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, 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!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What a Day!

Blatantly stolen from our friend Alan Folger over at 52 Trout:

Chad with beautiful Noontootla Creek Rainbow

When I began sculpting trout a few years ago I was in dire need of reference material. At that time I hadn't collected a lot of photo references so I was taking advantage of every available opportunity. I was bumming old issues of Fly Fisherman and other journals from my buddies and I was watching the best of the fly fishing shows on TV. Any opportunity to get more familiar with my subject matter was taken. One Saturday morning I happened upon something called Fly Fishing Masters on cable. It was a national competition to select the finest fly fisherman in the land. The weekly episodes and the qualification trials were coming to an end and they were fishing that day at a place called Noontootla Creek in the mountains of north Georgia. Kevin Howell (who an hour later had won the competition)of Davidson River Outfitters was in the finals, so the program got my immediate attention.

Sure, the fishing was great...but the scenery, the creek...was just as inviting. I promised myself on that Saturday morning that I would someday fish Noontootla Creek.

Fast forward to 2 years ago. I was working my booth at the FFF Southeastern Conclave at Callaway Gardens and happened to meet Jimmy Harris, the proprietor of Unicoi Outfitters. From researching Noontootla Creek I was aware that Jimmy was one of the select few that had access to this prime water, so a plan began to take shape.

At about the same time I was getting started doing colored pencil commissions of catch and release trout and I thought that Jimmy, with his reputation and his access to such great private water, might be able to help me jump start the program. So I reviewed his website once again, picked out an image and got to work drawing. A week later I emailed the artwork to David Hulsey, who with his wife Becky, runs Jimmy's store in Blue Ridge, GA. The plan was to create an ad that included the artwork and the photo that it was based on, which would then be displayed in the store. Well David loved it...but. But he couldn't use it. Turns out the fisherman in the photo, unbeknownst to me, was one of their guides...and that particular guide had just been fired! Back to the drawing board.

This time I picked another photo. A photo of a guy that I didn't figure would be fired anytime soon. I picked a photo of Jimmy...and a beautiful rainbow trout that he had caught on Noontootla Creek. Well, Jimmy loved the final result and I offered him the original artwork...for a price...a day on Noontootla Creek. Jimmy agreed, but under one condition...that he wouldn't "guide." He wanted to fish, and who could blame him?

So this past Sunday, along with my son-in-law Chad, Jimmy and I headed out of Blue Ridge for the short drive to the creek. It was everything I remembered from that Saturday morning TV show. The water was in perfect condition and with the fall foliage at it's peak, we had the place entirely to ourselves. I, as usual, headed downstream while Jimmy and Chad headed up.

Olive Wooly Buggars, along with a couple of split shot(apparantly these big native rainbows don't care for coneheads), were supposed to be the thing, so that's what we started with. I spent the next two hours drifting them down deep through the runs with no luck at all. I varied the number of shot...tried droppers of all sorts...fished them upstream and down...even put on a strike indicator...all to no avail. Major frustration. Here I was on one of the premier trout streams in the southeast, and I hadn't had a bite! I even (horrors!)tried the old San Juan Worm. A little later, in desperation, as I was about to tie on an egg pattern that a guide on Big Cedar had forced upon me, I came to my senses. "STOP Alan! You don't have to do this! Dance with the one who brung you!"

Yep, I tied on a black and yellow marabou...with not one bit of weight. I was either going to fish the way I wanted to and hopefully land a fish or two...or I was going home skunked again. It didn't take long. Within just a few casts I had caught one of the beautiful, but small, par marked rainbows that grew up there. And not long after that, when fishing a very narrow and fast run I hooked into a lunker.

When we were gearing up back at the truck, Jimmy had made the comment that my old 1950's vintage Medalist made some sweet music when a fish took off. Well, had he been there at the time of this rainbows first, second and third runs...he would have heard a symphony. Jimmy had warned me about the strength of these fish, and it was no exaggeration. My old Fenwick had never had such a workout. Two times, as I stumbled my way downstream, I was able to get the fish out of the faster current and near to shore, and two times she caught her breath and took off again. Finally, after what must have been fifteen minutes, I got her about half way into the net and to the shore. I was praising the Lord...and shaking like a leaf. That fish, without a doubt, was the finest rainbow I have ever caught. I managed to get the hook out and get her fully revived, but I just didn't have the heart to keep her longer while I would have fumbled to get out my camera and record the moment. I layed my rod alongside for an estimation of her length (24 inches) and eased her back into the current.

Meanwhile, Chad and Jimmy were having some fun of their own. Chad couldn't get Jimmy to fish though. That man is such a teacher...such a guide...that even though he was carrying a rod, he rarely used it. Rather, he was teaching the finer points of nymphing to Chad (a situation that I'm not at all pleased about, as Chad will now be out fishing me with even greater regularity!) and netting his fish, including the fine rainbow that I've pictured above. From what I heard, Chad's battle was just as epic as mine.

What a day it was!
Thank you Jimmy!