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 15, 2015

Merry Christmas from Unicoi Outfitters

Click on the image below to go to our Holiday newsletter - full of great gift ideas for fly fishermen!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

You don't want to miss this!

Click for a larger version!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Best Fly Fishing Deal Around

Join Unicoi Outfitters for our FREE Orvis Fly Fishing 101 class and received a free one year membership to Trout Unlimited.  Every Saturday throughout May and June we offer this introductory 2-hour seminar from 10 AM until 12 noon at our shop.   to reserve a spot in the class.  This is the perfect way to find out if fly fishing is the sport for you or someone you know.  

We also offer the advanced Fly Fishing 201 class on Sunday mornings, 9 AM until 12 noon, through the end of June.  Anyone who has participated in the Fly Fishing 101 class is eligible for the 201 class.  Our Fly Fishing 201 classes are two full hours on the fabled waters of Nacoochee Bend learning the specifics of fishing with a fly rod.  Cost for the 201 class is only $50.  Once again, participants must register ahead of time.

This is a tremendous value.  If you take both classes, consider what you'll be receiving:
  • 2 hours of instruction from one of our guides (a $50 value)
  • An Orvis 101 cap (a $16 value)
  • 1 year membership in Trout Unlimited (a $35 value)
  • 2 hours of guide instruction (FF 201) on our private trophy trout stream (a $115 value)
We're located at 7280 S. Main St. in Helen, GA.  Participants need to call ahead and register.  (706-878-3083)

The Dry Fly Switch is ON!!!

Received this report from Dredger last night.  If you can get away for an evening of fishing, now is the time to do it!

RE:  Nantahala DH

Two sizes of cahills and three favors of stonefly (lemon, lime, and some large grapefruits) filled the Andrews skies last night.  Sporadic large helicopters (aka Green Drakes) launched during daylight hours.  Whitewashed versions of the copters hovered over the riffles at dark30 (see Coffin Fly pic).

Switch was on from when I got there til 8:55pm.  Dries were best in last hour. Sure beat Monday's dark30 trip to Chattooga DH, which ran 69 degrees due to recent hot spell. Chattooga had fished great over the weekend (maxed at 65f).

My Go-to rig on the Nantahala was 14 Cahill on 5x with a 16 soft hackle hares ear three feet off the back, on 6x.  Add one size 6 dinsmore shot about 8 inches above the wet, and high stick that rig thru riffles and boulder fields.  Stay out of deep pools if you're into numbers.

All three stocked species and a bunch of wild rainbows were brought to hand.  Think I caught some small wild browns, too. Got tired of catching them, so I cut off the wet and stayed on top to gimme a break.

Almost had lifetime supply of bucktails, too. Unfortunately, they were all attached to bucks' butts.  Thank God for near misses on Wayah Road's trip home.

Go get em, folks. And watch around the curves on your drives home!

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Last Opening Day of Trout Season in Georgia

You know, I have been in favor of year round trout streams in Georgia for as long as I can remember but I'll have to admit that when this past Saturday rolled around I did have an unusual feeling that something historic had just happened.  It wasn't that I was having "buyers remorse" for advocating the end of traditional opening day.  It was more of a time of reflection on opening days past.  Admittedly, in the last couple of decades, opening day hasn't meant much to me because I fish year round streams both here in Georgia as well as North Carolina and Tennessee.  No, it reached much farther back into the recesses of my mind to that very first opening day 45 years ago.  My college roommates and I spent spring break camping across the top of the state looking for trout.  It turned out to be a life changing experience, one that I'm still enjoying all these years later.

We were all spin fishermen, rigged with #8 Eagle Claw hooks and red wigglers.  Blue jeans and old tennis shoes and a pocket knife sharp enough to clean our catch rounded out our equipment.  No breathable waders, felt soled boots, polarized sunglasses, 5X tippet, hemostats or even nippers.  And it was COLD that opening day!  No one in my crowd, to my knowledge, had ever heard of climate change.  All but one of us grew up at or below the Fall Line and all we knew was that in April you no longer had to be concerned with cold weather.  So we dressed accordingly.

Edwin, my roommate from Cordele, did own a fly rod and was determined to trout fish with it.  I knew nothing about fly rods but it was most likely an old Berkley or Shakespeare fiberglass 7 wt. with a level line and probably five or six feet of 8 or 10 lb. monofilament as a leader.  If he even had a fly selection, I would be surprised.  Most likely he had some cheap imitations of old timey wet flies
he purchased on a piece of cardboard at his local hardware store.  If he caught any fish, I don't recall but the impression it made on me as I simply watched him fishing was obviously profound.

Just like that bygone opening day, this last
opening day was clear and cold.  Steam rose from the creek as the sun peaked over the ridge much as it had as Edwin stepped into the water that April day, 1970.  Only this time the fly rod was in my hands.  In honor of days past, I had decided this day I would be fishing a fiberglass rod.  My little Orvis Superfine Glass rod was made for this experience.  So comfortable in the hand that it becomes an extension of your body as you cast to and, hopefully, contend with a fish.

We had hoped for some dry fly action and Bryan did tie on a Stimulator with a Pheasant Tail dropper but we both knew the odds were stacked against us.  It was 30˚!  Ice was forming in the rod guides.  Not long into the morning I changed my nymph to a heavier woolly bugger, set the strike indicator at full depth and cast into the same pool I had been working for 10 minutes.  First cast I had a strike but missed it.  On the second cast, I was ready for the brilliantly colored 10" rainbow.  Naive fish may be a small casualty of the new year round trout season but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

A few casts later I set the hook on something more significant.  My glass rod bent like a wet noodle as the butter-colored brown tried to get back to
the safety of the bottom but that springy resistance helped quickly bring her to hand. Bryan yelled above the roar of the creek to ask what fly I was using.

After some quick photos, I gave him my rod and encouraged him to fish his water again, this time getting deeper with the larger fly.  No more than a half dozen casts and the Superfine is into a major bend.  A big grin is showing through Bryan's beard.  We both know this is a special fish for this small stream.  Everyone gets the idea that you don't break out the camera for a fish like this until you hold it in the palm of your hand.  It's just bad luck, plain and simple.  I couldn't resist and started snapping shots of the struggle.  It was too good to pass up.  As he slid the fish across his hand, my only thoughts were of how glad I was the fish chose Bryan and not me.  He's moving across the country and won't get this opportunity again for a while.

The fish was magnificent; not just for this small stream but for any stream.  Fourteen or fifteen inches, very few but beautifully colored spots and huge buttery fins.  I told her this encounter should make her more wary when the next anglers came through.  Their intentions may not be as gentle as ours.

So, on this last opening day of trout season in Georgia, I made more memories.  This time, like the first, with one of my best friends.  I don't know where Edwin is these days but I think he would be proud that he had such a great influence on my life.  I hope you enjoy these pictures from our morning.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Unicoi Outfitters Recognized as Gold Level Business Member

We know, we know.  This IS The Liars Club.  But this is real and it's a very big deal for us.  It just goes to show that any and all of us can make a difference if it's important enough.  Thank you to Trout Unlimited and to all our customers who have made our support of cold water conservation a possibility.

By Walt Gasson
One of the great things about conservation is that while on the surface it’s about fish and fish habitat, at a deeper level it’s about people. It’s about people who care. And in conservation, as in life, you soon learn that there are people who will never let you down. These are the reliable supporters, the people that always have your back financially and politically. They come from all over the country and from all walks of life. These “go to” guys and gals – the “A Team” - will be there to support the work that Trout Unlimited does year in and year out. So it is with Jimmy Harris and David Dockery and their staff at Unicoi Outfitters in Helen, GA - our newest TU Gold Level Business member.
Consider these words from Alan Folger, TU Veterans Services Partnership Director: “Few individuals have done more to provide healing and rehabilitation to our nation’s veterans.  Whether through their personal and business generosity - or their very important fundraising efforts, Jimmy  and David have always been there for TU and our veterans. Or this testimonial...click here to read the entire article.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Break Out Time!

by Landon Williams

If you have been like me the past few weeks, then you’ve been stuck in a rut. The cold has been getting us down.  Whether it was the ice storm that knocked out power across North Georgia or the five inches or snow, it was just not very much fun to be outside, let alone fish.  Not to mention the fishing was following a rut as well. There were certainly fish to be caught but it mostly was the same general pattern involving deep nymphing with protein in the form of a stonefly or leech while trailing a small nymph or midge behind it in the hopes of bouncing it into the baseball sized feeding window of a sluggish trout hugging the bottom. It certainly can be effective and fun but it can also quickly become boring and repetitive.

Fortunately, this weekend marked a stark change in the weather pattern. We had beautiful blue skies and the first series of days with temperatures hitting the upper 50’s and 60’s in quite some time. And the fish responded nicely.  We hit the Nantahala DH on Saturday and things were looking optimistic from the moment we got on the river.  The water was a little high from the rain a couple days earlier but it was warm in the sun and I seriously questioned my choice of jacket over my waders. The fishing was nothing short of phenomenal throughout the course of the day and my buddy and I easily stuck over 100 fish in the net between the two of us.
We nymph fished exclusively using a Czech setup and caught fish on a variety of flies, although a team of #14 and #16 hares ears caught the majority of my fish. The fish were sitting in the boulder fields the Nantahala is famous for and we often caught several fish out of the same pocket. We even saw a glimpse of what was to come in the next couple of weeks.  Bugs!  We saw a handful of Quill Gordons, grey caddis and what was either a small black stonefly or a black caddis. Unfortunately, I only saw two fish rise all day.  I was completely satisfied with the catching, but still not fully satiated for what I was hoping for, the first dry fly fish of the year.

Well, that changed Sunday afternoon.  I did a walkabout after church at Smith Creek then ended the day with the last hour on the river in Helen. When I got out of the car, I saw a few grey caddis fluttering around close to the water. That’s when I saw it over against the far bank, the all too familiar splash of a caddis-chasing trout!  My #14 grey caddis soon flew towards the seam where the fish was holding and was quickly engulfed.  She wasn’t a big brown but she was wild and absolutely beautiful!  I thanked her and sent her back into the hole to keep doing what she does best. Afterwards, I called it a day, fully satisfied!

The moral of the story of this weekend is to start thinking positive as Spring is finally upon us. The wet weather this week may set it back a bit but it is only a matter of time. Click here for what is to come.  Got Caddis and a big parachute Adams?!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Flyfishing For Aliens

What would possess an aging fly fishing dude to pull an equally aging old drift boat over 4 hours through the mountains in the dark in the middle of the winter, grab a Slim Jim, Diet Coke and Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie for dinner because all the restaurants near his destination are closed when he rolls into town, then lie awake for most of the night anticipating his 4:30 AM alarm so he wouldn't miss this bucket list fishing trip?

Aliens!  That's it.  Aliens.  Something other-worldly.  Something resembling an illicit co-mingling of an alligator and a python with a bifurcated tail.  A quarry potentially three-quarters the size of myself, full of bad attitude and a reputation of trying to bite you even as you attempt a release.  We're not talking biting gums with a few rough spots to hold their prey.  We're talking some serious dental work that can cut you deep, wide and frequent.  This is the apex predator in these parts.  Nothing, absolutely nothing scares these critters, not even when they're hooked on the end of your line, thrashing in your net.  That's not fear motivating them, it's downright meanness and they are mightily offended that you had the audacity to interrupt their plans for that day.  We are talking, ladies and gentlemen, about the fish of 10,000 casts.  Esox masquinongy.  Muskellunge, more commonly referred to simply as musky.

The genesis of this escapade was some young friends whom I sort of mentored along their fly fishing way in life a few years back.  How they came to be obsessed with stalking only those finned creatures of legendary disappointment I do not know.  The fact is, these days they're chasing either steelhead or musky.  Ordinary trout, bass or bluegill have long since been cast aside for the unquenchable desire to fish only for those species no one catches on a regular basis.  As young as these guys still are, they've each got, on average, over 15 years of fly fishing experience but it's almost as if they skipped some of the stages we mere mortal anglers go through.  You remember, you want to catch a fish, then you want to catch a lot of fish.  Soon you want to catch a big fish which progresses into a desire to catch a specific big fish that requires a higher level of skill and then, finally, you want to catch the fish that no one else can catch.  I don't recall these guys going through some of these interim stages.  You should only desire those final two stages after a long life of fishing.

Yet, here we were.  Me right in there with them, wolfing down a gas station pork chop biscuit in the dark and cold while launching our boats.  Anticipation was high, but it always is with folks of this persuasion.  If you don't think every cast to these prehistoric monsters could be THE cast of the trip, then you don't belong here.  Perpetual optimism is mandatory.  You don't count catches in this game.  You count follows and hook ups.  Hoping the end of the day has you with at least one in one of the categories.  Seriously, it's like sighting an Ivory Billed Woodpecker!

The sun did come up that day, highlighting everything in a bright halo but failing to generate much heat.  It wasn't unbearable but I did leave all my clothes on all day and my fingers never worked to their full capacity.  It was actually during a brief moment in time while I was attempting to pull my fleece gloves on that I had my first and, so far, only encounter with old Esox.  With the boat anchored just upstream of a short set of rapids, I cast my fly down and across into a small back eddy and let it swing into the rapids as I tucked the rod under my armpit and adjusted my gloves.  Unexpectedly, less than 15 feet from my position in the front of the boat, the rapids exploded as a huge musky attacked my 12" long fly as it swam back and forth in the current.  Instinctively, I reacted by twisting my entire upper torso in an effort to set the hook while holding on to the Winston 10 wt. with a three-point anchoring position; underarm, right hand somewhere around the hook keeper, but certainly not on the grip, left hand just forward of the stripping guide.  I tell you it was poetry in motion as all my fellow anglers suddenly erupted into a cacophony of undecipherable screams and yells.

I leaned into that Winston rod like a roping horse into a calf and nothing was happening.  I couldn't budge the big fish so I leaned hard to my right trying to move it sideways rather than upstream.  The fish didn't like that at all and began taking line from a seriously cranked down Abel Super 9.  As it swam toward a log jam, I leaned harder but noticed the line as it curved around a mid-stream boulder.  "This ain't gonna be good." flashed through my mind.  Seconds later the line went slack.  My heart rate still pumping steadily at around 175, 180.  And all is quiet.  I can hear the swoosh of blood in my ears.  My fingers are no longer cold.  I have no desires right now other than just one more chance to do it right.

The consensus of the once screaming groupies was 35 to 40 inches at least.  I'm good with that.  It was over in the blink of an eye but, strangely, it's still with me.  I can still feel that unbelievably heavy pull.  Unlike anything I've tussled with since those 20 pound sea run brown trout at the end of the world in Tierra del Fuego.  It was that kind of essence with which I was briefly connected.  It was as if my first contact suddenly became an unforgettable part of my being.  Like my fishing life changed abruptly right then in less than a couple of minutes.  Like, like I've got to do this again some time soon.  Have my new young mentors warped my life the way I once warped theirs?  They do crazy things to have a shot at connecting with these fish.  Is this what I have to look forward to?