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, May 19, 2022

A Second Scoop of Smiles

You may recall that I said we were blessed with opportunities (plural) to give back to our flyfishing community last weekend. Here’s the other event that we co-hosted with Smithgall Woods State Park. This one focused on growing grins on kids!

Saturday found some Unicoi staff, a boatload of vols from across north Georgia, and several dozen kids knee-deep in our section of the Hooch at Nacoochee Bend. It was the Becca Sue Klein All Kids Fishing Event, led by Becca and her outstanding conservation organization, @ChattahoocheeRiverkeeper:


Kids tangled with the Hooch’s hefty rainbows and enjoyed lunch back at a Smithgall Woods State Park shelter.  I heard that a few of the parents got into the angling action, too.

Hats off to Becca, Riverkeeper, the Orvis Company, and all the volunteers for nurturing our next generation of angler-conservationists!  Unicoi Outfitters was honored to be a part of the initiative.  And you can tell from the picture of our owner Jimmy that we had a lot of fun ourselves!

Take a kid fishing soon. Before you know it, they’ll have a drivers license and take you to some of their secret spots!  I have that fact on good authority from ole Jimmy himself… (details to come)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Catching Smiles

Thanks to all of you, Unicoi Outfitters has been blessed to be in business for 28 years.  We really enjoy returning some of those blessings to our north GA flyfishing community. Last weekend was full of such opportunities!

Yesterday (5/15) we were honored  to host, once again, special guests and volunteers from Casting for Recovery- Georgia. The group of brand-new and veteran flyfishers enjoyed a Sunday morning full of grins and tight lines on the Hooch at Nacoochee Bend. New friendships were spawned and lifetime memories were made!

Beverly and Lynn run a fantastic CFR program, one we are proud to support. Their Smithall Woods weekend retreat for the gals is unforgettable. If you have a friend or family member who may qualify for a future retreat, check out the CFR website:


Then choose “retreats” from the drop-down menu and scroll down to Georgia.

Hydrotherapy is good for the body and good for the soul. We are happy to share our Hooch hydrotherapy with special friends such as our CFR sisters. We thank all of you patrons for your support of Unicoi Outfitters, which allows us to give something back to our community.  Leaping rainbows and wide smiles, anyone?

Photo: CFR Participant Janet Gill with volunteer River Helper Devin Lancaster. Devin is the fishing manager at @OrvisAtlanta.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 5/13/22

Let’s make this your lucky day and lucky weekend, thanks to another helping of timely UO intel!

Our rain-free days continue so the region’s low, clear water conditions persist. That’s been real good for river floating, as bass and some stripers can charge your streamers from afar. Trout, on the other hand, remain skittish in the skinny water. 

Here’s some UO/Rabunite intel to make your trouting trips lucky ones this week.  First, think yeller. That’s May’s color for your topwater bugs, so try them first before falling back to your trusty Adams, chubby, or tan caddis. Second, aim for low light: shade, dawn, and dusk will give you the best shots on top. Third, force their quicker decisions! Find some broken and/or faster water, where residents must choose between eat/don’t eat much quicker. Long, slow pools may hold more fish, but they can study your fake food and often refuse your flies.   Save the flat water til the shadows give you an advantage.

Go soon to cash in on possibly the last week of spring. It looks like we will warm up next week, so river trouting will decline. That’s okay, for it’s just about time to switch to river bassing or go on the road for colder trout water.

Check out our long version on our home and Facebook pages. Ignore today’s date, employ our UO intel, and make today and the days to come very lucky ones. Stop in either store if we can help you further.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: stimulator, 409 Yeager yellow, elk hair caddis, yellow stimulator, yellow humpy.

Nymphs & Wets:

Pats rubber leg, soft hackle partridge, jig CDC pheasant tail, mop fly, psycho prince.

Streamers & warm water:

Amnesia bug (for bream), Boogle bugs, kreelex, hot cone bugger, finesse changer.


They are low and clear and hatches are getting sparse. Residents are spooky, but hungry. Toss something in yellow (stimmy, Sally, small chubby Chernobyl, or elk hair caddis) to start. Carry a few Adams, tan caddis, and coachman trudes as backups. Start with 4X tippet so you can retrieve your bugs from the “grabby” overhead branches. If fish are skittish, then you might have to downsize to 18 inches of 5X or 6X tippet to draw strikes.

See Wes’ Smokies report, below, for more headwater intel.

Stocker Streams

WRD trucks are still rolling daily, so watch that agency’s posted Friday reports (or sign up for them).

DH streams

This is your last Saturday for GA’s restrictive regs. On Sunday, you can take your kids and nightcrawlers and harvest those fish before they succumb to summer’s hot water (thus, the DH regs to optimize marginal trout waters).

Here’s one more hint: the big waters don’t get cleaned out immediately. Fly anglers can still have a week or two of decent trouting if those streams stay below 70 degrees.  (Add 2-3 degrees to Burrell’s Ford temps to guestimate Tooga DH temps)  Give them a shot if our nights stay cool thru May. Also, DH trout can’t read signs, so try above and below the DH zones, too, for wanderers.

As noted last week, NC’s DH regs are still on til early June (since the water’s colder up there).  They will still fish well. River residents are now a combo of sore-slipped and smart DH stockers and, oftentimes,  little wild bows. Forget your flashy Nov 1 flies and employ your hatch-matching, dead drifting, wild fish techniques for greatest luck. Grab that paint strainer, stick it over your net, and sift the drift for bugs. Turn over rocks, sort thru submerged leaf piles, and inspect spider webs. Try something yellow or an Adams on top and some small pheasant tails, hares ears, their soft hackle versions, and caddis emergers as your dropper. Read my intro on how to fish them. Boulder fields are prime right now, and flashlights are very handy.

Private Waters

They are still fishing real well, especially in the mornings. While flies are low, our nights have been thankfully cool.

UO guide Palmer:

“My clients have still done well.  More fish are looking up! We’ve had our best luck this week on chubbies, softhackles, and emergers.”

UO friend Cam:

“After representing GA on the TU-National’s Youth Leadership Council and mentoring kids for countless years at the GA Trout Camp, I was finally able to talk my dad into fly fishing with me!  Once at Nacoochee Bend, we both set our rods up and my rod quickly became “his” rod every time he got stuck. After a few hours, Dad had caught plenty of huge fish and I was skunked, but it was still worth it! 

I think I like guiding little kids better… they may not listen but they don’t talk back. It was a great day with my dear Dad!”

UO friend Marcus E posted a great web report on the duo’s trip to Nacoochee Bend. Their day was full of plump rainbows and topped off by a big Lanier migrant (striper) that tested his trout rod to its limit!

View the fish story and pics at the Fly Fishing North Ga Facebook group (Wednesday post).



UO Helen manager Wes: “I have been out of town camping for a few days,  off the grid in the Smokies. Jackson and I backpacked in and got on some natives. Lots of yellow sallies were flying around, so any yellow dry fly in a size #12-#16 was the ticket. We had a great time in the national park.”

Note: Daily fishing reports here:

Little River Outfitters - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains

Warm Rivers:

UO owner Jimmy: “ The cool mornings haven't been any help toward getting river bass to feed on top but that doesn't mean the fishing is slow.  We all love that topwater bite but brute force and ignorance won't bring those fish to the surface before they're ready.  So, for now, you have to feed them where they are, and that's on the bottom.  Your fly or lure can't be moving too quickly through their domain so slow things down, practice patience, and reap some rewards.  As always, remember these are a very unique and special resource so we encourage you to handle them carefully and practice catch and release so we'll have a good supply for the future.”

UO buddy Landon:  “Go late and stay late. Kreelex has been my fly of choice. I think the river striper run is winding down but there are still a few hanging around.”

Ed Note: I included a pic of Damer’s striper, caught on a “Honda lure” to remind folks of the great intel in the weekly GAWRD reports. His catch was featured last Friday.  I’ve never used a better bait in my life!


Distant Rabunite DD:

“For your enjoyment.  My two oldest sons and I hit a middle GA river couple of weekends ago for some shoal bass action. Very trout like. 40+ fish day out of our raft. Doesn’t get a lot better than that!”

Flat Water:

RSquared: “ My son Matt & I went north of the state line for some topwater smallmouth action. The bite was slow but we managed to get a few in the boat. Love those Boogle-Bugs! Many of the Rivers & lakes of TN & NC hold decent populations of smallies and are worth a road trip. “

Hank the Yank:

He’s off the water this week. If he was on, he’d be telling us that the shallow water bass bite is still very good. Stripers are spotty, but if you find them at dawn, dusk, or at night under dock lights, you’ll have some great fights. UO young guns Grant and Joseph have confirmed this intel with more trips of their own.


So remember “yellow, broken water, Dark30 flashlights, and Boogle Bugs.”  Stop by either UO store or give us a call if we can help. Now go have a lucky day.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

It’s All Fun!

While UO is proud to be a top-notch flyfishing shop, we haven’t forgotten our roots. Just about all of us began by chasing stockers with bait and lures. (During my earliest days of trouting, my two top choices were salmon eggs and a #1 Mepps silver spinner). 

We pride ourselves on being inclusive rather than exclusive.  UO welcomes new trout anglers and those who prefer spinning tackle. We’re stocked up with ultralight outfits, hooks, split shot, line, creels, maps, prepared baits, and a great selection of trout lures to choose from.

So if you’re vacationing and would like to give trout fishing a try, or are an avid stocker fan, don’t let our flyfishing signs run you off. Whether it’s bait, fly, or lure, it’s all fun. And we’ll be glad to provide the supplies and intel to point you toward trouting success.

So c’mon in!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 5/5/22

We are finally into May which means we are in this season’s home stretch for big-water trouting. Soon those wide, sunlit rivers will push up into the high 60’s and their trout will get cranky. These hot, June-like days aren’t helping, either. Next week’s slight cool-down will help.

Get out there now, while water temps are still good. Soon we will have to hunt trout real high, up the mountain or real low, below a big dam full of winter water until those wide streams are fishable again next fall.

The trout river action is still good, despite low, clear water and picky fish. Got thin tippet?  Early and late are better right now than the sunny midday period. It’s the last hurrah for Georgia DH streams, as those regs end on 5/14. You still have them in NC til 6/3.

Tomorrow is iffy due to the storm front, but we desperately need that rain. Again, if streams get a half inch or less, they’ll be fine. An inch or more, and y’all may have to move upstream to smaller waters for a day or two until stormflows pass.  Remember those squirmies and rubberlegs if streams are colored up, but still fishable.

Flat water and river bass and bream fishing are off the charts. Great water temps and romance have those fish shallow, happy, and hungry.  Grab a kid, a canoe, and a small popper and pound the pond banks to earn Hero Guide status.

Lake stripers are still roaming the shallows, especially at low or no light. Spawning bluebacks are high on their menu.  Get them soon, before water temps drive them into their deep, summer vacation residences. And cash in on the hot spot bite!

Our detailed intel from UO staff and our finatic friends can be found on our home and Facebook pages. It’s definitely worth a look before you drive up here.  Stop by either UO store if we can help. Don’t forget a raincoat and good judgement in case tomorrow’s thunder aims your way.  Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: yellow stimulator, 409 Yeager yellow, parachute light Cahill, tiny tan caddis, trusty para Adams.

Nymphs & Wets:

Brown Girdle bug, soft hackle partridge, copper John, jiggy fry, hares ear, tiny pheasant tails.

Streamers & warm water:

Polar changer, Bugger changer, micro changer, kreelex, Olive bugger for stockers, Boogle bug popper.


They are low and clear. They’re not drought-low, but still low enough to push resident wild trout into their drought refuges. Lighten your tippet and your footsteps and aim toward overhead cover and pools. Technique trumps pattern, so tie on something you believe in and begin your slow stalks.

Stocker Streams

Good water temps and regular hatchery redoses keep them a best bet. Walk your rookie downstream, slowly, and roll cast a small bugger under the limbs and logs. Stick that rod tip in the water below you and twitch and strip that bugger back up to you.  Bookmark the GAWRD trout page and watch those weekly stocking lists.

DH streams

Web reports show them fishing real well, especially when the sun isn’t baking them. If you took time to read this week’s UO fodder, you’ll come up here prepared with Dark-30 equipment and tactics and leave late, with large smiles. Save your casting shoulders and focus on the last two hours of daylight for your best catch rates. 

Private Waters

Picky fish and lighter tippets will challenge you. But they are still eating either a good drift or a nice swing. Mornings will soon start fishing better than afternoons, so come up soon. The attached pics should convince you.

UO-Helen manager Wes:

“I did a trip on the bend yesterday (4th).  Stonefly nymphs, soft hackles, and streamers produced the best. We also were able to catch a couple on top with yellow stimulators. Dries have started to work well in the last week!

With water temperature on private waters starting to get into the 60s in the afternoons, be sure to try and fight fish as quick as possible and properly revive them before taking any pictures.”

UO guide Atticus:

“The fish at The Bend were eating well this week.  Many came up for dries, with lots still eating stonefly nymphs close to the bottom.”

UO Guide Como:

“Check out this big brown that my client wrangled last weekend.”

(See top pic)


No reports from our faithful ATL trio, so they must be working a lot of OT. Watch Chris Scalley’s (River Through Atlanta)  and Orvis-Alpharetta’s social media feeds for  the latest Tailwater intel. OA’s Dylan has a nice weekly video report on the shop’s Instagram feed.


Due to higher elevations, these streams run colder and their spring season runs a week or two behind ours. Take your mid-April skills and bugs up there and have a blast.

Little River Outfitters - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains

Warm Rivers

UO owner Jimmy: “For Shoalies I'm catching more small males this week than the larger females.  The small males are still chunky, though!  The bass are still a little too deep for consistent topwater action and there's more water in the river than I like for wading but it's still a great evening respite with azaleas and mountain laurel painting the hillsides.”

UO buddy Landon:

“ Spent Monday evening yakking up river X. I went 3 for 4 on stripers and that 8 lber was biggest boated.  I lost one that was 15-20 lbs after fighting for a couple minutes when he gator-rolled then hit a log in the run. Spots/shoal bass were slow. I caught 5 on top.  The pictured spot was biggest and was fun on my 5 wt. Probably could have found more bass subsurface but wouldnt have been as fun as tossing topwater bugs.”

Flat Water:

Athens Jay: “Pond fishing is excellent. Boogle bug season is here. Next full moon should be outstanding for bream fishing. 

A paddleboard is a really stealthy way to target fish in shallow water. Flyfishing from a paddleboard is a great way to build core strength. “


“Warm weather fishing is firing up. 

Twenty-five fish in an hour on a green mop fly with pink hot spot at MiniMe’s local hotspot.”

Hank the Yank:

“Lanier is fishing pretty good lately. However it's all about getting "eats" whether it be stripers or spotted bass. The spots are extremely aggressive right now and we actually got them to eat a topwater fly this week. The stripers are still somewhat elusive BUT they are traveling in groups of 10-40 fish and surfacing enough during the day to get a few shots on them as well. Fish are positively eating herring so bigger flies are what anglers need to be tossing for both species. Dock lights are also fishing well. My tip to everyone is to fish the wind blown areas to get more bites. Fish are being found from Laurel Park to the dam and everywhere in between. If you really want to have some fun, bring a 7wt out and target whatever eats your fly. Magnum spots on a 7wt pull hard! That's Lanier's smallmouth bass as far as I'm concerned!”


UO’s Young Fish Vacs:

“Here are pictures of some Lanier stripers from this week. It seems like low light conditions are the best bet at stripers. On the other hand the high sun doesn’t seem to bother the bass. For flies a clouser or somethin else has been most productive -  fished on an intermediate line. Grant and Joseph.”

That’s the latest from our UO gang. We’d like to wish a Happy Mothers Day to all mothers out there, especially the ones who wet a line themselves or give a long line to their family members who enjoy our sport. We hope Sunday is special to all of you.  Good luck as the streams clear Saturday and the weather turns perfect next week. Stop by either UO store or give us a call for some May intel and supplies, from spinners to dries!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, April 29, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 4/29/22

C’mon up; Saturday’s weather and water will be mighty fine! Streams are clear and running at or slightly below normal flows for this time of year. Water temps are perfect. If you’re coming Sunday or next week, pack a raincoat for the possibility of showers. We could use some rain to water our plants and trees and recharge our streams.

Cahills and caddis should continue to dominate the evening hatches. They tend to shrink through the month of April, so make sure you bring  some smaller sizes (#16-20) with you, too. Since we are knocking on May’s door, don’t forget yellow. We’ve already had a report from Will M of some yellow sallies and are sure golden stones are on the horizon. Bring those sallies and stimmies!

River bassing and striper hunting have still been strong in those clear flows.  Yakkers and pontoon fans wishing to flex their 8-weights with big streamers should have some good trips.

Lake bass are still shallow, with occasional visits from stripers. Low light is best, so try dawn, dusk, and after dark, especially around lit docks.

The Blue Ridge Troutfest is Saturday from 10 til 6.  Check your “waze” before coming up, as our locals report DOT road mtc delays on Highway 129.


See our full fishing report on our home and Facebook pages. Good luck closing out a great April. Stop by either UO shop if we can help you out.

.Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: tan elk hair caddis, parachute light Cahill, yellow sally, yellow stimulator, para Adams.

Nymphs & Wets:

Depth charge caddis, frenchie, soft hackle partridge and pheasant tail, girdle bug, hares ear nymph and soft hackle, Y2K for stockers.

Streamers & warm water:

Finesse changer, Murdich minnow, Cowen’s something else (Shad) and larger gray/white clousers (bluebacks) for reservoir predators, triple double leech, muddy buddy, small olive bugger for clear-water stockers.


They are still prime for your short rods and small, bushy dries. Try something yellow if tan’s a turnoff. They should be a degree or two warmer this week, bringing more fish to the top. Hopefully you don’t even have to run a dropper under your dry, unless you happen upon a deep pool and want to explore its depths. Stealth is more important than fly pattern.

Angling addict RSquared said:

“I went old school and fished a few wild streams with a venerable Appalachian dry fly called the "Thunderhead" which was created by the legendary Fred Hall of Bryson City N.C.. Even though it was mid-day and sunny, the revered pattern still enticed several wild rainbows to the surface to feed on my offering. I can assure you that the Thunderhead has earned a permanent place in my dry fly box.”

Stocker streams:

GAWRD’s stocking program continues, with a great assist from their federal partners at Rock Creek Hatchery. My two favorite baits are 1/3 nightcrawler or a small doughball of Powerbait covering a size 10 hook on 4-pound mono. I’ll fish upstream, make 2-3 short casts into each fishy pocket, and repeat, covering a lot of stream and uncovering a lot of bridge wash-downs. Get your kids out there now, while the getting is good. Trout supper, anyone?


GA and NC DH Waters:

High sun, lower flows, and warming water will start slowing the daytime bite. Dredge the deep pools, boulder pockets, and shaded runs with more natural patterns that resemble the caddis larva and mayfly nymphs now in the stream drift.  Suggestion: try a sexy Walts worm as an anchor to get your rig down. Add a dropper of a soft hackle pheasant tail, hares ear, or caddis emerger above it, and drift through those sheltered spots. After your drift, let it swing in the current below you. Then take a few strips back upstream before casting again. Switch to dries as the sun sets.

RSquared took time off from fishing to post a second report: “Sixteen members of the Cohutta Chapter of Trout Unlimited recently spent four days camping and fishing on the fabled wild and scenic Chattooga River. The weather was beautiful and Cohutta members fished from Earls Ford on the lower end to the back country at the upper end and the DH in the middle. Fish were feeding on nymphs and dry flies. Catch rates were a little low for most members but a few anglers experienced some exceptional catch rates. This river is very crowded on weekends. I would recommend fishing it midweek when there is less pressure.”

Hooch Tailwater:

UO buddies Ron, Mog and Mo had a nice trip.  Ron:  “The Trio hit the Dam again last Saturday in search of gold.  We stepped in the water shortly after 10. We were seeing risers everywhere in between the winds.  The fellas caught some on top, mine all came on the dropper.  I caught a half dozen, Kurt got over a dozen and Moe hammered em' again, he probably caught a few dozen or more.  It was a great day on the water as always and some much needed hydrotherapy!  

Only this one nice lil brown for Me, i'm sure Moe's got some nicer pics for you.”

Mo: “Just have one pic of a small stick of butter. A #20 frenchie dropped 3ft under my dry fooled them all day. Never changed flies. A good mix of rainbows and browns to hand.”


It’s the same story as our Georgia wild trout waters. Fish are skittish and pickier during the day, and more vulnerable when the sun dies and adult bugs come out to dance. The farther away from the road or campground that you go, the more comfortable the daytime fish are.


(Ed note: Notice how similar our fly lists are)

Private Waters:

They are still fishing very well for our resident rainbows.  UO guide Israel:  “Nothing has changed since last week.   The pattern continues to be small egg and nymph patterns drifted deep, and then soft hackles swung in shallower runs and riffles to imitate the hatching naturals. We are having to downsize our tippets in the lower, clear water to encourage more takes.”

Coolwater Rivers:

Jimmy and good friend, FL outdoor writer Rusty Chinnis, had a good river float this week. Jimmy sent a pic of Rusty’s striper and this report: “When you're angling for Shoal Bass and something takes your lure on a screaming run...”

Athens Jay got back in the game:

“Middle GA rivers are just right for wet wading.”

Flat Water:

Splatek reported on MiniMe’s feats at the local pond: “Warm water has the bream  hitting bread balls, worms, and just about anything you drop in front of them.”

Lake bassing has been great, while stripers have been sporadic. The herring spawn should improve the striper bite. See Capt. Mack’s intel and adapt it to your fly rigs.


UO young guns Joseph and Grant have done well:

“Here are some pics of some fish Grant and I have caught over the past two weeks on Lanier. Most of our fish have been on points or humps. We have been using intermediate lines with 3-4 inch clousers fished in the middle of the water column with short fast strips.”

That’s the latest news from our neck of the woods.  Take advantage of these fine spring days before they dissolve into the summer heat. Stop in a UO store for flies, supplies, and the freshest intel in this region. Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.