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, December 16, 2014

Nantahala Report - Find The Sun!

by Landon Williams

Against my better judgment, I decided to take the trek over the mountain yesterday and headed up toward the "Land of the Noonday Sun."  I think the Cherokee were on to something, so I decided to play the "Old Man" fishing game by sleeping in and not having waders on until 11:00.  Even then the water/air temperature did not make conditions favorable as it barely hit 40 all day and there was still a light dusting of snow on the ground in heavily shaded areas.  I didn't measure the water temperature but it for sure felt below 40 by a good bit. 

Fishing started out slow for the first hour and a half I was there and I really think it was due to being in the shadows and staying cold. Once I hit a heavily sunlit stretch at about 12:30 or so, it was game on!  The same flies I had been throwing earlier suddenly found their way into the mouths of many hungry and aggressive stocked and wild rainbows.  I fished with a "deep" dry-dropper rig consisting of a big Klinkhammer as a strike indicator, with a leech or squirmy worm tied on jig hooks catching most of the stocked fish.  I had a #18 natural pheasant tail dropped below that, which caught most of the wild fish.  In the couple of stretches where I fished in full sunlight, #20-22 Blue-Winged Olive mayflies and small black stoneflies were hatching and a few fish were splashing after them.  I caught several on a tiny BWO parachute, which was a nice change of pace from dredging! 

Once the sun started dropping below the ridge line, the fishing in the DH tapered off significantly and by 3:45 I felt like it was over.  I decided to head down the road and try the lower river, the rafting section.  The water temperature was considerably warmer down there and was certainly above 40 degrees with maybe a couple numbers to spare.  Duke Power was running water but it was not nearly the flow that it is during the recreational releases of the summer. The best part, there were no rafters.  The fishing was fantastic too!  I caught just about as many down there in the last hour and a half of daylight as I did in the whole afternoon up on the DH.  I was doing my same dry dropper rig, but only rigged about 2ft deep down to my leech.  The wild fish in the lower section were absolutely tearing it up. 

Hope you have time to get on the river over the holidays.  Remember, "find the sun"!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Thinking of Buying A Kayak for Christmas?

Kayaking Basics from Florida's FWCC (Courtesy of The Fishing Wire)

Thinking of buying yourself a 'yak for Christmas? Here are some of the points you might consider.
Last year my wife and I finally got a pair of kayaks. I'd had a chance to paddle a friend's kayak once or twice before, but never had a kayak of my own to spend some serious time with. Even after a couple decades of small-craft boating, I was quite impressed with the portability and versatility of these craft. Here's some of what I've learned in the past year.

Cost: If you've been thinking of taking the plunge with a kayak, there's never been a better time. Kayaks have become very popular in recent years, meaning that more manufacturers are making them and prices for an entry-level kayak are even lower than they used to be. Standard kayak models start at a low of about $200 on sale, but you'll want to spend more for a fishing kayak that comes complete with rod holders and other angling amenities-expect to pay from $250 on up on sale. You'll also be buying a double-bladed kayak paddle, which will run you $50-100 or more. Most kayaks don't include a padded seat, and you'll probably want one; add another $50-75. Yes, the tab is adding up pretty quickly, but you're still well under what the cheapest johnboat and trolling motor will cost you. Smaller accessories, such as a light anchor and-of course!-a life vest, you may own if you're already a boater.

A kayak is a very personal purchase, and you should buy from a vendor that will allow an exchange if you don't like the way the craft fits you or how it performs in the water. Otherwise, some kayak shops are near water and will let you try before you buy. Keep in mind that you'll need a way to transport your kayak, if you can't just throw your new purchase in the pickup and head for the lake. A good roof rack setup or trailer will cost you more than your kayak will, but a kayak is still one of the most economical boating options out there. (See Issue 45 at www.bit.ly/FFAngler for more information about roof racks.)

Sit-on-top versus sit-inside: There are two basic kayak types. A sit-on-top kayak is a sealed hollow shell with molded seating on top to accommodate the paddler. It's easy to get in or out of, a major plus if you plan to kayak-and-wade. The kayaker sits above the waterline, which increases visibility and casting distance, but leaves the kayaker exposed to waves and splashing. Storage space is mostly open to the elements, but is easily accessible. However, there will probably also be one or two watertight hatches that allow dry storage inside the kayak shell. Note the size and location of the hatch openings, as these will limit what you'll be able to fit inside and whether you'll be able to reach them from the kayak seat. Water that splashes into the kayak drains out through scupper holes, which can be plugged to prevent water ingress, if you'll be on calm water.

A sit-inside kayak is self-descriptive: the paddler sits inside a cutout in the open hull. Add an apron, and the paddler is pretty well protected below the waist from waves and water. The angler is sitting at the waterline, and the lower center of gravity may provide a more stable ride but slightly limited visibility and casting distance. The open hull provides plenty of fairly dry inside storage in front of and behind the kayaker. However, this internal storage is not as easily accessible, and entering and exiting the kayak is not nearly as easy. Generally, the sit-inside design is a good choice for river or ocean kayaking but will also serve in quieter ponds and lakes. However, many stillwater anglers prefer the in-and-out convenience offered by the sit-on-top design.

Fishing kayaks: The simplest thing that defines a "fishing kayak" is the presence of rod holders. A fishing kayak will also usually be wider than standard kayaks-around 30" or so-and therefore more stable. It may have extra storage features, like molded in tackle trays or even a baitwell. Note that you can add after-market rod holders to most kayaks, but you're better off starting with a fishing kayak, mainly for the added stability. A wider kayak won't cut through the water as quickly as a standard model, but you'll be able to cast, set the hook, and land frisky fish without feeling like you're about to take a spill at any moment. I was really surprised at how stable my kayak is-definitely less tippy than most canoes I've used.

Length: Length is important. A longer kayak will travel faster and more efficiently (and have more storage space), but weigh more to load and carry-especially important if you're cartopping or portaging. Twelve to thirteen feet is a popular range for saltwater anglers, and will provide a roomy and stable freshwater fishing platform too. However, if portability is important, look hard at kayaks ten feet or less in length. My ten-footer is a lightweight at exactly fifty pounds, but I'd still swear it's half full of water when I hoist it back onto my roof racks at the end of a long paddling day. The weight is much easier to handle if you're securing your craft to something below shoulder level, like a pickup bed or trailer. A kayak cart can also be a big help moving your boat from car to water (more on that later). Long story short, consider weight an important factor based on how you're transporting your kayak.

Paddles: Kayak paddles are double bladed, unlike rowboat oars or canoe paddles. This makes the kayak an extremely efficient craft, because you propel it with both the forward and what otherwise would be the "back" stroke. Paddles come in specific shaft lengths, which you choose based on the width of your kayak and your height. The wider your kayak and the taller you are, the longer paddle shaft you will need. Kayak and paddle manufacturers provide tables for making your best choice. Paddle blades also vary. A long narrow blade works well for propelling a kayak nonstop over long distances, while a short broad blade works well for tight maneuvering along brushy shorelines and the stop-and-go travel a kayak angler will likely be making. In Florida's lakes and ponds, most anglers should stick with a broad blade. As a side note, be aware that some fishing kayaks are equipped with various ingenious pedal-and-propellor systems that make propulsion a lot easier and leave your hands free for fishing. These are nice, but significantly more expensive, and are generally restricted to longer kayaks. Some kayaks can be outfitted with a trolling motor; note that you will have to register the kayak if you go this route, and will need room for a 12-volt battery.

Accessories: Your number one accessory is your life vest, or PFD (personal flotation device). I prefer an inflatable PFD for its coolness and light weight, although many kayakers will tell you that you're going to tip over (and activate the CO2 cylinder) sooner or later. Your risk is less in stillwater ponds and lakes; however, I'm willing to live with that possibility, especially during the summer heat. Make sure you are also complying with all other boating safety requirements (MyFWC.com/boating/safety-education). Another "must have" accessory will be a dry storage bag for keeping your phone, electronic car keys, camera and other sensitive gear safe from the elements.

If you are going to have to carry your kayak any distance between your parking spot and the water, consider buying a wheeled kayak carrier. These handy little carts strap onto the bottom of your kayak, allowing you to roll your craft to the water. An advantage of these is that you can load all your equipment into the kayak as well and make a single quick trip, rather than going back and forth to your vehicle for paddle, anchor, rods, etc. or having to try to carry them all at once. Strapping the wheels in place near the kayak's center of gravity will provide a balanced and effortless walk to the water's edge. Some kayak manufacturers offer carts that will fit right into their kayaks' scupper holes, eliminating the need for straps.

One of the (few) annoying things about fishing from a lightweight kayak is that it is easily pushed around by wind or waves, so you'll want a lightweight folding anchor to help you stay put. An anchor works best in deeper water or when you'll be staying put for a little while, such as when fishing bait. If you use the anchor a lot, you'll want an anchor trolley that allows you to position the anchor line fore or aft, depending on wind or current and how you want to position your craft. For frequent moving and anchoring-which I've found to be the norm for lure fishing-a stakeout pole is much more convenient. This is simply a pole pushed into the lake bottom to anchor the kayak. The pole can be inserted through a scupper hole, or attached to the kayak with a short rope and snap clip. Many anglers prefer a stakeout pole over an anchor, because there's less chance of tangling with a scrappy fish. You can buy a commercial stakeout pole, or make your own out of PVC pipe or any other sturdy pole such as an old golf club with the head removed. Use is obviously limited to fairly shallow water, depending on the length of the stakeout pole.

There's a host of other accessories available: extra or specialized rod holders, rod and paddle tethers, depth finder and camera mounts, special kayak tackle holders, baitwells, and more. Kayakers (and kayak manufacturers) seem to be a particularly inventive lot! Customizing your kayak for your comfort and specific fishing needs can not only put more fish in the boat, but also be a satisfying end in itself.

Care and feeding: One of the great things about kayaks (especially if you've ever scrubbed down a large boat after a saltwater fishing trip) is that they require almost no maintenance. Just hose your kayak off after a muddy or saltwater fishing trip, stow it out of direct sunlight, and that's about it! With minimal care, a kayak will last for years.

Fishing from a kayak: Okay-you already know how to fish. But fishing from a kayak is different, even from fishing in a small canoe or johnboat. While fishing kayaks are usually very stable, you must keep your balance in mind at all times-when leaning over to unhook a snagged lure, setting the hook or netting a fish. While fishing kayaks are roomier than their standard-sized brethren, space is still at a premium. Many of your kayak customizations, if you make any, will probably involve gear storage. I don't like much in my way while kayak fishing, and keep minimal gear (like hooks, plastic worms, and pliers) in a small tackle box or tackle bag in front of me. The rest of my tackle, plus raingear, sunblock, etc. are in a larger waterproof duffle bag stowed behind my seat. I don't need to move to release a fish, tie on a new hook, or change out my worm. If I need something more, I can reach back to grab the duffel bag, or hop out in shallow water to grab it. Water or sports drinks-a must for the Florida kayaker-go under the bungee straps in the front or rear of my kayak, depending on the rest of my loadout and available space. My kayak actually has a cup holder right in front of the seat, and a sports drink goes there right away when I launch.

I'll work a shoreline or deeper water the way I normally would from any small boat. However, since I'm sitting low my casting distance and visibility are more limited, so I sometimes have to work closer. Thankfully, a stealthy kayak is ideal for this. I can often paddle along just casting as I go, but sometimes wind or wave action requires me to anchor my stakeout pole at every stop. A stakeout pole or anchor also help when you hook a bigger fish. You'll be able to land most fish with ease, but I've had hard-fighting fish as small as four pounds take me for a brisk "sleigh ride". This can actually be fun in open water, but if you're casting anywhere near docks or submerged brush you'll want to anchor yourself if you hope to have any control when "the big one" hits. And when he does, a kayak will put you closer to the action than anything else except wading.

The kayak advantage: Besides simply being fun and exciting to fish from, kayaks have one more major advantage: portability. Anywhere you can stand, you can launch. Since getting my kayak, I've been amazed at the world of new fishing opportunities that have opened up for me. Some of these new opportunities have turned up at my "old" fishing holes, where I can now launch a boat off a 60-degree canal bank, or where a sliver of public shoreline lets me get into an otherwise-inaccessible lake. I recently fished a narrow canal that would have been too brushy even for a canoe. There's something eminently satisfying about catching a big fish that you know was out of reach of anyone else-except a fellow kayaker.

For more information: Numerous books specifically on kayak fishing are now available. Online, general information about getting started in kayaking can be found at smart-start-kayaking.com. Numerous videos on everything from getting in and out of your kayak without tipping over to paddling and fishing from it can be found by searching at YouTube.com.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Old Dogs, New Tricks - "Discovering" the Chattooga

Well, you might say I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century of fly fishing.  And I'll have to admit that my resistance has been due to my own prejudices.  Mind you, I'm a nymph fisherman from way back so getting down has never been an issue for me.  What I didn't like was this new "Euro" stuff with long (really long!) leaders, brightly colored line segments called "sighters", no split shot (NO SPLITSHOT!) and light weight, super long fly rods like 10 foot 3 and 4 weights.  What happened to casting?  I love casting a fly rod!  It's a vital part of my fly fishing experience.  Shoot, if the fish are biting, I can have fun just practicing my cast.  Maybe not quite as much fun as catching but I ain't bored.  Casting a Euro rig is like throwing pumpkins with a catapult.  No beautiful loops unrolling over the river.  No gentle presentation of a weightless fly on the water.  If they had used Euro nymphing in "A River Runs Through It", no one would have ever gone to see the movie.  You just fling that sucker behind you, wait until it almost pulls the rod out of your hand then fling it forward.  At the last second on the forward cast, you abruptly stop the rod tip high so your flies are literally jerked down into the water with more momentum than a .22 bullet headed to the bottom.  THUNK!
 The promised land where more fish than you could have ever imagined are just sitting there amongst the rocks waiting on that Walt's Worm at the end of your line.  Does this sound like fun to you?  Maybe, but it has a lot to do with how old you are.  And therein lies a significant problem.

I'm past the midway point of my seventh decade on this big blue marble.  I've been here longer than I'm gonna be and for considerably more than half of this time I've been fly fishing.  Fly fishing the way you're supposed to fly fish.  No, not that narrow-minded British idea of only fishing dry flies, upstream, to rising fish.  I'm talking about the way we do it here in America.  The right way.  Dry flies when appropriate, dry droppers when you don't have a clue what's going on, or two nymphs with split shot and a strike indicator when you're really serious about rippin' lips.  We all know this.  It's how we've always done it so it's got to be right.

Many of you may recall a few weeks back when Unicoi Outfitters invited George and Amidea Daniel down for a couple of days of seminars based on George's book "Dynamic Nymphing".  I liked these folks from the first time I met them and figured we could give their career a big boost by having them come to Georgia.  Not that I was particularly interested in what he had to say, just wanted to be nice.  Plus, I'm not stupid.  I do realize the younger crowd is enamored with his techniques so it would increase traffic in the shop.  Worked like a charm.  We had a great weekend with them and I got an autographed copy of his book.  Figured maybe one day it would be a collectors item.

So, back to the topic at hand.  I apologize for the long explication but I needed to set the stage.  My fishing pal Jeff Durniak (aka The Dredger) was headed to the Chattooga this past Saturday and invited me to join him.  Curiously, he informed me that he was taking his new Euro-nymphing rod with the intention of trying out some of the things George had spoken about in the seminars.  I'm thinking, "Why?".  You already spend most of your time fishing on the bottom and, as we all know, you're pretty darn successful at it.  You're just trying to act like a youngun but I know you're almost as old as I am.  Maybe a decade or so less but you're old.

The next three hours can only be described by stating, "A whoopin' was a throwed on me."  I didn't have a bad afternoon at all but I have to tell you that Mr. Euro probably caught at least 4 fish to every one I caught.  And, uh, two of the fish I caught were using his rod.  You know, the whole technique is just kind of funky but I have to admit there is something intriguing about feeling those flies bumping along the bottom and, even more, detecting a subtle strike through that tight line.  I'm not really into counting fish or declaring my success or failure based on how many fish I catch.  But I could be convinced to add another club to my bag of trout tricks.  Who knows, maybe I'm not as old a dog as I thought.  Now pardon me while I check my catalogs to see which new rod I want to buy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Old Yellar - Eagle Claw Performs Like A Champ

Unicoi Outfitters began stocking the old traditional Eagle Claw fiberglass fly rods earlier this year with the idea that it would give anglers an inexpensive way to get into the retro glass rod movement without dropping a paycheck on a new rod.  Little did we anticipate the popularity these classics would find among folks who just love fishing the soft, slow action.  Now, along comes a competition guy who's discovered the value of the Eagle Claw action when battling big fish.  We received this report from Landon Williams: 

Enjoy the pics of putting a Eagle Claw Featherlight 7 ft 5 wt to the test at Noontootla Creek Farms for big rainbows Friday and Sunday. I was doing a 3 day fly fishing competition and NCF was a venue. Many folks in the competition were breaking bigger fish off  in snags, jumps etc. The limberness of the yellow rod was perfect for protecting tippet when those crazy fish surged but had enough backbone to turn them when I needed too. I didn't break a fish off and went 4/5 for fish over 20 inches while there and the one lost was due to barbless hooks. 

Enjoy the intense Bend in the Rod shots/ and the pictures of mentioned fish!

I did very well! Won both NCF sessions and got 8th overall.


Monday, November 3, 2014

It's Not "If" But "When" Redux

Please don't try this at home!
Ed. Note:  Re-published by popular demand
Many of you know that my claim to fame is that I've taken naps on some of the most famous trout streams in North and South America.  It's an honor I accept proudly and hope to expand my resume' in the coming seasons.  But as I bask in the sunny glory of my accomplishments it is becoming obvious to me that advancing years are opening up another category for me; taking unplanned dunks in many of those same streams.

I could blame it on an inner ear thing.  A couple of years back I was climbing out of the Chattahoochee River after some shoal bass fishing and as I got both feet up on the bank I simply began to fall backwards for no apparent reason.  Fell off a four foot bank flat on my back on a big rock in the river.  Ouch!  I honestly thought I had broken some ribs.  And this was about 3 days before I was headed to Yellowstone.  Thankfully, I was just bruised and scraped up a little.  Turns out I did have an inner ear problem so I didn't have to chalk that one up to getting older.

I could also blame it on the fish.  While fishing the Madison River with my friend Don Baldwin in 2008, I hooked a nice rainbow in a riffle just upstream of a section of rapids where the river diverted around a huge boulder and logjam.  Of course the fish immediately took off for the rapids and with the force of the river helping her, it was impossible for me to get her back upstream to me so I decided to carefully pick my way around the boulder while holding on to the log.  It's funny how having a good fish on the end of your line can make you do irrational things.  As I got half way into my maneuver, I realized there was no bottom beneath my feet.  I see Don running to put his gear on the bank and hear another angler nearby yell, "Are you going to help him?".  Don's reply, "Heck no, I'm getting my camera!"

My only other option as I see it is to blame these events on, as my eye doctor told me, too many birthdays.  It's difficult to accept this one but it may be true.  This past Saturday, after a fine low country boil lunch with the Rabunites on the Chattooga River, I hit the Delayed Harvest section about 2:00 for an afternoon on the most beautiful river in the southeast.  It was one of those days where I literally did not care if I caught anything or not.  I really do have those!  I found myself an hour and a half later still working the same pool.  It's one of the deepest pools on the river, the water was crystal clear and I could see several big fish sitting near the bottom.  I got into my hard-headed mode and decided to keep changing things up until I got one.  Never happened.  One dinky rainbow was the only one I fooled.  But back to my story.  I was standing on a ledge on the east side of the river overlooking the pool and turned around to walk out.  In my mind, all this happened in slow motion when my right boot began to slide off the edge.  I suppose I could have thrown my body backwards and landed in 18" of water on the ledge but your mind will trick you into thinking you'll regain control, catch your balance and walk safely out.  Never trust your own mind in these circumstances!

Remember, the pool I've been fishing is a good 8 or 10 feet deep, right off the ledge, sudden drop.  I'm now swimming...in 46º water!  Invigorating but not recommended.  You need to understand, I didn't stumble and catch myself then stood up.  I was FLOATING!  If anyone was near enough to see me, I didn't notice but I'm sure they've got stories of "the crazy fly fisherman up in that big hole up there."  I realized all I could do was float downstream until I could touch bottom but I'm laughing hysterically as I'm floating.  What else can you do?  It had to be a funny thing to see.  Honestly, the only part of me that wasn't wet was the very top of my hat.  The rest of my hat was wet from being underwater.

Easing out of the river looking like a haggard muskrat, I was grateful for the wading pants I was wearing because they were tightly cinched up around my waist and prevented me from taking on a serious amount of water.  The velcro adjustable waist worked equally as well as a belt would have.  That was fortunate.  To give you an idea of how foolish part of your brain can be, I actually considered going back out and fishing more.  That would have been nothing short of stupid!  Sure it was a beautiful mid-60's afternoon but when the sun started going behind the ridge in an hour or so, the temperature would drop significantly.  A clearer mind came to me from somewhere and I walked the mile or so to my truck.

Now, here's the point of this story.  I was unprepared.  During the winter months, I always keep a duffle bag of dry clothes, an extra jacket and even a towel for those really drenching moments as Saturday turned out to be.  But I hadn't switched to winter mode fishing this past weekend and I had nothing in my truck to change into or even dab a little river water off with.  Many of you have heard my diatribe about wearing a wading belt at all times so I wont' get into that topic again.  What I do want to encourage you to do is put together an emergency bundle of dry clothes (preferable something that will help you warm up like fleece) and keep it in your vehicle at all times.  You owe it to yourself and to your family.  I could have been in serious trouble if it had been cold and I was miles up the Chattooga River alone.  Hypothermia is a deadly thing and it doesn't have to be 32º and you soaking wet to kick in.  It could just as easily happen on a 55º day under the right conditions.

And if you think you won't fall in because you never have, think again, Kemosabi.  As the title of this post says, "It's not if, it's when!"  If you wade fish, you will fall in!  So be prepared.  Know your own capabilities, don't hesitate to use a wading staff, always use a wading belt and, above all, keep a set of dry clothes in your vehicle!  This is the voice of experience talking to you.  Listen to it!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Georgia's Delayed Harvest Streams Open Saturday November 1st

Fall Offers Great Georgia Trout Fishing Opportunities - Delayed Harvest Streams Open Nov. 1
Today's feature comes to us from the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division.
GAINESVILLE, Ga. -- Are trout streams calling you to go fish Georgia? Beautiful weather and fantastic scenery await you in the northern part of the state and beginning on November 1, fishing on five delayed harvest trout streams will open, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division.

Trout streams are designated either seasonal or year-round. "Five year-round streams are managed under special regulations called Delayed Harvest," said John Lee Thomson, Wildlife Resources Division trout stocking coordinator. "The 'DH' streams have special catch-and-release regulations from November 1-May 14, and are stocked monthly by WRD and our partner, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This combination of stocking and catch/release allows for good trout catch rates and high angler satisfaction."

The five trout streams managed under delayed harvest regulations are:

  • Toccoa River located on U.S. Forest Service land upstream of Lake Blue Ridge in Fannin County (from 0.4 miles above Shallowford Bridge to 450 feet above the Sandy Bottom Canoe Access).
  • Amicalola Creek on the Dawson Forest Wildlife Management Area (from Steele Bridge Road downstream to Georgia Hwy. 53).
  • Smith Creek downstream of Unicoi Lake (Unicoi State Park).
  • Chattahoochee River in Atlanta (Sope Creek, downstream of Johnson Ferry Road, downstream to the Hwy 41 bridge).
  • A portion of the Chattooga River (from Ga. Hwy. 28 upstream to the mouth of Reed Creek) on U.S. Forest Service land bordering South Carolina.

"Remember, during delayed harvest, anglers on these five streams also are restricted to artificial lures with one single hook," Thomson adds. "When May 15rolls around, the general regulations to designated trout water apply."

In addition to the excellent fall fishing opportunities that these delayed harvest streams provide, other Georgia streams offer ample year-round trout fishing. These streams are:

  • Noontootla Creek Watershed: This watershed offers high-quality, year-round fishing for wild brown and rainbow trout, with many of its tributaries offering a chance at a wild brook trout (a real plus since most other brook trout waters are closed to fishing after Oct. 31). Both Noontootla and its tributaries are managed under an artificial lure only regulation and have a 16" minimum size limit in order to "recycle" the 8"-12" trout that make up most of the population.
  • Dukes Creek: This stream, located on the Smithgall Woods-Dukes Creek Conservation Area, offers year-round trout fishing by reservation (706-878-3087). All fish caught here must be released immediately and anglers can only use artificial lures with barbless hooks. The stream offers a great chance at a trout over 20 inches, so bring your camera for a quick shot before release. Best time to fish is after a rain muddies the water.
  • Chattahoochee River: For good trout fishing close to metro Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River downstream of Buford Dam offers family-friendly, year-round fishing for stocked rainbow and wild brown trout. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area parks offer good bank, wading and boating opportunities. The river will be stocked through the fall months to keep angler catches high. Year-round harvest is legal from Buford Dam to Sope Creek. Anglers should note that there is an artificial lure only section between Ga. Hwy 20 and the Medlock Bridge Boat Ramp. Best fishing is at low flow when the river is clear to slightly stained.

  • Some additional notable year-round trout streams include the Toccoa River downstream of Lake Blue Ridge, Tallulah River and the Chattooga River.

Anglers must possess a current Georgia fishing license as well as a trout license to fish for these beauties. By purchasing a license as well as fishing equipment and related items, you and your fellow anglers have helped fund sport fish restoration programs for years, thanks to the Sport Fish Restoration Act. This Act allows funds accumulated from a federal excise tax on fishing equipment and related items to be directed to activities that benefit recreational anglers. A portion of these funds is provided to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources based on several factors, including the number of paid sporting licenses. Sport Fish funds make the following activities possible: managing sport fish populations, raising freshwater fish in hatcheries and stocking them in public waters, maintaining and operating public fishing areas and building boat ramps and fishing piers, and much more!

Where can you get a fishing license? Buy it online or find a list of retail license vendors at www.georgiawildlife.com/licenses-permits-passes or buy it by phone at 1-800-366-2661.

For free Georgia trout stream maps, trout fishing tips and other trout fishing information, visit www.georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout .

Monday, September 29, 2014

North Carolina DH Primer

By Landon Williams

If you have been living under a rock in the trout world or have never fished in any of our neighboring states, then you may not know that North Carolina’s Delayed Harvest season is opening on October 1st and it is a date to celebrate. North Carolina is home to many excellent Delayed Harvest streams and they are opening a full month ahead of our home state of Georgia’s DH streams. In many Georgians’ opinions, it is well worth the 50 bucks to get an annual out of state fishing and trout license for North Carolina, just to fish new and different water every now and then.

In the first couple of weeks of North Carolina’s DH season, you need to be mindful of the fact that all of North Carolina’s DH streams will not be stocked by opening day. In fact, many streams may not receive any fish the first week, so it best to check here to see when the scheduled date actually is before you invest the time and gas to drive north. 

If you can wait until a few days following the stocking, then the fishing is usually excellent and is especially rewarding for folks new to fly fishing. The fish are usually podded up in deeper pools and are aggressive towards junk food flies (Y2K, San Juan worm etc.) or small Wooly Bugger type flies striped or twitched through the current. North Carolina’s DH streams are well known for being stocked with many fish of excellent size, including some impressive brook trout.

If you are hard pressed and have to try your favorite DH stream before the official stocking date, keep in mind that many are operated under hatchery-supported designation and may receive stocking over the summer or have a population of wild trout as well. The Nantahala River and Fires creek come to mind and fit this description very well. While you may not wear the fish out as you could right after the stocking truck has passed, there are still many fish to be had if you adjust your tactics. Use smaller and more natural flies to match the local forage. It is also important to fish different water types such as boulder fields and pocket water where food and natural cover can be more abundant this time of year compared to the deeper, slower pools.  

I had a great trip this past Friday to the Nantahala DH and caught fish on everything from a big orange Stimulator that matched the October Caddis coming off at dark to smaller 14-16 soft hackle Hares Ear nymphs. I caught many nice wild rainbows and browns as well as a couple of bigger holdover fish who fought and acted like their wild brethren!

The “Second Season,” is now upon us and it is a great time to grab a new person and teach them the sport we all love. The fall colors will soon start popping and North Carolina’s DH streams are exceptional places to take it all in!

Hope to see you on the stream,


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Goldilocks Day - Everything Was Just Right

Landon Williams
I fished a favorite brook trout stream of mine Friday and it was just about as perfect a day one could have. The air temperature was excellent for a late July day and the water levels were great for the summertime after this latest stint of rainy weather. This particular stream is not too far from Unicoi Outfitters but doesn't get a ton of angling pressure, at least where I fish it. Further downstream it gets a some angling pressure and the fish are a little spooky. I walked a couple miles past where 95% of the other anglers stop before I even hopped in the stream.   After a series of large cascades the stream hosts exclusively brook trout, many of which are quite healthy in size but more on that in a bit.

I started out with my favorite summertime small stream combo, a big buggy dry fly (size 14 yellow stimulator) with a smaller buggy nymph below it (tungsten bead soft hackle hares ear) dropped off about 2-3 feet depending on the depth of the water. I normally stick with a shorter 7-8 foot fly rod for small stream fly fishing but I broke my change of pace and tried my 10 foot 4 wt. I shortened my leader down to just 6 ft  of straight 5x mono tied off of my fly line's perfection loop and "Dappled."

Dappling, or "dapping" as some call it, if you are unaware is a fancy term the old timers use for using a longer rod and just dropping your flies in likely holding spots and keeping the rod high and ready for the anticipation of a fast strike from a wily wild trout. The technique worked wonderfully everywhere I tried it, even in very tight cover so long as I didn't get crazy on the hookset.
So how was the fishing? It was epic by every definition. I caught a lot of brook trout. But more importantly, many of the fish were 7+ inches and quite a few were larger than 9 inches, which is a whopper on most brook trout streams. This stream has always had a slightly better than average population of larger fish but this was the best trip I've ever had here and this can only bode well for the overall health of our wild trout in North Georgia. I have to admit that I neglected them this spring pursuing larger warmwater fish but I'm starting to get a bit of the itch back for our salmonid friends!

Get out there and get up high if you haven't done it as of late. I'm glad I did! - Landon

Monday, July 7, 2014

Land & Water Conservation Fund Reauthorization

The LWCF is Up for Reauthorization - Please Read & Contact Your Congressman

Land & Water Conservation Fund: A Program We Can All Agree On
In today's political world, rare is the program over 75% of Americans can agree on. To have that support, it must be a Red White and Blue idea.

Well, one such idea exists. It's existed since 1965; the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Fifty years ago, back when people actually solved problems, the oil and gas industry, along with hunters and anglers, agreed on a program to mitigate the known impacts of offshore oil and gas exploration.

It was decided, and supported by all, that some of the offshore royalties would be earmarked to this new account, the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The purpose - Use those funds to restore habitat and enhance public access. Imagine that. A good idea supported by all sides, even Congress. There was a time in this country when good ideas were not the enemy of politics.

Roll forward fifty years. The LWCF has invested $13 billion dollars into public access for hunters and anglers, in the process, helping all outdoor recreation. Millions of acres of public access has been acquired or improved. Thousands of boat ramps, fishing piers, and fishing access sites have been funded.

Congress has managed to pilfer $17 billion dollars from the fund for other uses, but I guess we've come to expect that. Congress can make amends for past sins by reauthorizing this popular program in 2015. Hopefully placing the funds in a trust account, reducing the temptation of diversion.

A 2013 survey of Americans showed that LWCF enjoys a popularity quite the opposite of Congress. Over 85% of those asked want to see LWCF continue; marking 93% approval among Democrats and 78% among Republicans. The support in 2013 has grown from 81% support in the 2009 survey.

Congress could do something that almost all Americans support; reauthorize LWCF. I suspect the oil and gas industry prefers that a small fraction of their royalty payments stay earmarked for something beneficial, such as LWCF, versus tossed to the dark abyss of Congress.

Hunters are the greatest beneficiary of LWCF. Especially seeing the NSSF survey shows that losing "places to hunt" is the top reason people are hunting less. LWCF has provided more places to hunt than any program, ever. LWCF is the quiet program that provides matching funds to states, conservation groups, and local agencies to fund hunting and fishing access.
In my back yard of Bozeman Montana, the Gallatin National Forest has had over 200,000 acres of access acquired or improved by LWCF. All who hunt and fish can probably find a similar LWCF story in their back yard. Maybe your favorite spot.

In the coming year, Congress will face reauthorization for LWCF. Hunter, anglers, and the groups who represent us need to pressure Congress to reauthorize our most important access program, LWCF. In 1965, our legacy of hunting and fishing was handed a gift in the form of LWCF. Now is the time to make sure we can do the same for those who come after us.

--Randy Newberg

Randy Newberg is the host and producer of Federal Premium's Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg, making him the voice of self-guided public land hunters in America; where he shows the common hunter uncommon experiences available on our western public lands. You can catch his show on Thursday nights, only on Sportsman Channel and you can get more details about his hunts on his forumwww.HuntTalk.com

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nymph Like You Mean It!

Just wanted to share this Cortland video with you.  While you may or may not be interested in competitive fly fishing, there are always some things we can learn.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Federal Trout Hatchery Funding Public Meeting

Anglers can't afford to let this issue fall off the radar.  The USFWS leaders are trying their best to de-fund the hatchery system for all species that aren't on the Endangered Species List.  Please take a few minutes to read it.  Then take a few minutes to take some action on it.  Thanks.

From The Chattanoogan

Agencies To Host Public Meeting On Federal Trout Hatchery Funding

Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The Tennessee Valley Authority, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Georgia Department of Natural Resources will host a public meeting in Knoxville on Tuesday, May 27, to receive comments on long-term funding recommendations to continue popular trout stocking programs in certain TVA reservoirs and tailwaters across the region.
The agencies are seeking input from angling groups, local and regional businesses, tourism organizations and local governments that benefit from fishable trout waters in their communities.
The meeting will be from 6-7:30 p.m. at TVA headquarters, 400 W. Summit Hill Drive, Knoxville, Tn., in the East Tower meeting room. The public can participate in person or by webinar. Registration information for the webinar can be found at www.tva.gov/trout.
The session will include a brief presentation summarizing the issue and the Trout Hatchery Funding Stakeholder Working Group’s recommendations. Attendees can ask questions and provide comments. The meeting will be recorded and posted to the agencies’ websites, where additional comments may be posted.
On May 17, 2013, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and representatives from the agencies formalized an agreement to cooperate in seeking a permanent source of funding to continue trout hatchery production by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s National Fish Hatchery System for stocking in TVA tailwaters and reservoirs in Tennessee and Georgia.
As part of the agreement, TVA committed to provide more than $900,000 per year from 2014 through 2016 to support federal fish hatchery operations that produce trout for stocking. The agencies also agreed to form a working group with key stakeholders who benefit from recreation-based trout stocking to help identify a long-term funding source. The Trout Hatchery Funding Stakeholder Working Group conducted two meetings in 2013 and developed four recommended long-term funding alternatives for the agencies to consider.
Currently, non-native trout stocked near some of TVA’s dams come from three federal fish hatcheries operated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Erwin National Fish Hatchery in Erwin, Tn.; Dale Hollow National Fish Hatchery in Celina, Tn.; and Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches, Ga.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stocks most of the trout it produces at TVA facilities, and provides eggs and fingerling trout to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency for further grow out and stocking at TVA facilities. TVA supports these stocking programs by enhancing the aquatic habitat through oxygenation systems, controlled hydroelectric generation and minimum water flows to help maintain cooler water temperatures. However, in most of the waters, the trout still cannot naturally reproduce, requiring regular stocking to maintain fishable populations.
The short-term funding agreement allows for continued trout stocking for recreational fishing in the colder water of the reservoirs or tailwaters at 12 TVA dams in Tennessee and Georgia: Apalachia Dam on the Hiwassee River; Blue Ridge Dam on the Toccoa River; Cherokee Dam on the Holston River; Ft. Patrick Henry Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Normandy Dam on the Duck River; Norris Dam on the Clinch River; Ocoee Dam No. 1  on the Ocoee River; South Holston Dam on the South Fork Holston River; Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River; Tims Ford Dam on the Elk River; Watauga Dam on the Watauga River, and Wilbur Dam on the Watauga River.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Little Middle Georgia River Action

Our resident young trout bum Landon Williams has headed to middle Georgia for summer break but he hasn't taken a break from fishing.  Here's his story of an epic battle with Ole Bucketmouth.

I fished a section of an Ocmulgee River tributary near home on Monday night. I hit the river from about 5:30-8 PM and was into fish the whole time. Fish were chasing bream on the shoreline and eating damselflies and dobsonflies as soon as they hit the water all evening. I stuck with a white Stealth Bomber, size 4, all evening and was into fish the entire time. I caught several largemouth bass up to 2 1/2 lbs on it and several hand sized bluegills and redbreast thrown in for good measure. 

I finally got up to the best looking stretch of water, a nice run with current that undercuts a huge bedrock ledge and has a big back eddy with a lot of foam over the top of it. I continued with the Stealth Bomber but didn't catch anything. 

Next I tried a couple of large streamers with nary a bump with various retrieval speeds. I finally settled on my favorite river bass fly, a Grey Dahlberg Diver.
On the first cast, I cast straight into the back eddy with the foam . I popped the Dahlberg as hard as I could twice and then just let it sit for a few seconds. The pause was met with the most violent topwater take I've ever personally seen and sent the foam flying everywhere. I could tell it was a big bass but didn't know just how big until after the first jump a couple minutes into the fight. It took all my nerve and a little bit of luck to counter the fish rubbing against sharp rocks and jumping about 4 times throughout the fight. I finally got the best of the fish and he came to hand like a tired puppy dog.
This is by far the best largemouth I've ever taken on a fly rod and the fact that it was from a section of river that is heavily fished made it that much more special. Wonder what I caught him with? It was on a 6wt with about 6 lb line for tippet! I decided to let the fish so I don't know for sure how much it weighed but I would venture to say in the neighborhood of 9 lbs or so. 

Hope you guys enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed sharing it!


Monday, May 12, 2014

There's Still Time to Fish the Chattooga DH

by Jeff Durniak (aka Dredger)

Chattooga DH - 5/10/14

Go give the river one last shot this week.

Our trio yesterday only had one fifteen minute rain delay, while having a steady pick thru the afternoon. Water temp was 61.  One of us did well on a real small (18 or 20) Adams dead drifted behind a caddis, while another cast downstream and skittered a 16 tan caddis. Sometimes he even held it in the current along a sweet seam, and steadily twitched the subsurface offering until the rainbows couldn't stand it any longer.  We had 3-5 refusals and misses for every lip on the hook, but they were all fun.

We stayed for the hoped-for fireworks at dusk.  And they happened.

The switch turned on at 8 PM as size 18 cahills poured off. When they quit  popping at 8:45, the fish switch turned off .

Dry fly flingers oughta give it a go. Carry some tan elk hair caddis (16, 18) and parachute cahills in same size.  Add some small Adams and some cahill emergers and you're all set.  Focus on shady shallows and runs during the day, and then get in a favorite spot just before 8, with fresh 5x tippet and your flashlight pre-tested.

Good luck. Pass the word to interested folks. Enjoy your whippoorwill walk on the way back to the parking lot as you recall all those rises!

Ed. Note:  We often get questions about why the Chattooga DH can't be continued for more weeks during the spring and early summer.  Well, it is open for trout fishing year round but the quality of that fishery begins to decline in mid-May due to warm water temps as evidenced by these two bad boys that were taken on Saturday.  Hey, they rose to dry flies!  And the hornyhead is all decked out for love, rosy cheeks and all.