Small creeks mean small fish — here, a tiny wild native brook trout.

One of the universal truths about fishing is that you’ll do best if you fish where the fish are – and the kind of fish you’re pursuing determines exactly where that “where” happens to be.

Take me as an example. My very favorite kind of fishing is to fly fish for wild fish on tiny, remote streams located far back in the mountains. Sometimes that means I’m targeting small wild rainbow or brown trout. If I do a good job of sneaking up on them, they’ll usually take a fly enthusiastically.

Other times, if I’m willing to go a little farther back into the backcountry, the focus will shift to wild, native brook trout – Georgia’s only truly native trout. They’re my very favorite.

What is it that makes wild brook trout so appealing? That’s a good question. It’s certainly not size. These wild fish are usually very small, since they grow to fit the stream in which they live. I’ve caught many in the 4- to 5-inch range. A 6-inch wild brook trout is a big one. One measuring 7 or 8 inches earns bragging rights. 

Rarely, very rarely, wild brook trout get even larger. Yes, there’s a story there. It unfolded like this:

I was fishing a very remote creek in a very remote corner of a very remote section of national forest. Which creek specifically? Well, I don’t believe I said – but don’t take that personally. 

You see, dyed-in-the-wool backcountry brook trout fisherman zealously guard the names and locations of their favorite streams, and I can understand why. Those little crystal-clear and ice-cold flows are treasures not easily found, and the “blueliner” who puts in the effort may not want to simply give away the results. That’s just the way it is.

What’s a “blueliner?” A blueliner is a backcountry fisherman (usually a very serious fly fisher) who has fallen in love with creeks so small that they may be known as tiny “blue lines” on maps. I proudly admit to being a blueliner myself. I’ll spend hours poring over maps looking for likely blueline streams, figuring out from the map data whether or not the stream holds promise (and how to get to it if it does!). The latter part of that equation often involves some really hard cross-country hiking, navigating by GPS or with map and compass. It’s an activity that takes you far, far, far from the beaten track. Getting lost is a possibility if you’re not careful and conscientious. Do I speak from experience? Possibly -- but that’s a story for another column.

If you ask a dedicated blueliner where he or she has been fishing, the answer may be “Idbis Creek” – “Idbis” as in “I don’t believe I said.” 

Yes, he will often be willing to take you there, reasoning that if you’re willing to endure the extreme hiking (the heat, the strenuous climbs, and the ticks, and the yellow jackets, and the occasional bear or rattlesnake or copperhead…really, I’m not kidding) that it takes to reach these hidden waters, then you have proven yourself worthy. But as for just giving you a list of names or GPS coordinates, understand that it’s probably not going to happen.

It’s not personal. It’s just bluelining. And it is oh so much fun!

Anyway, the other weekend, I was bluelining on a creek (yep, Idbis Creek) somewhere way up in the mountains. It was east of Helen, or west of Hiawassee, maybe in northern Georgia or North Carolina or somewhere (yeah, yeah, I don’t believe I said) – and it was remote with a capital R. Hours (literally) of hot and sweaty backcountry bushwacking were required just to get to it, sometimes fighting through thickets of laurel that resembled nothing so much as gnarly tangles of spring steel. If you’ve ever tried to thrash through one of those, you know exactly what I mean.

Eventually I reached the water, and on my very first cast, I caught a tiny 3-inch brook trout – a quick photo and then the barbless hook made for an equally quick release.

Another, a little bigger, came on my third cast, and another, bigger still, on the one after that.

And then, to cut to the chase, on the very last cast of the day…

I dropped the little fly (a barbless yellow-bellied tan Humpy for you fly fishers out there) near the lip of a pool. There was a flash, a splash, and I suddenly found myself connected to a brook trout of Biblical proportions. 

Biblical, in this case, means about 12 inches long. It was the biggest wild brook trout I’d ever seen. I’m sure, because I got a really good look at him right before he turned 180 degrees and tossed the barbless fly right back at me and then disappeared back into the depths of his watery home.

“Holy cow!” I whispered out loud

But now I know his address. I hope he’ll still be swimming there, too, when I once again get the fortitude and the resolve to make another backcountry pilgrimage to that secret place, to that crystalline stretch of ice-cold water where he lives.


And a “Tie A Fly Day’ recap

It was exciting to meet so many of you at Tie A Fly Day the other Saturday at Alpharetta Outfitters! There was a great turnout, and it was fun to meet everyone. Folks of all ages stopped by to learn to tie a trout fly. It was fun!

Folks of all ages dropped in to see how much fun fly tying can be, but one of the neatest things was the number of young people who came by to participate. Moms and Dads brought kids as young as 6 years old, and all did a fine job of tying what was, in just about every case, their first self-tied fly.

By the way, Fly Tying Day was so much fun and the feedback was so great that we’re planning on doing it again. Mark your calendar for Saturday, Nov. 10, for another Fly Tying Day at Alpharetta Outfitters. It’ll be another opportunity to say hello and learn to tie a fly. Cost? None – it’s totally free! We’re going to try a take-a-number system this time, too, and I think it’ll be a lot of fun. Plan to drop by even if you came to the first one! It will be another great chance to enjoy the waters of fly tying while tying your own trout fly too!


Steve Hudson is author of numerous books on fly fishing, including BLUELINING 101, a guide to discovering and exploring “blueline” streams like the one described here. Signed copies are available from the author at It’s also available from many local outfitters and on Amazon.

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