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, August 28, 2020

UO Fishing Report - August 28,

Welcome back to UO’s Friday fishing report. The remnants of Tropical Storm Laura will dictate most of your weekend opportunities.  The timing and intensity of weekend storms will control water conditions and lead you toward or away from your targeted waters.  In summary, your best bets are headwater streams and small lakes, your hero or zero opportunities are bass rivers, and a nice day trip is a Smokies excursion.  Here’s some intel and reports from our staff.

Wild trout in cold headwater streams are still a good bet.  Be ready with your hi A-game, however, as these fish become spookier and suspicious in late summer’s low, gin-clear waters.  Best bets for risers are still the standard summer fare: tan caddis, small stimulators, parachute adams, and the black stuff- ants and beetles.  Good droppers are ants, pheasant tails, hare’s ears, and princes.  If I had to pick one size, it’s a 16, but I’d have some 14’s for bigger water and 18’s if the fish get real picky.  UO guide Hunter is on a client trip right now (28th).  He said that the dry/dropper combo of an elk hair caddis with either a prince or pheasant tail dropper (when they hit deeper pools) has been the ticket on this week’s client trips.

We’re still concentrating on streams and rivers, so our yaks continue to collect dust.  Pond fish should still be good in the shadows of dawn and dusk.  Our friends just to the west have had fun with bass and bream at Lake Zwerner in the past.  Give this lake next to Dahlonega a look, and try the Yahoola Creek channel for some deeper, cooler water and hungrier fish.  Try a surface popper, but be ready to dredge deep in the summer heat to find a cooperator or two.

River bassin’ has been tough all summer due to high water and low visibility.  On a Wednesday (26th)  lunchtime errand, Jeff saw about two feet of visibility at the Highway 115 access and convinced Jimmy to give it a try.  The duo knocked the cobwebs off their six-weights, abandoned on garage rod racks all summer, and hit the upper Hooch just before dusk.  Fishing was fun but catching was still slow.  At least the half dozen or so shoalies ate a stealth bomber on top.  Most were 10-11 inches and the best hit 14 inches.  It was still nice to wet wade some shoals again.  Jeff crossed the Hooch at 10am today (28th) and it looked a little bit clearer.  If upstream storms don’t turn it red, weekend bassers may have a shot.  Try some bigger and/or brighter baits to get their attention in the discolored waters.  Big buggers, poppers, and even Ned rigs or spinnerbaits on your backup spinning rods might draw more strikes.

While muddy water is a turnoff for many of our targets, it’s a turn-on for Nacoochee Bend stripers.  Last Friday (21st) Dredger read that day’s UO fishing report, noticed the morning rain, and called Jake at the fly shop.  Jake confirmed that the river was high and muddy, but not blood-red, so Dredger convinced the Unicoi Guru to play hooky after lunch.  The duo met at the Bend and hopped in as the river cleared just a bit more.  They hooked up with two brutes!  The bigger one, at least 12 pounds, shook off after an epic battle, but they were able to land the smaller one, which taped at 29 inches and might have hit ten pounds, if weighed.  Hot flies were a huge olive woolly bugger and Guru’s leftover peacock bass streamer from his Amazon adventure.  Due to its size and color, they called it the “gray squirrel streamer.” Have your 8-weights and squirrel streamers ready, watch the weather, and call the fly shop for river conditions and a trip booking at prime time.  As these two angling addicts will attest, “the tug is the drug.”  Give the tug a try at dawn, dusk, or in dingy midday waters. Remember that your trip fee is actually a donation to the Nomadic Waters fishing guides in the Amazon, lacking tourist anglers during this unprecedented year.

Our friends at GAWRD have another great weekly blog for everyone.  Check out the picture of the 7-pound Hooch brown!  If you have kids, tune into this week’s trout stocking list.


Finally, if you can day-trip the Smokies, or find a safe, socially distant campsite for one night up there, give the park a try.  Jeff day-tripped yesterday (27th).  Wild bows and browns were, indeed, spooky and suspicious, with 6 or 7 refusals for every rise and hookup. The afternoon’s money flies, however, were long droppers in prime runs and pools. The best fish ate either a brown rubberlegs or the silver beaded, tan mop.  He could not pattern the risers, with an adams, beetle, and stimulator each fooling a few through the afternoon (which is always the slowest time of the day).  A brief “Dark30” happened ‪at 7pm‬ and lasted for about 30 minutes.  They looked up as the shadows fell, but were still hesitant to eat.  Despite their reluctance, he landed a small handful, with more browns than bows to end a nice afternoon.

He quit early to elk-watch, and was treated to a herd of about two dozen in the Cherokee visitor center field.  The elk-tourist referee (park ranger) said that the biggest bull was indeed nicknamed Big Boy and sported a 6X6 rack. Jeff enjoyed supper in the parking lot while listening to bugles and watching Big Boy run off two teenage bulls from his harem of cows.  While the catching was “fair,” the fishing trip was still rated two thumbs-up.

That’s the latest intel from our UO gang.  While our windows of opportunity are a bit limited in a late summer of frequent storms, some good chances are there if you look closely.  Call either shop if you need help sighting in your weekend targets.  And to end the report, let’s take a break from life’s stresses and enjoy nature’s wonders.  Thanks to “Natureman’s” post on North Georgia Trout Online, we found Robert Bush, Sr.’s spectacular videos of “life on a log.” 


Congratulate yourself on surviving another week, decompress to one these amazing videos, and make your own plan to get outside soon.  Remember, the tug is the drug!  Good luck from all of us at Unicoi Outfitters.

Friday, August 21, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 8/21/20

Welcome back to UO’s Friday fishing report!  “Flexibility” will catch you more fish this week. Let the weather and water conditions lead you to success. Your best bets will continue to be headwater wild trout, cold stocker streams, and small ponds, either close to home or up here during a social distancing day trip.

Be flexible not only with your destinations, but also with your tackle and timing.  Right now we might aim for decent sized, cold trout waters at high elevations, northern aspects, or below a big dam. But if they’re blown out by a storm (like several that have rolled through since last nite), we are ready with a Plan B and maybe even a Plan C.  For my trips, I’ll typically pack a 9 foot , 3 weight trout outfit, a 7.5 foot blueline rod, and even a 6-wt outfit and bug box for pond or river bass. If it’s my long-awaited fishing day, I’m gonna wet a line somewhere!

Since most storms are firing up after lunch, consider an early start and fish the mornings right now.  But still pack that raincoat!

Headwaters are still fishing well. However, be ready to change your instream tactics to “drought mode.” Yep, we said drought! Despite the frequent storms, many streams are running at their normally low summer baseflows in between the brief storm surges. Just look at the USGS Hooch - Helen gauge and you’ll see how low they go. Low water trout are in survival mode- very skittish and hesitant to leave cover. But they still gotta eat!

Yesterday (8/20), somewhere “high above Helen,” my good spots of a month ago were skinny, sunny, and fishless except for a few dinks. I had to find pinched stream channels with some summer cover: logjams, undercut banks, deep and narrow runs, and plunge pools. The resident bows laughed at my caddis and yellow sally, but I finally got even with a #16 parachute ant in the flat water and a #16 orange stimmy in the bumpy water, both on 5X tippet.

On the big, flat pools, I fooled a few with the spring creek method of “fly-first.” Try sneaking thru the woods to the riffle above the pool, crouch down, make a fairly long downstream cast, and drift it real long so that they see the fly first. Or just skip that darn flat stuff and find the next easy plunge pool!  Don’t forget your key ingredients: stealth and a good dead drift.  And lots of dessicant if you’re lucky, too!

If there’s a storm surge, try a Euro rig in the few soft spots. It worked last week in the Smokies. I caught enough headwater fish on top to have fun, despite about 7 refusals for every eat. I would have done better with a dropper under the dry, but I just wanted to see the rises. After the midday dry action, I followed an afternoon storm surge in a downstream section    and aimed for bigger fish. A half dozen bows and browns from 7 to 13 inches slammed the walts worm anchor or the black rubberlegs dropper to top off my day.   Or so I thought until that bull elk showed up at dusk. I hope you liked that video we posted last week.

River bass are likely blown out this weekend, but some high water and color are good for our summering stripers in Helen. Several folks have hooked up and a few have landed some nice fish in the last week. Landon shared a pic of his hot fly that fooled two stripers last week. We heard a rumor that a big Puglisi minnow also worked.

Ponds should still be good, and might even fish better on these cloudy and rainy days!  Jay from Athens keeps posting Instagram pics of his huge ‘gills from Pond X.  We haven’t been invIted there yet. Have you?  If you’re staying close to home, remember your local waters and work those pond perimeters.  A hand-sized bream on a limber  fly rod is even more fun than a trout!  Remember the popper/dropper technique to double your chances of success.

We hope this timely intel fires you up for the days ahead. These are still tough times for everyone, but it’s amazing how a little dose of “hydrotherapy” can renew our spirits and allow us to get through another week of anxiety and responsibility.  Call either shop if we can help keep that smile on your face and hope in your heart. We deeply appreciate your patronage and especially your friendship.  Good luck on all fronts this week! Together, we will survive all these storms.

Friday, August 14, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 8/14/20

We’re gonna go with “hit or miss” as this week’s theme for our Friday fishing report.  It isn’t surprising, given that we’re in the middle of August, a traditionally slow time for catching across north Georgia.  The abundant August “misses”  are warm water and high, muddy flows from frequent, intense afternoon storms.  But have faith!  We hope to give you some timely tips and fresh intel that should enhance your odds for some “hits” this week.

On the trout front, think real high or real low.  High equals headwater streams,which still have good flows from frequent rains and are staying cold enough to maintain wild trout appetites.  The same summer techniques and fly patterns that we’ve been preaching will continue to work through August on blueline bows, specks, and even browns when the sun’s down. Don’t forget your raincoat!    If you have kids, watch the GAWRD trout stocking list, updated each Friday, as it targets cooler waters, and stick a small black woolly bugger, peach glo-bug, red squirmy worm or even a small Panther Martin spinner on the end of their line for some stocker success.  For the “real, real high,” check out the trout report to follow.  For the “real low,”you need to be below a really big dam, one that still holds winter water.  That’s  the Hooch below Lanier for our metro fans and in north Georgia, that means Blue Ridge Dam.

Try a wade trip at the dam, at Tammen Park, or at Curtis Switch.  Horseshoe Bend, way down near McCaysville, often is too warm in late summer for a good trout bite.  The Toccoa is also a good float for careful folks.  Whether you wade or float, you must be tuned into the TVA dam generation schedule.  The high water during a sudden generation is dangerous, so don’t take chances.  Blue Ridge Dam info is here: https://www.tva.com/environment/lake-levels/wblue-ridge


UO Buddy “Sautee” rambled far north on 441 yesterday to catch an extra thousand feet of elevation and the resulting colder water.  Enjoy his “real high” report and tips:

“Decided  to try a new (to me) trout stream in GSMNP this week since last week’s trip to higher, cooler waters was such a success. Foggy when I reached the Park and about 20 elk, including one nice bull greeted me as I drove past the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Arrived at the trailhead at 8:00 AM, hiked 1.5 miles and plopped in the stream about 8:45. Water was crystal clear and running a little low. Started with my go-to yellow caddis hoping once again to catch’em looking up. Over the course of the next hour and 10 minutes, I switched flies repeatedly hoping to get some interest, but to no avail. Had a couple refusals but that was the best I could do. When I switched to a black foam beetle and added a #16 hares ear dropper about 14 “ off the back, things livened up. The first fish I landed was an 11” brown that ate the dropper. Thereafter was a steady diet of 6-9” rainbows that took the dry and the dropper. With my success climbing I switched back to the caddis with no luck, changed over to a yellow sally and caught a couple, then went to Adams and caught a couple more, but I was seeing more refusals so switched back to the beetle and dropper. The hares ear was the best fly of the day producing more fish than all others combined.The beetle was my best dry, but still not too productive. At 12:35 the lightning started and the sky opened up as it is prone to do during the summer months in the Smokies. I hung out under a hemlock long enough to decide the rain was settling in for a while and then hiked my way back out to a dry set of clothes waiting for me in my vehicle. There is still good top water fishing to be had even this late in the summer. Go out and have yourself a good time!”

The bass rivers seem fishable right now, but that can change in only 15 minutes if a thunderstorm rolls through.  This morning the Hooch sites in Helen and at Highway 115 were clear enough to fish.  Down at Duncan Bridge, it muddied up a bit (likely from the Soque), but still had 2-3 feet of visibility.  If you fished shallow where bass and bream could still see your bug, you’d probably get bit.  The Chestatee gauge also suggested that last nite’s  storms missed it, and it may still be fishable.  

The larger lakes are slow for shallow water fans as the fish go deep and sulk for summer. Jake took a day off to drown a Ned rig in a GA Power lake this week and had a slow time, with only one spot, one largemouth, and one “kitty” landed. We’ll need some cool fall weather to bring the larger lakes back to life for angling fans.

While we don’t have fresh reports from small lakes, experience suggests that they should do fairly well during the low light of dawn and dusk.  Toss small poppers for bream and large ones for bass right against the bank or at any downed tree in the water. At dawn and dusk, a lot of fish are looking for terrestrials to lose their footing and drop in for dinner.  Small rubber spiders are real good at this time of the year, too.  Grab a canoe or yak and work the perimeter of the lake for an hour or two when the sun isn’t cooking you and the fish.  When they won’t come up, go down to them with a popper/dropper combo.  Tie 2-3 feet of 4X or 5X tippet to the bend of your popper’s hook, and knot a trout nymph to the far end.  Use your popper as a strike indicator to save your day.   To make up for our lack of reports, we’ll substitute some intel on a couple of local spots that we frequent.  On Unicoi Lake, we do better in the upper two-thirds of the impoundment, where it is shallower and greener from the nutrient inflow.  In contrast, we do better on the lower two-thirds of little Lake Russell on US Forest Service land near Cornelia, because the upper third, above the boat ramp, is too shallow and weed-choked.  We also catch bass right in the middle of the lake as they chase really small fingerling fish- maybe bream schools?  Watch for busting bass and cast at them.  You might be rewarded.  

On any lake or river trip, always plan an exit strategy before you launch. The storms this week have been intense in both lightning and rainfall, so figure out where you can take shelter quickly. Watch the weather apps on your phone and be ready to get out of the water in a few short minutes.

That’s about it for this week, a typical one for August anglers in Georgia.  It’s  almost like winter: the pickins’ are slim, but if you do a little homework and aim accurately, you might have a few more hits than misses.  And none of us has to worry about frozen fingers and toes right now!  Good luck.  Call either shop if we can help point you in the right direction.

Friday, August 7, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 8/7/20

Welcome back to Respite from Reality, better known as UO’s Friday fishing report.  Our staff at both shops hope you’re doing well as you navigate life’s choppy waters right now.  Give yourselves a pat on the back for reaching Friday, then sit back and enjoy this break. Once again, we’ll start with a nice video to set the tone.  In contrast to last week’s serene lake, we thought we’d bring out the kid in all of us.  So here’s “Spoon Auger Spray Park,” courtesy of Mother Nature.  Dip your head right into the cold droplets and get refreshed.  Feel better?  Good!  Now’s let’s get to the angling intel.

This week’s theme is Storm Dodging.  If you can work around the muddy floods from intense PM thunderstorms, you should do fairly well.  Remember it’s August, and we don’t expect the great catch rates seen in spring and fall.  But there are still good opportunities out there to put a bend in your rod.  Your best bets remain: high elevation trout streams, small lakes, and cool rivers WHEN they’re clear enough for fish to see your bugs.  Also intense are weekend crowds, especially at popular and/or highly developed sites.  We recommend that you hit those spots real early or, best of all, on uncrowded weekdays.  Weekend anglers should look at less popular spots literally off the beaten path for your best social distancing opportunities. We’ve got some good books, maps, and brains at both shops to help you find a distant spot or two.

Our best intel this week comes from UO’s benevolent angling buddies, kind enough to check in and share recent reports and pics.  First up are the bluelines.  If they’re not blown out by a sudden 2-inch rain, they’re still fishing real well. Remember to check a) local fly shops, b) USGS stream gauges, and c) your weather radar app before burning your gas and your precious off-day.  Our favorite summer colors are yellow (stimulator), black (ants and beetles) and green (inchworms).  Local fish vacuum “Foothills Bob” (FB) shared a secret recently: tie a tiny bright green mop fly on a size 16 or 18 jig hook, with a silver tungsten bead, and sink that bug under your buoyant dry fly.  Nurse Kitty and I tried it on Dukes last May and we are believers!  For more of FB’s hot tips, join GA Foothills TU and read his great monthly newsletters.  Warning: don’t ever, ever fish behind him!

Next up is “Sautee,” who packed his lunch, gassed up locally, and did a solo “distance” trip just to our north.  In his words: “Decided to head north to GSMNP, gain some elevation, leave the heat behind and recharge my soul. Went higher on this stream than I have ever been, but it won’t be my last trek to this mountain paradise.  Because of the long drive and 45-minute walk in from the trailhead, it was 10:00 before I found the spot to get in the creek. Not to worry, the sun had not yet been able to find its way over the ridge and penetrate the dense overstory.  I was high enough that some rhododendron were still blooming and there was foam flower in the understory.  Started out with a #14 yellow elk hair caddis and landed 3 rainbows and one brown from the first hole. It just got better from there.  Whatever I tried worked.  #16 Adams, #16 black ant, #14 foam beetle all produced rainbows, a few brookies and a handful of browns.  Best part of the day was when I was working a run catching a couple of specks but noticed lips rising to the surface near a half-submerged log at the far bank.  I snuck up on the log and cast everything I had been having success with (caddis, beetle, ant, Adams) but to no avail.  I went to the opposite bank and sat down thinking I probably spooked the fish. Gave it about 10 minutes while I ate my sandwich and then tried again.  Nothing!  Undeterred, I tied on a big ugly hopper and sailed it to the upstream end of the log and let it drift.  After drifting for about 2 feet, a flash!  The hopper got crushed by a 13-14” brown that charged out from under the log and turned to go right back under it. When I tried to turn him, he shrugged those massive shoulders and broke me off!  Great excitement and a great way to end the day!  I shrugged my shoulders, tipped my hat, bowed my head, gave the old boy props and headed downstream to my car with a smile on my face.  There’s still good fishing to be had, high and pretty close to home.  Get out and enjoy it.”

Stocker fans, GAWRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson told me that there are some nice, fat fish hitting stocked streams this week.  They take a little longer to hit that larger ten-inch target, thanks to your fishing license increase funds of a few years ago.  This late-season crop is getting stocked in waters that are cool enough in late summer to support the fish.  The stocking list comes out late on Friday afternoons, after John Lee ensures the fish from four different hatcheries have indeed hit their target waters.  Look here just before your Friday supper: https://georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout

We had two good reports on the bassin’ front this week. Remember yesterday’s post, too, with our tips for river bassin’ bugs.   Bassing, honestly, has been hit or miss.  It seems like the fish hits are happening where the storm hits are not, while the strikeouts are happening where the water is high and muddy.  The Hooch was ripping red mud today (8/7) when I crossed it, so your weekend opportunities will be limited.  Call the Helen shop and watch the USGS Hooch-Leaf gauge to “gauge” whether or not to burn your gas in that direction.  In contrast, Landon had a real good float on the Chestatee yesterday.  He didn’t catch any wallhangers, but caught enough on top to be very happy.  Shoalies outnumbered spots by 3:1, a few redbreasts added color to the day, and his white popper outfished the blue one by that same 3:1 ratio. He felt that a long leader made a big difference. If you’re looking for river bassin’ intel, it doesn’t get any fresher than that!

Next up is Ron W, who’s usually stuck on the west side of ATL.  He’s up here for trout in the colder months, but sure knows how to make the best of his nearby opportunities.  Ron said, “Caught some nice bass last Friday and Saturday on Lake Arrowhead. Went out a few times for a combined 3 hours and caught well over a dozen fish.  All caught on a NED rig with a Zman TRD worm threaded on it (ed note: see zmanfishing.com).   I know it doesn't count....I kid you not, I saw one on the same dock where I caught my nearly 10#er a few months back. It was easily 15 pounds or more.  Biggest bucketmouth I've ever seen! it could possibly be the one that I fought a few weeks back for about three minutes before it busting me off after I made my 3rd drag adjustment. I never saw the fish but it fought just like a bass and I did hook it in 6' of water.”

We had a tearjerker of a striper story from the Unicoi Guru himself.  In his own words:

In his never-ending quest to outsmart the neurons and synapses of a creature operating solely on instinct, Jimmy has once again taken one step forward and two steps back.  The stripers inhabiting Nacoochee Bend this summer have become maddeningly picky.  In an effort to prove he's superior to your average stripey fish, Jimmy has experimented with a number of techniques, most of which have been abject failures.

Fish right at dawn?  Okay, somewhat successful on smaller fish

Fish during the day when the Solunar tables indicate it's best?  Not much.  Twelve-inchers hanging right under the falls.

Fish right at sunset?  Skunked more times than not.

Change up colors on the fly?  They run from white like it's Covid 19.  Olive/White gets some interest but nothing to get excited about.  Black was hot for a few days, Woolly Buggers of all things.

Fish the surface or strip streamers along the bottom in 2 feet of water?  Rejection.

Drop a Woolly Bugger or Crayfish pattern 15" below a 1" Thingamabobber? 

BINGO!  Hooked up... briefly.  For the second time this summer my hook straightens on a big fish.  The fly was given to me by a "friend" who obviously still holds some hard feelings from that time I tried to net a 24" rainbow for him and knocked it off the hook.  


Moral of the story?  Pick your flies with more care than you pick your friends. 

(ed note: my gift flies went with no warranties)


Since these social media platforms don’t seem to mix pics and vids well, I’ll make a second post with the “best of” fishing photos from our source anglers.  Enjoy the eye candy to come.

We’d like to close with a shout-out to the Prez and the DC crowd. In an era when it seems like elected folks can’t get along in Washington, the conservation community scored a big touchdown this week.  We owe all DC players, the Prez, the Senate and the House, a big thank-you for their passage of the Great American Outdoors Act.  National parks will be repaired and more public recreational lands can be acquired thru Act funds.  For more info on this amazing news, see our NGTO post called “touchdown”: http://www.georgia-outdoors.com/forum/forum/welcome-to-ngto/events-happenings

That’ the latest from our north GA hills.   Give us a call at either store if we can help you plot your weekend strategies.  Thanks for your patronage.   Stay safe, everyone. We will all catch more fish in the long run if we’re smart in the short term!

Monday, August 3, 2020

The River Bass Box

The River Bass Box
By Jeff Durniak

The dog days of summer are here.  That means the lengthy rains of spring are long-gone and we simply have to deal with occasional, pop-up thunderstorms.  While those brief storms might muddy-up flowing waters, they usually clear quickly.  That’s great news for our best bet during the dog days: river bassin’!   While a lot of anglers complicate things, river bassin’, at its roots, is really simple and easy.   For new fly fishers, you can enjoy your own Huck Finn days with any old 5,6, or 7-weight fly rod, wading shoes or a canoe/kayak, and a basic bass box.   I’ll tell you the goodies I carry in my box.

That basic box is a simple 3 X 2 concept of water layers and fly patterns.  I’ve got three layers of water to cover (top, middle, and bottom) and two flies per layer, my go-to pattern, and a backup bug.  Only two, you say?  Yep, for a starter box.  Pick the bug size to match your local quarry.  If you need a size to start, buy or tie these on size 4 hooks.  Of course, we can add more bugs and make that box bigger.  That’s what fly fishing is all about, lotsa cool trinkets, right?  But for new fly-flingers, a ton of trinkets isn’t necessary.  Sometimes it’s counterproductive, as noobs spend more time changing flies than casting their first pick into a good spot and working it seductively.  Remember this: Technique trumps Pattern!

Now let’s get to the gotta-have patterns. First, for the surface, I like a white Kent’s Stealth Bomber and a white popper.  They both must have lots of long rubber legs!  Toss the Stealth Bomber into low, clear water along shady banks, and don’t move it. Just let it drift along.  Every now and then, give it a slight twitch to wiggle the legs, then let it drift again for 5-10 feet.  River bass and bream are spooky in summer’s low, clear water, but they’re very hungry and love to hang out under tree limbs, waiting for terrestrial bugs to lose their footing. Fish with patience and you’ll be rewarded.  The backup surface bug is the trusty white popper. Use it to call fish up from deep, fast, or slightly discolored water.  Don’t pop it as much as you did in the spring when the water was cooler.  Pop and drift, then repeat. Use these two surface bugs in the shade and shadows of dawn, dusk, and shaded banks, where your quarry feels safe enough to “look up” for supper and not be a meal for a heron.

When they’re not looking up, go down for the fish.  You can start at mid-column with either the Clouser minnow or the greatest fly of all time, the black woolly bugger.  Fish the Clouser like a nervous minnow.  Cast, let it sink a bit, and retrieve it back to you with erratic strips.  Don’t fall into the bad habit of a constant retrieve.  You’ll catch more fish when they think their lunch is leaving!  You can fish the bugger any way at all: cast upstream and twitch down to you, then twitch slightly as it swings past you and hangs in the current below you, then twitch and strip it back to your rod tip.  One hint: put your rod tip right on the water surface while you’re twitching and stripping.  Striking fish will encounter a tight line and result in more hookups.  Strikes on high rods just pull on a big U-loop of slack – and you’ll have lots of misses.

When your shoalies and smallies are glued to the bottom, especially in the high sun, go knock on den doors and offer them a lobster dinner.  Dens are boulder fields, rock ledges, and logjams, especially the shady side of each.  You can toss Reindeau’s Hairy Fodder upstream and bounce it on the bottom, back to you, to imitate a downstream- fleeing crayfish.  Toss it across the stream, toward the bank, and twitch it while it swings.  As it finally hangs in the current below you, stick that rod tip in the water and short-strip it back upstream.  If you’re greedy like us, tie two feet of 10lb tippet to the fodder’s hook bend and drop the woolly bugger off the back. That dual-dinner menu is hard to resist.

Hopefully, these tips will get you started on some summer fun, while you await the return of trouting in the fall.  Don’t forget a big hat, sunscreen, bug spray, flashlight, plenty of water, and a good fishing buddy (at a distance) for river safety.  Toss one of these six bugs in the right spot, work it like the natural food, and hold on. These river bass have bad attitudes and broad shoulders! And they’ll make you smile in the summer sun.

Author’s Note:  Jeff Durniak recently retired as DNR’s Regional Fisheries Biologist for North Georgia.  He now spends his time terrorizing fish and working his hobby job at Unicoi Outfitters.