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 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.



Monday, October 4, 2021

Tricks for Sweet Treats

Are you as excited by October’s cooler weather as we are?  Where are YOU heading this month?

October brings colder water and hungrier trout, but it also brings us the challenges of leaves and twigs. How do you navigate through these windy-day minefields for your flies?

Never fear, for UO is here!  Check out our latest column in October’s Angler Magazine- Atlanta edition.  They are free at your favorite fly shops and also online here:


Dive deep into the booklet until you hit the Atlanta insert.  Then turn to page Atlanta-10 and you’ll find our UO column entitled “simpli-fly and stand out.” 

These Halloween-season tricks have treated us to some fine trout among the leafy debris.  Give them a try as the trees shed their summer coat and see if they work for you, too.

And rejoice in the leaf fall, even if it frustrates you a bit.  Why?  Leaves and twigs are the fuel for Southeastern stream ecosystems. Decaying organic matter feeds aquatic insects and other microorganisms, and the instream food chain starts.  Hopefully it ends up in a nice, buttery brown trout in the bottom of your net!

Good luck during leaf season. Call or visit either UO store if we can help you celebrate the season astream. May our tricks bring you some sweet treats!

Friday, October 1, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 10/1/21

Sorry we’re late this week. It’s been busy at our fly shops and  on our home fronts, too. But hey, we got this out tonight, before you revved your Saturday morning engines, so now you’ll know which way to go after your biscuit and coffee.

“Hungry but spooky” is how I’d label your finned targets right now. Streams and rivers are low, clear, and cold, thanks to chilly nights and a lack of rainfall. Most fish are reacting with much better appetites, tempered only by their predator avoidance. That bright sun paints a bullseye on their backs in clear water. So find them like you did in the summer, in the shade and shadows.

Speaking of such, we have more.   Shade and shadows, that is.  And that’s a good thing! With shorter days that now end around 730, the shadows start to fall earlier, around 3 or 4PM. And Dark30 ends at that earlier, respectable 7ish hour, so you can quit fishing and get home in time for a full night’s sleep.

Leaves have started to fall, but they aren’t bad yet. Daytime air temps are perfect for a day on the stream or lake. Go soon and don’t forget your waders if you’re thin.  Darn near everything except stocked trout streams (it’s the stocking off-season) are fishing well. And our neighbor state to the north has some great opps for the road-trippers among y’all.

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

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: Orange stimulator, elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, blue wing olive.

Nymphs: flashback pheasant tail, psycho prince, improved yallarhammer, peach egg, squirmy worm, Pat’s rubberlegs.

Streamers & warmwater:

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


Dredger wandered out late Sunday afternoon and found a few cooperative wild bows. They were glued to the bottom due to bright sunshine and low, crystal-clear water. He might have caught more if he had added a small nymph dropper behind his #14 elk hair caddis or downsized the caddis.  But he was too lazy to change and was content with the level of action on the beautiful day high in the national forest. He fondled about 7 or 8 little bows from 3 to 5pm.  Biggest might have nosed close to 8 inches.

He did better when tossing his bug in the shade of overhanging logs (pics), and sometimes twitching the dry.  It was fun to watch the residents rise from the bottom to inspect his offering. Refusals outnumbered eats by a 3:1 margin.

Trout Streams:

Dredger’s Dukes Creek Tips:

Before it rains again, lucky reservation holders may be humbled.  Those big fish are super spooky in gin-clear water.   Try my stealth indicator technique. Drop a small pheasant tail, hares ear, or WD40 on 3 feet of 6X behind a big, buoyant stimulator (yellow or orange). Sneak in upstream of your target, cast quietly and short, and let line out to drift your combo downstream into the sweet spot.

When it rains next week and boosts the flow and turbidity, be ready with thicker tippet, some split shot, and a pink squirmy or Pats rubberlegs. And a buddy with superb netting and photography skills!

NC DH kicks off:

Remember that Delayed Harvest season kicks off in NC.  Check that agency’s website and plan a fall excursion soon. 


The Tuck, Nan, and Fires are favorites among north Georgians. If you can hit them on weekdays, there’s lots of elbow room. Weekend crowds also clear out after lunch on Sundays.

Private Waters:

Pampered stream residents have enjoyed their summer vacations away from angler pressure. Now they are enjoying the cold water and have great appetites for fall openers on private waters.

Robert and Caroline had a great trip to The Hooch at Nacoochee Bend this morning (10/1).  UO manager Jake put them on some nice fish. He said the chunky rainbows took a variety of patterns (rubberlegs, rainbow warriors, eggs, and squirmies) fished along the bottom and also at middepth. The trio had to cover more water, as fish were scattered among the new pools and pockets, created by the reshaping of the river channel by our summer floods.  Good luck wherever you go, as you enjoy “relearning” your favorite waters due to these flood-induced habitat shifts. It’s like fishing a new stream!


Bass rivers look great for the weekend. Fish them before the rains return. The Hooch at Highway 115 was clear and 68F when I checked it at 4PM today.  Try some poppers, but be ready with streamers if the resident shoalies and spots are hesitant to rise. Again, aim for the cover created by water depth, dusk, or bankside shadows.

Athens Jay broke away from trash-picking with his “litter” of UGA pups long  enough to add:

“Piedmont River report:

River stage is still high for this time of year, but coming down and looking good for the weekend. River bass seem to be keying more on baitfish and less on benthic critters like crawfish and hellgrammites. Best results came by swimming a light-colored game changer using a sink-tip line.”

Thanks for the intel, Jay. And thanks to your fly-flinging clan for picking the dang stuff up!

Y’all inspired many of us to grab a trash bag this week, too!

5 Rivers Club - Clean My Water

Small Lakes

North metro dweller Spence (age 11) crept down to one of his honey holes, the spillway pool below the dam on his local pond. Using flies he tied himself, he had great fun with some bass and bream. Attaboy Spence!

His dad added this:

“His shirt says:

Sorry I wasn’t listening I was thinking about fishing.”

Real Big Lakes

Henry C sez cooling surface waters have sparked the spots and stripers. To quote the Lanier Lakemaster:

“Well it's October  1st when you are reading this and that means Lake Lanier should be firing up with consistency in about 2-3 weeks. It is easily the most visual and exciting fishing we get on the pond. Striped bass and spotted bass will be chasing both herring and shad to the surface and make toilet flush type explosions all over the lake. It's the start of the striper season as we know it. It will start off more hit or miss and as we get colder at night,  the consistency of the surface feed will become more of an everyday event.  It’s time to clean the dust off your 8-weights and break away to the pond. This photo of Connor and Alayna was taken last weekend. The key to success is to burn gas and look for surface feeders. See you on the pond!”



In summary, fishing conditions are great, so wet a line before the rains return.  Just employ your summer stealth game (long and light) for best results. And if we do get several inches of rain by Wednesday, wait for flows to drop to safe levels and then use heavier line and your  “down and dirty” game to land a lunker hiding in the stain.

Then share your stories and pics.  We sure enjoy them, too!

Good luck from our UO gang.

Call or stop by either store if we can help arm you for success in either stream situation.  

Unicoi Outfitters: