Tank Creek

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Instead of searching far and wide for fun new fishing spots, this time we got local.

We found a creek less than two miles away from our home, and decided to give it a go. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most aesthetic of locations and definitely did not have the upkeep of public ponds or national/state forest areas, there was something a little enchanting about a little semi-stagnant pool we found beneath a small dam.

The way the water swirled into its soft current seemed promising.

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And we were not disappointed. This little bass infested pool in Tank Creek provided a fun opportunity for us to experiment with different lures and techniques.

The most successful seemed to be a version of the slow pitch jig using soft plastics like the Zoom U Tail in June Bug or the Zoom Lizard in Chartreuse/Pumpkinseed (6″).

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Unfortunately, the creek was relatively close to the road so Brook did not have the luxury to roam like at Kiest.

Through trail and error, we managed to toss our casts softly under bushes and small rock bunches which produced some of our best bass catches yet.

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We also utilized use of 6″ Yamamoto senkos in various colors. We always used a off-set hook, a texas rig (since the creek is full of snags), completely weightless. The creek was small enough that we did not need any additional weight for casting strength.

Who knew that such a small space held such nice fish!

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We came back to this area since it was so close a couple times and continued to have relatively good success. The small pool combined with it being not fished often seemed to push our luck.

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However, due to the nature of North Carolina’s thick woods, we did sacrifice many lures to the fishing gods in trees and even worse, to snapping turtles.

Sadly as the months grew colder, the bites came less and less, but we did discover a large gill population.

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A fun discovery close to home that allowed us to practice a myriad of techniques and baits in a confined area. It was nice to find a “training pool” so to speak!

Texas Pond

We hadn’t taken out the raft in a while so headed to Texas Pond right outside Fort Bragg. The water was surprisingly low, seeming to average no more than two feet in any location.

 As usual, little B was ready to go in her outward Hound life vest and boat shoes. Dan had been researching and experimenting with different types of hard plastic minnows and spinners/buzz baits. I really never got into using these so it was a bit of a learning curve for me.

One lure he used was a white Mistsuo popper. The method was to toss out, then twitch the bait causing it to splash back and fort, and pause while reeling to retrieve the slack line.

Dan seemed to have pretty good success with this. He used the same method with a black lucky craft topwater bass lure. In the mean time I am not catching anything and getting fairly frustrated. Dans been watching a lot of videos and doing a lot of research, so really its no surprise he has gotten a lot better. Nevertheless, I am butthurt at this point.

Poor poo dog still hasn’t gotten used to being in a boat. She continues to cling to my leg and get in the way of rowing. Not sure how to get her used to it outside of continuing to bring her though. It’s sort of cute how she will conquer her fears to be with us though!

Dan also hooked a decent sized chain Pickerel! This one was snagged utilizing a jerk bait. The method here involves holding the rod at a 90 degree angle from where you tossed the lure, then jerking the lure toward you and reeling in between as you go. There are a many ways to retrieve: aggressive, twitches, long pauses, continuous… you simply have to try different speeds and levels of aggression until one attracts the bite.
Of course when I tried this, I seemed to attract nothing. Finally, I got a big hit on the jerk bait and I was hoping to see a Pickerel or a bass!

Thanks to Dans extensive research, we are breaking into the world of hard plastic lures and there’s so much to try. Though often harder than live bait, it’s a fun challenge to work and finesse the lures to get that bite. We will continue to update with different lures and methods.

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.

 

 

 

Kiest Lake

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Wanting to branch out our North Carolina expeditions, we set off for Kiest Lake, near Fort Bragg Military Reservation.  It was a hot ass day, upwards of 90 degrees F with at least 80% humidity. We settled on the South side of the lake, where there was a  fairly large clearing we could pull the truck into. Little Brook was suffering though. No shade. SO hot. We left the car door open for her just in case, but she improvised on the shade;

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Yup, she hung out under the truck! We stuck her water bowl down there too. And don’t worry– every hour or so, we turned on the truck, pumped the air and cooled off our little daughter. Gotta be careful this time of year in the Southern United States. There are countless cases of pet dogs dying of heat exhaustion,  but at the same time we love our dog and want her to have fun and be included. We take every measure possible to ensure she is comfortable and well taken care of.

Anyways, Dan set up his massive carp rig because supposedly there’s huge common carp in this lake. I don’t have any pictures of the set up but I will take some next time it is used. It’s similar to a catfish set up, only the poles are lying parallel to the surface of the lake instead of perpendicular. There is also this motion detector device that beeps when the line is pulled. Unlike a catfish rod, you do not want “tight lines” on this rig. The drag is almost completely loose, allowing carps to suck the bait in and run with it before hooking themselves. We experienced a few beeps here and there but nothing seeemed to stick. Turns out, there were an astronomical amount of turtles in there!

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Here’s a little one I managed to pull up with our landing net. They’re some sort of box turtle, and love to nibble fishing bait. Since they have those little beaks, they don’t get hooked and just steal the bait! While Dan worked on his carp set-up and tossed in a few senkos for bass, I set up some catfish lines and threw in a few casts of my own. The bottom of this lake is incredibly weedy, so the “secret technique” was an absolute no-go. Instead, I used a foam stick bobber and set it up about 2 feet above my bait (nightcrawlers).

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I managed to catch a gill on this bobber set up that I turned into cutbait. In the mean time, neither the carp rods nor the catfish rods were getting much action. It was such a hot day, that I assume the fish were very slow moving and avoiding the heated up shallower ends. Likely in the middle of the lake, just treading water down below. After I while, I did get a pull on one of the cat rods, though! Reeled t his one in, pretty excited. With it came an enormous hunk of weeds, but hidden beneath the weeds there was indeed a fish!

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This skinny guy was trying to eat himself some gill. Definitely did not expect to pull up an LMB on the cat rods, but lo and behold there she was! I let her go, recasted the rod and then continued to throw out the bobber set up. Dan was preoccupied with some mysterious beeping on his carp rods,  but nothing seemed to set. Somehow, I managed to pull up another small bass on the bobber.

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No action following this for quite a while. We decided to call it, and head back. After all, poor little B was probably burning up in her little yellow fur coat. Not a terrible fishing day, but the heat was tough to bare– for us, and apparently for the fish. Supposedly this lake is filled with bass, so we certainly just scraped the surface on this one. We will return to see what we can garner next time.

McKellar’s Pond

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In eastern/central North Carolina there are a few common types of American catfish: Channels, Blues, bullheads and flatheads. Since we often had success catching Amur catfish we decided to go after their supposedly delicious American cousins. McKellar’s pond is located in Fayetteville, NC tucked into a few backroads. The pond overall isn’t very well kept. It was littered with trash and remains of slobby fishing parties. Sad– they do not have any staff or conservationists to clean up; It’s the fisherman’s responsibility and it looks like people just don’t care around here.

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Anyways, we set up three catfish rods (two ugly sticks, and one telescopic) with different baits ranging from chicken liver flavored dough baits, to “Little Stinker” dip bait, and even some night crawlers. We casted out the rods as far as possible, then tightened the line up and placed the rods into individual rod holders. Finished it off with a little clip on bell that way when a fish bites, we are alerted. We used treble hooks for the dip/dough and circle hooks for other baits. In the mean time, we used our short rods to do a little spin fishing for bass or panfish. We went the first few hours without too much luck until I ended up catching this little guy:

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Channel catfish are known to like to eat bluegill, so we cut him up into small 1-1.5in sections, discarding the fins and spines and slipped it onto circle hooks. It’s important to note that the way a circle hook works is that it twists and punctures the side of the fish’s mouth. So when baiting a circle hook you want to ensure you keep the gap between the point and the hook fairly clear. Bigger bait isn’t always better on a circle hook, especially a smaller one like the 5/0 we were using.

 

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Once the bluegill was on the hook and the sun began to set, the bites started coming. It’s a whole lot of fun when the bells start ringing on all the rods!

We ended up with a good amount of channel cats after the sun went down. Catfishing is a lot like carp fishing in Korea, where it’s pretty stationary and passive, but man it’s fun to bring ’em in once the bell jingles. In the mean time, we just hung out, drank, and played with Brook the entire time. We kept 3 cats to take home with us, and released the rest.

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We cleaned up our catches the next day, using a fairly simple technique of a diagonal cut behind the gills, a cut down the spine to the tail, and just slice the meat off the skin. We got four good filets out of it, which we pan fried up with some seasoned breadcrumbs, seasoned with salt and pepper and created some delicious cat fish po’boys.

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Always a great experienced to catch, clean, and cook. We have finally figured out how to catfish in America!

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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