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.
Even with the frequent rains we've been having lately, water temperatures in mid-afternoon on many streams have been getting a little too warm for a full day of quality trout fishing. So what do you do if you've got an outing with friends planned who don't have to be home before dark thirty? You drive a little farther north and fish the streams in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. When we stepped into the stream, the water temp read 57 degrees; cool enough for me to bail on wet wading. We had hoped to fish dry flies primarily but it quickly became obvious the fish weren't looking up so dry/dropper rig was our second choice. At least it was the second choice for two of us. Jeff, in typical Dredger style, went way deep with multiple split shot and a big meaty fly. A fierce battle with his 3 wt. and 5X tippet ended when Alan netted the big fish; all 21 1/2 inches of it. This is no Cherokee stocked pig; this is a wild brown caught on a small stream in the Park. An absolutely amazing fish!
I've been very busy guiding fishing trips for Unicoi Outfitters all Spring and Summer, but I finally I had a Saturday free. What does every good fly fishing guide do on his day off? I packed my truck with my gear, some food for lunch, some water and other liquid refreshment, and headed for one of my favorite high altitude small streams to pursue the elusive wild Tiger Trout as my mission. All I can say is that I felt a certain positive energy that day and I firmly believed that I would be successful. I used common sense to choose the stream that I felt would give me the best chance. You need a Brook Trout stream that has or recently has had Brown Trout also taking up residence there.
I drove about an hour from my home in Big Canoe and parked my truck off to the side of the forest service road, put on my hip waders and rigged up my Dan Craft one weight rod with 6X tippet and a 16 Royal Wulff, and then I set off to pursue my quarry. I started at the lower end of the stream and caught around ten small rainbows. As I fished my way up above a barrier falls, I began to catch some very nice Brook Trout, and ended up pulling out around 10 brookies.
I tied on a 16 Light Cahill and continued on up the stream and caught a couple more 8–9 inch Brook Trout. I came to a very overgrown stretch of stream that was impossible to fish so I decided to get out to an old logging road and return to my truck and try another stream. When I got to the old road, I had a change of heart as something told me to go up and see if the stream opened up again. I walked about a quarter mile and came back to the stream and to some beautiful small falls and drop pools. I dropped my Light Cahill in some slow water at the edge of the pool and a big mouth engulfed my fly and took off under a rock ledge. He fought like a Brown Trout and I knew it wasn’t a Brook. I finally forced him out from under the ledge two more times before he finally tired and raised his head and gave up. As i brought him in closer I realized that I finally had my elusive Tiger Trout. I pulled him into some shallow water and got out my camera for some pictures so all of my fishing buddies would believe me. I thanked him for the fight and released him back into his pool and headed back to my truck for lunch and a well deserved cold beer.
Then it hit me that I needed a Brown to complete the Ultimate Georgia Trout Grand Slam. After my sandwich and beer, I tied on some 5X tippet and another Royal Wulff and set out for a Brown. I hooked and lost two fish that could have been Rainbows or Browns. I finally landed a 9 inch Brown to complete my slam! I was tempted to call it a day and spend the rest of the afternoon savoring my unique accomplishment, but it was only around 2pm, so I kept fishing a bit longer. Only a few minutes later and a little ways further upstream, I drifted my fly in a deep run at a sharp bend in the stream and a big explosion took the presentation and headed down stream for a big log jam. I put as much pressure as I could to keep him from the jam, but there was not a lot I could do to tell this fish where to go. Then, he seemed to stop just short of the logs and hold still. He finally shot back up stream and then turned and went back towards the logs again, again stopping just short. He began to tire and I slowly worked him back up stream and into the shallows for a quick photo session...a 16 inch Brown to end up a once in a lifetime day on the water!
Here's a quick notice that we're having our first Orvis Fly Fishing 101 session of the year tomorrow beginning at 10am at both Helen and Blue Ridge stores. FF101 covers Knots, Rigging and Outfits and Casting Tips and is free. Participants receive a coupon valued $25 off Orvis purchases.
For more info or to register, call the Helen store at 706-878-3083 or our shop in Blue Ridge at 706-632-1880.
Stay tuned for info on future FF101 classes, as well as Fly Fishing 201!
There is just something special about the feeling an angler gets when he pulls into the Dukes Creek access of Smithgall Woods. Maybe its because it is a rarity for me to be able to fish this little slice of heaven since I am a landlocked Alabamian, but last Sunday I got the chance to head that way on a lovely morning with little fishing competition. As I rigged up my rod with the special attention to detail that is required to succeed at Dukes, I pondered my fly choice. The thought had crossed my mind that perhaps due to the warmer weather there could be chance that I could fool some willing participants on a hopper pattern, and what a thrill to fish terrestrials on a small stream to rising fish! Soon after preparations were complete, I made my way to the bottom of section 1 and immediately began to get into 4”- 6” wild rainbows. The coloration on these stream born fish is beautiful and a welcome sight for eyes that have seen a large proportion of stocker rainbows with their ubiquitous presence in most North Georgia streams and rivers. A methodical dissecting of each run and riffle lead me upstream inch by inch until I offered up the hopper/dropper to a nice little run that meandered by a submerged log against a cutbank. Almost as soon as the hopper struck the water's glassy surface a good brown announced his presence and hammered the fly, leading to brief but thrilling acrobatic upstream run.
Several more vividly colored small rainbows made their way to hand as I continued upstream and each one was a pleasure to observe as they inspected the hopper before ultimately falling to the offering. One nice rainbow briefly teased the end of my line before ultimately coming off, which was a repeatedly occurring event on this day, but I didn’t mind because it was all great to experience on a beautiful stream on a beautiful day, and on a hopper nonetheless.
After a small break to retie and re-strategize I set out upstream again. I quickly got back into more small bows again before making my way to a nice looking deep run with some fast water beating down into it creating a scene of crisply folded current and foamy water. Several casts yielded more of the previously noted fish, but I just knew there had to be a larger specimen lurking in the darkness of the run. The tumultuous current kept swallowing my now smaller hopper and taking it down to the depths of the run. Instead of pulling it out, I tried a few drifts with a tight line highstick technique to let the bead head prince dropper bump the bottom. The line became tight and a much larger fish appeared in the shallows of the run. To my surprise, he was attached to my line! After a brief staredown between him and myself (I honestly don’t think he realized he was hooked), he fully grasped my incompetence and fragility and took line screaming off my reel as he torched his way downstream. A frantic and acrobatic man vs. beast battle ensued culminating with the beast relinquishing power to my net, just in time for me to slack line and scoop as he flopped for one last moment of glory, and my barbless fly was hurled upwards as he mocked me and swam away back to his lair. Proof? I have none. Sense of accomplishment for “landing” a good Dukes fish in the “16- “18 range, I have! You’ll have to take my word for it!
Overall it was a great time to be in the water, and what a place to experience. It is getting hot up that way with the water temp reading 62 by mid morning, so get on up there if you want to have some luck. Hoppers and princes along with a peach Y2K were the ticket for me. Tight Lines!
Hot enough to "tie 1 on"?--I think so--let's do it this Tues., June 7, at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen at 6:00 PM. Ask Parks Davis with the big wild brown if the tying session is worth attending and I think his answer would be "yes" with a smile.
Parks was a member of our intro. to fly fishing and fly tying class we teach at church each winter and has really gotten involved with this sport. He attends most of our tying sessions and learned how to tie a simple "soft hackle" just last month. Guess what he caught this big boy on--you're right--a soft hackle. There's just something about catchingfish on your own flies. So attending one of our "tie 1 on" sessions may help you to "tie onto 1" like the brown in this picture. Thanks Parks, great job!
We're planning on tying some sulphurs this week and will also have something special on our program. Captain Milt Smith will be there to show us some of his flies that he used 30 or 40 years ago. You will enjoy what Milt has to say--he's a great guy.
I hope to see a lot of folks at this month's session. If you tie a lot or you are just getting into it, I hope you can be there--Unicoi provides all equip. & supplies if you need it--thanks Unicoi. Henry also makes a great cup of coffee for us too.
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