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.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 10/21/21

Welcome back to similar conditions as we saw last week. The weather is great, with crisp mornings, comfortable afternoons, and dry days. Real dry. While we may get a few showers tonite, they likely won’t impact our streamflows very much. Creeks are cool and super-clear. Again, bring your best stealth game and be ready to downsize your tippet and flies if fish are nervous and picky in the clear water. Droppers might outfish your dries once again.

Slow down and get down with your pond and river  bass flies to accommodate cooler water temperatures. You might still have some good catches during our home stretch before cold water shuts down the north GA river bite.

Shallow action in reservoirs is slowly picking up. Capt Mack Farr’s recent Lanier reports give us fly-flingers hope for surface action soon.


Best bets are wild and summer holdover trout, North Carolina Delayed Harvest trout, pond/river bass and bream on warm afternoons, and reservoir bass and stripers late in the day and after dark.

Angler intel and Wes’ hot fly list follow on our Facebook page and blog.angler.management.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: Yellow or orange Stimulator, elk hair caddis, chubby Chernobyl.

Nymphs: Blowtorch, Walt's worm, girdle bug, lightning bug (silver), hares ear, frenchie, pheasant tail.

Streamers & warmwater:

Sparkle minnow, triple double rainbow, clouser minnow, finnese changer, Murdich minnow, black woolly bugger.


Headwater flows are dropping, but there is still a decent volume in these creeks to drift your dry. They are just super-clear, so be ready to downsize tippet and bugs to coax more strikes. Leaf-fall isn’t bad yet, unless a wind gust blows through. (It will be worse up in NC, as falls runs 1-2 weeks earlier up there.). Just look for deeper and/or shaded water for eager fish. Be ready with an 18 inch dropper to a #16 beaded pheasant tail or hares ear, if residents are slow to eat your dry. A high Hooch trib ran 58F at 11AM today.

RonW’s first of two awesome contributions this week:

“The Trio became a 5 piece on Saturday 10/16 when we linked up with a few friends, aka the "Young Guns", to fish some new water across the state line. The day started off great with us seeing the largest bald eagle I've ever seen do a fly over as we were gearing up.  

We stepped into the water and were immediately into colored up wild fish.Numerous flies worked throughout the day as long as the drift was perfect. My Purple Ronco slayed them again for Moe and I as did some other smaller cdc nymphs I tie. We also caught a few on eggs, squirmies, buggers, Pheasant Tails and Frenchies to name a few. 

What a great day to be out on the water and in good company. The five of us combed thru about 1.5 miles of water, with all picking up well over a dozen fish each. The Young Guns probably doubled what we caught...these guys can flat out fish! This ole' dog definitely learned some new tricks.”

Trout Streams:

Dukes Creek:

Web reports last week showed that Dukes was very tough in the low, clear water. We expect the same challenging conditions this week as flows remain low and clear. Remember our tip of dropping a small, natural nymph or midge 3 feet under a bushy stimulator and floating the combo downstream, into a deep, shady run or pool. If the nymph isn’t tungsten, then add a size 6 or 8 dinsmore shot to the tippet about 6 inches above it. Sink it under your dry.

Other GA streams:

Bigger streams that stayed cold enough for summer trout survival should continue their revival. Remember October’s color -orange, and try an October caddis or orange stimulator as your top fly. Drop a #16 tungsten prince, frenchie, or hares ear about 3-4 feet behind it. Give these bigger waters a try:  the upper Toog, West Fork, Hooch low in the WMA, Cooper, the Cohuttas, and low elevation Smokies streams. Bring binocs to elk-watch if you head to the national park.


DH streams have fished really well. They should, for the fish were fresh out of the hatchery.  Now, 3 weeks into the season, they’ll start smartening up. Keep your attractor (egg, worm, rubberlegs) as your first fly, but change your dropper to something small and either bright (lighting bug) or buggy (pheasant tail) to appeal to more experienced fish and even the wild trout in most of those streams.

Many GA tourists like the Tuck, too. The fine folks at Tuck Fly Shop shared some good intel on their home river:


You don’t have to believe this, but as I’m typing this DH section and finishing the weekly report at 4:54PM, my phone starts blowing up.

To your benefit! Ole RonW shared the freshest fishing report possible.  Enjoy:

“Against my better judgement and in light of my recent wading mishaps, I made a game time decision to shoot up to Fires today 10/21 on a solo mission. I only had about 4 hours to fish so I had to make the most of it. I went to the same spot where on my last outing, we saw a 20"+ rainbow cruising a certain run but couldn't get him to eat.  I saw him move up out of nowhere as soon I got in the watern. A few drifts right in his face and nothing!  I saw him move on my 5th cast, line went tight and we were dancing. He  jumped a few feet out of the water and shook me off in a matter of seconds! I spent another 20 minutes trying for another hookup to no avail.

The fish are starting to wise up and are not eating junk like they were a few weeks ago. I did manage to fool 3 on the egg and another dozen or so on my Purple Ronco before I had to call it quits and head back south to get a little work done.

 I ran into another fisherman who had quite the scare. There were Hunters out there training their dogs to chase bears and they chased one right down the hill,  through the Rhodo and nearly right on top of this guy...scared the bejeeesus out of him as he put it.  

All in all, it was another great day to be alive and time well spent on the water. I can't wait till the weekend.”

Private Waters:

UO Helen shop manager and guide Wes: “Private water fished well this week with the cool air. The water level is dropping so a good drift or a swung fly seems to be the trick. Girdle bugs, Rainbow warriors, Walt's worms, and pheasant tails worked best for my clients.”

UO guide Palmer:

“My clients did well this week on mops, squirmies, eggs, also the ever trusty soft hackles and woolly buggers. Dead-drifting and swinging techniques both worked.”

Bass Rivers:

Local rivers are clear and a bit cold.  They should fish well for folks tossing subsurface patterns. The Hooch at Highway 115 was nice and clear, but a cool 59 F at noon yesterday (20th). Try some articulated streamer patterns and crayfish ties, and work them slowly in the colder water.  This bite will likely slow as water temps drop into the fifties, so grab your yak or canoe soon for a floating last hurrah til next spring. 

UO owner Jimmy hit the Hooch for less than an hour after work this week. He waded a shoal near his house and dredged up two small shoalies and a pretty redbreast. And commented:

“Fly anglers love to pursue beautiful fish. They don’t come much more beautiful than a Chattahoochee redbreast.”

Small Lakes and Warmwater Streams:

Again, cooling surface temps may cool off the topwater bite, but streamer fishing should remain consistent.

Athens Jay filed this brief report and shared some

 nice pics: “Local pond fishing was good despite windy conditions. “


UO staffer Joseph:

“Here’s a pic of a spot I caught over the weekend. We were throwing baitfish imitations on points and in coves. “

There’s the latest, and I mean latest, intel from your UO gang.  Get out there  soon and enjoy the cool weather and clear water. Before you know it, you’ll be head-to-toe in fleece and bottom-bumping nymphs for a few lethargic winter trout. 

Don’t let fall get past you. Come by or call either UO store if we can help your October fishing-fest. Remember your waders and remember to duck if bears and dogs fail their social distancing test!

Unicoi Outfitters:




Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Striper Prep

It’s the perfect time of the year to “rerun” young Josh England’s great video on Lanier striper fishing.

Angling action picks up as reservoir temperatures drop. We hope you’re ready to chase bait, birds, spots, and stripers this fall and winter. Make sure you have fresh tippet and well-tied knots to avoid teeth-gnashing and tears!  Good luck.



Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Dry/droppers and Indi Rigs

Check out this great video from Orvis on a) the dry/dropper and b) the indicator methods of trout fishing. This is about the best how-to composition I’ve seen.  

If you’re a flyfishing rookie, this should be required “homework” before your next trip. And it will be the most fun homework task you’ll ever have. Take note, all TU 5Rivers clubs, as Dr. Dredger has given y’all an assignment!


Even the veterans among us will pick up a few new tips from the Orvis Guru of flyfishing, Tom Rosenbauer. The entire show is worth watching. But if you’re short on time, be sure to “catch” the first 17 minutes.  

The show’s first great tip that I enjoyed was Tom terming the strike indicator the “drift” indicator. How true! If we get a good drift, we often get a healthy strike. So think “drift” first and “strike” second when watching your indi or buoyant dry.

Regardless of how much of the show you watch, your time spent will be well worth it.  Trust me on this one. The video distills the last five decades of our instream, trial-and-error learning down to a one-hour instructional masterpiece. 

Bookmark it, share it with a fishing friend, and definitely try some of Tom’s tips on your next trouting trip. Then watch your success rate rise! Thank you Midcurrent, the Orvis Company,  and Tom Terrific.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Think Pink

This month the hot fly might just be a PINK San Juan worm. Why? It’s breast cancer awareness month, so think pink!  

One of our favorite groups of gals is Casting for Recovery- Georgia. UO’s adopted sisters, Beverly and Lynn, run the program and lead a great annual flyfishing retreat at Smithgall Woods Park for women survivors. 


Most of the guests have never touched a fly rod before, but are treated to stream entomology and fly fishing lessons. Their free weekend retreat is topped off by a guided fishing trip on the Hooch at Nacoochee Bend.

Those special guests leave with lots of smiles, memories, new friends, and a new hobby. 

UO is proud to support CFR-GA through our volunteer fishing guides and a Sunday of fun on our trophy trout waters. We have even more fun than our new girl friends as we “catch” their whoops, high-fives, and huge smiles.


(Photo credit: WingedReel)

For more information on CFR-GA, its application process, or if you’d like to donate to the cause, check out their website.  The smiles of those new women flyfishers are truly priceless. Be a part of something great this month and…

Think pink!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 10/14/21

Get ready for the big cool-down that will finally bring us some legitimate fall weather on Saturday.  Chilly air will drop water temperatures and likely send fish toward subsurface feeding, so plan accordingly. Little wild trout might still hit your dries after lunch, but your nymph dropper might see more action. Same goes for river bass, with more fish interested in streamers or jigs instead of your summer poppers.

Stream conditions are great, just like the weather. Flows are good and the water is super-clear, so practice your stealth and maybe downsize your tippet and bugs by a size to get past discerning fish eyes.  At midmorning today, a high Hooch trib was clear, flowing well, and 62F. The Hooch at Highway 115 had clear, 65-degree water for shoalie fans.

Best bets are bluelines with a small dropper below your dry, NC Delayed Harvest streams with about any pattern with a hook in it and rolled along the bottom,  pond bass and bream on a last hurrah before cold water slows the bite, and some reservoir recons (with prayers) to find some shallow stripers. 

We are two weeks into the NC delayed harvest season and two weeks away from Georgia’s program kickoff.

It’s a good time to remind folks, especially our flyfishing rookies, to match their bugs and techniques to the education level of the DH stockers. Review our past article, Delayed Harvest University, in the November 2020 issue of The Angler Magazine - Atlanta edition and you might score more trouting touchdowns this season.


Angler intel and Wes’ hot fly list follow on our Facebook page and blog.angler.management. Good luck as we really welcome fall and dress for some cool-weather success.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: Orange stimulator, elk hair caddis, parachute Adams.

Nymphs: Bird Turd, Slush egg, Tungsten mop, Flashback red tag jig, micro mayfly, hare’s ear.

Streamers & warmwater:

Sparkle minnow, muddy buddy, mini leech, finesse changer, solar flare Boogle bug, bluegill slider.


We had few reports last week, as a lot of folks evidently were watching ball games instead of wetting a line. Athens Jay snuck up high above Helen Saturday afternoon and landed a small handful of little wild rainbows. He said they were hesitant to hit his dry (orange stimulator), but much more eager to inhale his hares ear dropper.

There were two great speck reports and awesome pics from IDBIS Creek on North GA Trout Online’s small stream forum.

Trout Streams:

Dukes Creek:

The trophy stream will be tough in gin clear water. Google old Dukes Creek articles in Georgia Outdoor News for tips. The bottom line is stealth, light tippets (5-6x), and perfect drifts of small, dark nymphs.

Angling addict RonW checked in twice this week. Here’s his first fish tale:

“Kurt and I fished "The Creek" with a buddy of ours on Saturday 10/9.  The day started rough for me when I realized I forgot my waders 70 miles from home.  Luckily, I was able to swing by Unicoi Outfitters at 8am and get set up.

We got into fish right off the bat and pretty much stayed connected all day.  I landed a nice 14" and 16" bow from the first run I stepped into. Best of the day for me was a bow just shy of 20". Kurt and Jacob both stuck some good'uns over 22".

There are a lot of small, parred' up wild fish and plenty in the 12-16" range too. Some monsters were spotted but couldn't be fooled. Looks like the creek is making a comeback. Numerous flies worked on the day.....I don't think it mattered too much as long as the drifts were right and you stayed outta sight.   Can't wait to hit the creek again soon.”

Other GA streams:

Try one of the great dry/dropper combos suggested this week by our friends responding to our Facebook and Instagram posts. Lengthen your tippet to 3-4 feet to sink your nymph down to the trout. Right now, leaf-fall isn’t bad and you should have fun as long as the wind doesn’t blow.

If you have few takes, lengthen the tippet some more, or pull out your Indi- or Euro game and roll some nymphs on light tippet right along the bottom.  Summer  survivors are wary and picky, so give them your A-game.


Web reports show that North Carolina streams are fishing well.  (See Preston’s post on the GA Trout Anglers FB group page) DH streams draw weekend crowds, so aim for a Sunday afternoon or any weekday for more elbow room.  Fresh DH trout are great confidence-builders for new flyfishers, so tote a rookie along with you and play Champion Guide. Their smiles will be your catch of the day. 

RonW had another report:

“Kurt and I both played hookie from work today (10/11) and hit Fires Creek. The fishing was great and the catching was even better.  There's some nice healthy stockers in there willing to eat just about anything. That will change real soon as they become educated to bright flies and sharp hooks.   Legs and eggs, buggers and squirmeys all worked but the fly of the day for me was my Purple CDC Nymph...aka The Ronco Special. Kurt absolutely tore them up on his pink perdigon. We easily caught a few dozen each before we called it a day. Nothing like putting on wet wading boots! If I had it my way, they would never dry out.”

Private Waters:

They’ve fished great this week.  Guides and anglers have just had to change flies quite a bit until they find the flavor of the day. Flavors have varied from eggs to worms to mops and to rubberlegs.  Carry a full nymph box, or lean heavily on your talented UO guide, if you’re coming up to our water, Nacoochee Bend in Helen.

UO Helen shop manager Wes has a real fresh report: ”I fished with Allen and his son Caden yesterday on the Bend.   The fish were hunkered down so getting to the proper depth was important. Rubber legged stones were the ticket in the swift water.”


Rivers are clear due to the rainless week. Try some streamers and crayfish patterns fished slowly, as the cooler water will slow those bass down. On the upside, the tuber flotillas should be done for the year, and you’ll have a lot more river to yourselves.

Small Lakes and Warmwater Streams:

They might slow down a bit with cooler weather and water, but should still fish decently. Our reports have been from this past, warm weekend.

Landon checked in briefly:

“Fished a local creek other day in between deer hunts.  A 3-wt with poppers is a fun combo for its resident bream.”

UO staffer Joseph:

“Here’s a pic of a pickerel I caught on a small lake today.  I was focusing on brush piles fishing articulated streamers with aggressive strips and long pauses. It was a fun day on flat water.”

Quick add!

The Athens bunch just checked in with this 11th hour report:

An outing to a local Regional Reservoir on Monday produced a half dozen nice largemouth bass on baitfish flies. A little gray-backed zonker with a composite loop belly thrown on a slow sinking line was the ticket. Bass were busting shad in the backs of creeks, under the bridge, and even out in open water. The main difficultly was chasing down activity in my kayak. The reservoir is relatively new, and I’ve explored maybe 10% of it. It’s only been open to fishing since 2018, so time will tell regarding what kind of fishery this will be.” 

That’s the latest intel for anyone daring enough to slip outside between football and baseball games. Don’t forget your heavier clothing and a pair of waders, preferably  leak-tested beforehand.  From Dawgs to Braves to trout and bass, we hope everyone’s a winner this week. Call or stop by either UO store if we can coach you up on the latter!

Unicoi Outfitters:




Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Early Fall Dries and Droppers

We posted the following appeal on our Facebook and Instagram pages and received a lot of great replies from our flyfishing veterans. If you’re new to the game, check out their replies on those two pages and enjoy greater success this month!

Flyfishing Vets, Please Help!

Seasoned anglers, please help us help our flyfishing rookies. What are your favorite fall dry/dropper rigs? Share your hot tips for fall’s cooler days astream.

Early fall is a great time for dry/droppers. The low, clear water requires some stealth, but also allows trout to see your flies from afar. While morning water temps might be too cool for much surface action, the fluffy dry is still a great “stealth indicator” for your dropper before lunch.   Then, when the afternoon sun hits the water and stirs some fall insect activity, we can  catch a few bonus fish on top.

Be ready for some dry/dropper action before truly cold weather arrives and sends our targets to the stream bottom. Then it will be dredging season.

Right now, new fly fishers should BOLO (be on lookout) the comments from our veteran friends and have your fly boxes stocked for the warm afternoons and hungry, hunting trout of October.

Vets, what say y’all? Share your best fall dry/dropper combos.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 10/8/21

“Dry/droppers” is this week’s theme. What’s dry? The sun returned today and we’re finally drying out across north GA after more than 7 inches of rain this week. And the droppers? Now streams are starting to drop. The best “droppers”  are bluelines first, given their small watersheds.  Head uphill and outwalk the runoff; the higher you go, the lower the flow.

Medium trout streams will soon follow, while the biggest trout streams and bass rivers will need several more days to drop to fishable flows.

Best bets are bluelines with dries, medium trout streams in a day or two with dry/dropper combos or Euronymphs, bass and bream ponds, and some reservoir recons to hunt shallow stripers and spots. Watch out for boating hazards like huge logs that the week’s floods have washed into lake headwaters.

Once  trout streams drop back to your safe wading levels, try these two nuggets of intel. First, use the whitewater to help locate the soft spots- eddies along the banks and behind boulders and submerged trees. The stark contrast between raging whitewater and calm pockets makes it easier to find those prime high-water feeding spots. Hi-stick over the fast stuff to drift your bugs slowly in those tight pockets.

Second, try Euronymphing those slow spots, especially if fish are a bit shy to your dries. Big, heavy, meaty nymphs, especially if the water still has a bit of stain, might connect you with some hefty fish that will test your drag.

The good news is that all the rain was spread across multiple days. While high, most trout waters are already fairly clear.

Forget bass rivers for a while. The Hooch at Highway 115 was a raging brown torrent last night. Big waters will need several days to pass all the muddy runoff.

Check reservoirs early and late for predators busting shad schools. Bring your binoculars. They might be midlake or right against the bank.

Angler intel and Wes’ hot fly list follow on our Facebook page and blog.angler.management. Good luck as we dry and drop!

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: Orange stimulator, tan or orange elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, blue wing olive when flows recede.

Nymphs: bead head pheasant tail and prince, sexy walts worm, brown Pat’s rubberlegs, tan mop, red squirmy worm.

Streamers & warmwater:

Sparkle minnow, bank robber sculpin, hot cone wooly bugger, feather changer, headcase crayfish.


They’re full and fast, but clear and dropping quickly. It’s another good time for a big, bushy dry (Ex: #14 stimulator or Caddis ) with a nymph dropper (#16 beaded hares ear) trailed a foot or two off the back.  Find the slow spots against the bank or behind boulders to drift your combo.

Two weeks ago, after the last flood, I had a big time on little headwater bows. They felt safe in the heavy water and came up to smash my caddis with reckless abandon. Most were small, but a couple were not. If I hit a flood refuge, I got a look - and often an eat. This  weekend might be a chance for a “rerun” of those prime conditions.


Trout Streams:

Dukes Creek:

It should fish well this weekend for reservation holders and any lucky walk-ons. Safe bank-huggers will use their turbidity meters to choose the right flies and correct weight for the water clarity and velocity.


WMA streams:

The Hooch just below the WMA boundary was high and ripping this morning. The good news is that it was only slightly stained. It and other WMA streams should drop to fishable levels quickly. Know your own wading limits and pick your spots carefully. When in doubt, don’t get in. Fish from the bank.

As those larger trout streams finally fall to your safe wading levels, try some Euronymphing in the slow spots scattered among the raging currents. With a long rod, reach over the fast current and get some slow drifts in the soft eddies right against the bank and below rock ledges and boulders. Try a heavy tungsten Pat’s rubberlegs or sexy walts worm as your anchor fly, and hang  a small, bright dropper  (surveyor, rainbow warrior, or even a red squirmy) a foot or two above it. Floods are trout food buffets! You just have to locate their prime restaurant seats.


North Carolina streams are in the same shape as ours. High headwaters should be fishable, while larger streams will be blown out for several more days. Here’s some intel on the Nan, Tuck, and Luftee.  




Hopefully you’ve been writing some notes on your smart phone after your past fishing trips and comparing those stream conditions you faced with the USGS gauge data for each day. Then you’ll know in the future,just by looking at the online gauge data, when streams drop back down to your own safe wading level - and when it’s time to burn some gas.

Private Waters:

They fished real well before the storms, but have been blown out all week. They’ll fish really well again, when they recede. All those resident fish will not have seen anyone’s flies for a week or longer.


They’re blown out for several more days, so go somewhere else while you monitor their USGS gauges. 


Athens Jay did share a nice, pre-flood report that gives us hope for the weeks ahead: 

“Last weekend the flows were great in Piedmont rivers. Sunday I took one of our UGA 5 Rivers students on a hunt for shoal bass. We founds plenty of fish, but presentation was critical. We found that big, light-colored streamers twitched (not dead-drifted) produced aggressive strikes.

Small Lakes:

RonW floated this report:

“Mixed it up last weekend and fished for some green fish off of the kayak. The fishing was great but the catching was slow...still managed a handful of fish over the weekend.  We caught them on a wacky rigged senkos,  Ned rigs, spinner baits and a few came on a flipping jig with craw trailer. “

Young angling addict Spence is still whacking bass in his honey hole: the pond spillway pool.   Dad said his secret weapon is a mini-minnow fly.


HenryC’s Lanier buddy, “Fluffy” said the topwater bite is starting on Lanier. Check out Kevin’s website and latest Instagram post for more intel:


Really Far Afar:

Years ago, Jimmy infected young Bryan with the flyfishing bug.  He’s all grown up now and doing great things himself. Jimmy reports:

“Bryan Crumpler took a day off from helping The Fly Fishing Collaborative build a new aquaponics farm in Belize to play with this 125 pound tarpon.”


There’s your post-flood optimism from our UO gang.  Call or stop by either store as you re-emerge into the sunshine and wet a line somewhere safe this week. Watch those river gauges and remember to wade and boat safely! Good luck.