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, May 10, 2010

The Smokies in May

I'm a small stream addict. There is nothing I love more than working the pockets, riffles and deep runs of a mountain stream, particularly for wild trout. When the mountain laurel are blooming and bugs are hatching, there is nothing more enjoyable than a day on the crystal clear waters of the southern Appalachians. Sunday was one of those magical days. As I drove north to meet my friend Alan Folger at River's Edge Outfitters in Cherokee, NC, I watched the thermometer on my car slowly drop from around 50 to the low 40's. Sure glad I dressed appropriately and even threw in a fleece vest at the last minute. Joe and the guys at River's Edge said it had been down in the high 30's overnight. No rush to get to the river, let things warm up a little.

These days it seems everyone is rushing to Cherokee to fish for the huge trout in the new trophy section on the Raven's Fork but, while battling a big fish on a flyrod is fun, there are times when it's good to just get back to the basics; fooling wild fish and matching the hatch. It's also nice to know that for miles and miles on these streams, you seldom see other anglers. Likewise, you seldom see plastic worm buckets and aluminum cans streamside. In short, it's the experience most of us got into flyfishing for.
The cool weather this day put a damper on the bugs flying out of the water. But that didn't stop me from trying dry flies for most of the day. And the catching, while not exactly hot and heavy, was steady. Most however came on my dropper pheasant tail and not the dry. By mid afternoon I had just completed working my way up through a long stretch with moderate success; still hoping that as the day warmed the bug activity would pick up. But it didn't. Only a few Sulphurs, March Browns and even less sporadic Blue Winged Olives, and no fish rising at all. Recalling from life experiences that stubbornness has its place but probably not on a trout stream, I gave in and tied on two nymphs; a #10 Rubber-legged Stonefly Nymph and the trusty Beadhead Pheasant Tail. First cast into the shallow riffle got a small brown, my first of the day. A few more casts and a rainbow. From that point on, I was constantly into fish. Most of them were rainbows with the largest being a beautiful 12" jumper but a few more were browns. The largest brown of the day was probably 13" but when you're fishing for wild fish in the south, that's a "nice un".
It was a great day to be on the water. The Smokies aren't that far from most of north Georgia and the number of streams you have to choose from is more than I care to count. Stop in to see the folks at River's Edge Outfitters when you're in the Cherokee area. They'll be more than happy to help you with fly selection and fishing reports. Their new shop is located right on US 441 North in a beautiful red-roofed log cabin.

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