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, March 26, 2012

First Annual Tie-One-On Tie-Athlon a Success!

1st Annual Tie-Athlon
Tie 1 On for Smithgall Woods--what a great day--a winning day for everyone involved.

Chuck Head & Jake Darling - 1st Place
On Saturday, March 24, 12 tyers (6 teams of 2 per team) of aspiring fly tyers gathered at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen, Ga. to have some fun and to help out a worthy cause located in our community - Smithgall Woods State Park.  Five hours and 450 flies later, we had raised over $2,500 in pledges - this amount is still hard for me to believe.

Smithgall Woods was definitely a winner because they will be the recipient of these donations by way of the Friends of Smithgall Woods - hopefully this will help out with the conservation and kids' programs that they offer.

Rosie Whitmire
Unicoi Outfitters, Foothills chapter of Trout Unlimited, and our own "Tie 1 On" group were all winners because they were responsible for sponsoring this inaugural fly tying event - which we hope will become an annual fund raiser for worthy causes in our community.

But I think the real winners would have to be all those who took part in the event - the fly tyers who worked hard to raise the pledges and tied the flies, the volunteers who helped set up and clean up the mess we made, the cooks - who boiled the peanuts and grilled the dawgs, those who judged the event, and especially those who donated - you made this event successful. 

Thanks to all of you - a man is truly blessed by the friends in his life.

We had a blast!

Tie 1 On,


Monday, March 19, 2012

40-Year Old Memories & the Chattooga River

Spring-like, heck, summer-like weather this weekend was too much of an allure to get on the river and I ended up fishing the Chattooga both Saturday and Sunday.  All day Saturday with my friend Alan Juncker and Sunday afternoon with Mark Whitney.  Saturday morning at 7:05 AM I get a text from Alan saying he's just north of Athens and headed to the Chattooga.  Asks if I want to join him.  Forty-five minutes later we're throwing all our gear into one vehicle and Chattooga bound.

For about three hours, we pretty much had the river to ourselves.  What a beautiful morning it was.  My mind flashed back to 1968 and my first trout fishing trip to north Georgia during spring break at UGA.  That first cool morning when I stepped up to a small mountain stream and smelled the aromatic mix of dew and the richness of decaying organic matter.  The cold water providing a chill to the air in the stream corridor.  We didn't own waders back then and only one guy in the group had a fly rod.  The rest of us were spin fishing but I knew right then that this was something special.

Thankfully, I've never lost that feeling over all the years and it was as if I were stepping back into that small stream Saturday morning.  Only this time I had my 4 wt. in hand and hoping for dry flies and rises.  We walked a good ways upstream to one of my favorite corners, seeing only one other angler along the way.  I wanted fish on dries but I hedged my bet with a soft hackle hares ear dropper since no bugs were coming off and no fish rising.

All morning the action was steady with about half coming on my tan caddis dry and half on the hares ear.  Most fish were caught in the shallow riffles, the most enjoyable water to fish in my opinion.  For a couple of hours at mid-day, things slowed down markedly but began to pick back up around 2:00.  With the early start to the day, we planned on leaving around 4:00 to head back home and began fishing our way back downstream.

You could tell that the fishing was going to be picking up as the afternoon wore on.  In another of my favorite riffles, we had picked up several fish on the hares ears that we were now fishing under indicators. At the very top of the run, my orange Thingamabobber was inhaled by a nice fish.  The next cast was a repeat of the first with the fish taking it completely out of sight  before releasing it.  I was sure it was a big brown simple looking for a big wad of protein.

Changing to a hopper pattern with orange foam, I got at least a half dozen follows but no takes.  Okay, we'll go with more orange.  I'm thinking a Stimulator but notice an Orange Palmer in my box and go with it.  Smaller but definitely more orange.  The first cast, just as the fly was about to float out of the zone, and the big fish makes one of those slow motion rises to gently inhale the fly and the tussle is on.  As I catch a glimpse of the fish, I'm thinking "That's no brown." but it doesn't exactly look like a rainbow either.  A few minutes later I slide my net under a big, very pretty brook trout.  What a great way to end the day!

Sunday afternoon I get an invitation from Mark to attend his birthday party.  He planned to spend it standing in the Chattooga.  I can't disappoint my friend on his birthday!  As we pull into the parking lot, the weather goes really bad with lightning and hail pounding the area.  It was relatively short lived and we were soon on the river.  Using Saturday as a guide, I go right back to the dry/dropper rig; a tan elk hair caddis with a bead head hares ear hanging off the back.  This afternoon, there is almost no interest in the dry with only two fish rising to it.  But a lot of fish were caught on the nymph.  Few bugs were seen in the air so I'm sure that had something to do with the fish not looking up.  I used the same hares ear all afternoon, never feeling a need to change to something different.  It was that consistent.  This afternoon we stayed on the river until about 30 minutes before dark and never saw over a half dozen rises.

I think things will continue to get even better in the next couple of weeks as more bugs begin to hatch.  There are small dun caddis, blue dun mayflies, March browns, dark Hendricksons and even some light cahills popping out of the water right now.  It's a great time to be on the Chattooga, early morning or late afternoon.    

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dry Flying the Chattooga

Report Provided by Alan Juncker (a charter member of the Liars Club)

I finally got in the river at 6:20 last night and went upstream to try for a re-match with the nice fish Jimmy and I both had rise to, but refuse, our dry flies last week.

There was not much bug activity and I only saw a few rises in the 2 hours I was there.  It was unseasonably warm. Started out with a Parachute Adams and a small Pheasant Tail dropper but ended up switching to a double dry pretty soon after having a couple of refusals on the dry. I went to a smaller Adams and picked up a fish right away.

The big guy did not come out to play this time but I did bring three rainbows and one brown to hand, all in the 9-10" range.  

Water was crystal clear, had the river to myself and only saw two guys camping on the SC side.  It was a beautiful evening and the tree in the parking lot was in full bloom when I arrived. Walked out at 8:00 and definitely was glad the batteries on my clip on hat light were still good.  Definitely "dark thirty" getting back to the parking lot.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Boating Opens up on the Chattooga

Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests
U.S. Department of Agriculture
U.S. Forest Service, Southern Region
4931 Broad River Road Columbia, S.C. 29212

Contact: Michelle Burnett
March 14, 2012 (FMS 1207)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Mountain Rest, S.C.) U.S. Forest Service officials announced today that beginning March 16, 2012, boaters with permits may float the upper segment of the Chattooga River when flows are high enough.

“As soon as the weather cooperates and provides suitable flows, we anticipate that boaters will be floating the upper Chattooga,” said Paul Bradley, forest supervisor for the Francis Marion and Sumter National Forests. “I want to emphasize, though, that this section of the river is not a place for most boaters – floating in this area at high, fast flows will be dangerous for people who don’t have specialized skills and experience.”
Boating is allowed:

·         On the main stem of the upper segment of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River between the confluence of Green Creek in North Carolina and one-quarter mile downstream of the Lick Log Creek confluence in South Carolina.
·         From December 1 to April 30.
·         From the time that flows reach 350 cfs or greater at the USGS Burrells Ford gauge during daylight hours. Daylight hours will be 30 minutes before official sunrise to 30 minutes after official sunset. Once boating is allowed, it may continue until 30 minutes after official sunset that same day.
·         With a self-registration boating permit.
·         Using tandem/single capacity hard boats or tandem/single capacity inflatable boats.
·         Starting or ending only at specific put-ins and takeouts as outlined on the self-registration permit:
o   Put-ins: downstream of the Green Creek confluence in North Carolina; Norton Mill Creek confluence in North Carolina; Bullpen Bridge in North Carolina; and Burrells Ford Bridge in Georgia.
o   Takeouts: Norton Mill Creek confluence in North Carolina; Bullpen Bridge in North Carolina; Burrells Ford Bridge in Georgia; and Lick Log Creek confluence in South Carolina.
·         With a minimum of two craft and a maximum of six people per boating group.

Boaters and other users can confirm water flows on the upper segment of the Chattooga River at the USGS gauge at Burrells Ford athttp://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?02176930.

Before visiting, boaters should check http://fs.usda.gov/goto/scnfs/upperchattooga for the most current information on where to pick up boater registration permits, parking, access and the decisions related to recreation uses on the upper segment of the Chattooga River.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tie 1 On

I would just like to remind all the fly tyers and invite any one that might be interested to attend our fly tying session this Tues., March 6 at 6:00 PM. We will meet at Nacoochee Methodist Church located off Hwy 17 in the valley in Sautee.

We will be discussing and planning our "Tie 1 On Tie-Athlon" scheduled for Mar. 24. We will also tie some leech patterns and some dry flies since it is approaching that time of the year. All tools and materials will be supplied and seems like some snacks always show up. We have a great time and sometimes even tie a fly that will catch a fish.

Again, everyone is welcome to attend.

"Are you an encourager?"---see you in church.