Gary Merriman’s Fish Hawk in downtown Atlanta may be the best fly shop on the East Coast
[dropcap]D[/dropcap]uring the fall, trout fishing here in Merriman territory becomes prolific again – second season, sort of. The fall frenzy a short-lived event that is all about water and its temperature. If these two essentials are at their primal ‘best,’ it’s on till’ it’s over, 24/7. Some species like browns get sexed up for their spawn – creating uncharacteristic aggressive behavior. Every species of trout needs to put on the feed bag before water coldness slows down their metabolisms to a rate that ensures surviving winter. All these Bulldog and Yellow Jacket trout are overly aggressive as the waters cool down in the fall. What was snubbed in early summer, is attacked in the fall. Match here or successfully streamer tease and you’ll be catching busy.
Low, warm fall water
If the underpinnings of ‘best’ are not in place or are especially lacking, angling requires more attention to details – one of which would be ‘when’ to fish. Low, warm fall water also carries with it a huge responsibility. Preventing fish mortality.
A fly shop raconteur
When not fishing on weekends; a personal preference that snobbishly allows me to avoid the many working people enjoying their out of doors riverine, lake and coastal marsh activities … provide a break from writing, computers and mindless emails. There is no escape from the cell phone – short death or its death. Being a “Fly Shop Raconteur” is my chance to escape – haunt fly shops, tackle stores, and even big box stores.
This tire kicking on the weekends, usually limited to Saturday’s or when I’m far away from home on another task a fly shop stop any day can prove worthy of a story; usually a good point of view from someone who already experienced intimacy with the new “stuff” of 2017, and always a roadmap to best places to fish “now.” I cover these in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Appalachian Virginia. It is a big territory. And it’s a “Great Escape.”
The Fish Hawk, Atlanta, Georgia since 1974
Two Saturday’s ago, I spent and hour or so with Gary Merriman, owner of the iconic Atlanta fly shop, The Fish Hawk, which, BTW, will soon have a new downtown Atlanta address – reportedly to be only a few miles away from its current address. Stay tuned and we will keep our Southern anglers abreast.
Merriman said because of the move, the new Atlanta destination for the world famous Fly Fishing Show will have to do without a Hawk presence
A long conversation about fly rods drifted to wet foot waders with an agreement that, respectively, St. Croix makes the best low cost fly rods on the market today, and it’s hard to beat Simms for immersion water gear – then we went to talking about the regions meteorology.
Like farmers, a fisherman always talks about the weather
We recalled having had a pretty good winter rainfall in Atlanta, but it shut off in early May with weeks following that turned into months of 95 degrees, dry as a bone weather with only ‘one’ thunder caliber storm four weeks ago. There were storms enough North of Georgia to add a few drops here and there to its man-made lake impoundments – the source of all water storage and tailwaters in the state. Georgia has no natural lakes.
Overheard in a fly shop can mean an uninvited opine
At this point in our meteorological discourse, a guy (Matt it turned out to be) chimed in from about 25-feet away accusing Gary, and me (I guessed), of being habitual complainers. Merriman’s rebound: “We were only talking about the reality of weather this past summer and its prospects this fall … and you need to learn how to listen better.” Uh-oh, I thought, then I realized they were friends. Our now collective weather conversation finally moved from the impacts of it to having experienced it first hand. Matt had fished the day before on the Soque River in North Georgia. The Soque is pronounced ‘soak’ regionally, but correctly, so-qui.
Matt had fished early in the morning that day before and managed one bite from a 27-inch brown. He said it took the better part of a half-hour on a Scott G2 – 8’8” 4-weight and a Lamson Lite Speed 1.5 spent to the last few feet of fly line to land. Matt added: “I did not see it out of the water as the guide released it in the water.”
While the length of battle allowed could be criticized in those conditions, the in-water release cannot – nor can the importance of that go unremarked. Oxygen stress while being held out of the water before release has been found to be more harmful than previously thought. In low, hot water, stress on the animal is magnified.
The Fish Hawk, where the South’s cultured manner is always engaging
The Fish Hawk is not typical of Eastern fly shops. It is big and impressively displays a lot of product without feeling like being in a cave of paraphernalia. It has a distinctive personality only a southerner could create. How is that? Well, the staff is engaging, mature and extremely knowledgeable. You won’t have to wonder around aimlessly looking for anything or even if in a searching mood – someone will be right with you to help. Here is where the South’s cultured manner bests everyone. In the most genuine way, may I help you does not ever translate: “I’m here to make a sale, and I’m on your arse ’till then.” Each visit I have made has solidified my being in a pleasant place surrounded by more toys than I could play with and smarter than me sales folks willing and able to bring me up to speed on any inquiry. Especially so on ‘stuff’ that has only been seen in ads.
Merriman’s Fish Hawk Fly Shop is very partial to made in the USA
That cannot hold up for everything in the shop, but in rods, reels, and of course fly line that is true. My favorite part of the shop, besides gawking and fondling, is used fly rods and reels. They are comprised of customer “used” or big markdowns on discontinued models of both fly rods and reels. The selection always seems to have a supply to cover everything in fly rods from short 3-weight mountain stream rods to hefty enough to land a Florida three digit tarpon. The reels are mostly “used,” not discontinued. A wise newbie could easily outfit for a fraction of what new costs in both rods and reels would be and end up holding what is essentially new gear and do it all by phone.
Do not forget to ask about Delayed Harvest
3095 Peachtree Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305
Phone: (404) 237-3473
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:30AM – 6:00PM
Saturday 9:00AM- 5:00PM
Real-time fishing reports on the Chattahoochee River, Toccoa River, Nantahala River, Hiawassee River, Amicalola River, and many others. That also includes USGS reports on dam releases and tailwater temperatures.
Freshwater & Saltwater. If you are looking for guided fly fishing trips in Georgia and abroad, check out our fly fishing guide list for our top picks.
The Fish Hawk can outfit anglers traveling to any destination worldwide.
The Hawk offers fly fishing, fly-tying, and fly casting instruction at the shop as well as in the North Georgia mountains.
Hawk/Sage Fly Fishing School:
Possibly the best priced, professionally run school in the country. More options than most have ever heard of.