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.

Friday, June 14, 2013

And Now a Word From Our Roving Angler...He's In the Smokies

We received this report from Landon Williams, the fishingest 21 year old we know.

I spent my birthday up in the Smokies and had a big time with a couple of buddies up there. We stayed at Cades Cove Sunday night and it was a blast. We fished the North Prong of Little River that afternoon and fishing was good. River was up from recent rain from the passing tropical storm but fished decent with dredge rigs of leeches and pheasant tails. Mostly rainbows but got more browns as it got darker and the rain started again. It poured most of Sunday night and the rivers up in the park were running high and chocolate milk colored. We salvaged the day by packing up and spending the rest of the day on the lower Nantahala below the powerhouse. Fishing was good for holdover and  even wild rainbows down there fishing bank side pockets and seams. They were not hunkered down in that recreational release flow and fed in the top half of the water column, perhaps for emerging BWO's that were coming off. We were catching them on small Frenchies and a few on a Zelon Caddis emerger. It's interesting  you can catch them even with rafts and kayaks constantly going over them. Dark thirty never really happened like I was hoping but I dredged with a golden stone nymph and hooked several in the last hour, including a large brown who got in heavy current and eventually got off. It was a fun way to spend my 21st birthday here on planet Earth!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Porch Hatch

If you're wondering what bugs are hatching right now in north Georgia, you need look no further than the front porch of Unicoi Outfitters.  These photographs are from early this morning (6/13).  You may want to consider flies that will resemble these bugs on your next outing.

Hexegenia Limbata

Hexegenia Limbata (Filet Mignon)
Giant Golden Stone (top)
Giant Golden Stone (bottom)

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Small Stream Wonders

My friend Mark and I decided to do a little hiking and hit some wild trout waters on Saturday and we both agreed to go to our favorite.  So, for about 4 hours that afternoon, we leap-frogged each other up the mountain, stopping now and again to compare notes and rib each other about our slow reflexes.  When you're targeting little wild rainbows, you'll miss many more than you catch.  At least at our age you do.  They'll appear from nowhere in the blink of an eye, sample your fly, spit it out and disappear before my aging brain even registers "Fish!"  It's just one of the reasons I get such a kick out of it.  When I do fool one and gently bring it to hand, it's like tickling a baby; I just can't help but chuckle.

On this particular trip, both Mark and I were hoping we would each have another rendezvous with what we consider a true trophy fish for this stream.  On previous trips, he and I have both done the dance with a good 12 or 13 inch rainbow.  Mark's dance was successful.  Mine was simply a glance over the shoulder that I replay in slow motion when I close my eyes.

Most of the afternoon I was fishing an Adams Trude (easy to see that white wing!) and Mark fished a size 16 Tan Caddis the entire time.

But today it was all fish in the 4" to 8" range.  We aren't complaining at all.  These fish are why we do this.  The trophies are simply something to talk about for years to come.  We didn't even take a picture of a fish on this day but I think you can tell from these photos what the attraction is.  What a wonderful place!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Howdy All,

Spent Saturday afternoon over on Rock Creek Lake floating around in the float tube.  The water was still pretty cold there and I regretted wet wading once the clouds came in later in the afternoon.  Fishing was pretty good all things considered.  I used a dry dropper rig with a big stimulator and two tungsten bead nymphs, a pheasant tail variant "The Frenchie" and a pink version of a hares ear called a "Surveyor."  Best way to fish it was casting in areas of risers and then slowly strip it back to me. The Dry would sometimes dive when a fish took a nymph dropper but many times all that would signal a strike would be the dry turning in a different direction or a small blip.  Fish actually hit the dry too stripped across the surface, usually just as it was starting to move.  I had many doubles hooked and a few landed and even managed to hook and land a triple!  As cool as that was, the highlight of the day was seeing a small banded water snake swimming across a small cove on the lake and a nice brook trout came up and nailed him!  Now that is something you don't see everyday!  Enjoy the pictures and flying bream...

Landon Williams

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Specialty License Plate Fees Drive Off Drivers

We picked up this story from the Macon Telegraph and wanted to share it with our readers.  Somehow the net effects of changing the price of specialty tags was obvious to everyone but the State bean counters.

Long-term effect could be harsh for wildlife programs
The state division that protects and improves the state’s wildlife is watching its source of income disappear into the rear view mirror, along with the specialty license plates that once supported it.
Three years ago, Georgia hiked the costs of all its specialty plates and added an annual renewal fee. At the same time, it began diverting the majority of the proceeds from specialty tag sales to the state’s general fund instead of the programs championed by the tags.
Since then, Georgians have turned away in droves from the plates that were intended to benefit causes from wildlife protection to cancer screenings.
Middle Georgia state Rep. Willie Talton, R-Warner Robins, sponsored a bill during this year’s legislative session that would reverse the way license plate revenue is split, giving the lion’s share back to the sponsoring agency.
“My purpose was to get that money going toward the charitable organization they bought (the tag) for,” said Talton, who years before helped establish the Joanna McAfee Foundation license plate to support childhood cancer research. “It’s just fair.”
Talton said he hopes to hold hearings this summer on the proposal, which remains alive under the Motor Vehicle Committee. He said state Sen. Ross Tolleson, R-Perry, has said he would carry the bill in the Senate.
Although the addition of an annual renewal fee initially boosted income from specialty tags, agencies like the non-game division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources are concerned that these gains will soon be offset by the drop in public participation in the tag program.
Wildlife benefits
The non-game division is a rare state program that receives no money from the state budget. Traditionally, 60 percent of its entire operating budget comes from the license plates featuring a bald eagle or a hummingbird. The remainder comes from donations, investments and the annual Weekend for Wildlife fundraiser.
The agency uses that income to leverage thousands more in federal grants to help restore habitat, conduct research on threatened species like the gopher tortoise, and sometimes even purchase land such as the Fall Line Sand Hills Natural Area in Taylor County.
Mike Harris, chief of the DNR non-game conservation section, said the license plate changes haven’t caused cuts to the wildlife program yet, partly because it had a reserve that totalled about $7 million at the end of fiscal 2012. But the rate of decline in plate purchases doesn’t bode well for the future, Harris said.
DNR programs that support trout fishing and bobwhite quail habitat also have plates that have seen the same steady drops. The Bobwhite Quail Initiative has seen a 53 percent drop in the number of its license plates in service since the price change, DNR documents show. Just three people bought a new Trout Unlimited license plate in February.
“The bottom line is the number of new plates being issued is down by about 90 percent from before the fee change, which was a low point in the cycle,” because no new plate designs had been issued, Harris said. “And 60 percent of the people who had the plates have turned them in.”
That includes many who still support the work of the non-game wildlife program.
Pierre Howard, executive director of the Conservancy, gave up his non-game tag.
“When the state government got under budget pressure, they started taking money they expressly said would be used for other purposes and using it for the general fund, and I think that greatly undermined public confidence in the process,” he said. “It’s not right and it’s not fair, and it needs to be corrected.”
Changes made after audit
The change was made in 2010, partly in response to recommendations made that year by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. Its performance audit of the specialty license plates suggested that charging three fees for every new plate, plus an annual renewal fee, could earn the state an additional $24 million a year. Even if participation dropped by half, revenue would increase $11.7 million, auditors predicted.
The audit also recommended that the state more aggressively market its specialty plates.
The Legislature followed the audit’s chief recommendations by standardizing and increasing the cost of specialty plates. The price tag was set at $60 (up from $25, in many cases) with a new $35 annual fee.
Just $10 of the revenue each year now goes to the cause supported by the plate, such as children’s health care, highway beautification, or spaying and neutering pets. Almost all the rest goes to the state’s general fund. No additional funding was provided to market the plates.
A follow-up review by state auditors in September 2012 found that participation had dropped by more than expected. The number of plates newly issued and renewed decreased by 60 percent and 35 percent respectively.
Among the 14 plates that supported state agencies, 76 percent fewer were issued, and less than half were renewed.
Two of six state agencies with specialty plates saw a decrease in revenue along with a drop in new purchases and renewals.
But others got a bump in revenue. The pet sterilization program received enough additional funding that the Georgia Department of Agriculture was able to increase the number of state-funded sterilization procedures that veterinarians can perform per month and even develop block grants to provide local animal shelters.
The DNR, too, saw revenue gains because of the renewal fee. In 2010, the non-game program earned $885,236 from the tags, according to data provided by Harris.
In 2011, after the price increase, revenue climbed to $1.9 million. As fewer drivers participated, revenue dropped to $1.5 million in 2012. That drop is projected to continue at a rate of 26 percent by the end of fiscal 2013 this summer.
Although these numbers are still higher than just before the fee changes, they aren’t necessarily an improvement on overall past performance. Between 2003 and 2009 the mean annual revenue for the non-game plates was $2 million, DNR documents show. That was during the period when the DNR earned $19 to $22 per new license plate.
General fund the winner
Harris said the department hopes to boost license plate sales when it unveils new designs in June for its eagle, quail and trout license plates.
Harris said the DNR would like the annual renewal fee to remain, but DNR officials are hearing the cost of a new tag is too much.
“And we’d like as much as we can get in revenue sharing for the program,” Harris said.
From the time of the price change through the first half of fiscal 2013, license plate revenue for the wildlife resources division has totaled $6.2 million, while the general fund has earned $16.2 million from the same plates, DNR documents show.
Talton’s bill would reverse the current split by providing the general fund $10 and the sponsoring agency $25 of the license plate costs. The bill also would add many new specialty license plates, some of which would not be subject to a split at all.
Houston County outdoor writer John Trussell said he supports Talton’s proposal, although he thinks the annual fee will remain a deterrent.
“I had six wildlife tags at one time, and now I have none, because it’s just too expensive,” he said.
Howard expressed confidence that state leaders will correct the problem, adding that his organization and others need to make a better case that the non-game wildlife program is important and should be funded in the state budget.
“I was involved in working on a lot of state budgets for a long time, and I can tell you there’s a lot of stuff in there that ain’t near as important as this,” said Howard, a past lieutenant governor of Georgia.