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, December 23, 2010

Orvis Fly Fishing Tip

Difficulty tying your fly to the tippet? Try this!

As you get older and the light gets dimmer, it becomes increasingly difficult when fishing to thread the fly, let alone knot it onto the tippet. An obvious answer to this problem is to carry some sort of magnifying optics with you to facilitate the process. Often in low light conditions even that is not enough. If you pull out a flashlight, you can sometimes see well enough to tie on the fly, but then you've just lost your night vision at the time when you needed it the most. And, of course, the trout become very active right around dusk. Why is this happening?
The ability for the human eye to discern small details and pick them out of a background typically decreases with age. Part of the problem is the change in the physical shape of the eye as we get older which usually causes us to lose the ability to focus on items up close. Another part of the equation has to do with chromatic aberration in the human eye. Different colors have different wavelengths and the human eye focuses differently for each of them. When you get too many different colors all in the same area, it becomes difficult to pick the detail out of any of it. Without getting too far into specifics, suffice it to say that it is easier to pick out detail against a solid mono-colored background than a mottled or multi-colored one.
So, next time you're on the water with the light failing, the fish rising, and having trouble tying on the fly, try holding the fly up against a single-colored background - preferably a light, single-colored background. A good candidate for this is the sky overhead. It is one of the last things to go dark if it is not a terribly cloudy day. Even if it is cloudy, you can usually find a cloud big enough to use as a solid color. Sometimes the solid glare from the low light on the water does the trick. Look around. It might be that the large elephant-eared leaf of a wild rhubarb does the trick. Using any of these backgrounds makes it much easier than trying to see and tie on a fly against the multi-colored, multi-edged background of streamside vegetation. This is not a cure-all, but it helps and it sure beats not fly fishing!
-Dan Gracia

Monday, December 20, 2010


The Fly Fishing Santa from Third Coast Fly on Vimeo.

From Third Coast Fly.

Fish of the New Millenium

Our friend and fellow Foothills TU member Bob Lux hails from up around Buffalo, NY and gets to go back fishing and hunting there fairly regularly.  Today he sent us this report:

So I headed out to the Tulpehocken Creek today outside of Reading, PA while on a visit to the inlaws for Christmas. The air temp was 28 degrees and the water was 34. Perfect for fools and trout. Little did I know that the trout would be taking the day off and the freshwater reds were on the move. I hooked this guy in a deep hole and fought him for close to ten minutes before I could see what I had on the line. It took almost twenty minutes using 5x to get this guy to the net. I guess they like leech patterns too. I got into 3 more of his brothers and 0 trout. At least the battle with this golden beauty warmed me up.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Congratulations Alan Folger

Great news over at 52 Trout, our friend Alan Folger's blog.  Alan just announced that he has accepted a new position with Trout Unlimited.  Alan will be the Veterans Service Partnership Coordinator beginning January 3rd.  Read more in this post on Alan's blog.

Congratulations Alan!

And if you haven't visited Alan's blog, take this opportunity to do so - you won't find any nicer fishing art anywhere - not to mention some great writing.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Great Christmas Gift

Unicoi Outfitters has put together a great introductory outfit for the new angler in your life. We've taken what we think are the best rod and best reel values available today, added a great line, backing and leader so all they have to do is tie on a fly and start fishing. These combos come with a Redington Crosswater rod and Ross Flystart reel and are priced at $130.95. Not only are they a great entry level rod but they're also more than adequate as your backup rod you keep in your vehicle just in case something happens to your primary rod. It may be just what Santa was looking for for the angler in your home.

We have 7.5' 4-weight and 8.5' 5-weight available.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do or Die!

Our friend, and excellent flyfishing photographer, Pat Ford just sent us a few photos from a recent trip - I put them together in a quick animation...to see Pat's photography as it should be seen, go to his website. 

I just got back from Chile where I spent 10 days at Puma Lodge with owner Steve Selway and soon-to-be 87 years old Capt. Bill Curtis.  This sequence is from Lake Yelcho.  Bill slipped and fell into the icy waters while fighting a rainbow trout.  He could have easily sunk like a rock, but survived thanks to the guide catching his legs as he went over.  Follow the rod in this sequence - Bill is one tough old Fart!!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Fly Angler's Oath

Quote from the St. Croix 2011 catalog.  We just thought you would like it as much as we do.

Dredger's Cold Weather Tips

From Jeff Durniak - Ga DNR Region III Fisheries Supervisor

Welcome to January in Montana!

Your very best bets this week may be
a) staying at home, or
b) finishing your holiday shopping at a nice, warm retail store.

This frigid weather will really slow down a lot of our sport fish species and make your "catching" much more challenging, especially if you're new to the game.  Just look at the stream temperatures and you'll see the odds stacked against you!  http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv?02330450 In these frigid conditions, even our Burton Hatchery fish will not consume their daily doses of trout chow.  Hatchery managers will be
lucky to fit in an occasional afternoon feeding when the sun shines and the water inches up closer to 40 degrees.

That should give anglers some realistic expectations about the number of strikes they'll have when water temps plummet.  Some anglers call it "zen fishing" in the winter, as the strikes from stream trout are so subtle, they are barely perceptible.  We use small flies dead-drifted on the bottom, and cast repeatedly into good-looking, slow spots in an attempt to bump the fish in the nose.  They simply won't move far for food right now.  We set the hook whenever we "think" something should happen and do not wait until we see an obvious strike!

For those brave, fleece-draped  souls who still need a fishing fix, there are still some great opportunities in northeast Georgia.  I doubt if those anglers will experience any crowding, either! A look ahead shows a small  "window of opportunity" on Friday and Saturday afternoons, a brief spell of warmer weather between the two arctic
blasts.   Lakes are still warmer than streams, too.  Those who time their trips correctly to take advantage of increased water temperatures should have some luck.

The good news is that the next extended run of warmer weather should turn on a lot of fish, so be ready to fish the tail-end of a 3-4 day warm spell.

This week's best bets follow:
* Delayed Harvest trout waters (getting a fresh dose of stockers this
* Downstream escapees from DH trout waters (Hooch in Helen, Chattooga
below Hwy 28, Ami below Hwy 53)
* Trout tailwaters due to their warmer water from the reservoirs
(Hooch, Toccoa, Smith Creek)
* Stripers on big lakes like Lanier (54 degrees F) and Hartwell

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Standley Cup!

On November 17th I was privileged once again to host the Standley Cup Fly Fishing Tournament. Not only host, but guide, direct, judge, referee and MC! Let me explain. Ralph Ripley and John Standley met in 1975...they were in the Army. Obviously a strong friendship was created there. Ralph left the service in '95' and started his own company (which he still owns and runs). John? Well he continued on in the service and at 70 years old (last year) he was still flying (as a pilot) in support of the military in Iraq. They have fished many places together, including Costa Rica, through the years, but they choose to come back to fish with me here at Unicoi every year for their own tournament, "The Standley Cup". To say that these two are competitive with each other would be an understatement!! What started out as a friendly "dinner bet" six years ago, has turned into a full on tournament with written rules, score sheets and an awards ceremony with the trophy presentation! Trying to explain the needling and trash talking that goes on would be pointless..Let me just say this as a barometer to the degree of needling ...John brought Ralph a hand crafted table with a hand painted trout on it as a consolation gift this trip... because he knows how upset Ralph gets when he looses! The comment was, "this painted trout will be as close as you'll get to catching a fish!" The gift was given to Ralph the night before the tourney just to add a little extra pressure. Like the mailman, neither rain, sleet, snow, or dark of night will keep these two from their appointed tournament and fishing fellowship! The tourney has been held in every type of weather and water condition. Maybe I should say "come Hell or high water!"
Congrats go out to Ralph this year for overcoming a tough day at Frog Hollow and a two year slump to take home the Standley Cup. The friendships and memories that are made on the water are lasting and important...even cherished. I would like to thank these two gentlemen for making me a part of this event year after year and adding to my memories and friendships.
Rex Gudgel (FFF Master)

Sunday, December 5, 2010


As you can see, even when the fish are not biting, the river is a great place to be--what a way to relax. Our tying bunch will meet this Tue., Dec. 7, at 6:00 PM at the shop in Helen.
We welcome anyone interested in tying basic flies that catch fish. This is a great place to start if you are interested and also a good opportunity to sharpen your skills if you tie already--everyone is welcome.

We would just like to express our thanks to Unicoi for allowing us to meet at the shop and for the use of their equipment and supplies.

I would also like to say thanks to all the Unicoi folks at Helen and Blue Ridge for giving me such a great present throughout the year.

Let there be light,

Friday, December 3, 2010

New TV Series on the Impact of Invasive Aquatic Species

If you happen to live in an area where your local cable TV service is gracious enough to have Versus for the outdoor aficionados in the group (can you tell we've got a chip on our shoulder about Windstream?), there is a new four-part series which will begin airing this Sunday, December 5th that focuses on the effect of invasive aquatic species on our fisheries.  You can find more information on the series by going to:

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hot Times at River North with Hamp Cross

This past Friday and Saturday I fished with longtime client Stuart Pierce. We met at River North on Friday afternoon and in the first pool were able to land 15 fish with the big one being 8lbs. We continued to catch them on flashback hare ears in size 14 for the rest of the afternoon, probably finishing with 25 plus hookups in the 4 hour half day.

After letting it warm up some Saturday morning we hit the water about 10:30, and caught fish consistently all afternoon, with the largest fish being 23 inches and 7-8 pounds. It took a size 10 gray hurless nymph. Big fly, big fish! Most of the fish took an olive bugger dredged deep though. We ended the day with several more fish over 20" and 20 plus fish for the afternoon. With great weather and cool water, the fish were active and fought well. As always, it's great to get on the water with a repeat client who over the years has become a friend of Unicoi Outfitters and myself. Thanks again to Stuart and I hope to see him in the future to put some more lunkers in the net. Hamp

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just Another Day on the Stream

One of our Foothills TU Chapter members, Bob Lux, recently went back home to New York for a little deer hunting and took a break to squeeze in a day of steelhead fishing...here's how it went:

After 7 days of deer hunting between Ohio and New York, I was in need of a break. Thankfully, it turned out to be a big rain day here in Western New York, so my friend Andy and I decided that we should hit Cattaraugus Creek before the rain washed it out. When we showed up in the morning, there was not a soul at the parking lot which was very odd for this time of year. With deer season opening this past weekend, most guys were hunting and let's be honest, it was Monday and the normal people of the world were at work. We are not normal and we need to catch some fish! 

We headed downstream to our spot that we discovered about 17 years ago during our initial journey into steelhead lore and legend. After the long walk, Andy jumped in ready to fish. Being a traveler of the world, my setup was not ready to go yet, so I had to rig up. I stepped into the river and made about 5 casts before getting the depth I wanted. The spot we fish is a seam in an area of rapids that drops into a long pool. Both sides of the seam are moving pretty good, but if you stay in the seam then you will catch fish. Andy has remained in the Buffalo area yet he has slackened in his steelhead ways, so I was telling him where to keep his indicator (when you fish a spot for close to 20 years, you know where the fish are). On about my 5th cast, the indicator dove down and I set the hook. The clay colored water of the Catt exploded as a chrome steelhead reached for the stars. I was a little nervous because this fish was large and I was kicking it with 6lb tippet (why I don't know since I immediately changed to 10lb after the battle). I fought the fish for 15 minutes as it made 9 long runs, each time seeming to only get stronger or maybe I was just getting more tired than the fish. My buddy Andy was finally able to get the net around the chrome steel and we got it to shore. The fished measured out at 30 inches and was released unharmed (except for the sore mouth). 

I instructed where Andy needed to get his fly as I was re-arming with heavier line. Before I knew it, Andy is yelling the call of the Catt "Fish On"! After a short battle I had the 25" steelhead in the net and ready to pose for its cover page photo shoot. With this challenge being matched by Andy, I was ready to step up. 

The next two hours yielded 10 more hookups and 3 more fish landed by me with the last one I hooke being a fish that had been in the river for some time and stared getting that mean looking hook jaw. I missed that fish 3 times before finally getting into it. Once hooked, this fish was ready to put on a show as it had me into my backing in 10 seconds. I chased him downstream and fought him for another 10 minutes before bringing him to the net. That fished ranked as one of my better steelhead on the Catt and we estimated him at 12 lbs. 

The rain began to fall harder and felt the call to go do a little duck hunting before dark, so I was reluctantly convinced into leaving, but not after one more cast. I made one more cast into my seam and the indicator dropped. I set the hook only to have the fish spit the hook and give me a little porpoise show by coming up out of the water after he got loose just to give my a goodbye wave. All in all, not a bad way to spend two hours in the pouring rain. Final score Bob = 4, Andy = 1. By the way, my four fish were on a #14 Y2K. Gotta love that fly!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Like Old Times at River North

I fished at River North this past Thurs with Robert and Mitch and as you can see, I think they enjoyed it--I know I did. The morning started off pretty slow, but as the temp warmed up so did the fishing. Both Mitch and Robert knew what they were doing and before long they had me chasing big rainbows up and down the Soque. Any small mayfly imitations with plenty of weight seemed to be the ticket.

Thanks fellas, I had a great day--hope to do it again real soon. I love my "job".


Friday, November 19, 2010

Alex Lunsford

I don't think I've ever seen someone so happy about breaking a fly rod!  Read more about Alex over at the Unicoi Outfitters website.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fly Fishing Georgia - a No Nonsense Guidebook

Available at both Unicoi Outfitters locations.

Click here to see some sample pages from the book.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Darlington School Flyfishing Club at Nacoochee Bend

This in from Hamp Cross:

Henderson Stegall with first trout on a fly rod - a 14" 'bow
On Saturday November 13th, we took the flyfishing club from the Darlington School near Rome, Georgia out on a Gilligan Special.  The party was made up of five students and three adults.  The students have just recently started this club in their high school and this was their first outing as a club.  The group ranged from rank beginners to some pretty experienced young fisherman.  After brushing up on their casting skills out in the field, we broke up into parties of two to fish for a couple of hours.  I had the privilege of fishing with Director Gordon Hight and club member Henderson Stegall.  Hight was an experienced fisherman and quickly was into fish landing around five or six in the couple of hours and letting a few go on the long distance release.  His best fish was an 18" 'bow that took a size 18 Mirco May dropped off a Stimulator.   Henderson, an experienced spin fisherman, was just getting his feet wet with the long rod and had some early hookups before we were prepared to finish the battle.  After working hard for two hours and greatly improving his casting and line control, he was able to take two of his best trout ever in the last few minutes, landing a 16" 'bow that was not happy about being hooked and gave us several awesome jumps before coming to the net, with the other students watching.  I had a great time guiding these folks and commend them as a well-mannered and polite group of young men.  The world could use more teenagers like these guys.  Thanks again for letting Unicoi be a part of your club and look forward to seeing you in the future.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Take a vet fishing.
Thanks veterans,

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Knee Deep and Loving It

Great weather, stunning North Georgia mountains in the fall, willing fish, and good friends--what a great week of fishing! Thanks Tony and Rick, and to all of Unicoi's customers, for allowing me the opportunity to fish with you--can't wait to do it again.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Autumn Fishing Reports

Hello Folks,

It’s been a while since I have been able to post any new fishing stories. I’ve been fishing, but I have mainly focused my time and energy into my new family member.

But, recently (11/6) I floated the Toccoa DH on one of the coldest days I’ve fished this season. Fishing was sort of slow with the mid part of the day being the most productive. Meat –n- Tater flies still fooling fish.

The new stretch of Mountain Town Creek, Mountain Town Plantation, is a special place. The quintessential North Georgia trout stream and it has all the fixings! Pocket water, fast riffle sections, deep slow pools, long shallow runs, you name it, Mountain Plantation has it. Look out NCF, MTP is beginning to change my opinion about where I go to get away. It’s absolutely packed with hungry trout and the opportunity to fish for them over a variety of fishing situations.
I’ve had a few trips on the Tuckasegee DH this fall since it opened, and it finally gave me a good trip last week. Jim C. and I floated it Friday October 27th after the rains that finally lifted the water level up to “Just Floatable”. Steadily caught fish all day hooking and fighting a 20”+ Brown that Jim winched to the boat once before making a power run that ended up in the trout’s favor. But, I know where he is!

All in all, it has been a good fall. Especially since the heat has subsided and we are finally able to wet our lines in water lower than 70dgs. Next trip will be the newly reborn Toccoa River to see how the fishing is.

Till Then,

J Byrd
-Life is short, fish as often as you can!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hamp Cross

Hamp Cross (left) with client Jimmy George at Frog Hollow
By the age of 10, Hamp was following his father around north Georgia's trout streams with flyrod in hand. In addition to helping out at the shop and guiding for Unicoi Outfitters, Hamp has also guided in Alaska and won several awards over the years including being on the winning team for last year's Gold Rush Cup Challenge held at Frog Hollow.  Read more about Hamp on our website.

Monday, November 1, 2010


The fishing is great right now--the recent rain has really turned them on. The last few trips I have guided have been gang busters. The fish are aggressive, my customers have been family trips which I really enjoy, and the fall colors and weather are unbelievable--what a blessing.

So it's time to crank up the vise and "tie 1 on". Our fly tying session will meet this Tues (Nov.2)--tomorrow--at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen at 6:00 PM. Come and show us how to tie your favorite fly or come and learn how to tie the flies you like to fish . We tie simple flies that catch fish--guaranteed. Don't have the equipment or supplies to get started--that's OK--we'll supply everything for you. Everyone is invited, hope to see you there.



Chattooga in the Fall

My friend Alan Juncker and I both needed to go stand in a river for a few hours on Saturday. The weight of a week of real work was pressing on our shoulders so we mutually agreed that the Chattooga River would provide the antidote. Our plan was to leave Cornelia at 8:30 AM and be fishing shortly after 10:00 when the sun began to warm things up a little. As we donned our gear at Burrell's Ford, an overnight camper told us his thermometer read 37 degrees when he awoke earlier. Sounds like we made a good decision so far. Even though the leaf color was beyond peak performance, it was still spectacular as we walked in to find the perfect spot to begin. Crystal clear water, with a few leaves, coursed through the granite chutes and tumbled through riffles and plunge pools, drowning out the conversations of the office still rattling around in my head.

A few bugs were coming off, nothing to get excited about but a sure sign that the sun was working its magic in bringing the stream to life for another day. I had my plan all set; dries and droppers all day. A hefty Royal Stimulator trailed by a Soft Hackle Hares Ear about 20 inches back started and ended my day. It was a beautiful day to be on the Chattooga, as most are. The weather was perfect and I only fell in once. Actually, it wasn't a fall but rather a slow, controlled sit-down with only my arms getting wet. Felt soles are still better than rubber.

My morning began working pocket water as I slowly got the kinks out of my body but 15 minutes into the day I made a cast mid-stream to a perfect riffle where I hoped a trout may be grubbing around for bugs in the well oxygenated water. On my second cast, the Stimulator hesitates and I lift my rod tip to the resistance of a fish; a good fish! I give an obligatory holler down to Alan that I have a nice fish on. It took the Hares Ear which happened to be tied to 6X Fluorocarbon. As I reach behind my back to grab my net, I realize I left it hanging in my garage and this fish isn't going to provide me with an opportunity to land him by hand any time soon. But Alan is much wiser than I and he has a net waiting downstream. I carefully maneuver the fish between boulders until I'm close enough to let him drift into Alan's submerged net. "Nice fish! Big brown!", he said. What a way to start the day! Using my outstretched fingers as a ruler, I calculated the fish to be right at 15 inches. The folks in Rabun County who have fished this river for over five decades call this strain an "old time original" brown with sparse but beautiful large spots. What a great day already.

As the sun continued to warm things, we picked up a few more fish. Some stocked rainbows and more wild browns. Some on pheasant tails but the overwhelming majority of the fish fell for the Hares Ear, whether soft hackle or regular bead head. In a little over four hours of fishing, we probably caught 15 or 16 fish but today wasn't about numbers. It was about that water flowing past your legs and renewing your spirit. It was about a day on one of the most beautiful trout streams in north America with a good friend you haven't fished with in a while. The catching was simply an added blessing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Great Fishing Report!

We know this amazing story has been on NGTO and disseminated by GADNR but we thought it was so cool that we wanted to give it even more exposure. We want to thank Stephen Johnson and Upper Chattahoochee Chapter Trout Unlimited for the report. Read on!

Report by: Stephen Johnson
Date: 10/23/2010
River/Stream: Upper Hooch - Andrew takes it up a notch
Report: So I took Andrew out and we went up river from Abbotts Bridge. I told him I didn't think we had much of a shot at any big fish due to the full moon last night and it was bright and sunny today. While we were going up we had to slow down for some canoer's and while we were going by Andrew says he saw a really big fish and he thought it was a brown. So as not to tip off the spin fisher's we kept going up river and stopped and fished down doing quite well. When we got back to the spot we saw the fish there were a lot of fish schooled around the logs and then we saw the big guy.
I tell Andrew to take out the 6wt and put the biggest bugger I had in the box (size 4 brown cone head). He throws it into the logs and a 15" brown hammers it but comes off after a few feet. He throws it back into the logs and this time a 10" brown takes it. On the way back to the boat this monster chases it down and swallows it whole. (Needless to say we are freaking out!)
I tell Andrew: wait till he swallows it down (about 15 seconds), PUT IT TO HIM! Fish on! Great fight that lasts about 10+ minutes. I net him. 24" brown bull. Awesome!
Takes about another 10 to 15 minutes to make sure he is revived before release.
Check out the picture if you don't believe me...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Steve Hudson, Atlanta Fly Fishing Examiner

Steve Hudson is writing a fly fishing column for examiner.com.  Steve has enjoyed fly fishing for many years, making his first casts at the age of eight in the family pond. He has fished from Florida to Alaska, but he will quickly tell you that his favorite waters are those right here in northern Georgia. A professional journalist for more than 30 years, Steve enjoys writing about fly fishing almost as much as being on the water. He's passionate about sharing the sport, too, and he's frequently invited to lead workshops on fly fishing, fly tying, and other aspects of the sport. He lives in Alpharetta with his wife Ann and Chester the Sheepdog. 

Steve's column is full of great, locally useful articles, such as "Go deep for big trout -- learn how at North Georgia Trout Online's Fall Fling".

Steve will also be holding a great Delayed Harvest Fly Tying Seminar at our Helen Shop on Saturday October 30 from 9am to 2:30 pm.  We'll post a schedule next week, or check your Liars Club Newsletter for details.

Mountaintown Plantation: A Piece of Trout Heaven

Mountaintown Plantation opened its incredible water to fishing for the first time yesterday. Fly rods in hand, two lucky guys slid in the crystal clear water at daybreak. Bright Fall colors lined the stream banks and sunshine quickly warmed the frosty morning into short sleeve weather.

Any pocket of water that looked like it should hold a trout received a cast and the fly was greeted by a hungry rainbow. Jonathon, Brian, and I experienced one of those days when we could do no wrong.
The trout were eating almost any fly from my unorganized fly boxes.I told Jonathon and Brian that we should see if we can find a fly they won't eat.

Brian had a beaded fish counting necklace with 30 beads on it. He slid them down one time and up another counting at least 60 trout he caught and Jonathon matched him fish for fish. Over 120 trout ain't too bad for a debut.
Hold on tight for we have big plans for the piece of trout heaven!Give us a call at the shop if your interested in hearing more about Mountaintown Plantation.

Julian Byrd

Byrd has pulled the oars down south and out west, but calls Georgia home.  Like most of our guides,  he got started fishing at an early age...read more about him here.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trick or Treat

Click for a good look at some nice fish!
Here's a treat from Anthony Rabern via Jeff Durniak:

We sampled Lake Burton today (10/19) and caught a variety of quality fish.  Burton brown trout, like the one pictured in the attached photo, should be moving into the tributaries in November to prepare for spawning.  The one pictured weighed four pounds.  Spotted bass were very abundant in our sampling gear today, especially in the shallows on the upper lake.  The area around the Hwy 76 was particular productive.  I would imagine that spots, trout, and walleye would chase a crank bait in the morning or early evening hours for the next several weeks.

Anglers should also remember nearby reservoirs such as Rabun, Seed, And Tugalo, for some good fall fishing for bass and walleye.  


Anthony Rabern
GADNR Senior Fisheries Biologist
Lake Burton Hatchery

Thursday, October 14, 2010

2011 Fly Fishing Gear Guide from "MidCurrent"

After our return from the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show in Denver, we considered writing a review of all the products we thought would be of interest to you. But, we were just overwhelmed and realized our writing skills probably wouldn't do justice to the subject. Now, we're glad we procrastinated. "MidCurrent" has just published an online article covering EVERYTHING! And it's much more well written and has more detail than we could have every provided you. Over the next few days or even weeks, you should take some time to casually read their report. This may also be a good time to start that Christmas list. We hope you'll enjoy this and we are grateful to Marshall Cutchin and "MidCurrent" for their work.  Just click above to go to the guide.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The "Second Season" is About to Start

With the cooler weather and rain we've got in the forecast, it's time for the fall trout season to start up here in the South.  Here's a little video to get your blood pumpin'!  Thanks to David Cannon for the great vid!

Monday, October 4, 2010

John Browning

John has been with the shop guiding for a while now, and as you can tell from the photo, has a bit of fishing experience too!  I'm not entirely sure which one is John, but he is in the photo at right.  Read more of JB's story here.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


As you can see from the illustration, our fly tying sessions are pretty simple--but we have fun and we tie basic flies that catch fish. You missed out if you didn't attend the Sept. session--Tim Ivey showed us how to tie 2 of his smallmouth patterns--thanks Tim, you did a great job and we enjoyed it. We will meet Tues., Oct. 5th at 6:00 PM at the shop in Helen. Everyone is invited.

This is a great time to learn to tie flies for the upcoming fishing season. Experienced tyers are welcome too--you can always learn something new and you can help those who are just beginning. Supplies will be provided--thanks Unicoi.

I just returned from a trip to the Southwest U.S.  I attended a Bible study/fly fishing retreat in Glorietta, N.M. and had a great time doing both thanks to Jason Cruise and all the other folks at the event. I fished the Pecos, Rio Grande, and San Juan rivers in N.M. and the Animas river in southern Col. I can't believe I fly fished the Rio Grande river--I only thought it was in Texas --it was truly a beautiful place to fish. We enjoyed floating the tail waters of the San Juan thanks to Joshua and the folks at Durangler's Outfitters.
We hooked plenty of really nice fish on the big fly shown in the picture.  We are truly blessed with a beautiful country--hope we can keep it that way.

Don't forget to "Tie 1 On'' Tue (Oct 5).



Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Trout Unlimited Hosts Panel on Toccoa Tailwater

The Toccoa River Tailwater (below Blue Ridge Dam) is a premier trout fishery with enormous importance to the economic, social, and recreational well-being of Fannin County. *Trout fishing and the quality of water in the Toccoa is at risk of collapse as a result of a drawdown of Lake Blue Ridge so the TVA can make essential repairs to the dam and penstock. *Water temperatures and clarity are suffering, and the weather thus far is not cooperating. *The reason the river is in extremis is the timing of the protracted drawdown, which coincided with an unusually hot and dry summer and start to the fall season. * The full extent of damage to the fishery, if any, has yet to be determined. *However, it is not too soon to develop a plan for recovery of the river post-drawdown in order to minimize damage or improve the fishery.*​

No one doubts that the dam repairs were needed, and that the TVA carefully considered many factors in timing the drawdown, including weather patterns, safety, environmental impact, and the like, with input from the public and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. * The question is, however, where do we go from here if trout die and the fishery collapses? *This question and more will be answered in a public forum hosted by Blue Ridge Mountain Trout Unlimited at the Fannin Chamber of Commerce, 9 am, October 9, 2010. *Representatives of the TVA, DNR, Trout Unlimited, and the Chamber of Commerce will comprise a panel to discuss the immediate future of the Toccoa Tailwater and to answer questions from the audience. The purpose of this discussion is not to probe how, why, or when the drawdown was done or to criticize anyone in the process. *This meeting focuses on what can be done from this point forward to protect and restore the fishery.*​

Trout Unlimited is an organization dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and protection of coldwater (trout) fisheries like the Toccoa.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fish of the New Millenium

As I drove south on GA 400 before sunup on Monday morning, I found myself wondering why in the world I let Henry Cowen talk me into this.  Traffic was beginning to build as I cruised closer and closer to the epicenter of that alter-universe commonly known as Atlanta.  Who drives into Atlanta to fish when they have the southern Appalachians right out their back door?  It was a conundrum; I had no answer.  But Henry's Brooklyn accent was obviously dialed up an octave or two when he called to invite me down to try "the most challenging flyfishing you'll ever see."  Though I pulled into our appointed meeting place 10 minutes early, Henry was already there, checking all the details on his G3 shallow water boat like an airline captain before takeoff.

With Fall officially still two days away, there was no mistaking that Summer was fully in charge this day and my long sleeve shirt seemed like a mistake as we pushed off from the boat launch at Azalea Drive on the Chattahoochee River.  But the cold water that originated in the bottom of Lake Lanier provided a chilly air conditioned zone that hovered above the water as we were enveloped by the dense fog of early morning.  Henry's fleece jacket felt pretty good, even on the short ride downstream.  Quietly, we slipped into one of the many oxbow lakes lining the channel of the river and began scanning the surface for our quarry, the golden ghosts of the mud flats and the object of unwarranted derision in the fly fishing world.  CARP!

If you've ever been bonefishing or cast a fly to trophy reds in the saltwater marshes of the southeastern coast, you've experienced one of flyfishing's most challenging quarry.  And while these species garner well deserved recognition for being among the most difficult fish to catch on a fly, the unpretentious carp finds honor difficult to come by and is more likely to be the object of ridicule than respect.  That's because the vast majority of the criticism comes from anglers who have never tried to hook and land one of these guys. A humble attitude should be the first thing you pack when heading out for carp.  Otherwise, you'll come home mumbling to yourself.

We immediately began to spot fish and within the first five minutes I had cast to three different fish... to no avail.  With Henry on the poling platform at the back of the boat, and my eyes straining to pick up movement in the shallow water surrounding us, there was almost never a period when we weren't stalking a fish as they rooted around, occasionally waving their huge tails in the air, looking for aquatic insects and crustaceans.  Henry's instructions to me were to be able to quickly cast to a target the size of a paper plate 40 feet away and, if I missed by more than 6 inches, to immediately pick up and cast again.  My 7'11" Ross Essence 8 wt. with Sharkskin line should have been up to the task.  The big question being, "Am I up to it?"

The next two hours were about as much of an adrenalin rush as I've ever experienced in flyfishing.  It's like a big game hunt where you're stalking your prey in hopes of being good enough to make the shot when the opportunity presents itself.  I probably cast to 30 or 35 fish and got one to eat.  And that one was worth my trip.  In less than 10 inches of water, the big fish picked my fly from the silty cloud, made a huge boil as it swirled against the pressure of my hookset and took of like a scalded dog on an 80 foot run.  I slowly worked the fish back to the boat but it was in no mood to let Henry grab it's bottom lip.  After running under the boat and out the other side three times, almost pulling the rod out of my hands on every surge, we finally landed it.  It was not an easy chore.  All the while Henry has a sly grin on his face that said, "See, I told you so."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jake Darling

Jake has been hanging around the fly shop since he was knee-high to a gnat...we finally had to start letting him guide just to get him out of shop!  In addition to being a great guide, Jake helps run the Helen store - stop by and ask him about his nickname...and click here to read his bio over at our website.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Becky Strain

With David's recent mention of NCF opening back up, and with our other private trophy trout streams about to re-open for the season, I thought I'd take the opportunity to post some info on a few of our guides.  First up is Becky Strain - Becky guides a lot out at NCF, and in addition to being one of several FFF Certified Casting Instructors on our staff, she has won the Women's World Invitational Bonefish Tournament multiple times and holds an IGFA world record for bonefish on the fly.  Click here to read her bio over at the Unicoi Outfitters website.

Update on the Toccoa River Tailwater

Recently, Chad and I floated the river to see if we could still find fish in our favorite honey holes after the recent drawdown of Lake Blue Ridge. Unfortunately, I do not have a good report. It was strange not to see one fisherman on the river when a couple months ago you could see 20+ fly fishermen casting flies to feeding trout. At times, there was a unbearable smell. Large and vocal blue herons flew around us protecting their territories. I counted 6 herons in the small stretch we floated. Two dead trout were seen during the trip. I watched a few very lethargic trout which did not respond appropriately to me approaching them. It has been said most of the fish are probably being pushed down the river by generation or being eaten by predators are a couple reasons why we are not seeing large numbers of dead fish.

Temperatures of the Toccoa tailwater seem to remain around 76 degrees. Several reports of occassional dead fish. One customer stated he was able to pick a trout up by his hand at Tammen Park. The water continues to be muddy and have a stained appearance. A positive note is the decline of temperatures in the tributaries of the river so maybe some trout are seeking refuge there.

Since the rise of temperatures on the tailwater, David has decided not to book trips on the tailwater in hopes of preserving what fish are able to survive the lethal temperatures. So, we are not on the water. David and I appreciate folks coming into the shop giving us reports of the Toccoa tailwater. Please keep them coming! We are the only voice for our beloved Toccoa.

Not so long ago, David and I were casting to what seemed like hundreds of rising trout on our float down the river...looking to the future, Georgia DNR transformed the Toccoa tailwater into a tremendous fishery just in the past 5 or 6 years, and we're confident they can do it again once this is all said and done.  In the meantime, let's look forward to this fall's DH season on the upper Toccoa and to the tremendous fishing we expect on our private trophy streams in the coming year (and we have some new surprises in store for you!).