. Probably all you need. Georgia’s population of bears is only about 2000 total, and stick to distinct portions of the state (including the mountainous region of North Georgia), so the spray is reserved for any unwelcome visitors… bear or not. Personally, I believe in preparedness without paranoia. Do I think being isolated and without signal in the woods could be dangerous? Potentially, but not in how folks that don’t do a lot of camping or backpacking would think. I will always argue that you are far more likely to be hurt or approached by unwelcome human contact in the populated city center than the middle of the woods. Sorry, that a bit of a rant!

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Fast forward to the morning. We woke up as the sun rose at around 7a. Dan was still asleep, so I poked out of the tent and went for a walk down by the creek. There were a few fly fishermen down there. The soft bubbling and morning view was so tranquil. Funny thing, Brook managed to get the tent unzipped after I left, and came running toward me 100mph to my surprise while I was down there. She found me!

By the time we made our way back, Dan, the camp-chef, had breakfast in the making. Breakfast was things we brought with us– eggs, steak, and cheesy potatoes o’brien. Eggs and potatoes cooked over our portable charcoal grill in a pan, while the steaks were sizzled over an open fire atop a steel camp grill.

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Talk about a feast. It was a little much for me so early in the morning, so Brook got the remains, little spoiled dog. We took a bit of a food coma nap after that. When we woke up, we packed everything up into the truck, made sure the site was left a little better than we found it and began the 3 hour, 40 minute trip back (to which I was the driver, ugh).

I highly recommend this area for trout fishing and camping. It was absolutely perfect in terms of the experience we were looking for. The sites are all right along the creek, so you hardly even have to walk (definitely don’t have to drive) to fish the creek. Most of the area was very clean, though we did spot some scattered beer cans, etc in the woods. Best of all, it was unplugged, and not crowded at all. Truly one of my favorite fishing trips thus far.

 

 

 

How to Clean a Fish in Three Steps

 

A few months ago when I went camping and fishing at Dick’s Creek with my friends, a friend of mine showed me this extremely simple way to clean a fish (in this case, a trout) without fileting. It’s great for a serving the fish in a way you can eat the meat off the bone. You can’t quite make a sandwich with this method, but it’s a very simple, very tidy way to do it. Here are the step by step instructions with pictures from my trip to Nimblewill Creek. It takes no more than 2-5 minutes per trout depending how good you are with your knife.

Tools You Need: A sharp knife, a source of water for rinsing, something to contain the cleaned fish, and a place to dispose or discard the parts you will not use.

Personally, I used my Khukuri knife and Dan his Rogue Survival Knife.

 

We just did this all by the creek for washing and discarding, and had a pan for the usable parts.

Step 1: Remove the Head

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Find a hard surface like a rock, and simply cut the fish through right behind the gills. Be careful of your fingers because a fish like a trout can be very slippery. You can keep the head if you wish to use it, or cook it that way, but I just discard it.

Update: It has been pointed out to me by RawSkillsBushcraft that a rock is not the ideal surface due to the potential for damaging your knife. Instead, find something like a piece of wood that will not dull your blade. Additionally, as I have done previously at Bongam Lake, you can absolutely keep the head to eat the meat from the cheeks or use in a soup. In a survival situation where every bit of protein matters, you need to do this.

 

Step 2: Cut Lengthwise from the Anus and Peel Open

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Make the cut beginning at the anus, and ending at the severed head deep enough that you can get your thumbs inside to peel the fish open cleanly, revealing two filets on the side, and a bunch of organs. Careful not to pop the gall or anything.

Update: For clarification, as a reader suggested, there are specific ways that eases this process. As tomcatHoly  explains, position the knife nearly parallel to the fish, angling it so the top quarter inch or so of the blade is pressing against the skin. Push forward to split open the thin membrane on the belly, which will split open as you go.

Now, alternatively, you can insert the knife point perpendicular to the fish at the anus, blade toward the “head” just enough so the knife penetrates through the  membrane: a quarter inch or so depending on the size of the fish. You need a sharp knife to do this method. At this point, just angle the knife with blade bent slightly toward the fish, and carefully cut the membrane in the direction of the “head.”

Step 3: Remove the Organs, Push out the Blood

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Pull the organs out carefully and discard. Last, press your thumb hard at the base of the spine and push out all the blood built up. Then just dunk the fish in water to wash it off, remove any extra blood or goo, and you’re done!

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Voila! Trout cleaned and ready to cook!

Thank you to the readers who provided suggestions to make this guide more detailed and easier to follow. I am open to any and all suggestions, critiques or anything else you wish to say either by comment or using the contact button at the top.

 

 

Twilight Pond #3

Sadly, Dan and I are living apart for now due to work. So I decided to cast a line on my own for a while after work at Twilight Pond. I used a #14 size treble hook with a canadian nightcrawler and a slow pitch jig technique.

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Lo and behold I pull out this beauty. I didn’t have a scale on me, but she was about 18 inches long. Pretty happy about that! Fishing by myself isn’t the same experience and fishing with Dan and Brook, but it is meditative and relaxing. Sometimes you just need to sit back and unwind at the lake… and sometimes you get some pretty good pigs in the process! I also pulled in what looks to be three different types of sunfish:

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A shellcracker, a redbreast and a bluegill! Fun times, but I miss my crew. Fishing is special in that way… it’s not just about the sport, it’s not just about the catch, but it’s truly about the camaraderie and bonding you experience while doing it. So grateful to have discovered this passion with the love of my life… and many great adventures to come.

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Dick’s Creek

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In the past few days, Dan moved up to North Carolina with Brook, and I am still in Georgia. My friends and I decided to plan a camping/fishing trip for the gang and our resident North Georgia native chose the beautiful, mountainous region of Dahlonega. The campsite we picked was located in an area called Dick’s Creek. This was a stunning creek bed, tumbling over a few waterfalls and stretching as far as the eye could see. We drove about 3 hours to get there, and nestled into a site in the corner. The trout was stocked seasonally with both browns and rainbows. Since we had never trout fished before, my friend advised us on a few different types of bait to try: canned corn, and salmon eggs. Similar to when we’re freelining for bass, you want to use as small a hook as possible with little to no weight.

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Of course little Brooky had to come with us. That’s basically my negotiation piece for anyone that asks me to hang out… its either both of us or none of us! Anyways, we head down to the river, and Dan and I decide to throw a couple lines in right at the base of that magnificent waterfall picture above. Brook didn’t like when we got more than an arms reach away from here, so she was yipping a little bit… It didn’t take us too long to start bringing ’em in! I started up on a piece of corn and reeled in a really nice Brown trout.

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Dan caught a few shortly after. We were able to walk up and down the creek to try different spots, and kept all our catches on a trout line in the water so they would stay fresh for the open fire cookout to take place later.  Honestly, we would have stayed in the same spot, but as usual once folks caught onto that we were bringing em in, they all congregated to adjacent locations and casted directly in front of us. Being Georgia, these people also had on overalls without any shirts underneath, etc…

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Here’s a picture of one of the rainbows I caught as well. We ended up with a total of 5 trout. We and my friend (after he fell into the creek, gave up, and went out again) brought in 6. He taught as a very simple way to clean the trout. Just make a clean cut behind the gills, then slit the bottom from cut to anus. After that, simply pull out the guts, toss them away and squeeze out the blood pooling near the spine. The camping trip was a huge success, lots of games, drinking, cooking, and fun. We had burgers and buttered trout cooked open the fire. Truly a good ole fashioned American time. Brook was having a great time, too, running 100mph around our camp site.

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Really fun first time trout fishing. Sadly since then, a wildfire burned most of Dick’s Creek area down to the ground. I am happy we were able to experience it before that disaster.

Engineer Landing

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I had been to the Chattahoochee River before unsuccessfully a few times, but this time was after Dan and I had discovered our nearly fool proof slow pitch jigging technique. The area we decided to head to is called Engineer landing. There is basically a dirt path wide enough for a car that leads to a small landing on the river. The bank is pretty muddy, but wide enough you can fish in a couple different spots. The view here was stunning, as is most fishing locations. Sadly, though a lot of trash and crap was left behind and strewn about. Kind of a bummer especially when you want to let your dog run around, but there’s broken glass everywhere.  Last time I went, I wore sandals and seriously regretted it… after also being covered in mud and bitten all over by sand flies.

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The Chattahoochee is split pretty much in half between Georgia and Alabama. We were on the Georgia side. We set up a few catfish rigs, consisting of long spin reels leaning on rod stands. For bait, we had dough and liver. The river is supposed to be a prime spot for getting large blue and channel cats so we were excited to see what we could pull up. Surprisingly, the area was fairly packed with other anglers as well. We could even seen some Alabama anglers across the way.

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That was once my cap, but it is now Dan’s official fishing hat. Not the best rodholders, just some cheap ones from the post exchange. While waiting, we picked up a couple of regular spin reels and casted out to see what we could grab. The “Hooch” (as some of the locals call it… supposedly) is also home to a couple types of bass including LMB, Smallies and stripers. In fact, it’s even been known to have a pike or two. We tested this out and ended up bringing in a fish on a rooster tail!

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Yup, just a dumb sun fish. Albeit, this one was a Green sunfish and was particularly radiant. So from research we learned that catfish love cutbait. We cut this little fella up on the back of my hatch only to reveal he had FOUR WORMS in his belly, the glutton! What a greedy little guy! Dan also had no problem leaving fish guts all over the back of my car…

Well, we recasted out our cat lines with the new bait, and saved the rest of it for a later date. At some point, I went into the backseat of my car to rummage for something and what do I find!? The freaking TAIL of the sunfish. So I’m like, “Dan why did you put the tail in my car!?” since it’s going to stink it up, I’m kinda irked… But he denied all culpability. Meaning there was ONLY ONE PRIME SUSPECT…

20170311_133049Yup, little Brookster for some reason grabbed the tail off the ground and put it in my car, since I left the door open. What a dork!

Unfortunately, outside of the one sunfish, we turned up empty this time around. But we will certainly be back to conquer “The Hooch”! Gotta do more homework and really look into what the big cats want to eat.

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Man, I love this dog…

Twilight Pond (Again)

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Now this was a great day of fishing. A bit after our initial success at Twilight Pond, Dan, Brook and I decided to make our return. We used nightcrawlers again and a similar method to the first time– a sort of modified slow-pitch jigging. Almost off the bat we were getting bites left and right.  I was fighting a bass for a while, when I finally hooked him. I reeled him in in a frenzy and DISASTER STRUCK. The fish got away, and it felt like a big one, too. When I brought my line out, the hook was nowhere to be found. Was it big enough to have broken the line? Well, it happened AGAIN! And as it turned out, my knot was coming undone. Let me admit that I’d been really lazy with my spin reel knot tying because I never expected to get anything huge. Like I said before, my luck had been pretty poor in Georgia. So instead of a figure eight with a bight, I’d been doing like 5 square knots in a row. I know, I know… really idiotic. So I go over to fix this problem, and in the mean time Dan steps in my spot.

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And comes out with a HOG! We didn’t have a scale, but it was around 18 inches long, so assuming 3-4lb. A great catch! I have to say though I was a little butthurt that I moved away for a second and he snagged my nemesis. I definitely get a little competitive with catching! Anyways, we were fishing for food today, so we knocked this bad boy out and put him in the cooler. I retook my spot and got another bite.

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To my surprise I pulled out this flathead! Had no idea there were even catfish in this pond since it had recently been drained. Threw him in with the LMB to add some catfish nuggets to our future meal. Our luck kept going at this point.

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Pulled out 3 more pigs! Really great day of fishing since we were only there a few hours! Here’s one in comparison to Brooky:

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She always likes to give the fish a little sniff and a lick. Anyways, we threw a couple back and kept 3 largemouths and the flathead to go. Cleaned all four fish, and got some nice filets out of them. We seasoned with salt and pepper, washed with egg, and bathed in a combination of breadcrumbs, salt/pepper/garlic and other fry seasonings. We pan fried the bass in filets and the flathead in nuggets.

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Came out amazing. There’s always something extremely satisfying about catching, cleaning and cooking your own protein. Overall, a really successful day for fishing.

Twilight Pond

20170212_160951Since moving to Georgia from Korea (after a stop in CT), I had horrible fishing luck. I’d tried numerous spots around the area with absolutely no luck. I bought more and more American style lures and tackle and NOTHING seemed to grab me anything other than sunfish! My first experience at Twilight came after my sister visited me down here.

Pulledthis doofy little blue gill. Sure was a cute one! At least this pond was absolutely beautiful and with the Southern sun shining down, I couldn’t keep myself from coming here again.

Fast forward a few months (YES, MONTHS! MONTHS WITHOUT A CATCH I WENT! SOME ANGLER I AM!) and Dan finally arrived from Korea! When Brook saw him, it was an incredible reunion. I talk about Brook briefly in our about section, but I promise a future post on her entire situation. Let’s just say she was really happy to see him again. And the feeling was mutual!

20170220_094701Of course the first thing Dan and I did was have to go fishing together again. And this time with our little companion. I brought him to Twilight and mourned my inability to catch anything since before he came. He then showed me a secret technique he learned while in California from an old man who took him under his wing (yes, again). I’ll post on that later, as well. But anyways, I changed baits from soft plastics to live nightcrawlers, changed up my presentation technique.

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And finally after long last, I caught my first Georgian bass! A little guy, but still. That definitely started a roll and I was able to bring in one more juvenile LMB

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This was the first time Brook has seen a fish! She gave it a couple sniffs, and a lick. I was ecstatic. This beautiful but desolate fishing spot all of the sudden became teeming with life. Surprisingly, Dan’s luck rubbed off on me and he didn’t end up pulling anything but shellcrackers.

I couldn’t be more excited to get back here with Dan! Unfortunately, I have work a lot while Dan’s here so we’ll hit it again next time when we can. But I am so grateful to have the opportunity to fish with him again. The duo is back! This time with our little sidekick, reunited with us!

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