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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tie 1 On

Hey Everybody...

Just a quick note to let you know that Ron Thomas will be holding a "Tie 1 On" fly-tying session this Tuesday, August 4th at 6:30pm at our Helen shop. As always, everyone is welcome to attend this free event. Ron will have material and tools available, or bring your own.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Upper Toccoa Trophy

We just got a report in from Jay Worley - he and his wife Amy were recently fishing the upper Toccoa, somewhere near Rock Creek, when she landed her first trophy - the 20+ inch rainbow pictured here, caught on a #16 Elk Hair Caddis. That's what we like to see: anglers passing it on. I don't know who is proudest here, Jay or Amy! Great fish, Amy!

Friday, July 24, 2009

DNR on Blue Ridge Dam Repair

Blue Ridge Dam photo by Ron MayhewDan Forster of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has written the TVA regarding the Draft Environmental Assessment associated with the 2010 scheduled drawdown of Lake Blue Ridge for repairs to the dam.

The DNR has made specific recommendations concerning this drawdown to hopefully minimize the detrimental effects on the trout fishery on the Toccoa River below the dam. We know there is a lot of concern over the Toccoa River and it's good to know the DNR shares those concerns.

Click here to read the DNR letter to the TVA.

Photo courtesy Ron Mayhew.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A letter from Riley

Riley is an 11-year-old client that is just "on fire" for fly fishing!Dear David, Chad, and Becky, Thank you guys for showing me how to fly fish.  I have learned from you guys how to cast better, how to Drift the flies, and what flies to use.  You have really helped me improve and now I'm catching fish.  Also thank you for the rod I really like it and can't wait to use it.  sincerely, Riley

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fishing Music II

Some of you folks may have seen / heard a CD produced by Ben Winship and David Thompson, two members of the Bozeman, Montana - based bluegrass band "Kane's River". Ben and David got a lot of help from some big names in bluegrass, such as Tim and Mollie O'Brien, David Grier, and Rob Ickes, and produced an album of, well, fishing songs. The CD has gotten a lot of positive reviews, and as a matter of fact, I even purchased a couple extras for TU auction donations a year or two ago.

Well, they're at it again, and have recently completed "Fishing Music II", using a lot of the same cream-of-the-crop musicians. More great music for driving to your favorite trout stream.

Pickers who fly-fish....or are they fly-fishers who pick? It doesn't matter, pick up this CD, or the original if you haven't gotten it yet. And now, a music video from the CD:

Friday, July 10, 2009

Smokies and Smallies

Some friends and I were fortunate to do a little fishing in nearby North Carolina recently and it was so much fun we kept going back. Between Sunday, June 28th and Saturday, July 4th, we hit some of the small Smokies streams for wild trout as well as the larger western NC rivers for smallmouth on three days. Actually, those are just the days I got to fish; my friend The Dredger was on vacation that week so he really abused the privilege and, I think, fished there on five of the seven days, catching this nice 15" brown on one trip. We've been pretty darn blessed in Georgia this summer with good rainfall and relatively cool temperatures but, being at this altitude and, for the most part, fishing streams on the south-facing slope, we have seen water temperatures in the high 60's and even above 70 degrees on the larger streams. If you read my earlier post, you know that I've spent some time fishing for shoal bass on the Chattahoochee River lately but I had guests coming in from Alabama the last weekend of June and they really wanted to trout fish. So I decided to take them somewhere they had never been before, The Smokies. As we drove through downtown Cherokee, I'm sure they were thinking I had lost my mind but they both breathed a sigh of relief as we stepped out of the truck on the banks of one of the most underfished streams in the Park just a short drive north of town. Even in mid-afternoon, the water temp registered just 60 degrees. Quicker than you can change tippets, everyone had their short rods out and rigged with an attractor dry fly with small nymph droppers. Today, most of the fish were taken on the nymphs with size 18 pheasant tails doing the bulk of the work but a big Mega Prince did entice one nice 12"rainbow out of a deep run for me after fishing it with the pheasant tail for quite a while. Later in the afternoon, we moved upstream as our guest leap-frogged from pocket to pocket picking up small wild rainbows on both dries and nymphs. For two guys who probably envisioned fishing all weekend for big fish, it was a pleasant surprise and one that challenged everyone's skills. And even better, we only saw two other anglers all day on this stream. The following Friday, after receiving reports from Dredger on the big smallmouth he had caught the day before, I was coerced into making another trip back to western NC that afternoon. We fished until dark-thirty and I used nothing but a white popper with big rubber legs. What a blast! This section of North Carolina has two very good smallmouth streams, the Tuckaseegee downstream from the dam at Dillsboro to Bryson City and the Little Tennessee River between Jackson and Fontana Lake (also near Bryson City). Both are big rivers but offer good wading and floating opportunities for smallies. I'm still learning about river smallmouth and I find myself absentmindedly fishing as if I'm after trout on these rivers. It sure seems that smallmouth waste some great runs and riffles in favor of the frog water at times. But it only takes a couple of nice leaping brown bass to help me focus. Interestingly, the fish these days were not overtly aggressive. A good cast into likely holding areas, one twitch of the fly and... wait. If you continuously stripped your fly, you likely got nothing. If you waited patiently, you were often rewarded with a boil on your bug. This first evening I counted 11 strikes before I landed a fish. Talk about a teaching opportunity! We ended the day with probably 18 or 20 fish with the largest being a nice 16-incher right before we left. On the ride home, we discussed whether or not we were up for trying it again the next day, Saturday. When you roll in after 11 PM, you have to fight the urge to sleep late the next day. So, we decided to meet again the next morning and head back to the Smokies then finish up the day harassing the smallies again. Sleep can come later. This time we headed for another stream in the Park near Bryson city. This would allow us to be very close to our evening rendezvous with the smallies. The trout streams in this section of the Park are classic "pocket water". Almost any little place that looks like it should hold a trout, does. Early in the day, I mistakenly made the call that we were only finding fish in the rough water at the head of pools. Only later did I realize how many fish we were spooking from the slower pools and runs. You literally could not get within 30 feet of these fish without them bolting into the next drainage if the water was the least bit placid. Realizing this helped and, with longer casts and more stealthy approaches, we began picking up fish before we spooked them. Again, on this day we caught more on nymphs than dries but there were enough on dries to create a lot of hootin' and hollerin'. We saw three other anglers all day on this stream which does not require a long hike to get to. Again, we finished up the day stalking smallmouth and the rewards for me were two 16-inchers along with a host of smaller fish; all one of Kent Edmonds' Stealth Bomber in white with orange rugger legs. It was deadly! the river this day had a lot of swimmers and tubers but by the time we hit the water at 4 PM most of them were leaving. My second fish of the day was one of the big 16 inchers that I pulled from slow water withing a hundred feet of a frolicking couple playing in the shoals nearby. On a side note, the next time I head up this way I'm taking flies for carp and redhorse suckers. There are some really big boys cruising the shoals and gravel bars on these rivers and it would be like sight fishing on the flats except you wouldn't have to make long casts. These big rivers are a tremendous fishery and within an easy drive of north Georgia. If you drive up to fish the delayed harvest sections of the Nantahala or Tuckaseegee, or the trophy stream in Cherokee, these are within your range. A large part of small stream summer fishing is the discovery. Virtually every stream in this section of the Park has the same geologic characteristics and will fish about the same regardless of which one you find. Get a map of the Smokies and start plotting your own trip destinations. And if you want that big fish fix, reserve some time for the waters of Cherokee or the big bass waters on the Tuckaseegee and Little Tennessee Rivers. It's not that far away and is a great alternative to your home waters when they get too warm.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Curse of The Red and The Cajun Cure

Some of you may have heard of the anguish I've gone through over the past three years regarding redfish. I've fished Steinhatchee, Destin, and Pensacola in Florida for them, Mobile Bay in Alabama for them and four different days along the Georgia coast for them... and still have never caught one! In fact, I've never even had a bite! I went to Belize last year and landed well into the double-digits of bonefish my first day there, but still couldn't catch a redfish in any of these places to save my life.

It got to the point where I started having a string of nightmares about reds. One involved me spotting a tailing fish in a drainage ditch alongside I-285 in Atlanta, pulling over grab the fly rod out of the back of my truck so that I could cast to it and finding nothing but the butt sections of fly rods in my rod bag.

The next nightmare had my brother-in-law and I driving around the Florida pan-handle in a white work van. He was driving and I was, where else, on top of the van like Teen Wolf ready to cast as there were tailing reds everywhere! In golf course ponds, canals that ran under the streets and even those pink stucco fountains in the middle of shopping outlet centers... all of them held reds. But, each time I would get ready to shoot my line, my brother-in-law would peel out like B.A. Barracus from the A-Team, laughing as we sped away.

The last nightmare was the most disturbing. I was fishing with Scott Owens - a very good guide on the Georgia coast - and he put me on this HUGE red. It must've been 40 inches. I somehow made the perfect cast, it's tail turned on it and tipped up and I felt a tug. I tugged back and the fight was on! After several minutes of the most real dream I've ever had - complete with screaming drag sounds of fly line cutting through the water - the fish was landed. At this point, I realized that I was dreaming. But, it didn't even matter to me. If I couldn't land a fish in real life - or in any of my dreams up to that point - then this one would do just fine. In a show of victory, I hoisted the giant red over my held and let out a big "WHHAAA-WHOOOOO!" But, as I brought the fish back down to eye-level, I realized that something wasn't right. A small zipper handle dangled just behind the fish's gill plate and curiousity got the best of me. I should've just woken up right then - heck, I knew I was dreaming, so I could've stopped all this madness - but I had to see what was going on. I set the fish down on the deck of the boat and started pulling the zipper back towards the tail. To my horror, this was no redfish. It was a striped bass wearing a redfish costume!

Do I need psychological help? Probably.

But instead, I decided to capitalize on a planned trip to New Orleans over the 4th of July this year with my wife and a few friends. As anyone who fishes salt knows, the Louisiana coastal area is the best in the world for redfishing. So I called up the best guide in the area, Gary Taylor (GoForItCharters.com), and booked a half-day with him. To draw a parallel, booking a trip with Gary Taylor for redfishing is like calling on Chef Paul Prudhomme to help you cook a redfish or artist Mark Susinno to help you draw a redfish. It simply doesn't get any better.

He told me it was going to be really hot and that we may not land anything. I told him that I expected nothing less as I was cursed, but that I had to keep trying. I told him about my nightmares and, as he laughed, said, "Alright, we've got to get you on a redfish!"

So on the morning of Saturday, July 4th, I met Gary at his boat with heavy clouds overhead and a stiff wind blowing - not exactly prime conditions for redfishing. "That's about right," I thought.

I strung up my rod, hopped in the boat and we were off. Now let me tell you, if we didn't catch a fish all day, I still would've had a great time. Gary is about 60 years old now, but was formerly a professional dirt-bike racer. This comes through as he hastily navigates his 17-foot Hell's Bay through the marshes he's been fishing for decades. The boat ride itself was just as fun as the fishing!

Gary almost immediately got me on fish and on one of my first casts - a ROLL CAST TO A RED ABOUT 20 FEET FROM THE BOAT - a fish ate and the fight was on. A few minutes later and the red was landed and the curse was dead!

Over the course of the next couple of hours, I landed several more reds up to 7.5 pounds, a black drum and a gar.

What a fun trip - and all of this during a time of year that is far from prime for this area. Gary said that the winter was the best time to be there and that you could catch about as many reds as you could ever want to catch on a day that time of year. Funny - the day seemed prime to me. And so far, no more red nightmares.

David Cannon

Monday, July 6, 2009

Tie 1 On

Can it get too hot to "tie 1 on"? I guess it can. After talking to a couple of fly tyers that normally attend our monthly fly tying session, who told me they wouldn't be able to attend this month, we decided to schedule the next session in August. What about Tuesday Aug 4 at 6:30 pm? Hopefully we can get this thing cranked back up then. Remember that its open to everyone, its free, and its a great way to share your interest and learn. See you at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen in August.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

New License Fees Go Into Effect

The Georgia General Assembly passed HB326 in their last session, and the Governor signed the bill into law - this law went into effect today. There are a number of changes, but of primary interest to our customers is the new license fee structure.

First, for Georgia residents, there are no changes to the one-year fishing license fees. The base fees are still $9 for fishing and $5 for trout, totaling $14 plus "convenience fees" for annual fishing including trout. The resident WMA fee remains the same as well - for those few fishing spots in the state that require it.

Georgia residents now have the option of a two-year term for these licenses as well. The rates are double the one year rate, except the fishing license is discounted $2 for the two year period.

Non-residents have a different set of options now:

Gone are the one-day and seven-day non-resident fishing licenses; the only short-term license is a three-day license for $20. There is now a short-term trout license available for $10, making the total for three days of non-resident trout fishing in Georgia $30 plus "convenience fees". Also, the three-day fishing license is now actually a hunting/fishing combo license - perfect if you want to visit for a cast & blast!

The non-resident annual fees have changed as well, and are now $45 for fishing and $20 for trout, for a total of $65 plus "convenience fees" for a year of Georgia trout fishing for non-residents. The non-resident WMA is unchanged at $73 per year.

There are a lot of other hunting and fishing license changes that you can read about here.