Welcome to the test kitchen, aka the jet boat. My name is Eric Hurst, and I’m a full-time fly fishing guide and fly tyer. If I’m not running a trip, you can find me cooking up some meaty fly patterns. There’s something really special about creating flies and getting them dialed in to mimic real baitfish or matching bugs. The Sage R8 Core has been an awesome catering utensil for serving up the meals.

I became a guide primarily because of my passion for the sport and my deep-seated desire to share my enthusiasm for the things I love with others. I’m always trying to grow and learn; guiding has shown me a lot about myself and others. It’s really great how you can hang out with a 90-year-old one day and an 8-year-old the next day with the stoke levels just about the same. We have great fisheries in the south, which means every day I guide is an opportunity to educate others on how we can take care of the fisheries for future generations.

This sport will only continue to grow, so I constantly ask myself, “How can we, as anglers, continue to help and keep these places special?” My solution is to all work together and help this river and other rivers continue to be better than they already are. I guide a lot on multiple tailwaters in the south, and they all have something special about them, but I always keep finding myself back on the tailwater closest to home. I get asked a lot when guiding what my favorite river is or where I would fish if I had to choose. The Hooch always pops to the top of my list. Throughout my years of fishing, the Hooch has been my greatest teacher. It has pushed me to my limits, and there have been moments when I swore I’d never cast a line there again because of the sheer difficulty. Yet, on other days, it reveals its most rewarding side. I think everyone has that special place that you keep coming back to. This is one of mine.

One of my favorite ways to approach fly fishing is throwing the big stuff. I’m a streamer dreamer. I’ve been using the Sage R8 Core 7wt for serving the meat on the tailwaters, and it has lived up to the demand of the heavy flies. Being able to make a lot of casts while streamer fishing is key. The Sage R8 Core impresses not only with its precision but also with its ability to handle the weight of flies more effortlessly, preserving your arm strength and ensuring you can keep the grind going. 

Having the right tools for the job really helps when you’re on the water daily. Me and my friend Baker Davenport have been working hard together to figure out this river. We’ve put a lot of time and effort into fishing the Hooch and other rivers in the South East. While I love the fishing to be good, It’s the tougher days that really teach you the most. The problem-solving of this sport only makes you stronger. If it was easy, would it be as fun? I like to think not… at least that helps me sleep at night.

I currently guide River through Atlanta on the Chattahoochee, and Baker and I are currently working on starting our own company for guiding and hopefully a fly shop down the road called Overflow Outfitters. Be on the lookout for that…we’re really excited about it. We look forward to growing and educating more clients about the water we love. I’ve gathered a lot of great information on the trout populations and bug life from Chris Scalley, owner of River Through Atlanta. I love surrounding myself with others who continue pushing me, so I never stop growing and learning.

Let’s Talk Science and Conservation

2005 was the last year that DNR stocked brown trout on the upper section of the Hooch between Buford Dam and Morgan Falls. The biologist at the time was Chris Martin, and he concluded with his electro-fishing surveys that there was a robust wild population of browns established on this expansive stretch with spawning habitat on sprawling gravel beds throughout. A self-sustaining wild brown trout population is living proof of high water quality on the Hooch, meaning these fish are the “canaries in the coal mine!”

We have an 11-year data set from 1998-2011 with six sampling sites throughout the tailwater to help monitor water quality and prove there are good food sources for the fish population. We have restarted the invertebrate sampling in the summer of 2023 and plan to continue quarterly samples for the next decade. The Army Corps of Engineers has partnered with The Nature Conservancy with a national water quality program in the spring of 2023 called the SRP “Sustainable Rivers Project,” where the Corps is looking at improving water quality with more suitable flows and dissolved oxygen levels for the benefit of the sport fishery where it is practical. This program has initiated our invertebrate work to help illustrate these improvements.

This information is just a little on why anglers need to keep pushing to help this river. We all talk about the brown trout naturally reproducing, but at the same time, we could be doing more to keep them thriving. It’s unique to have a naturally reproducing brown trout fishery this far south; this drives me and others to get more attention on the conservation needs in this fishery.

A few things I think could be beneficial for the future of the fishery:

  • Lowering the fish limit one can take, along with a standard on size limits.
  • A closed spawning section during certain times of the year.
    • There are a couple of other tailwaters that close spawning sections, and it has a noticeable impact on the populations.
  • A catch-and-release-only section of the river could also help fish reproduce and revive the populations.

Consider how this river would be in five to ten years if some of these steps were implemented. Let’s all keep fishing and having fun while at the same time being mindful of the special places that allow us to do what we love. We wouldn’t have this sport without the fish, so when you’re out there, leave it better than you found it. Without them growing and thriving, it would be really hard to catch the beast we’re always hunting for. Come book a trip with us at Overflow Outfitters, and we can show you how special this river is.

Thank you to Sage Fly Fishing for supporting this Angler Story. If you are looking for your next streamer setup. Look no further than the Sage R8 Core 9ft 7wt. That is Eric’s rod of choice for throwing his homemade streamers.

Photos By: Adam Pecht

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