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 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!

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