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, February 27, 2013

Monster Smallies

I've known Steve Hacker for a number of years and get to fish with him now and then on his home waters in north Alabama.  Steve is probably the foremost smallmouth guide in the region and knows those lakes as well as anyone who's ever fished them.  I get regular fishing reports from him but this most recent was so good I thought our readers would enjoy reading it.



Water temp: 48.2 degrees
TVA discharge rate: spillways reopened; approx. 104,000 cfs/24 hr. period.
Lake elevation: risimg; approx. 419

Pinching myself to make sure that I'm not just having a dream about a day full of giant fish! Mat Lipscomb came over from the Memphis area and met up with former Memphis State college roommate and good friend Rick Benson. Having known both of them for years, I was really looking forward to the day. Little did we know when we launched what kind of day it would turn out to be!

Mat was the keeper of records, as he brought two sets of Chatillon scales with him, and a piece of paper and pen to keep track of what we caught. The first place we fished yielded nothing, but a move proved to be just what we needed.

Our five best today weighed in at almost 32 pounds! Our 10 best liked 2 ounces weighing 53 pounds! Each of us contributed big fish and had something to crow about!

Rick had the big fish at 9-1, a magnificent largemouth, his personal best. Mat had the big smallmouth, I think equaling his personal best, Rick had the big spot, and Mat said that I had the best 5 fish individual string of the three of us at 25-10.

We had a Grand Slam of smallmouth, largemouth, and spot—3 fish Slam—that weighed 17-11! Rick had a Grand Slam by himself that weighed 16-8! Where else can you do that? What a lake!

A couple of fish were caught early on on jerkbaits, but the great majority of the fish were caught on Strike King Pro Model Football Jigs in ½ and ¾ oz weights trailed with Rage Craw trailers. Even after washing and eating supper, my fingers still smell like Kick'n'Bass Craw, and that's just fine with me.

Greatly blessed we were today, as the weather and water conditions were pretty rough, and getting rougher as I write (I can hear the thunder approaching in the distance, and some storms with even bigger winds than the 20-25 mph we had today are forecast for tonight).

Enjoy the pix, and all the fish were released in great shape just as soon as we took these. A replica mount of the big 9-1 is planned.

God bless,
Steve Hacker

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Brown Trout Tactics

From our Man In The Field, Landon Williams:

                  There is just something about Brown Trout that get many anglers’ hearts racing and a large grin on their face.  We all dream of catching a large hook-jawed brown that seems as old as the dinosaurs.  They are for many, the most prized and even most frustrating species of salmonid we can pursue here in the Peach State.  Despite our fascination with them, it’s a surprise to many anglers when they do catch one. This is due in large part to the varied habitat that brown trout prefer and the tactics used to target them.

                  Browns have a tendency of not being in the places many anglers expect when targeting trout.  Most anglers will fish in the classic riffles and runs that we think of as great trout habitat. You can certainly find brownies in these spots when they are actively feeding, especially when there are heavy hatches during warmer weather.  However, you are much more likely to find browns in the water you may find much less desirable to fish on a regular basis.  You know the type, usually deep and slow interspersed with structure such as woody debris and large boulders. This is indeed the type of water where you’re most likely to encounter a brown.  At the same time, this water may be the one where anglers are least likely to be successful.  Slower water gives an angler's quarry much longer to inspect the fly before deciding to eat or not.  This game for some can be quite exciting and challenging but for many anglers, who are just out to catch a few fish, it may seem it's not worth the effort.  Fear not however, as there are a few key areas where brown trout get the same type of protective habitat while still having more water flow over their heads and it can tip the scales in the angler’s favor.

There are three types of habitat that can be noticeably improve your chances of running into a nice brown trout, whether it be a Delayed Harvest fish or an elusive stream-born wild fish. The first and, in my opinion, most important structure a brown trout will utilize are undercuts. Undercuts exist here in GA quite often but not in the same sense you may think of in a meandering meadow stream with undercut banks out West.  Rather, I'm referring to large undercut rocks and my favorite, bedrock shelves. It is quite common to find brown trout hiding under such types of habitat, even if it is not particularly deep. 

A second type exists less frequently but still provides great habitat.  It's a back eddy.  Back eddies are usually slow and provide a large volume of food as it drifts away from the main current. It is not uncommon to find browns here and they can be targeted by casting into the “upstream” side of the back eddy (this may even mean casting downstream into the eddy’s current and fishing the drift back upstream.) 

Last but not least are those bank side pockets and runs that many anglers often ignore.  Current along the bank is usually quite slow compared to the middle sections of river.  Brown trout, who are fans of slower current, can be found in runs and riffles right next to the bank, especially if they have overhead cover in the forms of bushes or overhanging trees. This habitat type is even better if they incorporate any of the two previously mentioned attributes.

Fly selection in itself is secondary to having the proper presentation and a sneaky approach to your target area and quarry.  Good Luck and have fun in your quest for a trophy.  I know I will when I go after the large wild brownie who broke me off recently in a log jam!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy Birthday To You

     Growing up, my parents always made sure I understood that a man must always keep his word, and that he should never make a promise that he did not intend to keep. My parents' words bounced around in my head as I laid in the warm bed Sunday morning, wondering how mad my friend would be if I backed out on him on his birthday float trip. Then as I lay there in bed, another phrase popped into my head that my Father would always say: "You never know, unless you go". This was his way of telling all the people who asked him if he honestly thought that he was going to catch fish in extreme weather conditions.

    Knowing that the high for the day was only supposed to be around 38 degrees, I slowly climbed out of bed and began to get ready, knowing that I had made a promise that I intended to keep. As we drove to the river, I began to ask myself if I was mentally prepared to freeze my butt off and not catch any fish.

   We arrived at the river and prepared to set sail on what could be the most miserable day that I had faced this year. We launched the boats and managed to get enough of the frozen anchor rope out to hold the boats in place until we returned from our shuttle. After putting on every piece of clothing that I had brought with me, we departed down the river. In the first mile of the trip, I quickly changed my opinion about how the day was going to be, as we began to pull fish after fish into the boat. Not only were we catching fish, but we were catching quality fish, with the average being around 17 inches. As luck would have it, Ryan Williams managed to put the first fish in the boat on this particular trip, which was only fair, since it was his Birthday.
Ryan With A Quality Rainbow
      The boys in the boat behind us were not going to be outdone by a bunch of young guns, and immediately responded with a stud of a brown trout. We all stopped fishing and turned around to watch Mike wrestle with what he called: "The biggest brown he had been hooked into since his trip to Montana last year". The fish ran in and out of trees and tried his best to lose Mike, but Mike's expertise eventually brought the brute into the boat.
Mike's Big Brown
      As we continued to float down the river, we experienced what I will remember as one of my best days on the Toccoa River. Some days you put up numbers some days you put up size, but on this day we did both! I'm sure that Ryan couldn't have thought of a better way to spend his birthday, now I just have to talk him into rowing me down the river on my birthday. Happy Birthday Bud!