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, December 6, 2022

Transition Time

With the winter chill right around the corner, here are a few tips to help you transition to this new fishing season. Enjoy our latest article in The Angler magazine. Scroll to page Atlanta - 4 to catch it.


Monday, December 5, 2022

Hunting for Holiday Gifts?

Are you on the hunt for holiday gifts? UO is here to help. We have a few more gift ideas that are very appealing to new fly fishers.

First, consider a complete flyfishing outfit (rod, reel, and line).  We have quality introductory outfits at an affordable price. Check out the Orvis Encounter and Echo Lift packages. 



A nine foot, five-weight outfit is the perfect starter rod for fly anglers pursuing trout, panfish, and smaller bass.

Next, treat your new angler duo to an instream learning session with one of our talented UO guides. Our “Gilligan Special” is a three-hour tour that will lead to a lifetime of flyfishing fun. We supply all of the equipment; just bring yourselves.   Read all about it here:


Come by our Helen store for the gift certificate or order it online here. 


The lucky recipient can then just call the shop at a later time to reserve their fishing date. He/she can then invite their spouse or friend to join them.

Last, all anglers must have their lucky fishing hat. We’ve recently replenished our stock of UO ball caps. New and experienced anglers alike will appreciate this stocking stuffer!

We have many more gift ideas, so feel free to visit or call either one of our UO stores for some help from our elves.  We’re here to make your gift gathering a welcome part of your holiday joy.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts

Friday, December 2, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -12/2/22

Things are looking up in our corner of the state. We had 2.5 inches of rain at midweek that boosted streamflows. While most of that rainfall has already run off, at least our streams have recovered a bit from their droughty fall flows. With more rain expected in the days ahead, flows and fishability should both increase.

We had two chilly post-front days, but our weather has started a warming trend that should raise stream temps and your catch rates. Again, match your flies to the flows and you’ll do well. Focus on Wes’ hot fly list and the bugs that worked for this week’s reporters.

Headwaters may still be tough with cold water, so focus on longer droppers to your nymphs hanging below your buoyant dry fly indicator. DH streams will fish well for Euronymphers and Airlock indi watchers.

Stripers are still playing the same game of hide-and-seek. Large size is still compensating for lower numbers, as fish are scattered. Birdwatching is the key to success, so don’t forget your binoculars for the loons and gulls and your Humminbird for the bait schools.

Good luck this week as we crawl into winter with a mild, fall-like weather forecast.  Check out our full fishing report and Wes’ hot fly list via the link on our home page.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: comparadun BWO, Elk hair caddis, Parachute Adams.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, split case, micro mayfly, jig girdle bug, rainbow warrior, root beer midge.

Streamers & warm water:

Simi seal leech, sparkle minnow, finesse changer, clouser minnow.


The few reporters told us that catching was slow in the low, clear water. This emphasizes the importance of camo, stealth, and soft-landing flies on wispy 6X tippets. Go bigger on bugs and line when you’re lucky enough to fish some storm flows. Look for water temps as far above 40F that you can find.

Smokies streams are on higher mountains and are colder. You’ll have to slow-dredge for those frozen fish.   Smokies intel here:


Delayed Harvest:


Last Sunday afternoon I ran across Roger from Dallas, who took his son to Smith DH while he and his grandson hiked and skipped rocks. Kaleb did well by light-lining some small eggs and nymphs in the low, clear water.

“Hey Mr. Dredger,

This is Emaly, we chatted earlier. So nice speaking with you. Heres the pretty Smith Creek DH Brookie from today (25th). I caught it in about a 2ft pool on a zebra midge. Hope to run into you again soon!”

I ran into UO friend KenK this week while hiking along Smith Creek DH after the rain. Ken said he mopped up the fish on a mop fly in the better flows.

Go fish the bigger DH streams while flows are good for wading and before winter rains start blowing them out. Euro the riffles and runs and Indi-fish the larger pools with long, light tippet and enough shot to dredge your bugs.


No recent reports. It’s been a while since the October and November stockers found their freedom, so try smaller flies for these better-educated fish. Consider a flashier first fly, like a small egg or lightning bug, trailed by a small imitator like a #16 hares ear or #18 or 20 pheasant tail. Pay attention to water temperatures and follow the sun.


UO buddy RonW: “I was able to sneak out to Paces Mill from about noon till 3 on the 25th.  The water was up a little and off color, with visibility not much more than 16 -18".  I started upstream of the ramp and worked my way down below the big rock. I started off with a bugger and an egg and quickly switched to a Conehead Bunny Muddler for more weight as my shot went missing. That was the ticket!  Caught a few on the Muddler but most came on the egg. Both dead drifting and swinging were effective. I went back up to the run I started in and whacked them pretty good on a #16 Partridge and purple. About 6 fish in twice as many casts and it was time to call it a day. I ended up with a dozen to hand It and almost as many LFR's. It was nice to sneak out and work off some of the "feast"  from yesterday! Now where's that leftover turkey.

I stopped by Paces Mill again on Tuesday 11/29 after my morning rounds.  I fished from 12 -1, starting just above the ramp and working  down to just below the big rock. I wanted to see how my new wool head sculpin fished and I can say it fished well. 1st cast landed me a "snit" rainbow who chased the Sculp 12' across the current and then smashed it about 6' away from me. It was a pretty cool 1st eat on a new fly I tied.  I ended up with 2 more bows to hand and just as many LDR's as I  swung and stripped the streamer while working downstream. I'd say it was a productive and successful hour of Hydrotherapy which put me in the right mindset to go home and tackle a mound of emails.”

Stocker Streams:

Broken record:  slim pickings during the off-season as hatchery space is filled with subcatchables being grown for next spring.  Try Vogel Lake, the 2 tailwaters, and any public accesses below DH reaches, where you can pick up some wanderers. Both GA tailwaters  got a pre-holiday helping from GAWRD.  The border river’s bridge crossings are good spots, too.

Private Waters:

The story remains the same on the Soque and Hooch:  smaller eggs, nymphs, soft hackles, and midges have been most effective during periods of low, clear flows. Meatier nymphs and even some streamers have done well when rivers swell up after a good rain.

New UO friend JeffC from FL spent the holiday with his family in a cabin on private waters. He said they enjoyed learning this new area and caught several rainbows on dry/dropper rigs during their weekend stay. He said his wife outfished him again, as usual. They learned that the abundant, small dry fly sinkers were warpaint shiners, a new species for them.

Private waters should fish better as more frequent rains boost flows and force fish to make quicker decisions on potential food items. Get out there soon before truly cold temperatures hit us.


HenryC: “Fishing on Lanier remains pretty good. Some days are better than others but the size of the fish this fall has been extraordinary. All fish have been over 10 lbs. Bass fishing is tough for fly rodders as the fish are stuck on the bottom. Small flies are the ticket for Lanier anglers... micro game changers and somethin' else flies are easily your best bets. Next 10 days look promising as weather is perfect for feeding fish. Some days they're eating early and some days late. Midday bites should fire up with cloud cover. See you on the pond... GO DAWGS!”


Jimmy and Kathy had some time recently to get out on Lake Lanier to see if the stripers were ready to play.  Not much action but they did find some gulls and loons going crazy at the mouth of a creek.  One cast into the melee and Kathy was hooked into a 13.5 lb freight train that simply refused to come on board for a photo.  Her persistence finally paid off and the fish was brought to the net.  Kathy's biggest striper to date.

UO friend Landon was stuck working but said his buddy, Brandon, found some Lanier fish coming up in the clouds as the sun fell.

UO guide Ben:  “Here's a 7lb largemouth bass that I caught on my off day. I caught him in deep water by flipping a jig in heavy cover on a public water North Georgia lake.”

More great intel from our state fish biologists here:



UO guide Caleb: “Louisiana treated us well on Monday despite getting rained out on Tuesday. We spent most of the day casting at crawling redfish. The fly didn’t seem to matter as long as the fish saw it!”

UO guide and LA native Como went home for the holiday and got on some bull reds with his old friends.  Fresh shrimp on a Carolina rig was their key to success in the delta.

There’s your post-holiday report.   Stop in either UO store to warm up, catch the freshest intel, and do a little holiday shopping. Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Tuckin’ for Trout

Here’s one more tool for your trouting toolbox. Take a look at these short videos and give the tuck cast a try. It basically kicks your flies back toward you a bit at the end of your cast. They shoot straight down toward the water at a faster speed and sink quicker.

Winter rains are starting and our streams should finally get larger, faster, and colder. Trout will hug the bottom and won’t move as far for a meal, so you have to deliver your bug right to their lips.  The tuck cast is your winter trout Uber and will get you more strikes.

First is our Orvis buddy, Pete, and his simple explanation and demo:


Next is Carl McNeil. His colored line really shows the tuck cast in action:


For anyone who wants to overdose on tuck cast details, dive in deep with Dominic on his Troutbitten essay here:


We hope the tuck cast brings you more luck during the challenging winter season. Get down to those fish, detect their subtle strikes, and enjoy some great afternoons astream. Stop in one of our UO shops or give us a call if we can help you further. Good luck tuckin’ it in for trout.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, November 25, 2022

Special Deal!

We are live! Our Black Friday/Cyber Monday special is now available online here:


Order your certificates online before 12:01 AM Tuesday and give your family and friends the lifelong memory of trophy trout fishing on our private reach of the Chattahoochee River in Helen. 

They’ll always remember this special gift!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -11/25/22

I was gonna wait until Friday for this report so I could see how the rains would affect weekend trout waters.  But the updated forecast suggests that we’ll only get about 1/4 inch by noon tomorrow and then it will clear out til late Saturday, when an inch or more of rain could blow out larger streams on Sunday. So you still have 1.5 days of decent opportunity ahead of you.  If the water is stained, throw some squirmies!

Given that weather window, here’s a UO holiday gift that might help you plan your post-turkey stream treks. If you think your plate was full today, just wait til you see the heaping helpings of reports from our staff and friends.

Your bottom lines are: 1) headwaters should fish okay, especially on your wet droppers. Warmer air temps have those wild fish slightly thawed out from last week’s freeze. Aim for the afternoon warmth.  2) DH streams will fish well. You have fresh, naive dumplings from last week and the experienced, first batch of fall stockers to choose from. Streamflows are still low, but water temps are pretty good. Stay deep, though.  3) lake spots and stripers are still a run-and-gun game, but hefty size is making up for numbers. A double-digit striper is worth the boat gas burned.

Good luck. Check out our full reports via the link on our home page and our weekend sales at both UO stores. Get outside and burn off some of today’s calories!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: comparadun BWO, Griffith gnat, parachute Adam’s, micro chubby for dry dropper.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, oops, Ruby midge, lightning bug, soft hackle partridge, split case BWO.

Streamers & warm water:

Simi seal leech, sparkle minnow, finesse changer, clouser minnow.


Thawing out from last week. Still skinny, so try dry/dropper rigs. Anything on dries will be a bonus; most fish should aim for your small, dark wets and nymphs. Use droppers with a tungsten bead or add a size 6 or 8 tin shot about 5 inches above your unleaded bug.

Smokies intel here:


Ricardo grabbed both his  boys and did a trout trek north from Columbus last week. They stopped by our Helen shop first for hot flies and timely intel. They were lucky enough to snag one open Smithgall spot, so older son Zach gave the trophy stream his first shot. And scored! He landed three bows to about 17 inches and lost an epic battle with a monster. His hot bugs were a pink squirmy with a tiny soft hackle midge dropped off the back.

Monday found the trio perched along Smith Creek DH.  As I watched, both boys were scoring and therefore earned some honorary Rabunite handles. They’ll now be known streamside as Zacuum and BigBrookie! Caution: don’t fish behind them because there won’t be many leftovers for you.

Delayed Harvest:

Here’s a reminder that GAWRD spiced up our streams for the holiday. Our SC friends did the same:



Roswell’s Hartley trio hit Dukes and Smith last Saturday and had a good day. They got a few nice bows in a frigid Smithgall AM session that froze fingers and inhibited their knot tying. They thawed out on Smith after lunch and steadily picked off fish on small egg and nymph patterns, often with a twitch.

Rookie flyfisher Gavin (age 13): “I just am starting out fly fishing and it is really fun and interesting.  I am so grateful for guys like Uncle Ken and others for reaching out and helping young kids like me get started and giving some pointers. I think that people should just try it. We had fun at Smith Creek on Monday and I caught two trout.”

UO buddy RonW:  “Kurt and I ventured up to the Toccoa DH last Saturday (19th) . We arrived at 8am to be the first ones there, not surprising as it was a toasty 26F outside.  Fishing was slow for me, with only a few fish to hand all day. I committed to the streamer again as I was wanting to try out some new patterns I tied up.

Kurt fished legs and eggs for most of the day and did much better than me, with over a dozen to hand. The highlight of the day was when a Northern Hogsucker smashed my Woolly Muddler.  A 1st for me and a new species on the fly.  It was another fantastic day on the water as always. Hydrotherapy needs were met and zen mode was reached. Now, bring on the turkey.”

New UO buddy Athens Matt: I fished the border river DH one day last week, starting around noon. Caught a bunch of rainbows and a couple brookies.  Most were around 12in and a couple were pushing 16in. I was euro nymphing with tungsten prince nymphs and hare’s ears.  Although flows were low, it was a nice afternoon on a beautiful piece of water.”

UO buddy RSquared: “Friday was a beautiful, clear, cold day. Steve W. & I drove north to fish my favorite Ga. DH stream. Steve waded while I floated the length of the DH section in my belly-boat. It quickly became evident the stocking truck had not been there since the initial release of trout. I had to fish hard by dredging nymphs to land a handful of brightly coloured rainbows. However, the stocking trucks were rolling this week and all of our DH stream's now have fresh fish in them!!! “

Rodney’s second story: “Monday the North Paulding High School Fly Fishing & Cold-Water Conservation Club formed a bucket brigade & helped Ga. DNR stock the Amicalola DH. When the work ended, volunteers from the Cohutta Chapter of Trout Unlimted helped the club members fish. Every student caught trout. For two student's, it was their first fish on a fly rod!”


UO friend Hillis: “Monday and Tuesday of this week a fishing buddy and I fished the DH sections of the Tuck (well, we tried to fish the Tuck), Nan, and Fires over a two-day period. My fishing buddy prior to our trip checked the release schedule for the Tuck.  I should have checked it also, but I didn't, and we should have checked it that morning, but we didn't. Apparently  the release schedule changed, as about an hour into our fishing the water started to rise. Fortunately we were close enough to shore to exit without any problem. I had one hook up while on the river, but did not land it. My fishing buddy caught a couple. 

It was early afternoon so we decided to drive to the Nan and fish it. It was cold and dreary, and water was low. Arriving around 2 we fished for 2-3 hours.  My buddy caught several, but I failed to catch any. We did not catch many fish the first day out, regardless it was a fun day. 

The next day we fished the DH section of Fires. As with the Nan, the water was very low, maybe the lowest we have seen it, but we had a decent day. I found fish podded up in a deep pool. Every time I thought about leaving the hole I would catch a fish and as a result I would decide to stay a bit longer, so ended up fishing the same hole for quite a while. Couldn't get any action on any of my techniques or flies until I started stripping and twitching (furious twitching) an olive woolly trailed by an olive beaded soft hackle caddis or a hot spot pheasant tail.  Fish hit both the woolly and the trailer.  The twitching drove the fish wild.  Most of the time they missed, but they hooked up enough to make it a lot of fun. Our duo had a great trip north.”

UO guide Palmer: “I fished the Tuck last weekend. Fish were taking streamers of various size and color as well as junk flies.”


UO buddy Splatek: “MiniMe’s mom took him to last week’s Whitewater Park bucket brigade on the Hooch with the GAWRD hatchery folks. He had a blast stocking trout and then catching four on pink leeches.”

Given the recent bucket brigade, the Whitewater Creek and Paces Mill accesses should fish well if the Tailwater doesn’t get blown out.

Stocker Streams:

Broken record:  slim pickings during the off-season as hatchery space is filled with subcatchables being grown for next spring.  Try Vogel Lake, the 2 tailwaters, and any public accesses below DH reaches, where you can pick up some wanderers. Both GA tailwaters  got a pre-holiday helping from GAWRD.  The border river’s bridge crossings are good spots, too.

Private Waters:

UO guide Israel: “The Soque has fished well. Given the low flows, the small stuff like a ruby midge, root beer midge, and partridge and orange soft hackle have been the best producers.”

The story has been the same at Nacoochee Bend: smaller eggs, nymphs, soft hackles, and midges have been most effective as flows receded.

Warmwater Rivers:

UO buddy Landon: I waded the Upper Oconee a couple days ago. The had a bit of stain, so I bumped low and slow with a black trickworm on a shaky head to land 3 spots up to 15 inches.”


HenryC: “Striper fishing on Lanier remains unpredictable. That being said,  there have been some great opportunities BUT anglers need to make every shot count. You might get 1 shot or a dozen on a trip. You have to fish within your emotions of seeing BIG fish busting the surface and maintaining your composure to make the quick cast, retrieve properly and keep your head in the game. It's not easy fishing for those having not seen this crazy commotion going on for 30 or 60 seconds before it happens again. However that being said, it's way too much fun to experience. Bass fishing is okay at best. This season feels like we are slightly behind our normal fishing calendar.”



UO staffer Joseph: “Here’s some redfish from the forgotten coast. Sight fishing conditions have been tough with high winds and cloudy days but I managed this guy on a small ep crab today.  Overall there’s a ton of fish shallow and shots at fish are not scarce. The hard part has been seeing them before they see you with those lower light conditions mentioned earlier. “

UO owner Jimmy just returned from four days of Bahamas bonefishing with his FL  buddy, Rusty. 


Jimmy said the fishing, food, and fellowship among their 6-member group were great. The first bone was a big one and burned him. After that, he shook off his saltwater “rust” and landed enough bones up to five pounds to be tired at the end of each day. They were hot fish and he had his doubts whether he could land anything bigger.   Poor boy; our hearts really bleed for him…

We hope you enjoy this second helping of holiday intel.   Stop in either UO store to warm up, snag some fresh intel, and knock out a holiday gift or two. Remember our Black Friday deals, too.  Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.