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, August 16, 2022

Smokies Parking Fees

Heads up!  Smokies parking fees are coming next March. Story here:


More details can be found at the park’s website:


Keep this in mind during your 2023 trip planning. We hope this information is helpful.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, August 11, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/11/22

How about a “breath of fresh air?” The summer fishing remains about the same, but we have a cold front coming that will bring much lower humidity and a slight drop in air temps. This forecast should improve the catching a bit, but will really improve our fishing conditions. Enjoy the coming comfort!

Your summer targets remain the same.  Wild trout are out - except for high, north-slope streams and icy tailwaters. Stockers will be good in the mornings on any cold waters that GAWRD redoses this week. River and pond bass and bream remain a best bet, especially in the shade and clear water.  River stripers turn off in low, clear flows but turn on in cooler, muddy storm surges.

Check out more angler intel and Wes’ hot fly list in our full report. It’s featured on our home and Facebook pages. Enjoy the brief hint of fall that we might catch this weekend.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Parachute ant or black beetle, para-Adams, 409 yeager yellow, yellow elk hair caddis, Micro chubby.

Nymphs & Wets:

Green weenie, drowned ant, squirmy worm, small frenchie.

Streamers & warm water:

Feather changer, double barrel bass bug, bank robber sculpin. Swinging D, Kent’s stealth bomber, Boogle Bug poppers.


UO guide Caleb:  “Wild trout in the high headwaters have been slow except for very early in the morning.  Green weenies and ants were good patterns in the pools, while rubber-legged stimmies brought in a couple elsewhere.”

Smokies intel:

The national park should fish well with this forthcoming slug of cooler air. Check out the forecasted morning lows in Cherokee and the daily fishing reports by our friends in Townsend. 


Stocker Streams:

Stockers will still be a good bet for Georgia early risers. The summer sun will heat up a lot of those waters and turn off the afternoon bite, so hit them in the cool shade of early mornings. (For example, Spoilcane ran 69F at noon today.) Tune in to GAWRD for those Friday stocking updates, and use light line, small baits, and stealth in these skinny waters.



Recent reports suggest that the Hooch trout bite is picking up. Lanier should be strongly stratified this month, and Buford Dam discharges will be discolored and real low in oxygen.  GAWRD  describes Turnover 101 here:


Dissolved oxygen recovers downstream by Highway 20 due to river turbulence, while the color hangs around longer (farther). That color hides you and your line from wild brown scrutiny. The result: advantage to anglers!  Watch Devin’s weekly Orvis-Atlanta reports on their social media pages for more specifics.


UO friend Landon:

“The Hooch Tailwater was good to us this week. We were hardware fishing and didn’t catch a ton of fish, but they were good quality. Most were chunky 10-12 inch browns.  I found one good one laying under a log. I caught all my fish today on a pins minnow that I found in the grass in parking lot!   Fall river discoloration looks like it is just starting, as there was a green tint to the water.”

Warmwater Streams:

River bass fishing continues to rate fair-to-good. Topwater bugs work in the early morning shadows, while dredged flies and hardware are better bets in the sunshine. I saw about three feet of Hooch visibility today at the Highway 115 bridge. 

If this evening’s storms miss the watershed, the river should remain clear enough for some decent weekend  bass action.


UO staffer Grant: “River Striper fishing has been slower the past couple weeks due to the low, clear water that we get this time of year. However, the afternoon showers bring high stained water,  which makes for great striper fishing. Dawn and dusk are typically the best times to target these powerful fish in the slug of muddy water, when they can still be fooled on flies.”

UO staffer Joseph : “Here’s a pic of a gar Grant caught while wade fishing on the Hooch the other day. The fish jumped like crazy and gave us a good show. Gar weren’t the target species but we weren’t going to turn down a opportunity to sight-fish one of those Dino’s! 

Fly selection isn’t important for these gar, as simple baitfish patterns seem to work the best . The fish aren’t super picky. The most important thing is making a good presentation to the fish and making sure they can see the fly.”

Flat Water:

Athens Michael says evening kayaking on public lakes can be great for panfish when you don’t have storms. A black rubber-legged dragon under a chubby Chernobyl did the trick on his shellcrackers. 

UO manager Jake said local pond bass fishing has been good for smaller fish up shallow. He’s been tossing buzzbaits early, especially on cloudy days, and then working a small plastic worm along bottom structure once the sun rises above the treeline.


Athens Jay:  “Ansley Whitley is a UGA Warnell student and 5 Rivers Club member. She just caught her first flounder on a fly and is very excited. She considered the injury sustained during the process, when she fell on an oyster bed, a small price to pay. Ansley is a passionate fly angler.”

UO friend Sautee’s latest CO report:   “I moved a little higher in my local river drainage yesterday and the species composition changed from browns, brooks and rainbows to browns, brooks and cutthroat. Good to see that the population of fish is still holding fairly high, even though the most recent wildfire burned up all the shade-producing vegetation.”

UO friend Darren: “ I did a week of fishing in San Pedro Belize. The bonefish in the pic was tailing in about a foot of water and I caught it while wading the flat barefoot. It was pretty cool. I had several shots at permit but the conditions were never totally right. Also, permit are often impossible.  Everything can perfect and they still won’t eat. I was hoping the migratory tarpon game would be on, but they apparently didn’t come in the way they usually do.  I stayed local and focused on bones and permit.  And caught a lot of bones!!!  It was much less crowded in late July than when I went last May.  The turquoise water and crystal clear flats are some of the most beautiful on the planet. I had a great trip, despite those darn permit!”

That’s your early August summary from our neck of the woods. Take advantage of the break in hot, humid weather and wet a line this weekend. Call or come by if we can help you out.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, August 5, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/5/22

Welcome back to “summer reruns.”  If you’ve followed the past few weeks’ worth of our reports, then you’ll know what to expect for the days ahead. We’re big subscribers to the series, “Weather to Water to Fish to Fishing.”  With another steamy summer week staring at us, the angling prospects will mirror our experiences during the last half of July. But with one possible, positive exception!

Our rain chances have decreased. Many watersheds in northeast Georgia have been missed by afternoon thundershowers. The result: the main rivers are low and much clearer, and the bassing has improved. It’s just the luck of the draw on these pop-up storms.  If they hit upstream and send down a chocolate slug, we’re outa luck. But if they miss, that water clarity and skinnier depth has enhanced our recent success for river spots, shoalies and bream.


Conversely, chocolate milk has ruled the day for our striped summer vacationers.  Fisherfolk lucky enough to hit a slug of stained water can fool some river stripers on flies, while anglers casting in clear water have struck out.

Pond bass and bream have still been good.  Headwater trout are okay, but limited to the highest elevations and north slopes.  Tailwater trout are good if storms haven’t muddied the tribs, which then turn the tailwaters brown. Rockies trout are still rockin’ along for anyone soon flying afar.

There’s still some fun local action out there for folks who aim true. Read our last few weekly reports, go early, and aim for clear water bass, dirty water stripers, and mountaintop specks and bows. More intel and Wes’ hot fly list are in our full report on our home and Facebook pages. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Parachute ant, 409 yeager yellow, elk hair caddis. Micro chubby.

Nymphs & Wets:

Green weenie, prince nymph, drowned ant, squirmy worm. 

Streamers & warm water:

Feather changer, double barrel bass bug, bank robber sculpin. Swinging D.


Most remain low, clear, and too warm to fish. Head real high, toward north slopes, or to the Smokies for cold water and eager residents looking for terrestrials. Here are two great sources of Smokies intel:



UO guide Israel: “Wild troutin’ has been rating “okay” during my recent trips.  Resident rainbows have shown a real affinity for a Green Weenie.”

Stocker Streams:

It appears that WRD may be on its post-July 4th biweekly schedule. If so, then this is an off week, so aim for the colder creeks on last Friday’s stocking report. Remember our prior tips: light line, small hooks and baits, and morning trips.


We are a bit distant from the Hooch and Toccoa and haven’t heard much. They should still be fishing well when not blown out by thunderstorms. Watch Devin’s weekly Hooch video reports (@orvisatlanta) and stop in at Cohutta Fishing Co in Blue Ridge for the latest Toccoa intel. 

Warmwater Streams:

UO manager Jake said the topwater bass bite improved last week with dropping and clearing river flows. It’s still been the same pattern: topwater in the early morning shade, and then deeper bugs when the sun is up.

(See top pic)

UO buddy Landon: “Fished a Chestatee stretch last week. The bite was slow but consistent most of the day. I only had  18-24 inches of visibility due to rain the prior night. The river cleared a little bit throughout day. There was no consistent pattern. I fished  a white jerk bait for half the fish (and biggest) and some soft plastics in shallower pockets for the other half.”

Athens Jay returned to action after picking up his big TU prize in Maine: 

“Piedmont rivers are fishing well for bass when you can find clean water. No need for sinking line this week, as fish were willing to come up and eat. Really big articulated streamers in lighter colors worked best. Take it slow - strip, suspend, repeat. “

Longtime UO friend HenryC hit the Hooch right last weekend. He tossed a big, black streamer into the stained water at dawn and won his tug-of-war with a 15-pound striper. Hopefully you all saw the video of his epic battle on our FB page or @henrycowen on IG.  

One day later, a Hooch guest tossed a variety of streamers into clear water at that same spot and didn’t even have a look. The stain is the name of the game for these keen-eyed trophies.



Here’s a long distance post from Athens Jamie, currently in Virginia. Who knows the name of the largest native minnow in the eastern US? 

Here’s UO buddy Sautee’s latest CO report, as he rubs salt into our southern wounds: “I’m setting wild trout records out here with mayfly dries.  Rainbows, browns and brooks are all looking up. Yesterday evening I brought a fish to hand every 4.5 minutes. These small stream fish run just 6 to 13 inches, but are a ton of fun on my three-weight rod. This area has been a blast.”


That’s the latest confirmation of reruns in our weather, water, and fish.  At least we don’t have to worry about cold fingers and toes! Stop in or give us a call if we can help you dial in some summer “streaming” entertainment.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, August 4, 2022

Touchdown for the Home Team

UO sure is proud of our young angler-conservationists at UGA. We think a bit of their good karma may have rubbed off on the football team, too.

From TU-National:

“For the first time in Trout Unlimited's 60+ year history, the Silver Trout award goes to a TU college club. Read on and you'll see why they are so deserving of this prestigious award.

The 5 Rivers club at UGA has been a staple in the TU college community for several years. This club represents the key values of the 5 Rivers program: education, conservation, community, engagement, and leadership.

Throughout the 2021-22 school year, the UGA club created several opportunities for UGA’s student body to learn about fly fishing, conservation, and Georgia’s natural resources. By inviting unique guest speakers, working with community partners, and hosting events in an around the Athens campus community, the UGA 5 Rivers club has built a welcoming community for UGA students seeking to give back to Georgia’s natural resources and build meaningful connections with other anglers.


Perhaps the most notable testament to the innovation, teamwork, and synergy of the UGA 5 Rivers club is its contribution to the 2021 Clean My Water Sweepstakes held during TU’s inaugural “Trout Week.” With the help of faculty advisor Dr. Jay Shelton, UGA 5 Rivers alum Guy Eroh, and Upper Chattahoochee TU Chapter leaders, students successfully developed and launched a national clean-up initiative, inspiring people across the country to take care of their local waterways and “pick the dang stuff up.” This sweepstakes provided an accessible opportunity for anyone to participate in the Trout Week festivities from their own backyard.


Another admirable and nationally recognized accomplishment of the UGA 5 Rivers club is the Crayfish Creek restoration project. This project was developed and designed by UGA students and faculty and made possible by an Embrace A Stream grant, as well as support from numerous other partners. This project would not be possible without the talents of several students, including Emily Rogers, landscape architecture student and 5 Rivers club officer. Through her work on the Crayfish Creek project, Emily has left her mark on the UGA community.

This club is an inspiring example of what students can accomplish when they combine passion with action.”

Monday, August 1, 2022

Summer Vacationers

Given Hank’s (@HenryCowen) success yesterday, some of you might be interested in our new column in The Angler Magazine. Check out “Summer Vacationers” on page Atlanta - 4 in the August issue:


Maybe you’ll find a summer vacationer, too, and enjoy that train ride down a river near you. Got a stout 8-weight rod for those locomotives- summer stripers? Call our shop if you’d like to book a shot at them in Helen.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.



Friday, July 29, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 7/29/22

It’s been hot and dry for the past week, but the forecast for the week ahead shows a higher chance of showers. In fact, it just started raining here as I’m writing this at noon on Friday.  So….

This week’s theme is “flip a coin.” 

The coin flip is whether a shower hits or misses your target watershed.

“Heads” equals no rain and low, clear, and warm water in most cases. Best bets when the coin comes up “heads” continue to be river bass and bream, those same pond critters, tailwater trout, and morning, mountaintop wild and stocked trout where the water is below 66F.  

“Tails” equals a pop-up storm and a surge of muddy water. Best bets during the storm surges are headwater trout - if the surge is cooler, river stripers, and pond and reservoir bass and bream. Small ponds and public lakes are a very good bet all summer long and usually don’t muddy-up as badly as rivers. A little stain in the lake is a good thing as it disguises your bugs and line.  In contrast, river bass need several feet of visibility to see your bugs well, so pay attention to river gauges and avoid those reaches with spiking flows and muddy surges.

We have Wes’ hot fly list, some local intel, and a couple of great western reports to entertain you this week, so check out our full report on our home and Facebook pages.

(Link in bio)

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Parachute ant, chubby Chernobyl, fathead beetle, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

Green weenie, squirmy worm, fire egg, hares ear.

Streamers & warm water:

Sparkle minnow, polar changer, bank robber sculpin, soft chew. Bluegill spider.


They remain low, clear, and warm. Take water temps and try early mornings when the water is under 66F, north slope streams, and higher elevations in NC and TN. Black and yellow are good colors during terrestrial season, and the Smokies headwaters still fish well for bushwackers.


New UO guide Caleb checked in:

“I had a lot of luck this week on blueline residents with a small caddis on top, size 16-18. I also had some takes in deeper pools on a “stubby chubby” size 12 stonefly with a rainbow warrior as a dropper to slow the drift down.”

Stocker Streams:

Watch today’s GAWRD stocking list for best bets.  If you saw yesterday’s posted video, we found evidence for recent stockings in cooler streams. They’re still heating up after lunch, though, so hit them in the mornings for your best luck. The low water will have them podded up, so cover some ground until you find a honey hole.

Here’s one more tip for skittish stockers in low, clear water. Sneak in way above them, cast quartering downstream, and swing a small soft hackle wet  on thin tippet (6X) in front of their noses.  If you don’t cast over their heads with big, meaty flies or bait, you won’t spook them. Just have that small snack drift by and then twitch in the current. It’s also an easy way to swing your bug under the rhododendron branches or beneath a submerged log.



We saw a video report from Andy at Cohutta Outfitters that said the lower Toccoa was warming up. Hit the upper 2/3 of the tailwater to catch Blue Ridge Dam’s cold discharge before the sun and air heat it up.

Warmwater Streams:

UO manager Jake said the river bass bite improved last week. The best pattern was tossing topwater bugs in the early morning shade, and then dredging deep offerings after the sun hit the water.

UO staffer Joseph: “I caught this  guy after a good afternoon shower. The high,  off-color water made for perfect conditions for river stripers.”

UO buddy Landon: “We had a really good float that included topwater action, a personal best shoal bass for one of our group, and even an 8 lb striper on a jerk bait. 

We all had a different pattern working for us. Buddy fished a small size pointer jerkbait and did pretty good in slower, deeper sections. Buddy 2, Pat caught his biggest shoal bass on a crawdad under a log with current. He had some luck hopping it off the bottom. I fished topwater all night and caught the most amongst us with the Berkley Choppo. Big thing I found with it for success was long casts to avoid spooking them in low water. Very few fish ate it when it hit water and starting swimming Most of time I’d cast upstream of a structure/ pocket,  let it drift down into it, and then start the retrieve.”

Flat Water:

My young neighbor, Kyle, shared a pic of his new personal best largemouth. The six-pounder inhaled a white Zara spook in a local, private pond. Congrats Kyle!

GAWRD intel:

The agency’s weekly blog is full of current intel, from lakes to river to trout streams. Sign up to receive your own copy via text or email.



UO buddy Sautee’s latest CO report: “Good evening of browns fishing in the Big Thompson River within RMNP. A few brook trout scattered among a couple dozen browns from 6-13". Water temp at 60 and, again, lots of bugs coming off. Anything yellow or brown in a mayfly or caddis pattern worked. 

Last week I picked a fight with this brown and lost.  However, I did get his address and made a mental note to pay him a visit again.  That visit was tonight and he lost this round.  I’ll give him a couple of weeks and issue a challenge to a rubber match.  He is a worthy adversary fishing dries with my 3 wt.”

UO owner Jimmy:  “Our visit to the Yellowstone area was different this year as you may imagine.  First, we couldn't visit the northeast area at all due to flood damage.  This meant no favorite lodge and no fishing the Lamar, Soda Butte, or Slough Creek; some of our favorite places.  However, we did have fun fishing some smaller streams both in and out of the Park as well as the Madison and the Gibbon.  Like most trips, there was a day or two where things were slow but, overall, this was one of the best trips I've had there in quite some time.  We hit the salmon fly hatch but those patterns were not always the ticket.  We probably caught more on Stimulators and Parachute Adams than most any other flies.  I have to admit, I did pretty well on a soft hackle Pheasant Tail dropper when the fish got picky.  The highlights of the trip were Grayling (both in and outside the Park) and perhaps my largest North American wild trout ever; a huge Cutthroat from a small stream outside the Park.  I didn't get a good photo but it was probably in the 24"-25" range and weighed close to 5 lbs (see Pic 1, above).  All in all, there were a lot fewer people in the Park and fewer anglers on the streams we chose to fish.  I love that place!

One other note.  If you're headed to Yellowstone to fish, I advise getting your license before you go.  You can no longer buy a license in a fly shop; you must purchase them online and it's not user-friendly.  Go to www.recreation.gov to navigate the process.”

UO guide Palmer:

“We returned recently from our annual pilgrimage to the great waters of WY, ID, and MT.  Our best bugs were Chubbies of various colors. We caught a huge salmonfly hatch in the park and also some major hatches of caddis, gray drakes, and PMDs. We caught browns, bows, Yellowstone cutts, and Colorado River cutts.   I miss the West already.”

UO buddy Ski, up in MI:

“Work has kept me busy all year, but I was able to escape for an hour this week and knock the dust off my rod. I packed some gear for our trip north to my son’s hockey camp.  While he skated, I went on a recon of the Boardman River.  Hoppers were in the streamside grass, so I knotted on an imitation and started tossing.  I’m claiming a moral victory for my first trip there and just an hour in the water.   I was 0 for 2, due to rusty hooksets, and had several others come up to take a look. At least I could find where the fish were.   I will return.”

UO trout wrangler Jessica checked in after a family vacation; “Hubby and I caught some tuna and mahi offshore at Bahia Mar in Fort Lauderdale. We had a fun trip.”

That’s the latest intel from our UO gang. Be ready with two attack plans, one for clear water and one for muddy water, and you’ll still score some summertime success. Watch the river gauges and then call us or stop by the shop so we can point you in the right direction. Good luck with your coin toss.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.