Planning a Float Trip
Catching fish is only one aspect of a
successful float trip. Paddling through rapids in a setting like this helps turn
a fishing trip into a memory!
Just like there is more than one way to skin
a catfish, there are many great ways to enjoy fishing your favorite river or
stream. For my money, however, float tripping is far and away the most enjoyable
and effective method of river fishing. Float fishing allows anglers to get away
from the ramps, parks, and bridges- areas that typically receive the brunt of
fishing pressure. Plain and simple, float fishing allows anglers to fish for the
most uneducated fish in any stream, tilting the advantage even further in our
favor. Many smaller rivers and creeks are unfit for motorized craft and a lot of
Georgia waters simply get too shallow during the summer for motors to be much
help. Float fishing enables us to reach fish that others cannot, and I like my
chances casting to fish that have never seen a lure.
There is a lot more to planning a successful
float trip than simply throwing a boat in the water and heading downstream.
Floating a river requires a good deal more planning than some might expect, and
a little research beforehand can prevent a disappointing or even disastrous
Once you've chosen a river or stream you'd
like to float, the first thing to do is figure out where to put in and take out.
The Georgia Atlas and Gazetteer is widely available and is an
invaluable resource for the Georgia river rat. The Gazetteer shows
Georgia's roads and backroads in great detail, which makes finding bridges and
boat ramps a snap. Even better resources are A Paddler's Guide to Northern
and Southern Georgia (two separate books) by Bob Sehlinger and Don Otey.
These books not only illustrate access points, but they also describe the waters
(and any major hazards) and distances between access points. Both books were
published over twenty years ago and some of the material is outdated, but
these books both offer a wealth of information. Georgia River Fishing and
other web sites (particularly canoeing and kayaking sites) can also offer useful
Once you've settled on a stretch of river
you'd like to float, make sure that the float is not too long to be comfortably
fished in whatever amount of time you have. I prefer to fish no more than four
miles of river in a full day, and almost never attempt any distance over six
miles unless I plan on camping. Anglers attempting to float longer distances
need to plan on spending a good part of their day paddling rather than fishing,
and must be disciplined enough not to linger too long in one spot. Canoeing at
night can be spooky and dangerous.
Anglers also need to consider the type of
fishing they intend on doing. Live bait anglers tend to travel more slowly than
lure fishermen. Are you planning on wading? I prefer to hop out of the canoe and
wade fish whenever the opportunity presents itself, but wading really cuts into
the amount of water one can cover in a day. What about the river level? Some
rivers and streams will require a good deal of canoe dragging during the late
summer and fall. High water levels may create rapids you'd rather not attempt,
leading to time-consuming portages. Information on certain Georgia river levels
can be found at Georgia Current
Streamflow Conditions. If you are fishing in a
tailwater river (anything downstream of a major hydroelectric dam) such as the
lower Etowah, Ocmulgee, or Chattahoochee below Buford Dam, you should be aware
of generation schedules that can dramatically raise the water level and current
The best way to find information about a body
of water is by asking around. Try local tackle shops and bait stores, or hang
around the river and ask bank fishermen or landowners what they know. This web
site offers a good bit of useful information, but if you can't find what you're
looking for, try the GRF Message Board. There is someone out there who can tell
you what you need to know!
So you're finally ready to go fishing! Before
you go, keep in mind that you probably will not be floating in a bass boat, so
it will be important to travel as light as possible. Most float fishermen should
never take more than two rods (I usually take two). Leave that mammoth
tackle box with all the drawers at home, too. Put a few of your favorite lures
in a smaller box to create more room and less weight. It'd be a shame to lose
your entire portable tackle shop if you happen to take an unplanned swim. Most
float trips can be accomplished with nothing more than paddles, life jackets,
rods, tackle boxes, a drybag, cooler, and possibly an anchor. Make sure anything
of value is connected somehow to the boat.
The first goal of any float fisherman should
be to end the day as healthy as you started it. The best way to avoid river
mishaps is to make sure the river you have selected does not exceed your or your
boat's performance level. A novice canoeist should not attempt to float Talking
Rock Creek or the lower section of Amicalola Creek at high water. There are
sections of the upper Flint and upper Chattahoochee that would be extremely
frustrating and possibly dangerous in a jon boat. Make sure your craft and your
skill match the stream you plan to float.
Life jackets are a must, and a first aid kit
and sharp knife are always a good idea. It is always best to take a partner
along on a float trip, and make sure to let a third party know where you're
going and when you expect to be home. Georgia anglers should always keep an eye out
for water moccasins, particularly when passing under or near tree limbs. If you
are not sure you will be able to run a strong rapid, simply portage it. Don't
get caught on a strange river at night, either. It is no fun (trust me). Anglers
who use common sense will generally have nothing to worry about.
The most common type of float trip involves
two fishermen, two vehicles, and one boat. The fishermen will normally meet at
the take-out spot, leave one vehicle, and take the other vehicle (and the boat)
upstream to the put-in. At the end of the day, the boat is simply loaded up and
the upstream car fetched. Things can get a tad more complex if one angler drives
a convertible or some other type of car inappropriate for boat-toting. In this
case, one angler must drive the take-out vehicle back to the put-in and bring
back the boat-toter.
Another variation of the float trip is to
have a friend or spouse simply pick you up at the end of the day and haul you
back to your vehicle. A bit of advice: Don't be too late if your wife is the one
picking you up ("But honey, they were biting!"). To avoid this ugly
scene, you may try having someone follow you to the put-in in the morning,
dropping the boat off at the put-in, and and then leaving your vehicle at the
take-out spot. This method tends to be a little easier on the marriage if you
tend to lose track of the time while fishing (like I do).
Another method of one-man float tripping is
simply to motor or paddle upstream and fish your way back down. This method has
limitations on small, swift, or shallow streams but makes it easy to orchestrate
shorter solo trips. It is also possible to float downstream and then motor back
up, but as soon as you are done fishing, Murphy's Law dictates that you're motor
will not crank or a paddle will break. I have even heard of one die-hard that
stashes a bicycle at the take-out spot and pedals back to retrieve his vehicle!
It's pretty tough to make a float trip
without a boat. All is not lost, however, if you do not have access to a canoe.
As of this writing, there are canoe rental companies that provide canoes,
paddles, and life jackets on a good number of rivers and streams in Georgia.
These services also provide shuttles for a normally reasonable fee (see
Boat? No Problem!" ). All you need is food, drink, and fishing gear!
There are not too many things I'd rather do
than spend a day float-fishing a river or creek. The scenery is normally great,
other fishermen normally nonexistent, and the fish abnormally stupid- which is a
good thing. Hopefully this article has pointed novice fishermen in the right
direction and possibly given veteran float-fishermen an idea or two. A little
planning and common sense are all it takes to make it home in one piece and
provide dinner in the process!