ATLANTA — Often, when I am here, I stay with friends who live in upper Fulton County. Their property stretches down to the Chattahoochee, the most valuable river in our state in the minds of many people.
Enjoying an early morning when the moon is full is one of the most emotionally inspiring experiences I have during the year. It is especially nice in the dead of winter, which spawns a different look. With no foliage on the trees, you can see the river aglow in the moonlight.
Across the Chattahoochee is Cobb County, which before you know it will be the home of the Atlanta Braves. Throngs of baseball aficionados will flock to see the Braves play, but will likely ignore the presence of the Chattahoochee, Georgia’s most romantic river.
There is fascination with the Chattahoochee, from its beginning in North Georgia to its end down south where Florida and Alabama come into geographical focus and where controversy is brewing about Atlanta’s gulping of the river’s waters. You can’t find a place where the Chattahoochee is not scenic and inviting. First of all, it is, for the most part, a clean river. Somehow industry and commerce have not been able to pollute it, which would make the Native Americans, who knew it first, very proud. Even those we ran off to Oklahoma.
Upstream from here, in the shadows of Roswell — which remains defiant when the idea of becoming incorporated into Atlanta is mentioned — there is excellent carp fishing. If you’re a fisherman, you think of trout when you think about fishing the Chattahoochee, but it takes rare talent to hook a carp, which can be spooked easier than a burglar when he hears a Doberman growl.
The carp is not a fish for the skillet. You don’t come to the Chattahoochee looking for your supper if you are chasing the elusive carp, which is essentially good for nothing except for matching wits with the most skillful fly fisherman.
Spending time on the Chattahoochee in search of the ugly carp is something for elite anglers, but expert and neophyte alike can enjoy a day on the river near its headwaters in White County. While catch and release brings about the most fulfilling of outdoor experiences on the Chattahoochee, you can order fresh trout at several restaurants up where the river is always cool and virtually without blemish.
Anytime there is a trip to the northern part of our state, I find myself thinking about the good times spent on the Chattahoochee, fishing with my longtime friend Jimmy Harris, who is building a home on the river. It was the greatest of good news when he and his ebullient wife, Kathy, announced their plans and confirmed that there would be a guest room. Everybody needs a friend like Jimmy Harris.
The Chattahoochee and its environs will always be alluring. I find myself when I am nearby —even in the shower in early morning — reciting the early lines of Sidney Lanier’s classic poem about my favorite river:
“Out of the hills of Habersham,
“Down the valleys of Hall,
“I rush again to reach the plain,
“Run the rapid and leap the fall.”
This brings to mind a classic story about high school basketball, Jesse Outlar and Sidney Lanier. In the fifties the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had the habit of running the scores of all high school basketball games on the weekend, which caused the phones to ring off the hook in the Constitution sports department. The incessant ringing got to Jesse, then the sports editor of the paper. He walked out into the newsroom and paraphrased Sidney Lanier’s “Song of the Chattahoochee.”
“Out of the hills of Habersham, down the valleys of Hall,
“Every little s.o.b. and his sister are bouncing a ball.”