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.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


I'm looking forward to our fly tying session this Tue, June 1 at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen.

J. R., Sid, and Robert can't wait to show us how to tie their favorite fly.

Everyone is welcome, from 1st timers to old pros. Bring vises if you have them--if not, we will supply them. Let's meet at 6:00 PM instead of 6:30, so we can tie outside and see what we're doing.

We always have fun, so come to the session if you are interested in tying your own flies.

Thanks and hope to see you there,


Buggin' Bream

Now is the time to beat it to your favorite farm pond or lake for some blazing hot panfish action. Early morning and late evenings are prime time for outstanding top water action, while midday is the time to go deep and pry those big bull bream from their hiding places. Your standard trout flyrod is perfectly adequate for almost any situation you might encounter out on the lake. Flies used for trout such as a Turks Tarantula, Foam Hopper, or Wooly Buggers will take big Bluegill and their cousins as well as the standard chartreuse popper and sometimes even better. Any wiggly fly that comes to life with a twitch or strip of the fly line will work. A regular weight forward line with a 9'4x leader should suffice. Areas such as the backs of coves with some type of cover such as logs, stumps or grass will hold fish daily through the summer. When the sun gets high resist the temptation to head for the AC . Tie on a wooly bugger and probe the creek channels in the coves. Some of the largest panfish I've ever caught came from 10 feet of water. Although not as glamourous as watching a monster gill suck in a top water bug, slowly stripping a streamer and feeling the sudden thud of a heavy fish is exciting in itself. You never know what just ate your fly a five pound largemouth or a 1 pound bluegill. So, grab your trout stuff and go bream fishing I bet you've already got a place in mind.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Nuts & Bolts at Nacoochee Bend Airs This Weekend!

If you'll remember a few weeks back, we made a couple posts here at the Liars Club about Cefus McRae and crew filming an episode of Nuts & Bolts of Fishing & Boating at Nacoochee Bend.  Well, it's airing beginning this weekend.  Watch for it Sunday morning at 7:30 on FOX Sports Network - South, and again next Thursday at noon.  Just click on the photo to see a preview Cefus has posted on his Facebook page.

As Cefus says in his newsletter:

"Spring is in full swing and the big trout are feeding on both nymphs and dry flies.  In this case, you'll see 7 to 8 pound trout taking flies as small as #18's.  The underwater footage really gives anglers a lot of insight on where trout live and how they feed.   Rex offers tips for novice fly anglers on the equipment needed to get started fly fishing, and Jimmy shares his thoughts on the amazing trout fishery in north Georgia."

"And remember, if you're already on the water when the show is airing, just set your DVR's to record them.  There's lot of great information in each episode to help you become a better angler! "

That's one of the great things about Nuts & Bolts of Fishing & Boating - they're not just about showing a bunch of trophy fights - they actually help educate the angling and boating public....check it out if you can!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quality Fishing on the Toccoa Tailwater

I just got off the phone with John Browning, one of our guides here at Unicoi Outfitters. John had two clients float the tailwater with him this past Saturday, and to put it in JB's words, it was "the best trip I've ever had on the Toccoa". That's saying a lot, because John has had some pretty good trips!

First Cast!
Things got off to a great start when JB's client John (a little confusing, no?) got a nice 16" rainbow on the very first cast of the day. And then it just kept getting better. They lost count of the number of fish landed (always the sign of a good trip, IMO), but more than the Standard Nine Inch Trout, they caught a lot of nice fish.  Good numbers of 14-16" fish.  An 18" hook-jawed male brown.  Two rainbows over 20".  And hooked but not landed was a fish JB said was honestly in the 25" class - they had the fish on for a long fight when it finally got off - JB was relieved that the fly was still attached and his knot had held - the strong fish simply wore a hole large enough to allow the hook to pull free.

In addition to the size, JB was most impressed with how aggressive the fish were.  One 20" 'bow moved 5 or 6 feet to take a Wooly Bugger - they thought the fish had spooked, but were shocked when it took the fly.  And, they were into fish all day - the only time things slowed down was when they were in a driving rain (they endured three strong thunderstorms on Saturday).

They did use Buggers some, but the best success of the day came on Sulfur emergers.  In fact, in the middle of the day just before the first storm, there was a hatch of Sulfurs.  Oddly enough though, at that time, the fish weren't taking Sulfurs as you might expect, but were killing the Caddis.  That's why you want an experienced guide - they know how and when to change it up, even when you think the correct fly should be obvious.

JB took the one photo above with his cell phone, but is looking for some more photos from Kevin, his other client...we'll pass one or two along when we get them.

Friday, May 14, 2010


John and Lee McGarity joined me for a day of fly fishing on Noontootla Creek Farms today. As we made our way into the first pool of the day, John spotted a fish rising. We watched closely to try to see what she might be eating and the only bugs we saw were little yellow sallies. John pulled out a stimulator and made his way below the fish and a few drifts later the trout rose crunched the fly and after a brief tussle spit the fly and was gone. Lee was tossing a nymph rig to start with and got a couple of strikes but no hook-ups. Then a few minutes later someone flipped the switch and they caught fish or hooked up in pretty much each piece of holding water for the rest of the morning. Lee scored big time with a 23inch pig that took us downstream on a scalding run that would have gotten Norman McClean's attention. A big olive bugger was on the breakfast menu and the fish loved it. After lunch with the increasing temperature and the number of hoppers bouncing around in the grass, we shed the waders and strapped on a couple of terrestrials with a nymph dropper. We were not dissapointed. Lee and John were right at home tossing big dries and made some incredible casts resulting in some beautiful bows' coming to net including this 22 incher which was the last cast of the day. It's Hopper Time on the farm! Come and get em'!

Cool Solution to Clean Up Oil Disaster

Who Needs Wyoming?

One of our guides, Rex Gudgel, is an FFF Certified Master Casting Instructor - in addition to "regular" guided trips, he likes to help new folks get started on the right foot - here's a report he sent in last night about just such a trip:
Sam Benfiel fished with me today...he is leaving tomorrow to go fish in Wyoming for a week...Sam has never fly fished before...OK lets go to work!! We did an instructional half day at Nacoochee Bend. Wow, not much time to get somebody prepared for a big trip to the west! The amount of information that it takes to convey all the terms and all the process can be overwhelming for anybody, much less a true beginner! We kept it simple and worked on the basics over and over...casting , mending, hook sets,and yes fighting fish!!!
(He hooked several of our fat "Bend" fish). Sam took it all in, smiled, laughed, shook his head in surprise at the size and strength of our trout! He looked at me after fighting a 22 to 23 inch rainbow and said "who needs Wyoming!" We had a great morning of fishing and hopefully he'll remember some of what was learned today when he gets out on the waters of Wyoming. Good Luck Sam!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sporting Clays Fund Raiser at NCF

to benefit Shriner's Hospitals for Children 
Sporting Clay Tournament
 Alkuwa Shrine Unit, Yaarab Shrine Temple
June 19, 2010 - Registration 9 AM  Shotgun Start 10 AM
Noontootla Creek Farms 3668 Newport Rd Blue Ridge, GA
Lewis Class Scoring A & B Classes
$55.00 Per shooter - LUNCH INCLUDED
Make Checks payable to Alkuwa Shrine Unit
For more info: 706-633-9017 

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Smokies in May

I'm a small stream addict. There is nothing I love more than working the pockets, riffles and deep runs of a mountain stream, particularly for wild trout. When the mountain laurel are blooming and bugs are hatching, there is nothing more enjoyable than a day on the crystal clear waters of the southern Appalachians. Sunday was one of those magical days. As I drove north to meet my friend Alan Folger at River's Edge Outfitters in Cherokee, NC, I watched the thermometer on my car slowly drop from around 50 to the low 40's. Sure glad I dressed appropriately and even threw in a fleece vest at the last minute. Joe and the guys at River's Edge said it had been down in the high 30's overnight. No rush to get to the river, let things warm up a little.

These days it seems everyone is rushing to Cherokee to fish for the huge trout in the new trophy section on the Raven's Fork but, while battling a big fish on a flyrod is fun, there are times when it's good to just get back to the basics; fooling wild fish and matching the hatch. It's also nice to know that for miles and miles on these streams, you seldom see other anglers. Likewise, you seldom see plastic worm buckets and aluminum cans streamside. In short, it's the experience most of us got into flyfishing for.
The cool weather this day put a damper on the bugs flying out of the water. But that didn't stop me from trying dry flies for most of the day. And the catching, while not exactly hot and heavy, was steady. Most however came on my dropper pheasant tail and not the dry. By mid afternoon I had just completed working my way up through a long stretch with moderate success; still hoping that as the day warmed the bug activity would pick up. But it didn't. Only a few Sulphurs, March Browns and even less sporadic Blue Winged Olives, and no fish rising at all. Recalling from life experiences that stubbornness has its place but probably not on a trout stream, I gave in and tied on two nymphs; a #10 Rubber-legged Stonefly Nymph and the trusty Beadhead Pheasant Tail. First cast into the shallow riffle got a small brown, my first of the day. A few more casts and a rainbow. From that point on, I was constantly into fish. Most of them were rainbows with the largest being a beautiful 12" jumper but a few more were browns. The largest brown of the day was probably 13" but when you're fishing for wild fish in the south, that's a "nice un".
It was a great day to be on the water. The Smokies aren't that far from most of north Georgia and the number of streams you have to choose from is more than I care to count. Stop in to see the folks at River's Edge Outfitters when you're in the Cherokee area. They'll be more than happy to help you with fly selection and fishing reports. Their new shop is located right on US 441 North in a beautiful red-roofed log cabin.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fly Fishing for River Stripers with Buck Ernst

I thought I'd share a little multimedia presentation (HD video and still photos) with y'all from a recent trip with our buddy Buck Ernst. We were searching for river stripers in late April and we managed several along with some white bass and largemouth... all on the fly. What river were you fishing? you ask? Well, I don't believe I said. I hope you enjoy the video!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Super Orvis Deal!

What better way to get ready for summer fishing than buying a new Helios or Hydros rod and getting one of our best-selling reels free.  Buy any Helios, Hydros, or TLS and get a FREE Battenkill Large Arbor, Mid Arbor or Bar Stock Reel - any model, any size.

Limited time only - offer ends May 31, 2010.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

So, This Made Us Chuckle...

Tundra Comics has pretty neat strips, including this one:

Check 'em out!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Back To The Basics at Nacoochee Bend - Saturday, May 1st

A May Day report from Mark Whitney:

As I sit here writing this fishing report, there's a slight ache in my right arm and shoulder that I wouldn't trade for a thing in the world. It's a reminder of a great day of fishing with a couple good friends that included some of the best fish I may ever take out of a north Georgia river. The key to success on this overcast, cool day that included just a few showers was sticking to the basics: lead is my friend, drag free drift and local knowledge is priceless.

I ran into Rex Gudgel in the parking lot and badgered him about teaching me to use the rod my wife bought me as a Christmas present. The rod has more inherent ability than I do and is the reason I was going to get to spend a half day fishing "the Bend". As I followed Rex into the fly shop, I asked him if he was fishing the river today what flies he would not go to the river without. When he pointed out a soft hackle pheasant tail (PT) and grizzled brown rubberlegs I bought them immediately.

At the first stop, I was fishing a deep run to the head of a pool and my fishing buddy Ken was fishing from the head of the pool down. I started out with the soft hackle pheasant tail (#14), about twelve feet of leader and 3 #1 Dinsmores. Shortly, I put on a fourth weight but after hanging up a little too often, I went back to 3 and kept plowing furrows in the run.

It wasn't long before I hooked up with my first fish of the day.  He laid claim to that pheasant tail and was determined not to return it to its rightful owner.  Now, I fish Dukes Creek pretty often and I have hooked into a few good fish……but HOLY MOLY!!!  That fish took me downstream and gave me an education that made me ashamed I had actually paid for one at UGA.  It's the first time I've been taken to my backing and I gotta tell you, I'm hooked.  Needless to say, that fish knew a whole lot more than I did about the river and he ran right past Ken, across the river and swam around a submerged rock until he broke me off.  Fish 1 – Mark 0!

As we worked our way upstream, Jimmy came down to see how we were doing and stayed for a while to visit as I fished.  Being the natural instructor that he is, and wanting everyone to enjoy flyfishing as much as he does, couldn't resist giving me some help.  Of course, I took all the help I could get.  I've only been at this flyfishing thing for 3 years and when you have an opportunity to tap into some local knowledge, you jump at the chance!

My new guide and I headed back downstream to try dredging some already covered territory.  He asked what I had in my box and when I opened it, he immediately picked out the rubberlegs Rex had suggested earlier in the morning and told me to tie it on.  I got some welcomed advice on what seams to fish, when to mend my line and before I knew it, I had caught several more fish out of the hole I had fished just 30 minutes before and taken only 2 fish from.  So, now I'm really getting an education and loving every minute of it!

For thrills at the end of our trip, we head up to the big pool below the dam to see how we would fare against those giants.  I had many classic battles with some good fish testing the flexibility of my Winston rod: some I won, others I lost.  Jimmy said one that I battled for a while before he broke me off was about a 10 lb. fish.  I wouldn't argue, I saw him and he was a hog!  I fought so many fish I could no longer hold my rod with one hand and began giving my right arm some relief by two-handing for a while.

Honestly, I lost count of how many fish I caught and I can't give you a good estimate on how big the biggest fish I caught actually was.  I have photos.  I have witnesses, at least to most of the fish I caught.  One of my fish was an 8 inch wild rainbow so there's some reproduction going on and, with limited access to that stretch of river, maybe sustainable trophy fishing for a while.  Most of the fish we caught would make any north Georgia angler's day if he caught only one.  We had a day to remember for a lifetime as we loaded up on big fish most of the morning.  And the lessons learned?  Lead is my friend, drag free drift and the importance of local knowledge.  Hope to see you on the water some time.