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, June 28, 2010

Fly Tying Videos

Buddy Price is doing some neat video production work - he's building a website that will feature fly fishing and tying videos that should mature into an excellent resource.  He's started out with some tying videos that he's got up on his website, and his channel at YouTube.  We saw him at the recent FFF SE conclave at Unicoi State Park filming a number of the tiers demonstrating there, including our friend Beth Tuttle, featured here:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nice Noontootla Creek Farms Brown Trout!

Bill Bentz with NCF Brown
Becky Strain reports on a recent guide trip she had at the farm:

"Bill Bentz of Jacksonville, FL, fishing with his father-in-law Bob Orton of Mineral Bluff, topped off a morning of excellent fishing at Noontootla Creek Farms on Saturday, June 19th, with this beautiful brown.  Fishing terrestrials early in the morning Bill and Bob both landed several rainbows in the 17 to 20 inch range, both had a couple of 'early releases', and Bill caught this brown nymphing later in the morning.  I would like to give Bill credit for staying with a pool that we both knew held fish.  He was definitely rewarded for his patience as this brown held deep at first and then decided to move downstream at a screaming pace.  Three pools later we managed to get him to net.  Bill  ended the morning casting very small flies to rising fish and managed to land another nice rainbow.  Thanks Bill and Bob for a great morning of fishing."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fly Fishing 101

If you or someone you know has expressed an interest in learning how to fly fish, Unicoi Outfitters is teaming up with Orvis and Trout Unlimited to offer free introductory lessons every Saturday in July from 9 AM until 12 noon.  We'll have casting lessons as well as sessions on how to properly rig your fly rod all morning long with qualified teachers from the Unicoi professional staff as well as local Trout Unlimited members.  Participants will not only get an introduction to fly fishing but will also receive a $15.00 gift certificate good toward the purchase of any Orvis products plus they'll receive a one year trial membership (new members only) in Trout Unlimited, the country's foremost cold water conservation organization.  We encourage you to please call ahead and sign up for these sessions if possible.  The number in Helen is 706-878-3083 and the number in Blue Ridge is 706-632-1880.  We look forward to having you join us.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

The folks out at Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone just mentioned in their latest newsletter that they are taking a stand on the spread of invasive species - they now have a cleaning station outside their front door to help do their part to pass along the idea of "Clean, Inspect, Dry", and noted the great website devoted to the cause of helping prevent the spread of invasive aquatic species at CleanInspectDry.com. While primarily aimed at the Greater Yellowstone Area, the site has some great general information on the problem and how to prevent the spread of these pests. For example, the site lists over 30 species of concern for the Greater Yellowstone Area alone.

With the summer, a lot of us take trips out west to enjoy some of the awesome trout fishing out there. It's good to remember that we should promote "safe wading" and properly clean our equipment when moving from one watershed to another - and also to make sure that we don't add to the problem by bringing home invasive species after our vacations are over.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lake Fishing Tip

Lake bound trout, bass, crappie, and bluegill are notorious for choosing different depths in which to carry on their daily lives. Water temperature, barometric pressure, fishing pressure, and of course food sources may put these fish at a certain depth level in a lake or pond at any given time of year. Some days finding this activity zone is critical to getting strikes. Putting your fly in the face of a sometimes sullen gamefish is not always easy. Strike zones the size of a ping pong ball can be encountered after strong cold fronts making precise depth control necessary.

Luckily there are many choices in fly lines that can get us down from the surface to around 30 feet or so. Beyond that depth is the realm of the trollers with down riggers anyway, also known as taking a sharp stick in the eye. Sinking and sinking tip fly lines can open up a whole new world to the lake angler. The only problem with that is they can also open up your wallet as well. A good fly line will set you back $70 or so. Depths over about 15 feet usually do require the use of one of these wonderful pieces of technology.

Fish in water at 15 feet or less however can be reached with your normal floating fly line and the use of a large strike indicator and heavy fly. Attaching an indicator at various levels on a long leader can give you precise adjustments in the water depth that your fly can be fished. I know there was a collective cringe by all you traditionalists out there (you know who you are). My favorite shallow water lake depth control tool is the simple Thingamabobber from Westwater Products. These little wonders are available in sizes from 1/2 inch to 1 1/4 inch sizes. With the largest size you can keep a dumbell-eyed Clouser Minnow on a collision course with a school of hungry spotted bass in 12 feet of water for the entire length of the cast. Watching your indicator get jerked two feet under water also adds a visual aspect to probing the depths with your fly rod. Memories of childhood fishing a red and white bobber with a minnow attached to an aberdeen hook will come flooding back the first time you get a strike while using this technique. With this set up the angler can stop his retrieve half way back to the boat and let the fly suspend tantalizingly over deepwater cover without having the fly drop down and become hung up. A super slow presentation can be had with such a rig making lethargic fish take a second look when your fly comes helplessly creeping by. This is just another arrow in the quiver of the lake angler.

Friday, June 11, 2010

"TIE 1 ON" with the kids

My son and I were fortunate this week to spend a day with the kids at trout camp in Rabun County--what a great experience. The kids were "gung ho" about everything they did, from building stream structures, shocking fish, learning about bugs, tying flies, and of course to catching fish on flies. Where was this stuff when I was young--a long time ago.

This is the first time I have helped, and you know there's just something about fishing with kids.

A lot of credit has to be given to the TU's (especially Rabun), Ga DNR, US Forest Service, and all the sponsors of the camp, plus the instructors, interns, and mentors that stay and work (or have fun) with the kids.

This is a good thing and I'm looking forward to being more involved in the future.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

Life & Times of a Trout Bum

Quite often, when things get quiet around me and I have time to think, I frequently find myself just astounded at my good fortune.  Not in monetary terms by any means but by the friendships and acquaintances that have appeared in my life simply as a result of being a trout bum in the right place at the right time.  Most all of us have icons whom we look up to in some degree and in the past ten days I've had an unusual run of most interesting angling partners.

Dan Blanton
To start with, myself, Henry Cowen and Rex Gudgel spent two days trout fishing at Nacoochee Bend and Frog Hollow with Lefty Kreh and Dan Blanton.  Lefty, of course, requires no introduction to fly fishing enthusiasists.  When you Google his name, over 70,000 results pop up.  Dan, while not a household name in flyfishing the southeast, is a prominent writer for most of the fly fishing magazines we read and a top guide for stripers in the bay areas of California south of San Francisco.  My memories of these two days were simply that it was as comfortable as fishing with two lifelong friends.  There's never a dull moment when Lefty's around and fishing with Dan is like fishing with a brother.  Two terrible knee injuries in the past couple of years have put a crimp in Lefty's mobility but when he's on-stream, it's an education just to watch him work.  He was blown away by Frog Hollow and has plans to come back and photograph what he called " the most picturesque trout stream I have ever been on east of the Mississippi".  Dan was just as exuberant on his blog as he posed the rhetorical question of "Where else can you fish for stripers in the morning and trophy trout in the afternoon?"

Loran Smith
Friday, the 28th was my last day with these two giants of our sport but the following Wednesday found me at Nacoochee Bend with Loran Smith of UGA Bulldog fame and baseball Hall of Famer Phil Neikro.  The stories these two guys have to tell are unending and I'm always in stitches when I'm with them.  They literally know everyone who's ever been a major player in football and baseball in the past 50 years and I think they have a story about all of them.  Loran, of course, is best known for his sideline commentary during UGA football games but he is also a prolific writer with weekly columns which appear throughout Georgia in over 30 newspapers and he's authored so many books the Dewey Decimal System has lost count.  They are both great gentlemen and I consider it a privilege to host this event for them every year.

Gary Borger
Finally, on the Sunday afternoon after the tremendous Fly Fishing Show at Unicoi Lodge in Helen, I find myself in the Chestatee River at Frog Hollow again.  On this beautiful early summer day, I'm standing next to another of fly fishings most famous anglers, Gary Borger.  Gary is another angler who needs no introduction to the fly fishing community.  His books, articles and videos are among the most well respected in the field and if you want to know about any aspect of fly fishing, you won't find a better source than Gary's work.  At the moment, he's working on a series of 20 books which will deal with a wide variety of angling topics.  He promised to include a chapter titled "Shrimp and Grits" after dinner at Nacoochee Grill.  On Monday, I drove Gary back to Atlanta Airport and we had more time to discuss life, fishing, travels, attracting new fly anglers (he thinks we need to be cultivating the next generation as early as elementary school and I believe I have to agree with him), and bread making.  Yep, bread making.  Gary has become somewhat of a craftsman with artisan breads and he's already sent me his favorite no-knead recipe that I can't wait to try.

My fortune during these few days was to discover what a pleasure it was to spend time with every one of  these guys, standing in a river enjoying life and trying our best to fool a critter with a brain the size of a pea.  And to a man, you could see the light in their eyes when a fish rose to their fly, whether it was a trophy or a nine-incher.  How fortunate can an old trout bum be?  For me, very.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Balloon Hatch in Helen

This past Saturday, during the FFF show, we had a visitor at Nacoochee Bend. One of the balloonists did a touch and go right there in the river in the big pool behind the shop. We wondered if this thing was ovipositing...then realized that's probably where those round pink larvae come from...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

FFF Southeastern Council Fly Fishing Show & Conclave - THIS WEEKEND!

That's right...

We've mentioned it several times in our Liars Club newsletter, but want to remind everyone that the time has arrived for the SE Conclave.  It's this weekend, June 4 & 5 (Friday and Saturday) at Unicoi State Park Lodge in Helen.  The organizers have really stepped it up this year, and it promises to be a great show with lots of seminars and demonstrations by some of the best tiers and fly fishers around, including Gary Borger, Jim Casada, Jimmy Jacobs, Bill Oyster, Kent Edmonds, and a host of others.  Check out the official notice on the SE Council website.

Attendees to the Fly Fishing Show and Conclave will receive a coupon good for 15% off Unicoi Outfitters purchases at either shop on June 4, 5 or 6, 2010, not valid for sale or clearance merchandise.

So head up to Helen for a great weekend of total fly-fishing immersion!

Dan Blanton and Lefty Kreh at Nacoochee Bend and Frog Hollow

Rex, Lefty, Jimmy, Dan
Henry Cowen recently hosted Dan Blanton and Lefty Kreh for some Lake Lanier striper fishing, and to help round out the trip, Henry arranged for the flyfishing icons to fish a couple days with us at Unicoi Outfitters. Dan's got a nice writeup over at his Fly Fishing Bulletin Board, here's an excerpt:

"The next two afternoons were spent trout fishing with the guys from Unicoi Outfitters Fly Shop, personally guided by Rex Gudgel and shop owner Jimmy Harris. We fished two different rivers and both were gorgeous pieces of trout water. I’d fished the second river, the Chestatee at Frog Hollow last year with Henry and Rex a beautiful place in every way. It was on this water that I experienced some hilarious afternoon dry fly fishing for trout so big they looked like steelhead holding in the run. I only hooked a couple of them but the follows and false rises from those monsters kept Henry and Rex, who were viewing Jimmy and me from the high bank, in stitches. I couldn’t see as well as they could but it was exciting nonetheless to hear their oozs and awes. I did hook and fight a monster that Jimmy estimated would have weighed eight or better pounds. When we waded out to the bar Jimmy wanted me to cast from, he said to Rex that I was going to hook a monster because he had forgotten the net. We’ll he guessed that one right. Indeed, I finally busted off the fish when it suddenly surged away when Jimmy touched its tail trying to hand-land it. It simply caught me asleep at the wheel. Hey, I don’t get to fish for monster trout every day. I was happy to just have hooked and fought it.

"Rex and Jimmy, both superb trout fly-fishers and guides, couldn’t have done a better job for Lefty and Me. Jimmy was my guide and I can’t tell you how many different rigs and flies he tied on for me, mostly because I kept tangling them up – we were nymph fishing with two flies below an indicator and I obviously needed more practice. Jimmy had the patience of a saint. The fishing was tough but we managed to hook a few. In fact, Lefty hooked quite a few but because of his limited mobility (bad knee) he lost many by not being able to follow them up or down the run. A number 20 midge doesn’t hold a big trout too well if you can’t finesse them."

Dan also wrote:

"The mornings were spent chasing stripers on Lake Lanier and the afternoons were spent pursuing trophy trout on gorgeous, Georgia mountain streams – private water that Henry had arranged for us to fish. Henry couldn’t have organized a better fishing program for us – stripers and spots in the morning, trout in the afternoon. I don’t know of many other places a fly fisher can do that." 

That last sentence is so true - we have a wealth of fly-fishing opportunities here in North Georgia!  To read the rest of the report, just head over to Dan's post on his Bulletin Board.  We were truly honored to have these guys fish with us.