If you do very much in the out-of-doors, one thing you’ve learned is that outdoors-minded folks are very big on giving back and paying forward – and when either of those is the subject, it’s hard to find more passionate folks than the members of Trout Unlimited, an organization whose members are passionate about trout fishing and cold-water conservation.
On Saturday, July 28, members of several Georgia TU chapters will be putting their passion into action by taking part in a “workday” on a sparkling little trout stream in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
Sure, it’s work. But it’s fun work with a purpose – and (on a hot July day) it’s cool and refreshing too. And there’s barbecue at the end.
Stream workdays, notes Foothills TU Chapter President Bruce Johnson, are held several times a year on various streams in northern Georgia and are designed to enhance trout habitat. Bruce’s TU chapter is leading this particular workday, which is being held in conjunction with the National Forest Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Typically, a workday involves construction of in-stream structures under the direction of Forest Service personnel. Volunteers provide the muscle needed to turn plans into reality by moving rocks, hauling logs, driving steel anchor rods with sledge hammers and handling whatever else needs to be done.
“It’s hard work,” Bruce says. “There’s no doubt about that. But it’s the thing to do. You can’t be a fly fisher without caring about this kind of thing.”
Although organized by Trout Unlimited chapters, workdays are open to anyone (whether a TU member or not) who wants some hands-on involvement in enhancing Georgia’s outdoors.
If you take part in a stream workday, what should you bring?
“Bring clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty and wet,” Bruce said.
A pair of work gloves is a good idea too. You’ll also need water shoes (“You won’t need waders since the creek is very small,” Bruce pointed out). Bug spray is also a good idea.
Note that you’ll have to wear a hardhat while working; hardhats will be provided. Water will be provided, too, but it’s always a good idea to bring your own water bottle.
Because room for parking is extremely limited on the Forest Service road which leads to the work area, volunteers will be meeting at the large parking area at Unicoi Gap where the Appalachian Trail crosses GA 75 (just north of Mile Marker 15) and then carpooling to the site. Plans are to meet at the parking area no later than 8:30 a.m. that morning.
If you’re coming from the Roswell area, you might even want to meet Trout Unlimited’s Upper Chattahoochee Chapter treasurer Mark Romzick at 6:30 a.m. at the Waffle House on Holcomb Bridge Road east of GA 400, and then follow him to the meeting area.
No matter how you get there, the work will take place from 9 a.m. till about noon, when the Foothills Trout Unlimited Chapter will say “thank you” to the volunteers by serving a barbecue lunch.
Speaking of food, it’s worth noting that these stream enhancement workdays are kind of like that certain brand of potato chips – you can’t stop at just one. Volunteers – Mark included – apparently find the experience mildly addictive and always look forward to the next one.
“I’ve been doing them for at least a decade and probably longer,” he says, recalling that he took part in in his first stream enhancement workday not long after moving to Atlanta.
I’ve been a part of several workdays, too, and let me tell you that it’s a rewarding experience. Sure, I’m tired (and a little bit sore!) the next day. But there’s nothing like helping to build a stream enhancement structure, breaking for lunch, and then coming back to discover that a tiny wild trout has already set up shop in the new habitat that you helped to build.
Payback happens that quickly, but the payout lasts for years.
If you’d like to participate in this workday, please let the TU folks know you’re coming (so there will be enough barbecue at lunchtime) by sending your name, email and cell number to Bruce (at email@example.com) or Mark (at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com). You can find additional info on the Upper Chattahoochee TU Chapter’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ucctu).
For more info on Georgia’s Trout Unlimited chapters, visit georgiatu.org.