October 17, 2017
Tampa Bay is a saltwater angler’s paradise. But there are a number of residents who moved here from other parts of the country, and those places may have harbored freshwater trout, such as rainbows, brookies and browns.
To fish for these popular freshwater species, you need to find cold (mid 50 degrees) and clean water. So many anglers, fly-fishermen in particular, drive to the mountains in northern Georgia for the opportunity to hook up with freshwater trout. Georgia hosts more than 100,000 anglers each year on more than 4,000 miles of trout streams and lakes, according to the state’s Wildlife Resources Division. The Toccoa and Chattahoochee rivers are famous trout streams that draw anglers from all over, including Florida.
But before you can catch these cherished fish, you’ll need a valid license and some essential gear.
Trout thrive in cold water, generally in the range of about 52 to 58 degrees. Many times, in order to have room to cast, you’ll have to enter the water for prolonged periods of time. So waders are your friend. They’re designed to keep you warm and dry. They’re basically neoprene, rubber or vinyl pants that come up to either the crotch area (hip waders) or the chest. They come in stocking foot (like socks) or boot foot. Chest waders should be worn with a wading belt for safety. This prevents water from filling the waders too rapidly and pulling you under if you have a misstep and fall in.
Shoes or wading boots should be chosen with care. Some have felt on the bottoms, which help prevent slipping on slick, moss-covered rocks. However, many states have bans against these bottoms because diseases can be transferred from one stream to another through the felt. The most acceptable shoes and boots have rubber or studded bottoms.
Fly-fishing anglers generally prefer rods in the 7- to 9-foot range in length, and anything from a 3-weight (very light) to a 6-weight (sturdier). The lighter the rod, the more fight the fish is able to put up.
Spin fishing anglers generally use ultralight rods (6 feet in length) to light tackle rods of about 71/2 feet.
Fly anglers don’t need sophisticated reels for small trout. You basically need a way to manage the line and retrieve it when you have a fish on. You can pair a simple click drag reel with an ultralight 3 weight rod for brook trout in smaller streams. You can spool it with a matching weight-forward floating fly line (usually 90 feet in length), 100 yards of backing, a 7- to 9-foot tapered leader and a tippet that ties to the fly. For bigger rivers and lakes, and bigger fish, many anglers get a bigger reel capable of holding more backing.
Spin fishing anglers use reels in the 2000 series range spooled with 10-15 pound test monofilament line.
To entice these freshwater trout, fly anglers generally fish dry flies on the surface (caddis, Adams, beetle or ant imitations are popular), streamers under the surface (Zonker, Wooly bugger and Muddler minnows) and nymphs down deep (Prince, Copper John, Zebra Midge). These flies imitate the different lifecycle phases of insects and baitfish that live in and around a stream.
Spin anglers favor spoons, inline spinners and lures or baits that imitate crickets or mealworms. They are generally on small hooks in the 12 to 16 range.
The most commonly used accessories for fly anglers and spin anglers alike are nippers (for clipping line) and forceps (for removing hooks from the mouths of fish). Yes, some anglers are known for carrying quite a bit of gear. To help with that, a pocket-filled vest or a chest pack or sling pack are common options.
With the right setup and essential equipment, even newbies to trout fishing can be successful and enjoy the outdoors.