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.

Monday, February 1, 2021

The Rabunite Thermometer


As a professional fisheries biologist for more than three decades and an avid trouter for five, I’m convinced that water temperature is the most important environmental factor controlling the behavior of our cold-blooded quarry, mountain trout.  My hillbilly clan, the Rabunites (www.rabuntu.org) thinks so, too.  They developed their own, highly effective fishing thermometer.  Let me decipher it for you!

1)    Under 40 degrees and falling.  Rabunite definition: “watch the icebergs.” Interpretation: 40 degrees is your first key number.  Below it and our cold-blooded critters are frozen and getting even colder, so anglers should expect few strikes. But the air is clean, streams are uncrowded, and you’re just happy to get out of the house.  Fish 11AM to 3PM.

2)      <40, but rising: “bring hope.” Trout are acclimated to very cold water, but rising water temperature feels like a warming trend and can key a bit of feeding activity.

3)      40-45: “bring a net.”  Trout begin to stir, and they stir a bit more with each degree of warmth.  It’s a good time to dredge the bottom of deep, slow pools with egg, stonefly, and mayfly nymph patterns.

4)      45-50: “bring a net and a camera.” Action increases and really takes off when temperatures near the next key, the MAGICAL 50-degree mark!  Most action is still subsurface, but it can be consistent, especially when there is a warm spell that increases water temps several degrees.  Try drifted nymphs, but also give streamer-stripping a shot.

5)      50-55: “bring some dries, too.”  Early spring bugs start hatching and trout are all over the water column, wherever the groceries are.  They’re sipping nymphs in the drift and looking out for midday hatches of gray caddis and Quill Gordon and Blue Quill mayflies.  It’s a good time to consult online “hatch charts” to know which dry flies to carry.

6)      55-62: “bring a friend with a camera.”  In angler terms, It’s On!!!  Trout are ravenous and chowing down in bug buffet lines.  Again, watch those hatch charts and bring the right bugs.  You might catch a bunch, some big ones, or a bunch of big ones.  Bring a witness with good photography skills so you’ll both have lasting memories of your great trip!

7)      62-68: “bring supper and a flashlight.” Waters warm and clear as spring transitions to summer.  Daytime fishing is dead, but the last hour of daylight can be great.  We call it Dark30 and we won’t miss it, as both bugs and trout come up to play right before slap-dark!

8)      >68: “bring breakfast and an iceberg.”  Trout fishing is really over for the season.  Temps over 70 are often lethal to trout, especially if angling stress is added.  Streams are coldest in early mornings and you might have a brief shot at dawn, before the hot sun rises.

Put a $15 stream thermometer in your vest and save a copy of this article to your Iphone notes page.  Let the Rabunite thermometer guide you to trouting success in the new year.  Good luck!

Story credit: Coastal Angler Magazine- Atlanta edition


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