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 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.

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