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.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Flint River Needs Your Help

The Fight to Protect the Flint River at the State Capitol Continues in the House of Representatives

Please contact your State Representative in the House TODAY and ask for them to REMOVE THE "AUGMENTATION" LANGUAGE FROM SB 213 OR VOTE NO. 
Go here to find your Representative and contact information:http://openstates.org
PLEASE make contact with your Representative by
10am Tuesday, March 24th
SB 213 revises the Flint River Drought Protection Act of 2000, but contains a poison pill that threatens rivers, property rights, and taxpayers that must be amended out of the bill.
The bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee on Friday and now goes to the Rules Committee. The Rules Committee could amend the bill and they will decide when to send it to the full House for a vote.
Background: SB 213 contains a provision that authorizes so-called "stream flow augmentation" projects -- including dangerous Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) projects -- and also prohibits downstream users from reasonable use of any water added by these projects. The provision threatens longstanding Georgia waters rights law, private property rights, and clean water.
The augmentation language will allow a hugely expensive, tax-payer funded, multi-million dollar Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR)  flow augmentation project to continue to be funded in the lower Flint. The water added by this project will flow to Florida while Georgia farmers and other property owners are denied reasonable use of it. The project is supposedly designed to add to Metro Atlanta's water supply but at an extremely high cost that is projected to fall on Metro Atlanta utility ratepayers, who already pay the highest water bills in the state.
The augmentation provisions also allow the EPD director to deny water users that are downstream of an undefined "augmentation" project the use of any of the "augmented" water flowing past their property, without prior opportunity to be heard. This provision allows the State to control (or allow a private party to control) a portion of stream flow and prohibit the reasonable use of it, which is akin to prior appropriation of water -- a short step from western-type water regulation. State ownership of water is different from thestate's current regulation by permit.
Property owners in Georgia have a "bundle" of rights that make up their property rights. An essential property right in that bundle is the right to reasonable use of water on or under your property. Allowing the appropriation and state control of water, and not allowing downstream property owners the right to reasonable use of it, radically diminishes that property right.
We will continue to update you on the bill's status and ask YOU to take action for the benefit of the Flint River watershed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wild Trout Primer

From our ol' pal Landon Williams:

In case you haven’t heard, Georgia's trout season opening day is less than three weeks away!

For many of us, this reminds us that we will soon have many more miles of streams open to fishing that were previously closed and they will have many new fish stocked into them. However, there is a sort of fringe group that are anticipating this date for another reason:  the seasonal opening of all of the wild trout streams that abound throughout North Georgia.   Now, this is not to say that there are no wild trout streams that do not have the year round designation like our Delayed Harvest streams and bigger rivers such as the Chattahoochee near Atlanta or the Toccoa. However, the vast majority are closed to fishing after October 31 every year until they reopen the next spring at the end of March. Wild trout are a very desirable quarry for many, but some folks find it difficult to find good streams to fish outside of word of mouth from fellow anglers. Despite this, the resources exist out there and many are available over the internet if you are tech savvy!

Perhaps the most useful tool that one can acquire for researching wild trout streams is a quality map of the Chattahoochee National Forest. There are many maps that not only show the forest service roads but also many of the streams and their names as well. My personal favorite can be found by clicking here and the different areas of the forest can be accessed by clicking on the map.  The digital copies are nice but an actual in-hand copy is invaluable when you are out and about actually looking for the streams.  For those who are more adventurous and familiar with the technology,  GPS units are also handy when you get way off the beaten track, as you often do with this type of fishing.

Aside from finding the streams, there are a few things to remember in your search. Rainbows and browns are the most likely trout you are to encounter in our trout streams here in North Georgia.  They are quite numerous and can prosper in streams even at relatively low elevations. There are not many streams predominated by brown trout, but they do exist, especially at the lower elevation (1500 ft. or so) and lower gradient streams. Rainbows tend to take over as the water speed and gradient of the stream increase. Both species certainly do mix but these are generally good trends to follow if you are also following along with your research with a topographic map featuring elevations.

If you are interested in the highly coveted Brook Trout, generally the angler will have to go much higher up in elevation. This is not necessarily due to their demands for colder water but in large part due to being outcompeted by invasive rainbows and browns. Brookies are usually found in sections of streams located above large waterfalls that inhibit the movement of rainbows and browns into their sections of water. Many regular brook trout anglers are convinced that a section of water located above a “barrier falls” and 2500+ ft. in elevation is the formula for finding brook trout regularly. Also of interest are the “Back the Brookie” streams that have received stream enhancement projects from TU, GA DNR, and the Forestry Service. They are a great starting point, especially for new wild trout anglers.

Good luck in your research efforts in the coming weeks. The wet winter that we have had should have stream levels in great shape for this spring!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gearing Up For Spring

Chuck Head got in a bit of fishing this week and he's fired up about the spring:

This egg heavy female smashed a large crawfish
pattern drifted deep through a prime looking run.
As surely everyone has noticed, we have actually had a winter in southern Appalachia this year. Unlike the last couple of dry and relatively warm winters, this year gave us more than a couple of good snows, and a few pretty incredible floods. This is often seen as an inconvenience, with favorite rivers swollen and unfishable for over a week at a time, leaving anglers with few options within a reasonable drive from home. However, there is a longer term payoff to the angler in exchange for a few more weekends spent at the tying desk or watching a favorite fishing DVD for the fifteenth time.

All of that high, cold water has done an incredible job of making our water look better than it has looked in a decade. Years worth of silt deposits have been flushed away, leaving the water to run clear and cold over rock instead of sand. This is a very good thing for the insects that populate the stream bottom, which, in turn, benefits the trout. The fish have eaten well all winter, have fought hard when hooked, and look bright and well fed when held and released. Standing high on a bank on the Hooch or at Dukes, watching the big boys feed, sliding actively back and forth, they look, for lack of a better word, happy. Plenty of food to eat and plenty of water over their heads: about as much as a trout could ask for.

 So what does all of this mean to the angler getting ready to head to the stream after being washed out this winter? I would say the key to consistent angling success this Spring is to adapt to conditions on your "new" home waters. If you haven't gotten a chance to get to your favorite stream this Spring, I'll go ahead and tell you - it looks different than it did last Spring, and better. Something some anglers don't realize is that high water events can change the way a stream looks and fishes completely. It doesn't matter if a favorite pool produced well last Spring, there may only be one or two fish calling it home this year, if that spot is even there at all. Floods change streams. I always tell people to fish where there should be fish, not where success was had in the past. Fish have no emotional ties to a spot in a stream, and as soon as it stops producing what a fish needs in terms of food and shelter, it will leave without as much as a kiss goodbye.

Another large part of success this Spring will lie in the angler's ability to get the flies in front of the fish. More water means more weight. Last Spring, I remember fishing one of my favorite spots with a single #1 split shot, while currently it takes four BB shot to get down to the fish. Having flies in front of the fish is more important than the flies themselves; they can't eat what they never see. Once down, flies with movement, color, and/or flash are a good way to get the fish's attention in the higher water. That fly is moving past the fish much faster than it was last Spring, so something needs to jump out at them. Using a Rubberlegs, San Juan, or a Lightning Bug type fly in front of a more natural trailing fly (Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail) is a good way to get a fish in line with your drift and then give the fish a choice of which fly he wants.