If you live in the South long enough, your path will inevitably at some point lead you to the metro Atlanta area. Whether it be weddings, graduations, business conferences, Panic shows at the Fox, layovers, or perhaps even a family trip to explore the wonders of Underground Atlanta and the World Of Coke, no true Southerner escapes the great suck that is Hotlanta (one of my least favorite terms ever created by humans). My trips to Atlanta have been numerous and generally forgettable. There’s always traffic, a hotel lobby, more traffic, an event, more traffic, my car getting broken into (on three separate occasions), and more traffic. I stand before you today, my fishy friends, a converted man. Atlanta is the snip-snap double shiznit with some salami on top. The key is never going into Atlanta itself.
“What, whaat, whaaat???” you say. “How can you go to Atlanta without going into in Atlanta? What is this trickery you purport?” The answer to this (and many other mysterious questions), is urban sprawl, my confused friends. These days, you can technically be in Atlanta and still be miles away from, well, Atlanta. We could go round and round on this point like a Laurel and Hardy bit, but in the most simple terms, if you see Buckhead you’ve gone too far. You’ll know Buckhead because there’s a cop in every bar waiting on a tussle to break out. By getting off the freeway well north of the big city, you not only save yourself a four hour traffic jam, you land yourself in one of the most diverse and all-around fun urban fisheries in the country. You name it, Atlanta’s got it; trout, yup; carp, by the thousands; Bass, you bet your ass; redfish, well the boys over at Georgia Tech are working on it and expect to have it done by spring of next year in time for tailing season on the lower Hooch. The greatness of this fishery is that for the most part, it’s an in-town fishery accessible to all and utilized by not as many as you’d think, at least for what we want it for.
Timing is everything in fishing, and the same holds true when planning an urban jungle invasion. The moon phase as well as Steve’s menstrual cycle dictated one day of trout on the Hooch with our pal Greg Morgan of River Through Atlanta and one day of Lake Lanier Striper with the only Brooklyn striper guide we could find in Georgia, Henry Cowan. The Chattahoochee is hard to spell and has a lot of letters. The other thing you’re gonna wanna know about the Hooch is that Hooch is a lot easier to spell. What the river lacks in ease of spelling it more than makes up for in ease of accessibility and sheer amount of fish both stocked and wild. I am not gonna blow smoke up your kilt and tell you that if you close your eyes you might think you were in Alaska. Well, I guess if you close your eyes you can imagine you’re wherever you want, but we floated on a Saturday in Metro Atlanta and had six miles of river to ourselves for the majority of the day. On top of that we caught fish all day long. Just to put that statement in perspective, the last time I pulled into my local tailwater put-in, which is located in a town with less than a tenth the population of Atlanta, on a Saturday, there were 25 boat trailers. I have no idea where they all came from, but needless to say I did not put in there. Wild brown trout and solitude in a city with almost 5.5 million people… that ain’t a bad thing.
Our next little jaunt took us north to Lake Lanier, which provides all the previous day’s trout the precious cold water they need to survive. Above the dam is one of the most prolific striper fisheries in the Southeast. Fishing for landlocked striper was a new game for me. A really good morning session has now turned it into what I lie awake thinking about at night. None of the fish we caught were huge by striper standards, but 12 pounds of pissed off runaway freight train striper is the most fun I can remember having for a long, long time, especially on a lake for that matter. Lucky for us, our first time was made gentle by the one of the South’s favorite carpetbagging adopted sons, Henry Cowen. I probably learned more things that I could take to my fishery in that four-hour session with Henry than I could have spending a thousand hours wandering the Internet and the lake blindly. There is something about hunting those fish that will stick with me and my future fishing plans like a bad case of striper herpes.
I live in what most folks consider one of the fishier spots in the Southeast, and I can honestly say a wee bit of jealousy crept up as I left Georgia in the rearview. To have all that water in your backyard is enough to make me almost consider leaving Asheville for Atlanta, but then I remember the traffic. I will say though that after a couple of days in Atlanta doing nothing but fishing, that next wedding invitation might not be met with quite so much derision on my end.
I’d personally like to thank both Greg Morgan at River Through Atlanta and Henry Cowan for showing me the error of my ways, and turning me into what can only be described as a true Georgia Peach. Click on their links, book trips from them, and don’t bother trying to understand Henry…He’s from Brooklyn.