I knew from the start of this adventure that I wanted to fish the Flint River. I had floated it once before and there’s nothing in Georgia waters quite like getting a popper slammed by a shoal bass in the deep eddies created by the plentiful shoals on the upper Flint.
Adventures are more fun with friends, but finding good friends who also are as obsessive about fish as you is even tougher. Fortunately, Kyle is one of those friends! I consider him to be trustworthy and someone that I can count on to join me in an adventure, AND it just so happens that he recently fished the stretch of water I was targeting, and had raved about all the good bass he caught.
At 5:30 am, we got our mugs full of coffee and headed for the Hwy. 36 put in. Our optimism was off the charts, and we decided to throw the biggest flies and lures we had to seduce some record-setting fish. However, as the float began, we quickly realized this was not going to be as easy as we had thought. The bite was dull. We put in just after 7 am, but by noon, we had only a couple of shoal bass to show for it, both caught by Kyle. I had tied and retied every fly that I had stashed in my fishing vest: Poppers, clousers, crayfish, and a big white bait fish pattern. Nothing was getting strikes. I did manage to stay occupied by enjoying the abundance of wildlife on the river, including a rough green snake saved from the swift current. He took a fancy to my fly rod and hung out with me for a short stretch of water until I released him back into a young sycamore tree.
Finally, the bite fired up around 12:30, well, for Kyle anyway, who was pulling them into the boat one after another, but I couldn’t get a hook set to save my life. I counted 9 consecutive fish that got off my line between 12:30 and 2 that day. I was distraught. Finally, an 11-inch shoalie made it into my net. I was pumped until I remembered that only regulation fish (at least 15 inches for the upper Flint) count. About ten minutes later, as I pulled my kayak up onto an island with a frown on my face, I hopelessly threw out a cast using a yellow popper into the tail end of a slow-moving pool, just as I had done countless times that day. GULP! A hungry mouth devoured my large yellow popper, and I set the hook cleanly. I wasn’t sure how large the fish was, but when I ripped drag from my reel for the first five seconds of the fight, I had a feeling this was the shoal bass I needed. After an exquisite display of acrobatics and muscle, the shoalie made it into my net. I WAS ECSTATIC. I was screaming for Kyle to come measure it – 17 inches! I now had my sixth species on the board.
Special Note on this River: For those who have never floated Yellow Jacket Shoals, I forewarn you now, it’s a gnarly float. The water is swift and has a tendency to drop you off a mini-waterfall every now and again. I would highly recommend doing this stretch with someone who has done it before. But that said, if you are looking to float the most beautiful stretch of water in the Georgia Piedmont – this might be it. In May, the Shoal Spider Lilies are in full bloom. That alone might be reason enough to risk getting dumped from your kayak to get a first person view of this incredible landscape.
I think one reason I love fishing so much is that it goes hand-in-hand with so many important life lessons. The lesson today was perseverance. I had all but given up on catching a shoal bass, but when I finally did, it made the reward that much sweeter. Here’s to bass, the best of teachers.
For those keeping tabs: Georgia Bass Slam summary – so far:
- Caught: 6 (Bartram’s, Smallmouth, Largemouth, Spotted, Chattahoochee, Shoal)
- Failed: 1 (Suwannee) – but will try again!
- Remaining: 3 (Tallapoosa, Coosa, Altamaha)
Tyler Lipham, 4th year student at the Dental College of Georgia, previously graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from the Warnell School of Forestry. In his free time, he enjoys any and all things dealing with wild waters and woods.