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Submitted by Marilyn Rogan, Program Lead, Murfreesboro, TN

Helen, GA – It couldn’t be a more perfect week-end outing for the Murfreesboro, TN PHWFF program.  Maybe it was because we were so glad to get out of the rainstorms we had been experiencing, but it was perfect.  The campground sites were great at Unicoi State Park Campground, and as we settled in Friday afternoon, all were ready to get together and socialize.  Our Chef Chris Lambert had the grills going cooking up a great meal of marinated chicken, brats and delicious hamburgers.  Peach cobbler was the topping to a great meal by the campfire.

After all tummies were filled, we went over safety rules and agenda for the weekend.  Tired, but excited about a big fishing day on Saturday.  We choose teams, one volunteer with two participants who would fish together the next day.  We had terrific streams in the city of Helen, GA., which flowed throughout the city by restaurants and attractions, none of which bother the fishermen, nor the trout.  Many of our participants caught 5-10 trout, and not small ones at that.  The Chattahoochee River is open to fishing year-round with twelve to fourteen -inch trout – mostly rainbow and some brown trout.  Some adventured upstream from Helen to enter the Chattahoochee Wildlife Management Area where there is plenty of area for wade fishing and trout. 

SmithGall Woods is North Georgia’s premier trout stream, Dukes Creek, runs through this spectacular mountain property and is a favorite for catch-and-release fishing.  Smith Lake at Unicoi State Park was full of catfish, bluegill, and bass.  Smith Creek has two sections – above the lake and below that lake – that allow trout fishing.  There are brook trout, rainbow trout, and brown trout in the creek, this area is well stocked. Other good locations were also available with good trout fishing.

Coffee was brewing, and bacon sizzling at 6AM, on Saturday morning, with gentle winds spreading the wonderful smell throughout the campgrounds.  Our participants and volunteers were ready to go fishing and were chattering about where they felt was the best spot to catch the biggest trout.  Such happy sweet sounds after being in lock down for the last two years.  Breakfast was served, and by 7AM everyone had grabbed lunch and water – headed out to what they hoped would be the best fishing hole. 

Saturday night was at the Nacoochee Village Tavern and Pizzeria.  This group was hungry and excited with more fish stories than you can image.  They caught fish, a lot of fish.  Each talking about the ones they caught and the ones that got away.  Photos were shared and conversations of sharing went on for hours.  Bonding is one of the best parts of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing.  Friends were made that will be everlasting.

Sunday morning was a repeat of Saturday, but with more excitement as I had arranged for guides from the Unicoi Outfitters.  As it happened, it was right across the street from the Tavern.  That made it easy for them to find where they should be at 7AM, to get ready for another great day of trout fishing.

The highlight of the trip was fishing with the guides on Sunday. The Unicoi Outfitters owned all the property behind their fly shop, up and down a large section of the river.  A small dam at the beginning of the area we put in, flowed down the easy to wade river, which made catching trout easier.  Especially, as we found out that the river was dammed off further downstream, so these trout were not able to get away and were fed daily. It was not uncommon for the trout to be at least 6-10 lbs. and about 15-30” . These guys fished from 7AM until late in the evening.  They were so excited to share their stories.  

It was an amazing weekend of trout fishing.  The weather was perfect, cool in the morning and evening, but not cold and warm during mid-day.   Of course, I can’t explain the excitement “Big John” experienced in catching his first really, really large trout, (20”).  It made his weekend and it made our day to share his experience, as it did with all the veterans on the trip. We hated to leave, but it was time to go and good-byes were said and everyone returned home safely.

Submitted by Marilyn Rogan, Program Lead, Murfreesboro, TN

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