Trout Unlimited

Rivers and streams can be beautiful, peaceful and enjoyable. Yet sometimes things happen that can turn a great day on pretty stream into something not too pleasant and possibly life threatening.

The rivers of Northwest Georgia have become a major destination for kayaks, canoes, tubes and jon-boats. Most of the folks on the river are there just to cool off, hang out with friends and enjoy the water.

Every year there are new boaters who have never floated or fished rivers and creeks. They know a trip from bridge to bridge by car may only take a few minutes and assume that a float would only be a few hours. They later find out that a float on that lazy stream between those same two bridges can often take many hours.

Some novice river people spend too much time swimming, picnicking or just not moving downstream fast enough to get out by dark. Sometimes the boaters decide late in the day to make a trip only to find out that they should have left much earlier. Help usually comes after a 911 call.

It is best ask someone who floats the river regularly about float time before making your first river trip. It is always better to be out by dark than to have the fire department try to find you.

Rivers and creeks have distinct personalities and some can change quickly from peaceful to a raging torrent. Variations in current speed and depth can happen due to water releases from dams or from nature.

When I lived in Cedartown I was wade-fishing one of my favorite spots on Big Cedar Creek. The water was low and clear and although I could hear distant thunder, there was no rain. I decided to head home and as I got closer to home, there was brown water rising out of the banks of Big Cedar and moving much faster than normal. A heavy upstream rain greatly changed the water flow. Had I kept fishing, I might have found it difficult to cross the creek.

Small mountain streams can rise very rapidly. After a heavy rain at Rainbow Springs on the Nantahala we decided to head north about 20 miles and fish another stream. We followed the road that paralleled the river. As we drove, the river suddenly changed from high, fast and muddy to a clear, low-flowing mountain stream. I went farther down and pulled over. I took several pictures that showed the water going from clear, low and mild to chocolate, high and violent. Always be aware of weather conditions, especially when on mountain streams.

Steve Kemp and I drove to a striper holes on the Etowah. The conditions were perfect. We waded out onto a shallow area to cast and were almost immediately catching fish. After about an hour I noticed a change in the water color. The river was rising due to the generators at Allatoona Dam being turned on about six hours earlier. I almost had to beg Steve to quit casting and get out of the water. The stripers were feeding heavily in the rising water and Steve was so busy fishing that he did not realize the water was rising.

Rivers below hydroelectric dams can rise as much as five feet or more and increase speed in a matter of a few minutes. The closer a person is to the dam, the faster the water will rise.

Almost all hydroelectric dams have numbers to call and that will let you know the scheduled dam releases. (Those times are subject to change without warning.) Depending on gradient and the number of turbines, the flow can be 4 to 6 or more miles per hour. Don’t let your boat leave without you.

Always have a rope secured to the boat so you can tie the boat to a limb if you are on shore. When on the water be aware that tree limbs that are normally over your head might now be touching the water and can knock you out of the boat or raft. That happened to a fellow TU member on the White River.

When boating, always take life jackets, first aid kit, flashlight and extra food and water just in case.

♦ Kids Fishing Day is June 18 at Rolater Park in Cave Spring.

There is a little more than a week before the Trout Unlimited Kids Fishing Day. There is still time to get the kid some more practice casting, reeling and landing fish. Remember there is a 5 fish limit per child in the pond and the DNR enforces the 8 fish limit. Fishing is permitted in the creek all day long and anyone 16 or older must have a license and a trout stamp to fish the creek. Registration of kids starts at 8:30 a.m. and the youngest kids start pond fishing at 9 a.m.

Paul DiPrima of Trout Unlimited, Coosa Valley Chapter, can be reached at PaulDiprima@aol.com.

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