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The Sipsey River - Possible Blue Ribbon Trout Water?
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gmreeves
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Joined: 11 Apr 2008
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Location: Birmingham, AL

PostPosted: Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:43 pm    Post subject: The Sipsey River - Possible Blue Ribbon Trout Water? Reply with quote

I learned to fly fish going to the Sipsey in search of trout. It took me several trips before I hooked and landed one. I think I actually caught my first trout in the GSMNP and later caught a Sipsey trout. It was a great day. It has probably been close to 10 years since I have fished the Sipsey . I am a member of the Sipsey chapter of TU and have only been able to make it to a few meetings over the past couple of years. I am glad there is a chapter and that there is a place for locals to get together and talk trout and cold water conservancy. Honestly, I can't ever see myself enjoying a day on the Sipsey in search of trout. They are not the type of trout that I can see myself targeting. Not because I am some sort of dry fly, barbless hook, catch and release type of purist, but it just isn't my style. I don't have anything against anyone who enjoys the Sipsey for what it is. I am glad they have a place to go to catch trout in Alabama. About the only way I would ever go back to the Sipsey is if there was a decent chance to catch a trout that didn't look like it came fresh out of the hatchery truck and swimming around in circles in one or two pools. I don't have the answers in how to make the Sipsey into that type of fishery and that is why I usually stay out of these discussions. It is not my "home water" and I know there are more anglers than myself that frequent the fishery. After all, we live in Alabama, not Montana, Colorado, or New England. I think for some, they live in Alabama and they know there are trout located in a public stream and want to make it into their own slice of what they see as the best possible stream to fit their own needs. We all have those thoughts when we go and fish a local river and see things we don't agree with it. There is no wrong or right. Would I like to be able to drive an hour, put on the waders while I watch fish rise to a good hatch as it starts to emerge in the morning sun, scan the water for the perfect lie, tie on a fly I tied to match the local bug, and watch as a perfect drift results with a fly disappearing in the ring of a rise? Yep. Will I ever see it in Alabama? Nope. I can honestly say, I don't think every regulation possible to protect the Sipsey for trophy trout fishing, even with 24/7 LEO supervision, is going to result in anything but a put and take fishery. The short stretch of available wadeable water just isn't enough to promote good flow, aquatic insects, good ambush spots for trout, and the amount of water to sustain the number of people that use it to put food on the table or a place to enjoy cool water in the southern summer heat.
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Purple Squirrel
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Location: "The difference between fly fishers and worm dunkers is the quality of their excuses." ~ A

PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice post GMR, I appreciate your input based on your traveling fishing experience, I'm sooo jealous Cool . The more I travel to trout fish the harder it is to be happy fishing the Sipsey, I am beginning to understand why some hunters have trouble hunting in Bama after busting ducks in Arkansas or droping a 280lb 10 point in Iowa.
There is nothing wrong with having hopes and dreams of a great trout fishery in Alabama but having realistic goals should stear the way.
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jdavis22
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Location: Clanton, AL

PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have read this post 3 times and really agree with it more and more each time I read it. I would love to have the opportunity to travel to many other places to trout fish and will as time goes on, but I do enjoy going to the Sipsey and catching fish there. Will it ever be a trophy trout water? In my opinion, no. Could it be better than it is, I think so. Have some put the cart before the horse, by all means. I would love to be able to go up there and catch 20" plus fish on a regular basis, but don't really think this is a possibility. I don't think that the state ever had that intention when they started stocking trout there. The biggest issue with making rules and regulations governing the trout fishing at the Sipsey is that there are not enough game wardens to enforce them and not enough people concerned with following the rules either. Until these things change, lets enjoy the Sipsey for what it is, a place to introduce people to the sport of trout fishing and a short drive to catch some tastey fish.
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gmreeves
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wrote that last night after suffering my way through wathcing the Emmy's with my wife while hurrying to get to the bottom of a bottle of red wine. After I hit submit, I was worried what everyone might think. I'm not saying give up on the Sipsey but as Earl said, we should have some realistic goals. I think the things that TU has done for the Sipsey is a great thing and they would not have been accomplished without them. I think it will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of years. It has been a while since I have been to a meeting but I beleive Alabama Power has agreed to up the minimal flow through the damn in their new licensing deal. That should add more dissolved oxygen and contribute to better stream conditions. That could add vegetation, bugs, and more holding areas for fish resulting in smarter fish which could lead to larger fish. Maybe that is just a pipe dream but change doesn't happen over night, good or bad.
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Scott S
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

gmreeves wrote:
It has been a while since I have been to a meeting but I beleive Alabama Power has agreed to up the minimal flow through the damn in their new licensing deal. That should add more dissolved oxygen and contribute to better stream conditions. That could add vegetation, bugs, and more holding areas for fish resulting in smarter fish which could lead to larger fish. Maybe that is just a pipe dream but change doesn't happen over night, good or bad.
Wow....You need to get out more Greg! Very Happy All of that has been approved with hard dates set. They are increasing flow, building better access, and will also be adding more structure work to the river. By January we'll be up to about 100 CPS on the Sip and the new aerators will dramatically increase the dissolved oxygen.

Our biggest problem, as Jason stated, is the complete lack of enforcement. Until that is enhanced, I'm not sure the stream will ever be what we all want but the habitat and flow issues will no longer be the problems.
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mat1583
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A former guide for Brigadoon Lodge told me that every time they took a picture of one of the monster browns, he told his clients to keep the tail fin in the water. This was because they didn't want clients noticing the worn down fin from the fish circling around the concrete tanks they grew up in Rolling Eyes

Some of the things that make that stretch of the Soque river awesome for trout is the combined efforts of the Brigadoon Lodge, the University of Georgia, fly fishermen and the strict catch and release laws and enforcement by the state. The reason they're enforced is because the state has a vested interest in that area in the form of revenue from fly fishermen that come from all over the world. Yes, you can catch good numbers of large fish in that section, but it comes with a price - catch and release only and expensive guides. Is it worth it? Well, it depends on who you talk to. The more demand for trophy waters and the more potential the state of Alabama sees in the Sipsey, the more they will invest in improving the Sipsey.

Could the Sipsey follow in the Soque's footsteps? Perhaps to an extent. I just don't believe there's enough of a demand for trophy trout waters in Alabama when you can travel a few more hours to get supreme trophy waters plus plenty of natural trout streams. As for me? It seems a bit silly to even consider it when I have the option of visiting uncle Mike every year in trout heaven (Bozeman, MT).
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gmreeves
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm no fisheries biologist but there is no comparison between other tailwaters or free stone rivers in the south and the Sipsey. The Chattahoochee, Elk, Hiawassee, Clinch, Toccoa, South Holston, Watauga, the White, Little Red, and the Norfork all are completely different than what we have access to in our state. The diversity in bug life, the miles of cool flowing water for fish and anglers to spread out, and the cooperation of the government agencies and the public are what make those streams what they are. The Sipsey, in all of it's few miles of trout habitat is virtually all public with great access owned by the power company. There will never be any lodges on it's banks or numerous guide shops bringing people to the river to produce tax revenue worthy of enforcing strict angling laws. Brandon has one of the best and fullest fly shops I have been too, I've been to more than my fare share and worked for a couple, and I'm sure he can tell you that the Sipsey is not the biggest destination for trout enthusiasts. I'm pretty sure he would like it to be that way and he is going to do everything in his power to make it that way but it isn't in the immediate future. For now, I think we will get to see what the increased minimal flow is going to do to for the river and if it does help out, which I hope it does, maybe then regulations can be put into practice that will benefit the whole instead of the few. In the mean time, there is plenty of water I haven't fished in this state that warrants my attention for the bass and bream that makes the state such a great place to fish.

Edit: The Soque, Noontootlah Farms, and all of the other pay to play fisheries in GA are there because private land owners have rights to the rivers and they can govern them the way they want too. You are not able to even wade through the private water in GA due to their land owner rights. This allows the land owners to feed the fish, stock the fish, and only allow certain companies to guide on the water. That is a big deal as far as money goes. They have it made for some. For those of us that can't afford it, were left out. I'm o.k. with that. Capitalism in action. That is big bucks as far as revenue is concerned for the fisheries department and other local governments. One day I'll save up some coins and go have fun for the day but for now, I'll stick to the miles of public trout water in the other states.
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mat1583
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gmreeves wrote:


Edit: The Soque, Noontootlah Farms, and all of the other pay to play fisheries in GA are there because private land owners have rights to the rivers and they can govern them the way they want too. You are not able to even wade through the private water in GA due to their land owner rights. This allows the land owners to feed the fish, stock the fish, and only allow certain companies to guide on the water. That is a big deal as far as money goes. They have it made for some. For those of us that can't afford it, were left out. I'm o.k. with that. Capitalism in action. That is big bucks as far as revenue is concerned for the fisheries department and other local governments. One day I'll save up some coins and go have fun for the day but for now, I'll stick to the miles of public trout water in the other states.


Thanks for mentioning this. I meant to but got lost while I was also trying to do some real work Smile Private ownership has certainly made this stretch much more than it would have been with miles of public access.
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gmreeves
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 4:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a big thing right now on the Toccoa. Land owners are putting up signs saying that people floating by in pontoons, kayaks, what have you aren't allowed to fish or stop anywhere on their property. The law says that as long as they don't wade or drop an anchor they are legal but there are supposedly people threatening to call the cops etc. Personally I like our laws better.
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Purple Squirrel
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is private ownership on both sides of the Sipsey south of the bridge, the landowners just haven't chosen to use it in that way. The flyshop has several hundred yards of streambank at it's dispossal and I don't think it would be illegal to feed public, free roaming fish.
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jdavis22
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gmreeves wrote:
It's a big thing right now on the Toccoa. Land owners are putting up signs saying that people floating by in pontoons, kayaks, what have you aren't allowed to fish or stop anywhere on their property. The law says that as long as they don't wade or drop an anchor they are legal but there are supposedly people threatening to call the cops etc. Personally I like our laws better.

I have been reading on the blue ridge fly fisherman's forum that this is starting to be an issue on the South Holston also. There have even been issues of people being issued tresspasssing citations for fisihing in those areas. I definitely don't want to see Alabama get to this.
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ed mashburn
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:08 pm    Post subject: re: sipsey fork and trophy trout Reply with quote

Good evening all- this is a very interesting topic. I used to live 30 minutes from the White River in Arkansas and I went to college an hour from Little Red river in Arkansas. I've spent a lot of time trout fishing both of those tailrace trout rivers when I was supposed to be doing other things...
The Sipsey is not much smaller than the Little Red River, but the biggest difference that I have seen in my visits to the Sipsey is that deep holes- by this I mean 20-30 feet deep holes- are much more common on both the Red and White Rivers. I believe that deep water gives the stocked fish more protection from anglers and also safe feeding sites.
Also, the Red River in particular has much better weed growth on the bottom. this is the source of fresh water shrimp growth, and that is the reason trout get so big in the Arkansas rivers.
I certainly don't claim to be a trout habitat expert, but I persoanlly think more and varied bottom structure- especially deeper water- is key to producing bigger trout. good fishing to all- Ed Mashburn
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Scott S
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 9:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent comments and observations, Ed. There will be additional structures placed in the river and the hope is to essentially create fishable water from the bridge to the dam. I have no idea how it will all work out but for the first time in its history, the Sip is having some work done on it to make it a better trout fishery.

I don't think anyone is trying to make it a big trout destination but they at least want to make it the best it can be.
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fishhawk
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've only fished the Sipsey a couple of times and never when the water was down low enough to wade, so I really don't know what I'm talking about but that won't stop me.

I'm all for making it better if it can be improved - seems like a no brainer to me. Just because it will never be comporable to some other locations, doesn't mean it shouldn't get some love.

For instance, Gulf Shores will never be comparable to Hawaii. I can't afford to go to Hawaii so I'll have to stick with Gulf Shores. Is it where I would go if I could choose anywhere I wanted to go? Probably not, but it's what I can do.

There will always be somewhere better no matter where you are.
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gmreeves
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not saying that the Sipsey shouldn't be improved if it can, just that with the limited amount of resources, should it be restricted to such a small and select user group. Again, I think that everything that the Sipsey TU chapter has done for the river is great and I think over the next few years, we will all see what they have accomplished. I think it is only going to get better and better but the fact of the matter is, there are only a couple of hundred yards of wadeable water. I agree, make the best with what you have.
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