January Newsletter

On The Fly South January 2021

The crew at On The Fly South and our sponsors are wishing you a
Happy and Prosperous New Year in 2021!

Uni ProductsSoutheastern AnglersFly Fish Black Creek
Fly Cast ChartersDavidson River Outfitters – Bahamas Fishing

As we enter a new, and hopefully better and less “interesting” year, the crew at On The Fly South thanks all of you for sticking with us through our first year of publication. We will be striving in 2021 to raise the bar even higher as we cover still more destinations. With the advent of Covid-19 vaccines, we are looking forward to international travel reopening in a way that it is practical to pursue stories in the Caribbean and Central America again, In the meantime we’ll fill that void with some look-backs to earlier tales from the southern climes.

In our upcoming January edition, Claude Preston will be offering a look at the saltwater action in the Conch Republic, as he fishes out of Key West. Also in the Sunshine State, we test the winter waters of the Santa Fe River in north-central Florida for Suwannee and largemouth bass on the fly. We venture into the mountains of northeast Tennesse to chase wild trout in the upper Citico Creek basin as well, plus we recount the taie of how a small fish in the Bahamas maked our Associate Editor Polly Dean a bit of a celebrity. That coverage is rounded out with new products, resort reports, fly tying and our End of the Line column.

UNI PRODUCTS

From Around the South:

Team Work On The Chattoga River

Text by Greg Lucas

Photo by Taylor Main

Thanks to a partnership between the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, and Trout Unlimited, large numbers of trout are stocked in the upper portions of the Chattooga River once a year, a helicopter gently laying them in backcountry areas too remote to easily be reached by vehicle.

Chattooga, Wild and Scenic River. The very words conjure up all sorts of images. If you have done a bit of whitewater paddling in the region, the Chattooga’s roaring sound pouring over and around boulders is sweet music to your ears. It is one of the longest and most spectacular free-flowing mountain rivers in the Southeast, cascading some 50 miles from its headwaters in North Carolina to the state line between South Carolina and Georgia.

But if you are a fly fisherman, or fisherwoman, or, heck, fly ANGLER, then you know the upper reaches of the Chattooga River as something special, particularly in the State of South Carolina, where we are not as blessed with trout waters as our neighboring states of Georgia and North Carolina. For it is a place where an angler can get lost in thought, lost in the music and rhythms of a river that is truly Wild and Scenic, like no other in the Palmetto State.

And thanks to an amazing partnership between the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, and Trout Unlimited, large numbers of rainbow, brook and brown trout are stocked in the upper portions of the Chattooga River once a year, a helicopter gently laying them in backcountry areas too remote to easily be reached by vehicle. On Nov. 2, an 11-mile backcountry reach of the Chattooga River was stocked.

The Chattooga, which for a good distance forms the border between South Carolina and Georgia, was the United States’ first Wild and Scenic River, designated as such in 1974. The Wild and Scenic designation resulted in the closure of most of the access roads used for trout stocking in this 11-mile section, and that’s the reason the helicopter stocking effort started.

The first helicopter trout stockings of this part of the Chattooga began about 50 years ago, and this program has been refined considerably over time. The Chauga River in Oconee was similarly stocked with trout by helicopter on the next day, Nov. 3.

“We want trout anglers to have the experience of fishing in this remote and beautiful Wild and Scenic River,” said Dan Rankin, SCDNR Upstate regional fisheries biologist. “But we also want to give them a reasonable chance for success.”

The trout fishery in this 11-mile segment of the Chattooga River is largely supported by stocking hatchery trout reared by SCDNR at Walhalla State Fish Hatchery, and by Georgia DNR at Burton State Hatchery.

Fly Fishing the South

FLY FISH BLACK CREEK

Millennials on the Water

Tennessee Valley Authority

Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

Who would have guessed that old-fashioned fly fishing would captivate a whole new generation? But it’s true: the Zen-like practice is attracting millennials by the boatload.

—There are many nicknames for the generation born between 1980 and 2000; they include Digital Natives, the Boomerang Generation, or simply millennials. From coffee to clothing, marketers track their passions closely, watching the buying habits of more than 83 million individuals. But recently, there was a trend that no one saw coming.

Fishing, specifically fly fishing, was partly an answer to social distancing prompted by COVID-19. Due in part to the younger generation’s enthusiasm, TVA’s public lands and waters saw a substantial uptick in use in 2020. Suddenly, these individuals, known for coveting computer games and cell phones, were craving hiking, biking and the perfect cast.

In reality, this trend had been growing for a while, and why not? Fly fishing is a terrific fit for a peer group that appreciates authenticity and loves a good cause. Did we mention they put the “social” in social media?

The Beauty of the Sport

Millennials also are described as being multitaskers who are achievement-oriented. Fly fisherman Bryant Sissom, falls into that category.

Sissom, who is just shy of 30, says, “The appeal of fly fishing is the number of subjects you can study, including the science of the fish themselves, their food and habitat. In addition, there’s the art of fly tying, fly casting and presentation.”

Jonah Duran’s love of the sport began with a free fly-casting class at a local outfitter. “I learned a little about casting, bought a combo and asked where to go try it out, he says. Duran, then 27, headed to Tremont (known as the Middle Prong of the Little River, near Townsend, Tennessee) and pulled in his first trout—an exciting experience.

But the adrenaline rush is not the only thing that has millennials excited.

“I like the beauty of trout fishing,” Duran says. “I’ve always enjoyed hiking, but fly fishing offers what I call ‘water hiking’ in the streams.” His favorite places are up in the mountains where brook trout, Tennessee’s only native trout, reside.

Both of these anglers appreciate mountain streams, but for great fishing with even larger fish, they head to the tailwaters, located below the dams. Sissom has logged a personal record on the South Holston River, and he’s not alone.

How TVA Helps Make it Possible

The tailwaters below TVA’s South Holston Dam promote a world-class, fly fishing environment, thanks in part to oxygen-rich waters promoted by an aerating labyrinth weir. A series of concrete barriers causes oxygen to infuse and enrich the water as it tumbles over the hurdles and ripples downstream.

“TVA supports the fisheries by maintaining cool water temperatures and sustaining minimum water flows. These create great habitat for the fish and their food sources,” explains TVA Water Resource Specialist Shannon O’Quinn.

In the 1990s, about the time the oldest millennials were headed into middle school, TVA was making tailwater improvements at 11 dams, setting the stage for extraordinary fly fishing. Today, these waters get an enthusiastic thumbs up from the fly fishing community. Duran’s favorites are the Holston River (below Cherokee Dam) and the Clinch River (below Norris Dam). A full list of these celebrated areas, plus fly fishing tips can be found here.

Thankfully, millennials are known for giving back. Both Sissom and Duran use catch-and-release conservation practices. They are members of Trout Unlimited chapters, whose mission is to protect cold-water fisheries and their watersheds.

Millennials already are inspiring others to try the sport. Their encouragement, along with social media posts of gorgeous streams and stunning trout, are good news for the fish, their watery habitat and the Tennessee Valley’s recreational economy.

G. Loomis New Warranty

Next to not catching a fish after a tough day on the water, breaking your fishing rod may be the proverbial salt in the wound. G. Loomis’ continues to provide anglers service long after the sale by updating its warranty program to include a “Born On” serial number on all new rods, along with a more straightforward rod return process for the G. Loomis’ Xpeditor Service.

“We completely understand the frustration anglers experience from either a defect that impacts the rod’s performance or from when they inadvertently break a rod,” said Dave Brinkerhoff with G. Loomis. “Between our limited lifetime warranty covering the rod’s original owner, to our no-fault, no-questions-asked Xpeditor Service, we’ll do our best to remedy nearly every situation.”

When an angler purchases a new rod, the attached hangtag will provide all the needed information to register it and activate the warranty. As G. Loomis has always done in its nearly 30-years of manufacturing performance fishing tools, they will either repair or replace when a rod breaks.

G. Loomis’ no-questions-asked Xpeditor Service is designed to get anglers back on the water fast. “If you damage or break your registered rod, the service provides a quick, same-model replacement for a very fair price,” Brinkerhoff explains. “If it does happen, call the G. Loomis toll-free customer service line (1-877-577-0600), and our staff will walk you through the process. And now instead of returning the entire broken rod within 30 days after your replacement rod arrives, all we ask is for is the logo section of the blank for identification purposes.” Depending on the rod series, the Xpeditor Service for fly rods range from $125 to $275. For fly rods more than 15 years old, the Xpeditor service fee is $250.

For complete details on G. Loomis’ limited lifetime warranty and the Xpeditor Service, how to register the rod, initiate a claim, and how to ship the rod can be found at www.gloomis.com/register, or call the G. Loomis customer service line at 877-577-0600.

Some Fish Are Easy!

North Carolina State University

Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

A new study reports that, for several species of oceanic sport fish, individual fish that are caught, released and recaught are more likely to be caught again than scientists anticipated. The findings raise some interesting questions for policy makers tasked with preserving sustainable fisheries.

The study makes use of data from tagging programs, in which researchers tag fish and release them into the wild. When those fish are caught, and the tag information is returned to the researchers, it can give scientists information that informs fishery policies.

“Fisheries researchers who work in tagging programs have long noticed that certain fish seem to get caught repeatedly, and we set out to determine the implications of this phenomenon,” says Jeff Buckel, co-author of the study and a professor of applied ecology at North Carolina State University.

To that end, researchers examined decades’ worth of Atlantic coast tagging datasets on four fish species: black sea bass (Centropristis striata), gray triggerfish (Balistes capriscus), red grouper (Epinephelus morio), and Warsaw grouper (Hyporthodus nigritus). Using a computational model, the researchers determined that—for the black sea bass and both types of grouper—survival was significantly higher after the second, third, and fourth release as compared to the first release.

“Think of it this way,” says Brendan Runde, first author of the study and a Ph.D. student at NC State. “Let’s say you tagged 1,000 fish and recaptured 100 of them for a first time. After re-releasing those 100 fish, you would only expect to recapture 10 of them a second time. But that’s not what we’re seeing. We’re seeing much higher numbers of fish getting recaptured after the second time.

We’re seeing much higher numbers of fish getting recaptured after the second time.

“Our hypothesis is that this increase in catch rate stems from selection for robust individuals,” Runde says.

In other words, because some fish don’t survive the first release, and you can’t catch a dead fish, the fish that were robust enough to survive their first encounter were more likely to survive following catch-and-release events.

The finding could have a significant impact on stock assessments, which inform fishery policies.

“One might assume that every catch and release in a recreational fishery is a unique fish,” Buckel says. “So that if 5 million black sea bass were caught and released in a given year, that would mean there were at least 5 million black sea bass in a fishery. For these three species of fish and likely many others, that’s just not true. At least some of those 5 million catches were the same fish getting caught over and over again.”

“Reliable estimates of how many unique fish are released are critical to accurately assessing the health of the population,” says Kyle Shertzer, a co-author of the study and stock assessment scientist at NOAA Fisheries.

“On the positive side, the study also suggests that for many species fish mortality from being released appears lower than we thought,” Buckel says. “For those species, if a fish survives its first release, it has an even better chance of surviving subsequent releases.”

“We think that the issues raised by our findings are likely relevant for many marine fish stock assessments that rely on catch-and-release data—though this will vary based on the species and the details of how each stock assessment is performed,” Runde says.The paper, “Repetitive capture of marine fishes: implications for estimating number and mortality of releases,” is published in the ICES Journal of Marine.

TVA Reports Record Rainfall

Tennessee Valley Authority

As of midnight, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, TVA recorded 68.27 inches on average across the Valley, surpassing the old record of 67.01 inches set in 2018.  With 2019 now the third wettest year on record at 66.47 inches of rainfall, TVA has now managed three straight years of record rainfall.

“The last three years have been a remarkable stretch of above average rainfall,” said James Everett, senior manager of TVA’s River Forecast Center. “Before 2018, the previous record had stood for 45 years. Since 2018, we’ve either set a record or come close to it every year. And the 2020 record comes with two weeks left in the calendar year, so it will likely increase.

“Also, between Oct. 1, 2019 and Sept. 30, 2020, the Tennessee Valley recorded 75.74 inches of rainfall.  This was the wettest Fiscal Year total ever in the 131-year period of record.” 

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