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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

UO’s Hot October Trout Bugs

Last week we asked y’all for your five favorite October trout fly patterns. Thanks for your responses via our Instagram and Facebook pages. That intel will help our newer fly anglers prepare for fall action.

We thought we’d return the favor, so here are UO staffers’ top fives for their respective October trouting trips:

Jimmy: Orange Stimulator, Pheasant Tail, Pat’s Rubber Legs (Brown/Black), Prince Nymph , Sparkle Minnow(Gold/Tan)

Jake: Orange soft hackles #14-16, October Caddis Dry #14, Girdle Bug brown/coffee #10-12? Soft hackles pheasant tail #16-18, Skwala Stonefly #10

Wes: Orange stimulator, Sparkle minnow, Hotspot pheasant tail, Soft hackle partridge, Muddy buddy 

Israel: The Ticket, Blue Poison Tung, Pheasant Tail, Sweet Meat Caddis, Micro Mayfly nymph 

Caleb: I’m a big fan of small nymphs and jig streamers once fall hits. 1. Slump buster jig, 2. Zebra midges, 3. Hares ear patterns, 4. Eggs, glow bugs, etc. 5. Woolly bugger variations 

Joseph: # 14 orange stimulator, #16 bh pheasant tail, #16 hares ear caddis, #16 walts worm, #20 trout crack 

Grant: Silver beaded france fly, olive twisted mayfly, pink bead sexy Walts worm, soft hackles/ yellow or orange, and soft hackle hares ear

Palmer: soft hackles, elk hair caddis, small dark woolly bugger, pats rubber legs, prince nymph. 

Newest UO staffer Ben:
France fly, Olive walts worm,  clueless Caddis, Frenchy, and a peach egg.


#14 orange stimmy as a buoyant indicator for my dropper.

# 18 parachute Adams for skinny water prospecting and a BWO imposter.

#14 prince nymph for searching faster water.

#18 pheasant tail nymph for skinny or slow water.

# 12 sexy Walts worm (silver bead) for storm surges and a smaller version for lower flows.

Peruse the list, pick a few patterns you like, and resupply soon. Stop in either UO store if you need a little help restocking your box for some great fall fishing ahead.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, September 23, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/23/22

Welcome to the autumnal equinox. In plain-speak, fall has finally arrived!  I grabbed a light fleece jacket before stepping into a 53-degree dawn today for furry daughter Dolly’s morning routine. Whether we’re hunting, fishing, or hiking, this is what we’ve waited for all summer. Hello fall! As air and water temps drop, our catch rates should rise. Here’s the latest scoop from our UO staff and finatic friends.

Best bets for this week are river bass on the bottom, wild trout on top, pond bass and bream under the trees, and maybe some reservoir spots and hybrids when we can track them down before they dive. Remember that tomorrow (24th) is National Hunting and Fishing Day and a free fishing day for GA residents.

Check out our full report, timely angler intel,  and Wes’ hot fly list on our home and Facebook pages. Call or come by the shop for more intel and hot bugs.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: parachute ant, yellow humpy, orange stimulator, parachute Adams.

Nymphs & Wets:

CDC pheasant tail, hares ear, rainbow warrior, black WD-40,

Streamers & warm water:

Boogle bug popper, finesse changer, polar changer, sparkle minnow, muddy buddy. 


They’re coming on strong as cold night air once again blankets high mountain peaks. Streams are low and clear, but cold enough to get trout hunting some groceries. Stealth and soft tippets are still more important than fly pattern in these skinny streams. Be the heron!

UO guide Caleb: 

“We had a successful Monday of wild trout fishing with a client from Florida.  We were able to get a few trout rising to stimulators, while the rest hit the dropper: rainbow warrior or pheasant tail. It’s finally cooling down.”

UO friend RonW’s Saturday report: ”I’m back from the dead after an 8 week hiatus from fishing. My wife and I threw the dog in the truck early this morning and headed north to explore a couple new waterfalls.  She told me to bring a rod so I did. Armed with my 7' 3wt  glass rod and some intel from yesterday's UO weekly report, we set off for a  high elevation, headwater stream and waterfall. We arrived at the trailhead a little over 2 hours later.  It was a nice hike downhill for a little over a mile and a half to the waterfall.  I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the stream too. Eager brookies willing to eat a #14 yellow humpy. 1st fish in over 2 months was a brookie who got a crash course in aerial hole relocation due to my bass hookset.

We went down below the waterfall (barrier falls) and I immediately shook hands with a nice, colored up wild bow.  After swimming the dog for while, we started on the hike out back to the truck,  but not before we explored the water above the waterfall a little more. I ended the day with 5 brookies (4  fingerlins' and 1 niceun') and one lone rainbow to hand in about 2 hours of combined fishing. It was nice to finally give my trout legs a test after 6+ weeks of being sick and a nice little warm up for next week's Smokies trip.  Now

where is my ibuprofen?”

Smokies daily intel here:


Stocker Streams:

There are still a few summer stragglers left. Just cover a lot of water to pick off the cagey stockers that have now found refuge in the logjams, boulder fields, and overhanging rhodo branches.

A certain neighbor state does some fall stocking, so you might venture to the border for some Wild and Scenic action on bridge wash-downs.  

Breaking news: GAWRD’s noon fishing report hinted at some stockers released for National Hunting and Fishing Day. Check their site later today for any updates to the stocking list.


Private Waters

The cooler days to come allow us to reopen all of our private waters in October for your fall trips. Call the shop soon (706-878-3083) to reserve your preferred fishing dates. The fall calendar

 is filling fast!


If you’d like to learn how to flyfish, our Gilligan Special is a great deal. Just bring yourself and a fishing partner and we’ll supply the rest.


Warmwater Streams:

UO manager Jake:  “Ben and I slid the jet boat in north of Lanier on Tuesday, and had a pretty good morning. We boated just over a dozen fish, both spotted bass and shoal bass on bottom bouncing baits in and around the lumber. Water temps are cooling, and things on the river are improving and should only get better over the next few weeks.”

UO friend Landon: “I fished with the guys doing the shoalie genetics study on Tuesday. We floated the lower Chestatee.  Fishing was okay where the habitat was good. We landed a mix of shoal and Alabama bass by dragging worms around instream structure.”

Small Lakes

These should be good for several more weeks until surface temps dip below 70.  ATL suburbanite Splatek said the cooler weather allowed him to take his boys back to the ‘hood pond, where a dry/wet dropper combo was the ticket for the older boy and bread balls were hot on the young’uns kiddie pole.”

DNR intel:

Sounds like a few stockers might be around this weekend. Also check out the extensive lake info:



Hank the Yank: “Hybrid lakes are still your best bet in No GA. Hartwell, Chatuge, Clark's Hill, Russell, Oconee and Allatoona should allow you to find some top water to toss a fly at or for spin fishing anglers (since it's national hunting and fishing day this weekend) you can toss a float and attach a fly behind it as the fish are feeding on small threadfin shad. 

Lake Lanier has NOT turned on yet BUT with temps dropping by the time you read this report, I believe we will see the change over the next several days. Plan your exploratory Lanier trips either early or late in the day. Bass are starting to be caught nearer to the surface on walk the dog artificials or flies. “


UO staffer Grant:  “My dad and I went up to Chatuge and saw a lot of busting fish, but they were hard to target in their short times on the surface. We ended up catching a few spotted bass on some moving baits. Actin should improve with falling water temps.” 

UO friend RSquared:  “My son Matt & I fished Carters Lake Monday for spotted bass. The bite was slow but we managed to boat a few. The ones willing to play took flukes & worms on a shaky head.”


Craig in NM:  “My return trip to the Pecos Wilderness was just as rewarding as the prior trip.  I found more Rio Grande cutthroats in the headwater stream and a few were hefty for such small water.  They are such beautiful fish.  Enjoy the pic.”

Sautee checked in with a new CO report: “ While wildlife and stargazing have occupied most of my time and camera lens, I did sneak back to the Big Thompson this week.  I had another fine afternoon of surface action on a #14 parachute black ant.  A nice handful of resident brookies and browns spoiled me again.”

That’s the latest news as we grab a sweatshirt each dawn and watch the first leaves drop.  “Fall” into some tight lines during the beautiful week to come. Fishing is fun and catching is even better. With the changing season, both will improve in the days ahead. Call or come by the Helen shop for hot flies, breaking intel, and fall trip bookings. We’ll be glad to lend you a hand.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, September 22, 2022

A Special Saturday

What’s so special about Saturday?  (Beyond the normal football responses…) Did you guess:

It’s National Hunting and Fishing Day!  It’s also a free fishing day here in Georgia for our residents. 

Details and events here:



Take advantage of this date  to introduce a new person, young or old, to the joys of fishing.  You’ll be glad you invested that time in your future fishing partners and our next generation of conservationists!

It looks like Jimmy got a jump on us this week with his grandsons, courtesy of Hank the Yank (trip intel coming in tomorrow’s weekly fishing report).

So, who are YOU taking on Saturday? It should be a good one, with plenty of smiles. Good luck and tight lines as we celebrate our sport and the awesome contributions of hunters and anglers to conservation!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, September 16, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/16/22

Get out ASAP and enjoy a quick taste of fall before summer sneaks back into the picture next week.  Thanks to cooler nights, water temperatures have dropped and trout fishing opportunities are increasing. September’s shorter  days mean briefer afternoons of intense heat and earlier, longer shadows on the water. That’s good news.

Speaking of such, our rainless week provides a good news/bad news scenario.  The good news is that all of our waters, from trout streams to bass rivers, are clear and fish can spot your offerings.  The cooler water is enhancing their appetites, too.  The bad news is that headwaters are low and gin-clear, so resident salmonids are extremely nervous again.  Stick with your summer stealth game, with light leaders and small flies, and you’ll do fine. Same goes for our river bass; treat them like skittish browns in a drought and you should make some memories.

Best bets for this week are river bass, pond bass and bream, and high-elevation wild trout. Lake spots and hybrids are providing some surface action, too, if you can track them down.

Check out our full report, timely angler intel,  and Wes’ hot fly list on our home and Facebook pages.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: parachute ant, 409 Yeager yellow, humpy, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

CDC pheasant tail, copper John, rainbow warrior.

Streamers & warm water:

Finesse changer, polar changer, sparkle minnow, muddy buddy.


They’re coming alive once again. The higher the mountain, the better the fishing. Local reports show that the Smokies have really turned on, while GA headwater temperatures are finally dropping to a fishable standard. The high Hooch tribs were low and clear, and a bit cooler during my recon yesterday. 

Go soon, though, as hot weather at midweek may dampen the bite until colder air returns. The Smokies locals we watch are R&R Flyfishing and Little River Outfitters. Peruse their prospects right before heading north. R&R has a nice email newsletter and LRO posts a daily fishing report. Top off your trip with an hour of elk-watching at dusk. Bugling time is here!



Delayed Harvest:

While we still have a long wait til the November opener of the GA and SC programs, NC Delayed Harvest opportunities are right around the corner.  Pull that 4-weight rod and your trout fly boxes out of the basement and ready them for battle.  Check NCWRC’s fall DH stocking schedule to help your trip plans. Remember that many of those streams hold trout before and after DH season, too!

Here’s a page worthy of your bookmark:  


Stocker Streams:

Fall is usually slim pickings for Georgia’s summer-stocking leftovers.  Try the tailwaters and the larger mountain streams that are most heavily stocked (ex: Tallulah, Tooga, Dicks, Cooper, Rock) during spring and summer.   On those streams park at a bridge, head downstream, outwalk the bridge crowds, and fish the flood refuges where some bridge stockers have washed into.  Since the water is low and the fish have been instream for a while, employ your wild trout game: a stealthy, upstream stalk, light line, and small hooks and baits.


Private Waters

Thanks to dropping nighttime temperatures and fewer hours of daylight, several of our private tracts have finally cooled off enough to reopen to angling. The rest will come back online in October and are already being booked for fall trips. Call the shop soon (706-878-3083) to reserve your preferred fishing dates. For more info on our private waters opportunities, visit:


If you’re brand-new to the flyfishing game, grab a spouse or friend and book your duo a Gilligan Special on a pretty fall day in Helen.


UO guide Caleb: “I guided a lady yesterday morning at Rainbow Point on the Soque.  Fishing was overall a bit slow, due to the low, clear water.  We had some success using rainbow warriors and pats rubber legs.  My client fought a 22-24 inch rainbow for 6 minutes before it broke off!  At least we have its address and will return to knock on its door.”

UO guide Israel: “I had a fun crew this week and we explored a new stretch of the Soque that will be part of our shop’s private waters menu this year.  Despite the low, clear water, our clients had a good time (top photo). The most effective rig was a dry/dropper setup. The dry fly was simply a stealthy indicator, as all fish selected the dropper nymph. A hares ear was our top pattern.”

Warmwater Streams:

Take advantage of the low, clear, and cooling water and float our local rivers soon. The Hooch at Hwy 115 was fairly low and clear (4 ft visibility) when I checked yesterday.

Try the normal summer recipe: topwater bugs in the shadows and streamers or crayfish imitations at midday. Lengthen your leaders and casts, lighten your tippet (try 8lb), and downsize your flies to entice some late-season veterans that have survived many angler passes.

Athens Jay said the weather forecasters got it wrong last weekend and his favorite river stayed clear enough to fish. The shoalies enjoyed his latest experiment:the bunny fur hellgrammite. Jay even had time over the weekend to walk 

his favorite dog (bottom pic).

RSquared shared his recent victory with us:  “ I just got my 2022 Georgia Bass Slam certificate from GAWRD.  This summer I was able to land six different bass species on the fly: Largemouth, Spotted, Shoal, Coosa Redeye, Chattahoochee, and Bartrams.  It’s a fun contest and I’ve now achieved the Slam for four straight years. Give it a try, especially during the summer when trout fishing slows considerably.  You’ll discover new waters and appreciate the colorful and hard-fighting natives in many of our warmwater streams.”

More Slam info here:


Jake’s still floating with clients today and hasn’t had a chance (or cell signal) to check in.

Small Lakes

No recent reports. They should be fishing better as cooler nights drop surface temperatures and coax predators up from their summer depths. Longer and earlier shadows on the water will help your game, too, so follow them.  Aim for east banks in the morning and west banks in the afternoon.


Hank the Yank: “Very little has changed when fishing for our striped friends. Hybrid lakes are still fishing well all over the state for fly anglers. I've been fishing Lake Alatoona (aka... the Dead Sea) lately and it continues to fish well both early and late in the day. We hit it last Sunday and among 3 of us we boated a mixed bag of nearly 3 dozen fish. Hybrids, white bass, stripers and spots all made it to the net. These are 6 and 7 weight fish, so downsize your outfit to enjoy their battles.  The Somethin else fly rules , with small polar fiber minnows being a good second choice. 

Lanier is still not ready for shallow action, but should come alive in the next several weeks. Our best lake fishery is currently a short road trip away and worth the commute.”



Craig in NM:  “I thought you Southeasterners would enjoy this pic of a beautiful Rio Grande cutthroat I caught last week in the Pecos Wilderness. I’m heading back this weekend for another dose of headwater hydrotherapy.”

(Ed note: congrats to Craig on his book!)


UO buddy MI Ski:

My friend and I ventured to a wild and scenic Upper Manistee River between Yellow Trees and Burnt Cabin landings. The Upper Manistee watershed has not been stocked in 20 years, so all fish are naturally produced Browns and Brooks,  with a rare Rainbow. The very low, gin clear water and a sunny, blue sky suggested we’d have a tough time.  The fish were very spooky and we didn’t need our Blue Heron escorts. 

The day started good, as my partner landed a spunky 8-inch brown on his first cast with a small hopper and flying ant tandem.  However, our duo only brought 5 fish to hand (4 Browns, 1 Brookie) in a half-day float.  Best fish was a 10+ inch Brown. We did spook a handful of 15-20 inch fish during our trip. Despite the low catching, the float was still a lot of fun. We plan to return when there’s more water in the channel and clouds in the sky.

PS: this is one of several streams that MIDNR is considering for grayling restoration. That would be another fine fishing option up here!”

There’s your mid-September summary.   Get outside soon and enjoy a morning taste of fall before summer storms back. A least we know that a full course of fall is within sight.  Call or stop by our Helen shop for breaking news, timely supplies, and trout trip bookings.  Tight lines, y’all.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.