Monday, June 26, 2017

An Hour in the Woods - Noontootla

It has been a while since I had one of those moments . . . . The beautiful quotes from the likes of Thoreau and Muir on the wonders of nature seem to resonate during these brief moments in time.  A feeling of peace and tranquility pass through your mind, body, and spirit during these moments - at least that is what it feels like to me. I don't go looking for these moments in life.  They come on unexpectedly, but when they "hit", it's a magical sensation.
I had one yesterday; a Sunday - at a time when I would normally be attending church services.   I tied a fly the night before, rigged up the 4 wt. bamboo I made about a year ago, and jumped in the truck to fish Noontootla for an hour.   The water was a little cloudy, which was perfect.  I didn't care if I caught a fish, I just wanted to get in the woods for an hour.
Noontootla is a free stone creek that hasn't been stocked in decades.  The fish are wild, and often quite challenging. It's easy to get skunked on Noontootla.
It is rare in the South to catch a truly wild trout in a freestone stream that is 12 inches or more that hasn't been fed. That's simply the reality of fishing in the South, and it's probably why people love to fish DH streams, tailwaters, and private "trophy managed streams" in this area.  Unlike fishing a small southern wild trout stream, DH streams, tailwaters, and trophy managed streams allow anglers to catch large fish, and sometimes, it's quite easy in those setting to catch fish that would rival the fish in Western streams and rivers.   In contrast, If you fish wild streams, for example, in the Smokies, a "trophy" is a 12-14 inch fish.
Noontootla has always appealed to me.  It's absolutely beautiful.  The stream is small, though it is large enough in some areas to cast a little line if you want to.  The fish are generally small, like most wild freestone trout streams in the South; however, Noontootla is unique insofar as there is a legitimate chance to catch a large trout.  And, if you like brookies, the feeder streams offer that opportunity as well.  Noontootla is regulated, so you'll mostly see people fly fishing, and it is rarely crowded on the creek.
I have never caught a large fish in Noontootla.  I would venture to say 9 inches is the largest trout I've caught in that watershed.  I met a guy fishing the creek a few years ago who had that look on his face, and we spoke.  He had just caught a 19 inch rainbow.  He said he had been fishing the creek for 20 years, and it was his first large trout caught and landed on Noontootla.
Yesterday was a good day. An hour of fishing, and 6 fish to hand.  Most were small, and none were big by typical standards.  I caught a beautiful 12 inch rainbow, and that was a "trophy" in my book.  A wild 12 inch bow on 6x tippet with a 4 wt bamboo - it's doesn't get much better. I took a quick picture, revived the fish, and stood watching the river for about 5 minutes.  I got that feeling, and there is nothing like it!