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, December 18, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 12/18/20


Summary: Flows are good after a slight bump from 12/16’s half-inch of rain. Water temps are tolerable - for the fish. As for us, we should wear wool socks and fleece pants under our waders!

https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv?site_no=02176930 Fish in the forties will be slower than their former selves at fifty degrees, so expect lower overall catches. But the water is still above 40, so you’ll still enjoy some catches if you employ the standard winter mantra of “low, slow, after lunch, and in the sun.” And the best news is that we have a slight warming trend toward Christmas. Every extra degree counts! And keep an eye out for possible holiday gifts from the GAWRD elves. http://georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout For trout, hit the afternoons with your winter techniques of deep and slow with eggs, rubberleg stoneflies, small buggers, and maybe a small nymph dropper off the back. Good nymph patterns: pheasant tail (nymph or soft hackle version), hares ear, rainbow warrior, lightning bug, prince. Aim for the sunny spots! Use a short tapered leader and then a long piece of 3x or 4x tippet to slice through the water column. Finally, knot a foot of 4x or 5x tippet to connect your long leader to your fly, and get some good, drag-free drifts along the bottom. (See “Winter Chuck and Duck” in here: https://rabuntu.org/about/educational-programs/secrets/) For stripers, find the bait via the birds or your Humminbird (fish finder). Henry C says most predators are still deep and on small bait, but birds will show you some surface action. Do more searching than casting and you’ll catch more stripers. Enjoy the latest angler reports and tips from our extended UO family. Headwaters Jimmy slipped out to a local headwater stream last Sunday afternoon. He tossed a dry/dropper combo on his short blueline rod and picked up a nice handful of wild rainbows in a couple hours. One was a real trophy for the tiny stream and stretched to ten inches. None were brave enough to come up to his parachute hares ear dry, and all preferred the small, tungsten prince dropper. Smith DH Web posts and anglers visiting the shop report decent fishing in the colder water. Stealth and deep-dredged eggs and small nymphs are producing. Weekends are busy and your success will be lower if you’re fishing behind a bunch of folks. Try these two techniques. Tip 1: rest a pool when it’s finally yours. Eat a snack, rerig your leader, and admire nature around you for 20 minutes. Then catch them with stealth! Use lighter tippet (6x) and small flies (#18 and 20 pheasant tails, zebra midges, WD40’s, rainbow warriors) that will be different than the standard fare that has pounded them for hours. Sneak up and toss in without false casting and spooking the nervous residents. Tip 2: go on an uncrowded weekday. And Euronymphing works well on any day. Tooga DH UO friend @certifiedflybum reports, “Sunday was a great day to be outside. The sun was bright and warm on our backs, but the fish did not care that it was nice out. The colder weather, plus rainwater from the day before, kept the trout tight to the bottom in deep pools or soft pockets of three feet or better deep water, it's December after all. Success finally came by changing one's mindset from fall to winter techniques, keeping line drifts painfully slow or to a near stall giving the fish time to consider moving on the fly. In the early afternoon sunlight, the fly of the day was an orange bead head with white chenille weighted to tick the bottom. And in the late afternoon, casting dark micro streamers with a bit of flash into soft water and suspending the flies in the drift working the edges of sun and shade got motivated trout curious enough to bite. The slow conditions made the few that did play the reward of the day.” Where are these places? GAWRD shows you here: http://georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout All streams are on the interactive map. And you can also scroll down to “artificial lure streams” and click on the DH stream names for individual maps. Private Waters Hunter said, “The family rented a cabin with some private water. After getting them on some nice fish I made a few drifts myself and ended up getting into a long battle with this guy. The 10’ 3Wt. protected my 5x tippet and let me get him to the net. He ate a black rubber leg stone with plenty of lead wire wraps, part of my go to set up that’s a rubber leg stone and either a small rainbow warrior (or similar) or a soft hackle.” UO veteran guide Ron said his clients had some very good days at Rainbow Point on the Soque by deep drifting black stonefly nymphs. Lanier Hank the Yank sez, “Stripers are still scattered all over lake as the weather is cooling and water temps get into the mid 50’s. Fish are starting to bunch up a little more which hopefully means sinking line bite will start soon. Best bets are to still look for surface feeding fish or toss flies on loons. South end of lake is still best by far.” www.henrycowenflyfishing.com More great Lanier striper and spot intel courtesy of UO’s flatwater friends, Mack and Clay: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Fishing-Store/CaptainMacks/about/ https://www.facebook.com/CatchingNotFishing/ Stay distant and safe. If you go, then go local and slow, and be careful in the outdoors. We don’t want to add any more work for our healthcare heroes during these very tough times for all Georgians. May we all count our blessings and then put 2020 behind us. Can I get an Amen to that? Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Unicoi Outfitters.

Friday, December 11, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 12/11/20

Summary: Trout are acclimating to winter conditions and cold weather techniques are now the trick. They are to drift your offering slowly, roll those flies along the bottom, and hit the daily water temp peaks from 11 til 4. Patterns: bigger eggs, rubberleg stones, and small (16-18) rainbow warriors, lightning bugs, hares ears, and pheasant tails if finicky fish in clear water refuse your bigger flies. Dark woolly buggers on deep, slow strips and twitches are another good bet. Some of the hatcheries’ “recent retirees” are now in DH streams and often prefer those bigger bugs. You might find a big brood rainbow, brook, or brown among your December catch.

Lake stripers are slow and scattered. Watch the birds for surface fish and your graphs for deeper bait balls. Downsize your flies to match the small threadfins. Details in Henry C’s report, below. Your biggest challenge will be the weather, with cold and rainy days heading our way after a warm weekend and Saturday night’s rain. Watch your weather app for warm “weather windows” and the USGS river gauges for favorable flow conditions. Don’t forget to dress for success, too, and keep your fingers and toes warm. https://rabuntu.org/about/educational-programs/secrets/more-winter-trouting-tips/ Reports and Tips: Sautee’s Headwater Report: “Last Saturday afternoon was another fun day on the local wild rainbow stream. Nothing on top but they were especially fond of #16 and #18 beadhead hares ear and hares ear with soft hackle trailed about 24” off the back.” Chattooga DH The Retiree Trio of TH, Sautee, and Dredger met distantly in the parking lot and then spread out on the river from 11 til 5 on Wednesday. TH had a great day on deep, slow buggers, and landed several large brown retirees. He said, “The sink tip worked well, but a heavily weighted bugger on a floating line should do the trick. I just kept it low and slow in the water column. Color matters but over the last few trips it has been impossible to know in advance which color matters. So far over December, vanilla, brown, olive and black have all had their day.” The other two had only a fair day farther upstream by chucking their “legs and eggs” combo. They caught mostly bows, with best at 13 inches, and a few browns up to 16 inches. The water was low, clear, and a cold 44F at 2pm. The usual winter tips will help y’all: slow bottom rolls in the midday warmth. TH went back today (11th) and repeated his bugger success. In contrast, Dredger and his distant sidekick, adopted Rabunite “Spunky,” had a good day, with almost all their luck on the egg fly.

Only one bow ate the Pats rubberleg, while Dredger only had one halfhearted bump in 30 minutes of bugger chucking, and no bites on a small pheasant tail or a red copper John. The water was a warmer 47F at 11am and fish were more active than they were on Wednesday.

Private Waters: A group of guests hit the bend on Wednesday with our UO guides. They had pretty good success, but it was pot luck on the bugs, with no clear pattern dominating the catch. They hooked a few on squirmy worms, a few on pheasant tails, and a couple on flashy nymphs like a lightning bug. Anglers have reported good luck on the following flies this week in the shop. Frenchies #16 or #18 Ruby midge #18 Soft hackle partridge #14 or #16 Squirminator #14 Last Sunday students from the North Paulding High School Fly Fishing & Cold-Water Conservation Club made the 2.5-hour drive to Helen Ga. to fish the fabled waters of Nacoochee Bend. Students were assisted by volunteers from the Cohutta and UCCTU Chapters of Trout Unlimited who served as guides, mentors, photographers, and net men! The Georgia Council Chair of Trout Unlimited, Kathy Breithaupt and her husband Charlie, also attended the event. It was a great day on the water. Rodney D. Tumlin Environmental Science Teacher, AP Environmental Science Teacher, Fly Fishing & Cold Water Conservation Club Sponsor Lanier Henry C said, “Fishing on Lanier continues to be fair at best. You have to work hard to get your shots. There is still schooling going on for surface feeding but those fish are tough to get to.
Another option is to throw on top of the working looms to pick a few fish. Sticking to the area of the lake below Browns Bridge is where all of that action is taking place. Keep an eye on all the gulls which have made it back to No GA for clues as to where the fish are.”
While the trout catching may slow down this month as water temps drop, the fishing is still fun. Hit some local waters, wave and shout hello to your buddy parked many feet away, and distance yourselves on the clear, cold waters of North Georgia soon. Stay smart and safe, dear friends. Good luck and good health to you all. We’ll be glad to serve you curbside or online if that works better for you. https://shoponline.unicoioutfitters.com/?source=facebook

Friday, December 4, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 12/4/20

Trout are shaking off the deep freeze and have been more active after recent, warmer days and nights. Afternoons have been hot, even on top! GAWRD’s holiday Delayed Harvest stream redosings now give you shots at both naive Frosh and educated fish, the Sophs and Jrs. (See page Atlanta-2 in here: https://issuu.com/coastalanglermagazine/docs/atlanta_f6cbb10e171441/1)

It’s 6pm and our three hours of steady rain just quit after dumping half to 3/4 inch, which is now bumping up streamflows. Check flows before you go in the morning to ensure your target stream will be at a safe wading level. https://waterdata.usgs.gov/ga/nwis/uv?site_no=02176930 For your best bet at fish fondling this week, hit the top of the daily water temperature swings by aiming for the afternoons. If the water slides up toward 50 degrees, you might even get lucky and hook some trout on top! Best trout bugs right now: eggs, rubberleg stones, mops, and small buggers as lead flies. Then add a size 16-18 pheasant tail, hares ear, or rainbow warrior nymph (or their soft hackle versions) as your droppers. Nightowls can try for Lanier stripers under the lights, or wait til daylight and then birdwatch or graph-watch to find striper schools herding shad and bluebacks. Best fish-flies are Cowen’s Something Else, a Game Changer, and the old standard of a gray/white Clouser minnow. Latest Tips and Trips:

DH Streams: UO friend KevinP said that Smith DH has fished really well for the past several weeks. The biggest challenge has been picking dates and times to avoid the crowds. His best fish nosed just short of 20 inches.

Sautee goretexed-up this afternoon (4th) and hit Smith DH for a few hours in the rain. He texted, “Just got Home. 13 total. All rainbows. Half and half on the pink squirmy and the brown/black rubber legs. Last one on a mop fly. Stream and parking lot to myself. Great evening!”
The UGA Fiver Rivers clubbers reported, “ on Chattooga DH, weekday fishing is where it's at. Fish were still young and dumb and liked the cream mop and rainbow warriors in the deeper (2-3ft) tailouts behind the typical stocker pools. Brookies ate streamers, slow-jigged as deep as you could get them.

Sautee’s 12/3 wild trout report: “With the sun predicted to be out all day and air temps climbing to the mid-50s, it looked to be a good day for trout to thaw out from the morning low of 27 and forage once the water temps started to rise. Hit a local wild rainbow stream about 12:30. Action was slow with a few small rainbows coming on a #18 hare’s ear being bumped along the bottom. Around 2 PM a sparse hatch started in the sunny spots. The only dry fly I had that was close was a #16 Adams, so I tied it on and dropped a #18 grey soft hackle about 18” off the back. Caught a couple more on the soft hackle and had several rises and give my Adam’s a sideways glance before refusing. As the fishing slowed down, I decided to get my dropper down faster so I tied on a #18 beadhead hare’s ear soft hackle, but to float it I needed something more substantial than the Adam’s I was using. The only solution I had with me was a #14 brown elk hair caddis so I tied that on as an indicator. Who knew that would turn out to be the hot fly for the day. Over the next 2 hours, fish rose repeatedly to take my caddis. However, the best fish of the day was an 11” wild rainbow that took my dropper. Another fine rainbow in the 9-10” range also took my dropper but shook me off before I could get him in. It turned out to be an excellent day on the water and was a great surprise to catch so many on top with a fly I didn’t expect much from except to serve as an indicator. The afternoon sun turned out to be the key factor in making this a fine day to be on a quiet blue line with nobody but me and the fish!”
UO neighbor “KM” reported his first sighting of little black stoneflies on a local, low elevation stream. So get ready for this winter bug to start emerging this month on our higher streams and bring a few trout noses to the top on warm afternoons. What bug? https://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/fishing/2014/01/winter-trout-flies-hatching-stoneflies/ UO’s private waters are still fishing very well for clients and guides, especially when the waters warm by midmorning. Eggs and stoneflies are working in big waters, while smaller nymphs produce better when river flows run low and clear. Pescador gave this Athens flatwater report: “Warm water fish are still eating on sunny days. Found some nice crappie willing to eat a small streamer.” My Euronymphing mentor, Landon, provided this Lanier report: “We’ve done decent on some docklight fish the last couple weeks. They are pretty spooky so taking a couple casts and bouncing around on lights has been key.” Capt Mack’s latest lake intel: https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Fishing-Store/CaptainMacks/posts/ This week’s GAWRD fishing report is also chock-full of extra stream and lake intel! Check it out here: https://georgiawildlife.blog/category/fishing/ That’s the latest from our Unicoi Outfitters gang. Stay distant and safe and protect your family, friends, and health care workers this season. Good luck!