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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Noontootla Creek Farm in the Rain

Friday was one of those days of chance. The guys arrived at the shop only to find that the radar was showing what looked like heavy rain, headed our way. We decided we had a small window and we would at least try to get a few good hours in before it hit. It turned out to be a good day to not trust the old radar. Although it rained on us the better part of the day, it was that drizzle that is perfect for fishing. The clouds, the rain, and high stained water are what you dream of on a place like NCF. This brown was not the big fish of the day, but there is just something about those browns, right? Thanks Tim and J.C., it was a good time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Soggy Opening Day!

From our friend at the DNR, Jeff Durniak:

The tradition continues this Saturday. RENEW YOUR FISHING LICENSE AND TROUT STAMP.
At nine bucks and five for the trout stamp, you get a year of entertainment. That's cheaper than a trip to the movies or a restaurant!

DNR is adding license dealers and working out the new system's kinks as we speak, but your easiest method is to buy ahead of time via the internet. Don't stand in a line at a tackle shop on Saturday morning, when you could be fishing!

(editor's note: remember, we've got licenses available now at both Unicoi Outfitters locations)

While the rain forecast may dampen some spirits and some camping plans, there are several potential upsides:

1) less crowds = more good spots and more fish for die-hards

2) better distribution of stocked fish due to flood waters

3) Much needed groundwater and reservoir recharge!

Just use your knowledge of stream discharge (USGS real time water data), crowd size, and DNR stocking plans to help you pick the best streams. The best may not be the biggest. Remember that smaller streams with smaller watersheds will have more rapid runoff and will be wadeable quicker. They often don't have the big crowds of the big-name waters like Cooper, Wildcat, Dicks, and Holly. Also look for flood refuges in small and large streams, as those places in the channel may stack up with fish. Use enough lead to get down to those trout, which are trying not to get blown downstream into a reservoir full of hungry largemouths.

Our '09 stocking list is here: http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/documentdetail.aspx?docid=34&pageid=2&category=fishing

And, for folks with a bit harder time getting to the creek, we now have a list of more accessible streams (thanks to WRD trout stocking coordinator Perry Thompson at Burton Hatchery) here: http://www.gofishgeorgia.com/documentdetail.aspx?docid=34&pageid=3&category=fishing Hey, none of us are as young and nimble as we used to be.

There are a lot of trout-related events happening on Saturday:

1) Open House at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen (some free seminars)

2) City of Helen's trout tournament

3) BBQ and bluegrass at Satolah Fire Dept (east Rabun Co). http://www.maconnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4375&Itemid=34 http://www.firedepartments.net/Georgia/Clayton/SatolahVolunteerFireDepartment.html

4) More events at NGTO and on many Georgia TU chapter websites.

If wading streams is not your top choice, get the boat out. Anthony sa
id there are some nice ones in Seed Lake (photo) right now, in between all those walleye. Good luck. Got a sharp knife, a frying pan, and corn meal? Stockers are like Doritos. Remember that commercial, "We'll make more." Grab a kid and ... www.gofishgeorgia.com

Tagged Fish on the Toccoa River Tailwater

This just in from Ralph Artigliere, the president of the Blue Ridge Mountain chapter of Trout Unlimited:

WE NEED YOUR HELP for an important fish study in progress by Georgia Department of Natural Resources. There is a drawing for a Georgia Lifetime Sportsman’s License for one lucky person who participates in the study, but the real benefit for all of us is important scientific information about the fish and the fishery.

DNR has been studying trout in the Toccoa River tailwater, and Region I Fisheries Biologist John Damer needs to upgrade the detail of data by tagging stocked fish to get more specific information about individual fish. To accomplish this tagging study, fishermen who catch a tagged fish should report their catch by telephone and mail in the tag. Just doing those two things makes the fisherman eligible for the drawing AND enhances the data and Mr. Damer’s ability to understand and improve the fishery. Just follow these easy steps if you catch a rainbow trout with a GREEN tag.

1. Remove the tag by cutting it with a knife, nippers, etc., as close as possible to the fish's body (do not pull the tag out of the fish if you plan to release it, as this will likely injure the fish severely). You can then keep or release the fish as you would do normally.
2. Call the Calhoun Fisheries office at 706-624-1161 to report the tag. Make sure you have the tag number ready when you call.
3. The person you talk to over the phone will ask you a few questions about when, where, and how you caught the fish and then they will provide you with an address where you should mail the tag. Please make sure to mail the tag in, because only tags that we physically receive back will be entered into the drawing for a Lifetime Sportsman's License. Even if you do not wish to be entered into the drawing, please still mail the tag back as it is important in calculating estimates of non-reporting (how many anglers catch tagged fish but do not report them).


-Tags are green, about 1.5" long, and implanted on the fish's left side just below the dorsal fin.
-Roughly 600 tagged rainbows will be stocked each month from March through August. (Tagged fish are already in the river as of this announcement on March 25).
-The drawing for the lifetime license will be held sometime in Spring 2010, and only ONE license will be awarded.

JOHN DAMER ASKED US TO PASS ON THE FOLLOWING: “Please send my thanks to anyone who returns a tag, as it means a lot to the State of Georgia AND to me personally. Hopefully the information gathered through these tag returns will help us to better understand the trout fishery on the Toccoa River, and to make good, sound decisions about how it will be managed in the future.”

Blue Ridge Mountain Trout Unlimited is supporting this study by furnishing the Lifetime Sportsman’s License and by encouraging fishermen to report tagged fish. This is an important study for Georgia and for those who love to fish for trout, so please take the time to report tagged fish and to mail in the tag.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You (Re)Learn Something Every Day

Isn't this just a great time to be out on the water?

One day last week Jimmy asked if I wanted to leave work early and head out to Lake Lanier....sure. I had to run home and get a rod, and when I did, all I could find was my old 8 weight that only had a floating line on it - I couldn't find the 9 weight with the Rio VersaTip. Dang. Oh well, I figured I could maybe catch a couple of fish if we found some bass running baitfish.

Sure enough, we did. We found a little mini-point with a couple of small coves on either side that had active fish. The spots were pushing bait to the surface, and try as I might, I couldn't hook up. Jimmy was doing pretty well fishing an intermediate line, but I couldn't buy a strike with the floater. After about an hour and a half, Jimmy said "why don't you put my reel with the 8 weight sink-tip on your rod?" Hey - good idea! I really prefer to use my own rods, and I figured since the bait were pushing up on top and we were getting boils I should catch something...in spite of the results I'd had, so I didn't want to borrow Jimmy's 8 weight. Sometimes I can be pretty stubborn, but using his reel seemed like a good compromise.

So, I pull my reel off and put Jimmy's on....and first cast: fish on! Then a few minutes later a double...some misses and then another fish. Put the fly in front of the fish. I've preached it hundreds of times when talking to customers about nymphing for trout...you'd think I'd heed my own advice! The sink-tip made all the difference.

We ended up with about 10 or 12 spots between us in the 2-pound-ish neighborhood on chartreuse Clousers...lotsa fun for a couple hours after work! You can bet I'm not going out after bass again without a non-floating line anytime soon...and you shouldn't either!

Trout Season Opens This Weekend!

The Gainesville Times did a nice front-page article on the trout season opening up here in Georgia this coming weekend...and featured a photo of our Helen store manager John Cross in the process. Click here to view the online article and check out the audio interview with JC! Photo by Tom Reed of The Times.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Native Watercraft at Unicoi Outfitters

Unicoi Outfitters is happy to now be a dealer for Native Watercraft. Native has a line of excellent one- and two-man fishing craft. We're most impressed with their Ultimate line due to their great ability to haul stuff comfortably, the great seats (again, comfort!) and their stability...most folks find the Ultimate plenty stable enough to fish from while standing!

We've got a 12' Ultimate and a 14.5' Tandem Ultimate in stock right now at each of our two stores...and we've also got all the accessories you'll need to get out on the water: paddles, PFDs, rod holders and anchor trolleys.

Here's a video where Steve Jordan of Native goes over some of the basics of the Ultimates...do note, that the 12' boats no longer come with a skeg....however, a rudder (even better) is now an option on these boats.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dukes Creek in the Rain

Sunday after church, with high anticipation because of the rain, I met up with "The Dredger" who was fishing Section 1 on Dukes Creek. It turns out the fishing had been slower than expected that morning because the water was too muddy (a rare occurrence on Dukes but we did get a lot of rain this weekend). He had only landed a couple of smaller fish but had broken off two big ones that morning. By the time I got there, Section 1 was beginning to clear just a little but at least 5 other anglers were staking out different stretches of it so we decided to go down to the middle of Section 4 and fish up 3. Unfortunately, the water didn't begin to clear at all down low until around 3 PM so the slow fishing continued there also. We did manage to catch about 15 fish between us in the four hours we fished and most of them were good solid fish with a couple of twenty inchers, a couple of 17's and 15's. All rainbows this trip. Off-color water is usually brown trout time but today it just didn't happen. A couple of fish were caught on San Juan Worms and one on a Power Egg but everything else was on big ugly black leech patterns (with more split shot than should be legal). In one hole, I counted 9 flies lost on the bottom between the two of us as we played tag-team while tying on new rigs. It was fun though. High sticking those heavily weighted flies just a few feet from where we were standing. Catching fish in the same run the other guy just fished with no luck (both of us). And I must say that the Simms Vibram soled boots performed great in that heavy water. Sunday afternoon was beautiful after it stopped raining. And the catching was just good enough to bring lots of laughter, hootin' and hollerin'.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Venice, Louisiana - Day 1

No tuna, wahoo, or makos, but caught more pounds of fish today that any day of my life! Lost count of little tunny and "whaler sharks". Two sharks 150-200 pounds, an amberjack -80 pounds!

Fog thicker than I have ever seen it. Couldn't have left the marina without a GPS - wish I had a radar.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

New Stuff

With the approach of Spring, come the new fishing products for the year, and most are now in stock:

1. Simms Vibram Sole Wading boots - we have both the Guide Models and Freestones at both shops. These are destined to be the hottest items of the year. Anything we don't have in stock is already backordered months in advance, right now, we've got 'em.

2. Sage Flights - The new Sage Flights are arriving at both stores, Sage's replacement to our best-selling FLi series are sure to be a hit. This rod serves as our go-to client rod and is the best bang for the buck in a mid-priced fly rod.

3. Sunglasses - Action Optics - My favorite lens for North Georgia trout fishing is, without a doubt, the Action Optics (Smith Optics) Photochromic Brown Lens (formerly known as the All-Hour brown), this lens changes tint as the day gets brighter and can be worn to provide polarized protection from morning till dark on north Georgia trout streams. We have this lens in several different frame styles in our Helen store. (Everybody in Blue Ridge loves Costas for some reason. There is certainly nothing wrong with them! I'm still saving for a pair with Wave 580 lenses for my Blue Water trips)

4. Orvis Clearwater II Rods - In order to make our inventory selection make sense, we wanted to concentrate on one entry-level line of rods. After casting everything on the market, we've decided that there is no better rod for the money than the Orvis Clearwater II. We should have them in sizes that fit for most of our local fishing situations, so come in and try them out.

5. Fly Lines - If you are still fishing a 5-year old fly line, do youself a favor and pick-up one of the latest offerings from Cortland, Scientific Anglers, or Rio. If you are fishing a premium rod, but using an old fly line, you're really not doing yourself a service. Re-line and see what that rod is capable of! Most experts agree that the line is the most important part of the flyfishing outfit for the trout fisherman. If you're throwing a $700 rod with a $25 line, you might as well be driving a Ferrari with recapped bias plys.

6. New odds & Ends: 1) Orivs Magnifying Nippers - eyes don't work as good as they used to? Give these a try. 2) Thing-A-Ma-Bobbers - would somebody please buy another strike indicator? we have a lot of other stuff we need to get rid of! 3) Orvis Aluminum Fly Boxes - we might as well not order another Wheatley, 4) Tippet Master - feel bad about those tippet clippings being on the planet when humans are nothing but fossils? 5) New DVD's - If you didn't know it, you are not cool unless you own Soulfish, Fish Sizzle, Chasing Silver, Running Down the Man, Fish Bum Diaries and several other "action" DVD's. 6) Simms Vests - check out the new G3's, Guide, Freestone, and Mesh Vests.

Big Game Fishing

Unbeknownst to most Unicoi Outfitters Liar's Club members, there exists a "secret society" of big game fishermen, headquartered from, and living within a few short miles of these quaint North Georgia fly shops. A few troubled souls who willfully lay down the long rods and pick up the short rods of the stand-up big game fisherman in pursuit of Yellowfin Tuna, Mako Shark, wahoo and billfish in the fish-rich waters of the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Men who are just as comfortable with the Aftco flying gaff as they are with the Brodin catch and release net.

After two weather cancellations this winter, this coming weekend, March 14-17, we plan to make another attempt at this cornucopia of fishing action.

(In the past 2 weeks, a few 200 lb yellowfin tuna, 3 Mako's in excess of 600lbs (including one within 70lbs of an all time IGFA All-Tackle world record, and several big wahoo have been brought to gaff in this area)

We are taking the big Mako Marine 314 into the heart of the fishing action, Venice, LA, and hope to return with stories of high seas adventure. As of right now, Capt. Dave, Bruce, and one-time fishing guide and shop monkey Chuck Head, turned stockbroker (who probably wishes he still was a fishing guide), are ready for action. (Other Liar's club members are invited, if you have the Kahunas!).

Hope to post pictures next week!!!

For you who don't know of the "secret society" that exist on the edge of otherwise gentle Unicoi Outfitters Fly Shop, Unicoi Outfitters is an FFL dealer who will gladly outfit you with a fine big-game rifle or the perfect upland side by side shotgun. We are also a Shimano "Top-Shelf" dealer and can supply all your needs for Shimano pro-shop products such as Tiagra Trolling Reels, Calais and Calcutta baitcasting reels, Stella, Sustain, or Saratoga Spinning reels and all the pro-shop Shimano Rods that go along with them. We will also happily order for you any of the St. Croix line of premium spinning and baitcasting rods.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Unicoi Outfitters Joins Atlanta Fly Fishing School

Unicoi Outfitters and River Through Atlanta Guide Service have joined the Atlanta Fly Fishing School to enhance their offerings for beginning fly fishers. These three are offering a complete fly fishing education and river fishing package. The package will include a 5.5 hour fly fishing course to be followed by a one-half day guided fishing trip on either the lower Chattahoochee River or the trophy trout fishery at Nacoochee Bend near Helen, GA. These packages are available at a special affordable rate perfect for introducing someone to the sport.

See the Atlanta Fly Fishing School website for more info.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Small Deer--Big Fish

Tony Land from Tampa had a great background for this hook-up at Frog Hollow--do you see it? You may have to enlarge the photo. By the way, the fish was a 28" rainbow.

Just another day at NCF

Three good fisherman + NCF fish that are ready to eat =

Jack guides for redfish and tarpon on the fly in Louisiana and Florida, and Clay and Tom have both fished a lot. Needless to say, these guys could "get the job done", and they kept me pretty busy netting fish most of the afternoon. Thanks guys, it was a good time. For whatever reason the switch has flipped at NCF, and when it turns on, it can make for some crazy fish stories, you know the ones you have to prove with a picture.

Big Freakin' Noontootla Creek Farms Rainbow

Does Jack look happy or what?
Fish was taped at 28inches. This monster was caught last week at the farm. Fishing has been off the hook this past week. Brightly colored rainbows and the occassional brown trout pulling arms off our fishing guests. This could be you if you can hold on--Hootie.