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, November 1, 2010

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.

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