Unicoi Outfitters is north Georgia's premier guide service and fly fishing outfitter, located on the Chattahoochee River near alpine Helen. Look for fishing reports, gear and book reviews, and general musings here from our staff and guides.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Toccoa Tailwater 2/25/09 (or, Get A Net, Dummy!)

Well, I just couldn't stand it another day. After taking care of a couple of business chores in and around Blue Ridge Wednesday morning, I hit the Toccoa at 12:30. Was I not paying close attention to the weather this morning or, by chance, did the weatherman get it wrong? Expecting a bright sunny day with temperatures in the mid 50's, I almost didn't bring along a jacket. That would have been a big mistake. As I geared up, it didn't seem like such a bad idea to wear my lightweight vest and my fleece jacket. The skies looked threatening, the wind was howling and if the air temps got anywhere close to the predicted highs, you could have fooled me. To boot, there were no bugs coming off, thus no rises. Man did I want to fish dries this afternoon! By golly, I'm going to fish them anyway... but with a soft hackle pheasant tail dropper just in case. I tied on one of my all time favorite attractor dries, the trusty Parachute Adams in size 14. And that's the only rig I fished all afternoon. I had the river to myself and the fishing was darn good. Surprisingly, with virtually no bugs coming off, over half the fish took the Adams. Today was a clear indication that the Toccoa tailwater continues to improve as a trout fishery. Most of the fish caught today were quality rainbows in the 12" - 14" range. Wild jumpers every one.

A very unusual thing did happen late in the afternoon. I had fished one of my favorite little pockets as soon as I got in the river earlier in the day with no results. I knew there should be fish in there but they just weren't interested. Three hours later I went back there, with the same dry/dropper rig as earlier. First cast resulted in a chunky 13" brown. I moved to the top of the run and made a cast to the far side to get a drift down a narrow chute that has yielded fish in the past. A nice rainbow rolled on my fly and I lifted the rod to set the hook. She looked to be about 13 or 14 inches as I worked her within ten or twelve feet. All of a sudden my reel began to screen as the fish took off downstream! I'm thinking, "What are you doing? You aren't big enough to take me into my backing, but you're just about to do that very thing!" I began working my way downstream to gain some line and noticed it going around a submerged rock. As I positioned myself to work the line loose, the fish made a run back upstream and jumped. Wow!!! How did my respectable little rainbow become a HUGE BROWN? He's tail hooked and jumping all over the place and I'm getting nervous. It's the biggest brown I've hooked into (okay, I know I'm foul hooked but he's giving me a wild ride and I'm liking it) on the Toccoa. Now, all of sudden I can understand the reel smoking run. The brown must have sensed the rainbow in distress and attacked, only to knock her off my fly and then hook himself in the tail in the fray. Now, if you read my last Toccoa report, you will recall that I lost my net just before landing a 20" male brown so here I am locked in a battle with this big guy, foul hooked on 6X and me with no net... again. I had to work the fish out from under overhanging limbs because I was afraid if I went in after him he would bolt and I couldn't maneuver my rod quickly enough to stay in the battle. I would gain a few feet then he would dig back under the bank, looking for a place to hide. Slowly he began to give a little and I finally worked him over to a gravel bar where I reached under the most beautiful golden belly I've ever seen on a fish and lifted him from the water. Still holding him only in one hand, I tried to roll him over on his back to calm him down but he would have none of it. One final flip of the tail, the tippet snapped and he slid off my palm and back into the water. I was stunned! "You dummy, why didn't you get another net?" I truly wish I had a photo as he was prettier than any painting I've ever seen. Dark, dark olive brown with huge black spots, that yellow belly and a burnt orange tail. A solid 22" fish if not more. I don't even care that he was foul hooked, it was exciting. And, in the words of the immortal Rabunite Bill Kelly, "You don't have to believe me if you don't want to." But it did happen and now I'll dream of hooking into that fish again for a long time, or at least until I can get back over there and try for him again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Capt. Pete's Sarasota Fishing Report

Our great friend Captain Pete Greenan regularly sends us fishing reports from Sarasota and Charlotte Harbor so we feel obligated to go down and fish with him on occasion. Pete is one of the true characters in flyfishing the salt and we always enjoy it when we get to spend time with him whether it's on one of our north Georgia trout streams or in the bay chasing tarpon. He's a great guide and if you're headed down that way, you need to set up a trip with him. The conversation is worth the price of admission. Here's his report from today:

Boca Grande Report
23 Feb. 2009
Fishing has been rated good this week in Charlotte Harbor. Anglers fishing with me caught snook, redfish, seatrout, bluefish, pompano and ladyfish. Most fish came to a variety of flies including Puglisi patterns, Clouser Deep minnows and Estaz Marabou flies. The lures we used included DOA Cal jigs, Cotee jigs, Rip Tide and Exude swim baits and Johnson Sprite spoons. The photo above is of a nice seatrout taken by Kevin Terry from Colorado on a Clouser minnow near Whidden's Creek.

Cindy Stanley and her Texas Belle sister fished Sarasota with me and caught bluefish, seatrout, ladyfish and pompano on jigs and flies. Pete Smith and his friend Klaus caught redfish, seatrout and pompano in Bull Bay later in the week. Dusty Sprague and I caught redfish to 7 lbs. in the Peace River on Monday. Will Hallett and Charles Grudzinskas caught redfish, seatrout and ladyfish on a windy Tuesday on spoons and jigs. Byron Stout, a popular Outdoor Editor from Ft. Myers, joined Dusty Sprague on Wednesday. Dusty caught redfish to six pounds and a nice 28 inch snook in Turtle and Bull Bays. Kevin Terry, a wildlife Biologist from the Apache Indian reservation in New Mexico, and his femme-fatal, Stephanie caught seatrout to 25 inches, bluefish and ladyfish on fly in Gasparilla sound on Sunday.

The variety of fish caught and the appearance of baitfish schools indicate improved fishing for the next week. Look for continued good fishing for seatrout and redfish with snook getting better everyday. Pompano are plentiful but scattered throughout Sarasota Bay and Charlotte Harbor.

I hope you all get a chance to fish this month. Good weather and clear water make the fishing very enjoyable.
Fish Hard,
Capt. Pete

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Scientific Anglers Sharkskin Line Review

The good folks over at Midcurrent have posted a review of the SA Sharkskin line. I know Jimmy and several of our guides have been using this line and are in agreement that it really is a revolutionary improvement...pricey, but worth it. Read Robert Morselli's review over at the Midcurrent site. And don't forget that we carry the Sharkskin line in both our shops!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Blue Ridge TU

Unicoi Outfitters is proud to host the monthly meetings of the Blue Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited. We recently remodeled the basement to accomodate the group and it looks as if we already need to tear out the new wall and expand. This past Saturday (Feb. 14th), their guest speaker was Jim Kidd, recently retired from the USFS who was speaking on the importance of getting the local citizens involved in pushing for Land and Water Conservation Funds to be allocated for Georgia. With over 50 people in attendance and a group lunch afterwards at the Mexican restaurant next door, it was a great meeting and good to see so much local support for what the folks in the Blue Ridge chapter are doing.

Toccoa Tailwater 2/14/09

Anyone who's been fishing the Toccoa tailwater these past few weeks knows that the midge and BWO fishing has been very good along with a few scattered black caddis. While we've been catching fish on dries (always a bonus in February!), there has almost always been a pheasant tail of some description trailing behind them. And in most cases, the pheasant tail picked up the most strikes. Well, on Valentine's Day this weekend, the fish decided to concentrate on something larger. I hit the river Saturday afternoon around 2:45 after a great meeting and lunch with the Blue Ridge Chapter of Trout Unlimited at the shop. There was no bug activity for the first couple of hours so I fished a non-descript #12 gray soft hackle trailed by, of course, the ubiquitous pheasant tail in #18. It was slow go during that time with a few small rainbows but one nice brown of 13" - 14" on the gray soft hackle.

Around 5:00, I decided to move upstream a half mile even though there were 5 or 6 anglers in the river just downstream from where I planned to fish. I figured they would be going in soon as sundown was not far off. I also decided to change tactics a little and tied on a big black leech pattern (trialed by the pheasant tail). Still not much going on until 5:30 and someone flipped the switch. In the next hour, I caught maybe 10 fish with a couple of rainbows in the 14" - 15" range. And, man, were they jumpers. They were all over the river. The piece de resistance however was the 20" male brown caught right at 6:30 PM. Did I mention I had lost my net about 15 minutes earlier while photographing one of the nice rainbows? Yep, hooked into a big brown that was making four big somersaulting jumps while I was trying to carefully get him in with NO NET! Finally managed to lead him behind a submerged log on the shoreline where he wedged his nose in a cranny long enough for me to calm down and get my camera out. Beautiful fish and the largest I've landed on that particular stretch of river (no feeders on this section). Every fish that evening took the leech pattern so my pheasant tail dropper was just a security blanket on this trip.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Hooch is Still Cold

Last Thursday I invited my church fly tying class for a day on the water for casting and fishing instruction and for searching for bugs in the water. This seemed like a great idea because it was a beautiful day and we're tying the flies so we can catch fish with them--right? The folks in the class were looking forward to this and so was I. The casting instruction went well--so we headed down to the river to try a little "hands on fishing". I talked about wading safety, but I didn't really listen to what I was saying. While positioning the fishermen, I tripped and fell over a big rock and made a perfect dive to the bottom. Before I knew it, I was in the water struggling to get out. Simms waders are great, but not when you let water go over the top--they were filled and I was cold. Embarrassing--not really--funny--to them--really. Leave it up to your guide--but I did keep fishing with them. One of the students did hook a big trout that broke him off.

Things didn't go exactly as planned, but it beats sorting mail any day--I'm a blessed person. I'm really looking forward to the fly tying class on Feb 21. It's all going to be about the basics-because that's what fly tying is about. We'll tie some flies that will really catch fish. The pheasant tail, featured in an earlier post, will be one of them--we'll tie it in several different patterns. We're going to have some fun--if you are interested contact Unicoi Outfitters so they can sign you up.

Thanks and Watch Your Step!


New shop hours

Hey Folks,

Unicoi Outfitters in Helen will now start opening at 7:00 am on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Smithgall Woods is no longer selling fishing licenses so if you are going to Smithgall and need a license, be sure to stop by and we not only will be able to sell you a license, we will have a recent fishing report for Dukes Creek.

Tight lines!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Frog Hollow Winter Fishing

Kim Kubach's recent winter fishing trip to Frog Hollow with Alex Lunsford. Note not only the size of the fish but the length of the shirt sleeves. Ain't winter fishing in the south grand!

The Good Old Days

Recently my friend Milt Smith handed me a box of old "Fly Fisherman" magazines from the 70's and 80's that he wanted donated to the Foothills TU Hoot On The Hooch banquet coming up in March. He figured there may be some interest in them for a bucket raffle item and, besides, his wife told him to get them out of the house. Now, how many of us would consider the late 70's the good old days? It was 30 years ago but for some of us it seems only yesterday and it was about the time I decided to learn how to flyfish. So I took the collection home with me for safe keeping and one evening began leafing through some of the older issues. What a blast! I couldn't put them down. It was like I had been transported back in time as I thumbed through the mostly black and white pages. Nothing slick about these; not many steps above typing paper. But how interesting it is to read the advertisements. Two of the largest gear ads are for Pflueger and Martin reels. Rod manufacturers are just beginning to advertise graphite but they still off bamboo and fiberglass. Except for a two page ad touting "graphite's the standard now!" from Lew's Speed Stick fly rods.

There is no Sage Manufacturing but you can order a Winston graphite trout rod directly from the factory for $175.00. They mention that they are so small (only four rod builders: Al Wilson, Glenn Brackett, Chris Warner and Tom Morgan all pictured sitting around the shop) that they can't service the fly shop market so you have to buy them from Winston.

Fly lines were made by Gudebrod, Gladding and Sunset. You could buy a Hardy Princess for $47.35, and there were as many adds for bamboo fly rods as graphite; Payne, Leonard (who also made a graphite rod), Uslan, Weir & Son, and Phillipson. A letter to the editor was from a guy complaining about the high cost of waders at $45.00 a pair and you could only get one year out of them. And the thing that most made me wish I could turn back the clock: Land on the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley for $1500.00 per acre! Aaarrgh!

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Toccoa River Shuttle Service

The shuttle service Jimmy mentioned in this month's Liars Club newsletter is off and running...see this post by Top Turret Gunne over on NGTO.

Free Trout Fishing Seminar

On Saturday, Feb. 28th, I will be presenting a seminar on trout fishing in Georgia for the Kanooka Chapter of Trout Unlimited at the Bass Pro Shop in Lawrenceville. These seminars are open to the public so we hope you will come see it.

Toccoa River Delayed Harvest Report

This in courtesy of Vance Hendon:

Al, Ronnie and I fished the Toccoa DH this past Saturday. It was a GOOD day on the water. Although bit cold to start; water temp at 8:15 AM was 37 degrees. Air temp had to be below 32 because our guides iced up with in minutes of starting. We caught fish right off the bat, we started at the right at the " stocking hole" above the two lower islands, got a couple there but not a lot of action so we went on down to fish around Piney and Maple Island. We had a good catch rate all day. All three of us landed at least one 16" + fish, with Al getting one that measured out at 17 inches. All fat Bows. As the day wore on the fish seemed to congregate in some of the warmer places and got a little spooky, but they still hit. Caught most on dark Hares Ear flashback, some on Olive Woolly Bugger, and most of the afternoon fish came on a Bettis type fly, dark bead head with dark body and a little green flash in it. Between the 3 of us, we landed some where in the neighborhood of 25-30 fish. As I said it was a GOOD day on the water.

The Lowly Pheasant Tail Nymph

So, just how important is the lowly pheasant tail nymph to trout fishing? Well, if the flyboxes of the Unicoi guides are any indication, they would prefer not to leave home without them. Unquestionably, these tiny flies produce more strikes from trout than possibly all other flies combined. You've heard the age-old question of "Which fly would you choose if you could only have one?" And a lot of times the choice is a woolly bugger because it is so versatile and can be used for trout, bass, bream and a host of other species. However, if your quarry is trout, may we suggest that the pheasant tail will consistently out-fish most any pattern you can think of. Sure, there are times when you know you need something bright and attractive or something riding on the surface to "match the hatch". But even in those times, your success ratio will improve if there's a little pheasant tail dragging along behind and below those other flies. You can get fancy and tie in all the "legs" or you can wrap a nice soft hackle around the collar, but just as often all you need is the old Frank Sawyer pattern.


Hey Y'all...

We've been dragged kickin' & screamin' into the 21st century!

Look for fishing reports, book and gear reviews, hot fly patterns...pretty much anything that comes to mind from the staff and guides at Unicoi Outfitters.

Help us out by sending in fishing reports and photos, and we'll publish 'em here...

Tight Lines,

The Liars Club