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, August 26, 2013

Carp 101

Henry Cowen, carp guide extraordinaire
Unicoi Outfitters is pleased to announce that we will be hosting "Carp 101 - How To Find 'em & How To Feed 'em".  You will be taught by one of the masters:  Henry Cowen.

John Cross is fond of referring to carp as "the fish of the new millenium" due to their unique ability to survive just about any environmental conditions including a nuclear holocaust.  Global warming, politicians gutting the Clean Water Act, increased angling pressure on our trout streams, whatever your viewpoint, there's no denying the growing popularity of chasing carp with a fly.

We do guarantee you'll fall in love with the sport of fly fishing for carp.  Consider the following:

  • There isn't a more wary species swimming the face of the earth.  John says they know when you step into the river, regardless of how careful you may be.  
  • They're actually very picky eaters, unlike their reputation for being lowly bottom feeders.  Small crustaceans and aquatic nymphs as well as seasonal fresh berries constitute the bulk of their diet.
  • Pinpoint casts are required at just the right time else you'll either spook them or they'll never see your fly.
  • Most situations require you to watch closely enough to actually see the fish suck in your fly; a true adrenalin moment.
  • The hook set must be a strip set akin to redfishing or bonefishing; and most of us trout anglers can't seem to remember this in the moment.  Expect your hookup percentage to look like a batting average most days.
  • If you love the sound of a good fly reel singing as line is smoking it across the water, look no further; you've found your fish.
  • These are not wimpy fish.  Use a 7 or 8 wt. rod and expect tired muscles once a fish is landed.
  • During the Dog Days of summer, you can find them almost anywhere across north Georgia in lakes and rivers near your home.
  • On your first trip, you may consider fishing with a bag over your head but after that first fish, landed or not, you'll be bragging as you sip your Dos Equis in the neighborhood bar about the challenges you've faced going up against carp; some you've won, some you've lost.  Friends and strangers alike will gather round you, mouths agape in wonder at the tales you have to tell.  A carp tattoo may even be considered.
So, make plans to join us at our shop in Helen on August 31, 2013 at 10 am (if you're planning on attending, please let the guys at the shop know so they'll know how many chairs to put out, just give them a call at 706-878-3083).  It will probably change your fly-fishing life!

And if that isn't enough, all attendees at Carp 101 will receive a coupon worth 10% off non-sale merchandise at Unicoi Outfitters!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lefty's Story

Experiencing Bernard "Lefty" Kreh
Unicoi Outfitters thought our readers would enjoy this great article on Lefty Kreh, the grand old man of flyfishing.  We borrowed this from Etta Pettijohn on "The Outdoor Wire".

Bernard "Lefty" Kreh speaks with Etta Pettijohn during ICAST. J.R. Absher photo.
Many Outdoor Wire readers know Bernard "Lefty" Kreh as the legendary man who changed the fly fishing world with his casting techniques, and as the man who taught countless anglers to fish for saltwater species on TV and through his newspaper and magazine articles and books.

He invented a saltwater fly called "Lefty's Deceiver," which is so famous that no saltwater fly box is without one, and the U.S. Postal Service has featured it on a stamp. He has been inducted into three fishing halls of fame.

Millions have developed a love of fly fishing reading his work and watching him, and when his book "Fly Fishing in Saltwater" appeared in 1974, he became a worldwide phenomenon. At least two books have been written about him, and he penned an autobiography, "My Life Was This Big: And Other True Fishing Tales."

Kreh has fished with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Fidel Castro, baseball great Ted Williams, singer Huey Lewis, broadcaster Tom Brokaw, several presidents and many dignitaries, to name a few.

He is largely responsible for the development of modern light-tackle, big game fly fishing, and his name is revered among fly anglers across the globe. He has spent an impressive number of decades as a journalist for the St. Petersburg Times, Baltimore Sun, and other publications.

But there is much more to this unpretentious man with a perpetual smile and quick joke.

Humble Beginnings 
The 88 year-old Kreh was born in Frederick, Md., during the Great Depression. His father died in 1932, leaving his mother with four children, him being the oldest at age six. Back then, said Kreh, there was no actual money involved, but "They (government) put us in public housing in the ghetto."

"My mother was a proud woman," said Kreh. "But she had no choice." He said some childhood friends in the ghetto nicknamed him "Lefty" because he played sports left-handed.

"When I became a teenager my mother told me I could go to high school if I could find a way to make money for clothes and shoes," said Kreh.

He found a way - fishing a nearby river, limb-lining for catfish.
"At night I'd push myself along the bushes on a makeshift pole boat, using a coal oil lantern for light. I sold catfish at the local market for 10 cents a pound, and I was a 'fat cat,'" he laughed.

Kreh speaks proudly about his brothers and sister, who all went on to achieve remarkable success in their lives and careers.

Military Service
When WWII was underway he volunteered to serve at 17 years of age. He ended up as a forward observer in the Battle of the Bulge and was at the Elbe River in Germany where the Russian and Americans first joined together to drive back the Nazis. Along the way his unit, the U.S. Army's 69th Artillery Division, earned the distinction of being tough, as he and his comrades liberated a concentration camp, fighting battles pivotal to the allied victory.

After returning to the U.S. he, in his own words, marked his greatest achievement, by marrying Evelyn, his wife and best friend for more than 60 years. They had two children together and Kreh said above all they were best friends. She passed away in 2011.

In 1948 Kreh worked at Fort Detrick, where the military kept biological weapons like Anthrax. When his biohazard suit leaked and he was hospitalized, Kreh spent a month in isolation for exposure to the deadly virus, and today there is a strain named for him, called BVK-1. In 2011, after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing about 3,000 people in one day, someone mailed the Anthrax virus to a newspaper publisher in Florida and others, proving fatal. At that time the New York Times wrote an article mentioning Kreh as the only person to have survived such exposure.

Kreh talks about how World War II drastically changed the U.S. culture.

"Millions of men came home with a guarantee of home ownership, and more money to spend on leisure activities, where before most people rented, and the disparity between rich and poor, and those with or without property, was greater. More people were fishing, hunting and traveling and reading about these."

He liked to fish, and secured a job as an outdoor columnist for his local newspaper, and a few years later was syndicated in almost a dozen newspapers. His marksmanship abilities led to a Remington Arms Company contract as a shooting showman, when he would routinely shoot an aspirin out of the air at events and promotions.

In 1947, Joe Brooks, the fishing editor for Outdoor Life, brought his fly rod to fish for bass with Kreh in a nearby fishery. Brooks pulled in as many bass as Kreh, who was using a plug-casting outfit, turning Lefty to fly fishing for good.

"I was hooked," he admits.

The next decade he began experimenting with flies for striped bass in saltwater, and thus invented Lefty's Deceiver, a big heavy lure for long casts. In addition, his reporting in magazine and newspapers, about saltwater fly fishing was turning millions of people onto the relatively new sport that was traditionally achieved with baitcasting equipment.

"I am always learning," he said. "Adversity makes you think harder about what you are doing, and I love to solve problems. I try to share my knowledge of fishing and am deeply concerned whether or not I am making my advice clear and understandable."

Indeed, his instructional writing and casting lessons are what have led many thousands to pick up their first fly rod, as he makes it less mysterious to the novice.

He's been doing it for decades, but every minute of one-on-one instruction from Kreh makes you a better fisherman- and person. J.R. Absher photo.
In 1950, five days after the U.S. sanctioned Cuban government fell to revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro, Lefty said he went fishing with the Cuban leader.

"Ev (wife Evelyn) almost had a cardiac arrest," he said. "(Cuban president) Batista left with all the money in the treasury," said Kreh. "So Castro paid Joe (Brooks) to send outdoor writers to Cuba to advertise the good fishing there."

Kreh, while fishing with Hemingway, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Literature and author of The Old Man and the Sea, once asked him, "What is good writing?"

"Good writing cannot be edited," Hemingway answered.

Kreh continues to travel, giving casting seminars and promoting water and fish species conservation. He represents many tackle companies and has equipment named after him.

Despite his advanced age, Kreh is always willing to stop and show someone at a trade show his casting technique, or share his life story with an admirer. And there always seems to be a long line of such admirers wherever you find Lefty. One can't spend time with Kreh without laughing, listening and admiring the man.

Indeed his life looms large, like title of his autobiography, and if kindness, brilliance, attitude and achievement count, his life is tantamount to a world record.

- Etta Pettijohn