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, February 26, 2021

UO Fishing Report - 2/26/21

Welcome to “Spring Break-Out.” This is what we’ve been waiting for! Sunny days in the 60’s will push water temperatures above the magic 50-degree mark, triggering midday bug activity and trout gluttony. It happened a few days last week and will repeat in the weeks ahead. We just have to deal with March’s weather yo-yo’s and hit the warm days when streamflows aren’t too high and muddy from frequent rains.

Today’s rain will limit its dry fly action, but dredging should be good until the waters rise and get too muddy. Big streams might be blown out tomorrow if we get today’s predicted inch of rain. Their recovery time depends on their watershed size (drainage area), so have some small stream and lake Plan B’s ready. Check river conditions via USGS gauges and calls to local fly shops, like our favorite one in Helen...
Your March colors are gray and brown. Have plenty of gray caddis and gray and brown mayfly dries. Study streams before entering them! Look for bugs and poking noses in eddies and along shaded banks, especially in the midday warmth. BOLO the Quill brothers, Gordon and Blue, as they’ve awakened from their winter slumber. Thanks to our Smokies guide friends Ian and Charity Rutter,
you can do some homework:
When adult bugs are sparse, try a) stripping some small buggers or b)deep drifting a nymph/soft-hackle combo of those March bugs. For more March intel, review my “spring dries and droppers” handout at the Rabunite secrets page.
Wes’ weekly hot fly list includes: A) streamers: Simi seal leech black #10, olive woolly bugger #8-12, sparkle minnow #6 sculpin & black; B) wets: girdle bug #10 black & dark olive, hares ear nymph and soft hackle #14-18, Tungsten Jig CDC pheasant tail #14 -16, holy grail #14-16, rainbow warrior #16-18, soft hackle partridge #14-16, red squirmy worm #12; C) dries: gray elk hair caddis #14-16, black elk hair caddis #18, parachute Adams #14-18, Quill Gordon #12-14, blue quill #18, griffiths gnat #20.
Angler trip reports follow on our extended version at the Unicoi Outfitters Facebook page. Good luck and be careful in high flows. Wading safety = a staff, a belt, a buddy and, above all, good judgment.
Landon: “I did a big Lake Burton loop Monday after the rain. The tributaries were ripping, but I found wild fish deep on squirmies in bankside eddies.”
Sautee snuck out to his favorite blueline on a warm Tuesday afternoon and was rewarded. Enough caddis and mayflies were hatching to have residents looking up. He landed a big handful of wild bows to 10 inches. Most hit his #14 caddis dry, a few ate his #18 hares ear dropper, and none ate his egg fly.
Cannon’s Cohutta Trek: “ I even mimicked the guy who taught me. I let my new flyfishing buddy flail around for five minutes while Friend 2 and I watched. Then I told #2 I was heading in to coach #1 up. I waded in and said, “Alright Brad Pitt, let’s shorten the line up a little and maybe actually hook a fish.” I showed him how to water load, high-stick, mend, and see if he’s getting a good drift. Then I showed him how to set the hook. I had him repeat it for me a dozen times, then told him to start taking two steps upstream at a time and get some good drifts through the pool. Five minutes later he set the hook and his rod was bending too deep to be a seven-inch rainbow. It was awesome: a 15-inch wild brown!”
Delayed Harvest
Smith DH: the crowds are still here, so go early, late, or in the rain. Folks with stealth and a good drift are still doing well. I talked to one teenager who had a good drift. He said he recently caught more than a dozen, thanks to his hot flies bought at our Helen shop: trout crack, with a root beer midge dropper.
Chattooga DH: Sautee and a buddy hit the river yesterday (25th) and found lotsa bugs hatching, but no noses under them. They each caught about a dozen bows and browns up to 15 inches. Hot fly was a small olive woolly bugger. I’ve seen this before: the fresh stockers don’t yet recognize real food, since they’ve never seen Quill Gordons before. Give them another week or two of starvation and they’ll get on those little gray sailboats.
Toccoa DH:
UO’s Hunter reports,
“Last Sunday I floated the Toccoa DH with my dad and close friend Rodney Tumlin. Water was high, roughly 700 CFS, with a slight color to it. We did see a few anglers wading, however it would’ve been tough and risky with those extreme flows. However, even being stuck to the bank, most said they had some success. With the sun out that day, we saw plenty of midges and gray caddis coming off, however no risers. We swung soft hackles and dredged midges for success on the experienced fish and threw the typical legs and eggs for the naive fish. Roughly 20 fish were landed. Most fish were pushed to the edges of the typical holes with the high water, or hanging tight to boulders and ledges for relief.”
Private Waters:
From UGA-Jay:

“Last Sunday the UGA 5 Rivers Club leadership team had the privilege of visiting Nacoochee Bend. I arrived early to have my 5-weight line replaced in the shop. We then spent several hours picking up trash and after hauling it out, had an opportunity to fish a little. The weather was beautiful, and fish were active. I was bobber fishing deep with a jig-style tungsten bead black stone and a #16 soft hackle pheasant tail, and the good old PT got all the attention. The fish are really strong, and they gave me and my 5 weight quite a battle. I used 4X tippet to the jig fly, then 5X to the PT. I then switched to a red San Juan worm behind a brown Pat’s Rubber Legs with equally good results. I would simply adjust the depth of my Air-Lock indicator according to conditions. Fish were abundant in deep pools, but we also had great success in runs with big cobble substate. One of our group, Ben Comfort, mopped up (literally) - fishing Euro-style with a single fly in water that some might have though too shallow to hold big fish. We also spent time sampling aquatic insects since we had a professional entomologist with us. We observed an abundance of small brown mayflies (the reason that the soft hackle PT is so effective). We all learned a great deal about the right and wrong way to take on big fish. There are many ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when a big fish eats, and I think I experienced most of them. Thank you to my personal netman, Jimmy Harris, and the UO crew for their gracious hospitality. This was truly a special day. If you want to experience phenomenal fishing in a beautiful place, give Unicoi Outfitters a call.”
From North GA Trout Fishing Facebook Group (25th): “Unicoi Outfitters treated me to a great time today. Couldn’t have asked for a better first day on the river. Caught 15+ bows, all 14-18 inches. I assume it’s always this good???”
Ponds and Lakes

Pescador returned to his Athens-area ponds and found some willing bass: “caught several last night, 2 hours before dark, tossing big streamers.”
Landon on Lanier: “I know it’s not trout but I took my buddy today on kayaks and we shot docks with jigs. He had a hard time with it but caught a couple and I did decent with it. Did much better with minnows on slip bobbers in 8-15 ft of water. Lots of smaller fish but a couple nicer ones landed, too. It’s getting close to prime crappie time.”
HenryC: “This is a good weekend to go out and toss flies at stripers and bass. Even though February is typically slow, we are facing a slight warmup and it’s going to get even warmer by the time you read this report. If you add the overcast and slight rain over the next 4-5 days along with the full moon this Saturday, you’d be crazy to sit at home instead of tossing flies on area lakes in North GA. Largemouth bass are up shallow and spots and stripers will be aggressive and looking for an easy meal. The gulls are still around and will tip you off to the action. Don’t overlook a blue heron on the bank whose neck is extended! It’s been a long winter BUT this is exactly the pattern that changes the game. You can either read about this next week or make your own report to give to Unicoi this weekend for next week!”
Good luck as you aim for sunshine among March’s lingering winter days. Stay flexible and let the weather, water, and wildlife dictate your rigs. Rig streamside - and not in the parking lot beforehand.
Also remain distant and safe to maintain your health, especially on crowded weekends at popular sites. Try to hit them on uncrowded weekdays. Call, email, come in, or pull curbside if we can help you in Helen or Clarkesville. Don’t forget your sunscreen and dry fly floatant.

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