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.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Georgia Trout Fishing Now!

There isn't a trout angler in Georgia who isn't at least a little frustrated over the high water conditions found on most of our year round streams this past fall and even now as we approach 2010. Since we made a covenant pact to never complain about the rain ever again after the past several years of drought, we'll just tell you where the best fishing still can be found and, looking at the weather forecast, may remain so for the next week or so.

First, we want to unabashedly tell you that our private waters at Nacoochee Bend and Mountaintown Creek are as hot as a firecracker at the moment. We're not only catching fish, we're catching some big fish at these venues. Now, don't ask us how they survived the past two summers, but Nacoochee Bend has given up some huge rainbows in the 2 foot range recently. Another interesting twist at Nacoochee Bend can be found in the mill pond just upstream of the Nora Mill dam. In this slack water, which is too deep to wade, there are some big, dumb fish. It's perfect for pulling big streamers through but only if you can make long roll casts from the bank with big flies. The reward is big fish. If you're comfortable with this kind of fishing, you should give it a try. And, since we've had such positive repsonse to our $90.00 half day, $140.00 full day Nacoochee Bend offerings, we've decided to continue it for a little longer. Remember, you don't have to purchase a trip and take it right away. If you purchase one of these gift certificates, you may make the trip any time you like.

Now, on to the public waters which are fishing well. Let's see, the Chattooga is too high, the Toccoa DH is too high, the Toccoa tailwater is pumping like crazy and the Chattahoochee below Buford Dam is unfishable most of the time lately. So where are the best streams? Smith Creek DH and Dukes Creek at Smithgall Woods. For Smith Creek, yes, it's been getting a good bit of pressure over the holidays but no one is complaining about the quality of the fishing and the size of the fish. Smith Creek is more fun to fish right now than it has been since it was first designated a Delayed Harvest stream. There are plenty of fish, both rainbows and browns, in the 12" to 16" range. Put plenty of split shot on and dredge the pools and runs for a day of fun. Don't forget to check with us to see which flies are working up there. This past weekend it was flame red San Juan worms, Rainbow Prince, Purple Streak Flies and orange soft hackles.

Dukes Creek has also been fishing well this past week. The favorite rigs have been something big like a #8 Whitlock's Helgrammite with a soft hackle or a black Zebra Midge dropper. Remember, the water may be up on Dukes but it's also very clear so you'll have to be looking for fish as you approach the pools. Again, as at Smith and Nacoochee Bend, get your fly down in front of the fish. In this cold weather, the trout won't be likely to move very far to look at your fly. Hit them on the nose for the best shot at success.

A couple of other suggestions for a half or full day of fishing. The public section of the Soque River. This time of year, you won't find many bait fishermen there but you will find some real hogs in there. Some of our guides have recently landed browns in the 20" plus range up there. Easy access, no check-in, big fish. And finally we want to recommend the upper Tallulah River near Tate City. There are miles of water here and not many anglers this time of year. Some of the most fun winter fishing we've had has been on this small river in the winter. We're not sure if it's the fishing or just the environment that attracts us to the Tallulah. This isn't the same stream that is wall to wall campers and worm fishermen during the summer. It's plunge pool after plunge pool of crystal clear water where you can spot a nine inch trout finning at the bottom of a twelve foot deep hole. Bring your long leaders, your split shot and your polarized glasses and give it a try.

"Back the Brookie" Recognized in Trout Magazine

Georgia’s Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture (EBTJV)/GA TU Back-the-Brookie was recognized in Trout Unlimited's Winter 2010 TROUT Magazine Actionline!

More Money,
More Restoration
G e o r g i a
For brook trout in Georgia waters, more habitat improvements are on the way, thanks to $25,000 in recent funding through the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture. Georgia TU, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service are planning restoration work on 10 stream miles, including stretches on Big Net Creek, Upper Chattahoochee River, North and South Fork Moccasin Creek, Flat Branch, Tate Branch and Walnut Fork Creek. In past work, volunteers and partners conducted genetic sampling, removed non-native trout, tested water quality, mapped, “drought-proofed” streams by creating deeper pools, and constructed barriers to keep native brook trout populations sequestered from invasive fish. The new efforts will expand on previous work—which has been funded by Embrace-A-Stream and Georgia Power Foundation grants—to restore brook trout populations in the southernmost part of their native range.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hartwell Stripes Dec 27.2009

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Today I went out with Rex Gudgel. We stayed out all day fighting the very windy conditions, determined to find hungry fish. Needless to say, it was tough: high winds, bluebird skies - standard post-front conditions. The water temp has dropped to 50 and the fish have gone north, most of which had lock-jaw today. We did make 4 fish eat: boated 2, broke one off and missed one. If you are looking for a great way to end the year, this would be a good choice. Most fish we are catching run from 9-15 lbs. Intermediate and sinking lines are the choice right now. As you can see in the pics it was freezing, my face looks like I went snow skiing for a week from wind burn.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Time's A-Coming!

Bill Monroe said it best!

Don't forget that Unicoi Outfitters sells gift certificates online for that last-minute stocking stuffer!  We offer certificates for guided fishing and merchandise.  Just go to our website and click on the Gift Certificates page.  We normally send these out via the US Postal Service, so allow for a couple days travel time in the mail.  If you're up against a time crunch (say, after the 21st, when you order, send us an email at flyfish@unicoioutfitters.com and we'll email you a certificate you can print out...but don't wait too late - we've got to do some Christmas shopping too!  ;-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hartwell Stripers - December 12

Today we faught the cold temps and ventured out in seek of stripes on the coldest day of the year. Gary Sundin was on board this morning as we went out bundled up with all the clothes we could wear. Fishing on top was slow due to the drastic change in weather over the last 24 hrs. We were able to catch a few fish on top before we went to the sinking lines to probe the cold abyss. It took a while to find fish we could reach, but when we did boy were they hot. Hooked up right off the bat. We set our drift and on every pass we would get one one. Kudos to Gary with the big fish of the day- a 12lb striper. The largest hybrid of the day went close to 8lbs. It was a great morning, and really enjoyed the company, but man am glad to be sitting in front of the fire thawing out.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Amicalola and Smith Creeks Delayed Harvest Reports and Tips

We just received a fishing report from Dredger's recent trip to Smith Creek that resulted in a "good handful" of both browns and rainbows. The recent rains and subsequent flows mean plenty of habitat and underexploited fish in riffles and runs.

Got Pheasant Tails? The November stockers are getting smarter and are moving less as the water temp drops. The December stockers (Amicalola last week and Smith this week) are naive and will eat Y2K bugs. In the spring, pull out your Adams and caddis dries, on the hook bend tie a four foot dropper down to a #6 shot and a Prince nymph, and fish those same spots for more active fish who will "look up" too, in warmer water when bugs hatch.

Tip: At the Amicalola DH at Highway 53, fish it like it's five Smith Creeks running parallel. Fish each one and then move across the ledge until you're in the adjacent Smith Creek. By fishing across the Ami before fishing upstream, you might catch a few more with your short-line techniques in each current seam and pocket of slow water among all the fast chutes.

And on those big pools and deep runs above you at the fishing piers, be ready for 10-15 feet of leader and lots more weight if you're serious about digging fish outta those holes.... Tough casting and tough fishing, but good catching.

Always remember to change your weight and depth of indicator as needed with each new pool, run, or riffle. I change those before I change flies. That's why I use removable shot and easy-sliding indicators.

There is no one "right way" of fishing, but this has worked for me and I hope it helps ya'll.

Biologist Nick went to the Amicalola DH at Highway 53 and fished the ledges for a few hours Saturday. He said he watched four other anglers "fish over" the fish and then leave. But, after an adjustment, he had a good day.

He started with some split shot in front of a leech with an egg dropper and had no luck. Seems that the egg was too far away from weight and was floating too high in the water column. As soon as he put a small shot between the flies, too, he started catching rainbows. The theme is that the cold water now has fish hunkered right down on the bottom. Anglers have to get down to them and also have to detect more subtle strikes. Hopefully Nick's tips will help a few more anglers to enjoy some winter trouting success.

Both Amicalola and Smith Creek DH's offer some good opportunities to metro anglers willing to drive a bit farther north than their normal Hooch tailwater destinations.

Economic Impact of Recreational Fish Production

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has produced a special issue of "Eddies" - a magazine that seeks to inform its readers of the work – past, present, and future – of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Conservation.

Of note in the Special Issue 2009 is a mention of the economic impact of recreational fish production, particularly in the southeast US:

"Recreational fish production fuels a powerful economic engine.
Recreational use of hatchery-stocked fish generates significant
economic effects. Federal hatcheries in Arkansas, Florida,
Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee, and Louisiana annually stock a total 22.3 million fish
of 15 game species in 12 states. In 2005, this generated over 3.2
million angler-days of fishing, $239 million in total economic output,
and 3,100 jobs with incomes totaling $63 million, and $14.0 million
in state and federal taxes. This economic fuel was generated by
spending less than $5 million in budget allocations to produce and
stock these fish. This translates to an economic benefit of $48
for every $1 of taxpayer money spent on National Fish Hatchery
recreational fish production in the Southeast Region."

You may read this, and other issues of "Eddies" on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife website.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Giving Thanks

Good food, spending time with family and friends, and fantastic fishing - what a great Thanksgiving week.

I really enjoy fishing with kids, and I had several opportunities to do that during Thanksgiving. Jay Corte from Alabama had fished with me back in the summer on the Toccoa tailwaters and caught several fish. He wanted to fish NCF for larger fish and you can see from the pictures above, he caught those too. His Dad was along to take pictures and he did a lot of that because Jay caught a lot of nice fish.

The pictures above left are Rick McKibben and his sons, Jay and Ross. Neither of the boys had ever been fly fishing for trout. They caught on fast and were hooking and landing big rainbows in a short time at Frog Hollow. Sorry Dad, but I believe the boys caught the biggest fish. What a great family to spend time with on the river .

The picture to the right is Robert Schultz on his first fly fishing trip - pretty good for a beginner, huh? We fished at NCF and I think he landed 5 nice fish before he lost one. Well, he said his nickname was "lucky" - in fishing, that counts a lot. Robert really got into the fishing and I believe he enjoyed it almost as much as I did. I think he may be "hooked" for life.

And these last 2 fish were hooked on Thomas and Thomas rods. No, not the brand name, but on rods belonging to Thomas (me) and Thomas (my son Kevin). This is the other "kid" I enjoy taking fishing - we've been doing it for a long time. Spending an afternoon together fishing River North was really something

Thanks to Jay Corte and his Dad for fishing with me again, to Rick and his sons Jay and Ross,for sharing this special family time with me, to Robert for his enthusiasm, and to my son Kevin for spending time fishing with his "old man". And thanks to the folks at Unicoi and to Eddie for allowing memories like this to happen.



Friday, December 4, 2009

Flyfish Argentina with Unicoi Outfitters and Andes Drifters

For the first time we are offering to our customers an opportunity to experience the awesome trout fishing of Argentina through our association with Andes Drifters. The unusual thing about these trips is your ability to tailor the trip to your own desires and the options you have for yourself as well as a non-fishing traveling companion.

Andes Drifters specializes in providing over 100 alternative activities in addition to world class trout fishing. From eco-adventures to cultural events to art and culinary classes, there is something here for every traveler. And the cost for the trips are up to 25% less than comparable offerings from other fly fishing destinations in Argentina. Gourmet meals prepared by your own private chef simply top off this great excursion.

As we write this, Unicoi Outfitters has been given the opportunity to book the best session of their season, January 23rd - 30th. Cost of the trip is $3,250 not including air fare and gratuity. Everything else, food and beverages (alcohol and non-alcohol), flies and guide fees are covered. For the non-angler who may want to travel with you, the cost is only $2,600 plus air fare.  We are also able to book other weeks as well.  For more information, please drop us a line at flyfish@unicoioutfitters.com.

Ross Reels on Discovery Science Channel's "How It's Made"

Hey, we just found out that our friends at Ross Reels will be on an episode of "How It's Made" on the Discovery Science Channel tonight at 9pm.  This show is frequently re-run on the Science Channel and the Discovery Channel, so if you can't watch tonight, be on the lookout!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Next Generation

In a world filled with computers, video games and tv sometimes its hard to drag kids outside and get them interested in fishing or anything else for that matter. Here is an exception for you. Riley is 11 years old, and obsessed with fishing. I could tell months ago when he first came into the shop, he would quietly walk back and forth looking at everything, you could see the gears spinning. He absorbs everything and has picked up fly fishing as fast as anyone that I have ever seen, and I mean anyone. After a couple of trips on the Toccoa his last visit he was well on his way to figuring this mess out. He and his family were up from Florida for Thanksgiving, and was antsy to fish but could not because of the generation on the Toccoa. That led us to one thing, THE FARM. Anyone that has fished the Farm knows that sometimes those fish will send even the most experienced anglers to the house with a "One that got away story". I told you that this kid could fish, so I will just let the pictures prove it. Don't mistake, he made the casts, he set the hook, he played the fish and got them to the net.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


What a great time of the year in north Georgia. We can enjoy this wonderful holiday season in such a beautiful setting and fish too. God has blessed me in so many ways that I could never return thanks enough. I guided a trip at NCF yesterday and the scenery and weather just amazed me as it does each time I'm on the water. Yea, and it wasn't too bad either when we landed some of those beautiful NCF bows (on dries). It was a great day.

Well, since all that will be left of the turkey are the feathers - let's use some of those this Tuesday, Dec. 1, when we attempt to tie a "20iincher" stonefly. We'll also tie an X-Caddis as our dry fly and any other fly you request as long as we have the right supplies. The tying session will be at 6:30 PM at the Unicoi shop in Helen. Everyone is welcome and invited, even if you've never tied before. Bring a vise and tools if you have them, but if you don't we'll supply them for you.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Team Unicoi Wins 1st Annual Gold Rush Cup

Well, while the jury may still be out on the acceptance of competition in fly fishing, I must say that the folks at Gold Rush TU put on a great event Saturday to help raise funds for their cold water conservation projects. The 1st Annual Gold Rush Cup went off as smooth as silk with great weather, great food and great friendly competitors. And they couldn't have picked a more perfect host venue, Frog Hollow on the Chestatee River. Over 100 people attended the event and anxiously paced the river banks trying to keep up with who was catching what. The two-angler teams had an hour to fish each of 5 beats on the river and could record two fish for each member during that time. From observation, the pressure of competition appeared to result in trying to force some fish into the net as quickly as possible and, for those of you who have fished at Frog Hollow can attest, you don't force those fish anywhere. Even Team Unicoi, Hamp Cross and Chuck Head, were observed long distance releasing a few fish. All in all, it was a fun way to raise money for Trout Unlimited and Chuck and Hamp walked away with a nice cash prize and two custom-built fly rods donated by Garland Stewart. We're very proud of Hamp and Chuck. As always, their professionalism and angling skills were obvious.

We also appreciate these other four teams:

Team Frog Frog Hollow: Jackie Gooch & James Peterson

Team Cannon Falls Lodge: Corey Roberts & Andrew Koester

Team Alpharetta Outfitters: Brian & Randy Schiltz

Team Etowah Anglers: Ben Gann & Steven Hartman

Thanks to Kenny Simmons for the photos.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fishing With Elk

You may think this photo is from a trip to Yellowstone National Park but you would be seriously wrong. Just this week, Rocket Roy Lowe, Robert Sullivan and Joel Hope, all Foothills TU members, got together for a trout fishing outing in the Smokies. Now we all know Fall fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is awesome for more reasons than just the fish. The weather and the scenery are superb and the chance to spot an elk would just be icing on the cake. As you can see, this trio did much more than see some elk; they became part of the herd! With so many of our larger streams running too high to safely fish, the Smokies offer a fabulous alternative within easy driving distance. Oh, and by the way, they had great success fishing with the moderately high water level.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Had a trip this am on the lake and boy, was the fishing great due to pre-front conditions. Water temp was 63 and wind was calm. Could not find fish where I have had them the last week, so I headed north to some other creeks. On the second stop we found lots of them. Ended up with 12 hybrids: largest 6 lbs; 6 stripers: largest 5 lbs; and one small spot. Today they would not take micro-baits, Clousers 2" to 2-1/2" were the ticket. But I could not resist putting the wiggle minnow on, and they ate it up. There is nothing better that a good top water bite. We caught all our fish in 1-1/2 hrs, when the sun came out it shut off like a light switch. Not much bird activity, look for schools of fish and bait on the graph and then hang out. If they don't come up within 10 minutes go somewhere else. While waiting, throw a sinking line down to them to pass the time, you can pick up a couple this way generally. Location is everything, look in the backs of creeks and go north.

Buck Ernst

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pickwick Smallmouth

If your passion is chasing trophy smallmouth bass, the number one place in the southeast has to be Alabama's Pickwick Lake near Florence, AL. And the number one guide for those big fish in Pickwick is Steve Hacker. My friend Jim Bruce has been fishing with Steve for almost 20 years and has trips booked years in advance. When Jim asked me to tag along with him for a quick run over to fish on Tuesday of this week, I couldn't turn it down. I've been there before and it is definitely worth the trip. No fly fishing this time as I'm still trying to learn the nuances of how you catch these guys. When in Rome, you know. Pickwick Lake is essentially a controlled river in that there is almost always a current running between Wilson Dam and Pickwick Dam. And that current determines when and how you fish. Last week there was an FLW bass tournament on the lake and, while he's not much on bragging, Steve's clients who were out with him at the same time as the tournament were outfishing the pros by a substantial margin. Here is Steve's description of the day:

"386 anglers blasted off at 6:30 this morning in the FLW Stren Series Championship. Hank Chitwood, from near Calhoun, GA, had the "misfortune" of having a trip scheduled with his son, Caleb, while all of this madness is going on.

"Pulled up on the first spot this morning, and Hank hooked a giant within 3 seconds. Unfortunately, it broke his line. Not to worry, though, as by 7:30 they had a livewell full of smallmouths, with the five best at over 25#. They caught about 30 smallmouths for the day, and lost 4 giants (2 breakoffs and 2 jump offs). Could have probably had a five best of 27 pounds or so, as the second big fish Hank lost right at the boat was a giant. Something interesting: for the first time that I can ever remember, nothing but smallmouth were boated for the day. No drum, spots, or anything other than those beautiful brown bass."

Jim and I didn't have the day the Chitwoods had but it was plenty fun. At our first stop, we fished for about an hour and had only four casts between us during that time that didn't result in a strike or a hookup. It was wild! Steve is strictly catch and release and he does on occasion guide fly anglers. It sprinkled rain on us all morning (thankfully the heavy downpours were just east of us all day) but the fishing was so good we didn't mind at all. The sun broke out after lunch and the weather was absolutely beautiful. A great day on the water!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Toccoa Tailwater meeting Saturday November 14th

An Important Message From Our Friend Ralph Artigliere, Blue Ridge Mtn TU:

The future of our Toccoa Tailwater has been a hot topic among Georgia trout fishermen recently. Blue Ridge Mtn TU is dedicating its meeting on Saturday to information on the present and future of the Tailwater. GA DNR Biologist have been earnestly studying the Toccoa tailwater for two years, headed by Biologist John Damer. John is an expert in tailwater fisheries and hired and assigned this project in light of his background. He is also a good guy and excellent trout fisherman. Last fall John spoke on his interim assessment of his Toccoa River study to our Blue Ridge Mtn TU chapter, and that presentation was one of the most informative and popular programs we had last year. Last year we heard some history of the river, saw lots of neat fish pictures, and learned a ton about the fishery. John is coming back to speak to us on Saturday, November 14th, 9am at the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center off Hwy 515 across from Ingles (above CVS). Guest are welcome. You do not want to miss this, as John has another full year of study under his belt. Other than "where did you shock up that ten pound brown?" John is generous about answering questions. John presentation and Q and A will be followed by an open forum on where we go from here in protecting the river moderated by BRMTU President Mike Holloway. If you care about the future of the Toccoa be there Saturday, November 14th.

Ralph Artigliere

We look forward to seeing ya'll there.
Tight Lines,

David and Becky Hulsey

Monday, November 9, 2009

THE River

I was able to spend a couple of days on THE River - last Monday with the one-two punch of Julian Byrd and Duane Stalnaker (Did anyone else know that Duane was/is a rock star?? By the way, he's also from some strange part of Virginia I've never heard of... somewhere in the western part of the state, I believe??) and this past Sunday with Jeff Durniak - and it was great. Was the fishing lights-out? Not exactly. Was it still awesome to be out there? Absolutely. Here are some shots from the two trips:

Fly Fishing in Georgia - Book Signing with David Cannon

Y'all remember the other day we posted about David Cannon's new book on Fly Fishing Georgia?  Well, we're really happy that Dave will be in our Helen shop this Saturday, November 14th from 10 to 4 autographing books.  Y'all come on out and get your book signed - we'll have plenty on hand if you haven't purchased yours yet...and don't forget, they make great Christmas presents!  (I can't believe I said that before Thanksgiving!)