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, October 19, 2009

Chattooga Gold

There's no question the Chattooga River running between Georgia and South Carolina is a very special place. It was, in fact, the very first river in the country to receive the designation of a "Wild and Scenic River" by the federal government and has been protected from abuse and development ever since. I've fished a lot of spectacular trout streams across United States and, quite honestly, none are more beautiful than the Chattooga. Just as an expectant mother glows radiantly and becomes even more beautiful during that distinctive time, Fall on the Chattooga River brings an exquisite allure to my home river. Sunday afternoon Jeff Durniak and I made the lazy drive north to Rabun County and the mostly east journey on Warwoman Road as you switch back and forth around Rabun Bald. We had planned all along to hike above Burrell's Ford Bridge but we did take time to check the parking lots around the Hwy. 28 bridge just to see if folks were getting out of the house on this beautiful afternoon. All lots were full but we only saw one angler. It was, after all, a great day for hiking as well as fishing.

We arrived at Burrell's Ford Bridge at 1 PM. Air temperature was 48° as was the water temp. Both held steady all afternoon. With a little layering of Capilene and Windstopper fleece, I was very comfortable. My only mistake was forgetting to throw a ball cap in the car. All I had was a wool beanie which was perfectly comfortable but I never truly realized how much glare the bill of a ball cap cuts out. Note to self: don't get so excited about going fishing that you forget vital pieces of equipment. The last time this happened was about twenty years ago when I hiked in to Big Bend Falls before realizing I had left my reel in the car. I suppose such an oversight every twenty years can be tolerated. At least this time I was able to fish.

While Jeff immediately went deep (the nickname "Dredger" is no misnomer), I tied on a big attractor dry with a pheasant tail dropper. Almost immediately I had a rainbow rise to the dry but I missed the strike. That was encouragement enough to convince me to stay with my rig...unfortunately. For the next hour and a half, nothing. Switch to a big stone fly nymph and drop the pheasant tail off the back. "Bam!", nice rainbow. Okay, I can play that game, although I didn't really want to.

For the next three hours, we steadily picked up fish here and there but mostly in the deeper runs with moderate current. And while we really wanted to target wild browns, the rainbows were more aggressive on this trip. But the highlight of the day was a beautiful 14" brown the Rabunites refer to as an old-timey original with buttery gold cheeks and belly that mirrored the gold in the streamside hickory and poplar trees. It was a day for making memories!

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