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.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hunt for the Wild Tiger

By Carter Morris

I've been very busy guiding fishing trips for Unicoi Outfitters all Spring and Summer, but I finally I had a Saturday free. What does every good fly fishing guide do on his day off? I packed my truck with my gear, some food for lunch, some water and other liquid refreshment, and headed for one of my favorite high altitude small streams to pursue the elusive wild Tiger Trout as my mission. All I can say is that I felt a certain positive energy that day and I firmly believed that I would be successful. I used common sense to choose the stream that I felt would give me the best chance. You need a Brook Trout stream that has or recently has had Brown Trout also taking up residence there.

I drove about an hour from my home in Big Canoe and parked my truck off to the side of the forest service road, put on my hip waders and rigged up my Dan Craft one weight rod with 6X tippet and a 16 Royal Wulff, and then I set off to pursue my quarry. I started at the lower end of the stream and caught around ten small rainbows. As I fished my way up above a barrier falls, I began to catch some very nice Brook Trout, and ended up pulling out around 10 brookies.

I tied on a 16 Light Cahill and continued on up the stream and caught a couple more 8–9 inch Brook Trout. I came to a very overgrown stretch of stream that was impossible to fish so I decided to get out to an old logging road and return to my truck and try another stream. When I got to the old road, I had a change of heart as something told me to go up and see if the stream opened up again. I walked about a quarter mile and came back to the stream and to some beautiful small falls and drop pools. I dropped my Light Cahill in some slow water at the edge of the pool and a big mouth engulfed my fly and took off under a rock ledge. He fought like a Brown Trout and I knew it wasn’t a Brook. I finally forced him out from under the ledge two more times before he finally tired and raised his head and gave up. As i brought him in closer I realized that I finally had my elusive Tiger Trout. I pulled him into some shallow water and got out my camera for some pictures so all of my fishing buddies would believe me. I thanked him for the fight and released him back into his pool and headed back to my truck for lunch and a well deserved cold beer.

Then it hit me that I needed a Brown to complete the Ultimate Georgia Trout Grand Slam. After my sandwich and beer, I tied on some 5X tippet and another Royal Wulff and set out for a Brown. I hooked and lost two fish that could have been Rainbows or Browns. I finally landed a 9 inch Brown to complete my slam! I was tempted to call it a day and spend the rest of the afternoon savoring my unique accomplishment, but it was only around 2pm, so I kept fishing a bit longer. Only a few minutes later and a little ways further upstream, I drifted my fly in a deep run at a sharp bend in the stream and a big explosion took the presentation and headed down stream for a big log jam. I put as much pressure as I could to keep him from the jam, but there was not a lot I could do to tell this fish where to go. Then, he seemed to stop just short of the logs and hold still. He finally shot back up stream and then turned and went back towards the logs again, again stopping just short. He began to tire and I slowly worked him back up stream and into the shallows for a quick photo session...a 16 inch Brown to end up a once in a lifetime day on the water!

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