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, November 26, 2019

Dukes Creek Testimonial

This is the kind of fishing report we love to receive:

Hey guys, I dropped by the shop last Saturday morning before my friend and I went to Smith creek. We were headed to Duke's the next day and got advice from several of you in the shop. I wanted to let y'all know I really appreciate the time you took to help me out as a new angler. It makes it so much easier to learn when people like y'all are willing to help new guys like me. I promised I would send an update on how Duke's went so I wanted to follow up. We fished most of the morning in section 1. The water was clear which allowed me to see several giants spook when I went to unwrap my flies from the trees they were sitting under. After falling in the river above my head and getting completely soaked, we decided to head back to the truck for a change of clothes. We made our way down to section 4 on the bus and started making our way upstream. We each caught a few finger length bows and browns as we made our way up. At around 12:30, I drifted my squirmy worm by a fallen log just as I had done a couple hundred times earlier that day. My Thingamabobber hesitated, I set the hook, and an absolute monster was on the line. I was able to net him, and it was by far the biggest bow I have ever caught. My best guess was about 19". A few hours later I landed another about the same size, and my buddy hooked into another one like it. Even before we caught the fish this had been one of my favorite days of fishing. The river is beautiful, the water is clear, the woods are beautiful, and there are some BIG fish! Thank you so much for the guidance, and for taking some time to share your wisdom with us. It sure does make it a lot more enjoyable when we get a couple years of experience via some advice from a master. See you guys next time!

Friday, November 22, 2019

UO Fishing Report - 11/22/19

This week's theme is "workin' around the rain." Today (22nd) will be a great day for anyone lucky enough to play hooky, as the sun is shining and streams are low and clear. I know a certain fly shop owner who departed this morning for Unnamed Eastern Border River - while we are stuck here at work. Life isn't fair... But I digress.

Starting tomorrow, however, north Georgia fisherfolks will have to adapt to changing weather and water conditions if they want some holiday angling success up here. On Saturday, we must dress for success, and that means quality rain gear since it's supposed to rain all day and accumulate about 1.5 inches here in Helen. But my "Wunderground" weather app predicts a steady rain throughout the day, so streamflows shouldn't spike until very late tomorrow or overnight. Some rising flows and a little bit of stain are great turn-on's for trout, so don't cancel that planned Saturday Smithgall trip. Just run out tonite and buy that super Simms rainwear to keep you dry right through the showers. Sunday's weather looks nice - cold and clear- but storm runoff will be the challenge. Flows and turbidity (look that one up!) will depend on the amount and intensity of rainfall we get. If it's an inch or more, the bigger rivers will be blown out for 1-3 days. Small watersheds like our Hooch in Helen are fishable in just one day, while larger watersheds like the Tooga or Toccoa may take 2-3 days to drop to safe wading levels. Tune into the USGS Real Time Water Data gauges to see what's happening up here. Good gauges include the Hooch in Helen, Tooga at Pine Mtn (Burrells Ford), Ami, Toccoa at Dial, Nan at Rainbow Springs, and the Luftee and Cataloochee gauges for Smokies NP fans. Know your own personal, safe wading level on your preferred rivers. Have a small stream (Smith DH, bluelines) or pond (Vogel) Plan B ready in case Plan A is blown out and Sunday is your one and only fishing day on your packed family calendar. After Sunday, the skies clear and the temperatures drop a bit, so there's a nice fishing window leading into the holiday weekend. Just watch those water temperatures and use some winter techniques (fish deep and in the afternoons) for your best success. We're a week out, so updated forecasts might change, but it's looking rainy over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. After your raincoat, boots and fly pole, the next most important item in your possession this winter should be a stream thermometer. It's more important than your fly pattern, and will cost you the same as a half-dozen flies. If you don't have one, stop by the shop or ask Santa.
The good news is that less than a half-inch of rain per day is predicted, so most streams should remain fishable next week. "Fishability" will be directly related to the quality of your rainwear and your level of angling addiction. And one last tidbit: GAWRD usually spices up the Georgia DH streams around the holiday or just after the first of the month, so keep your junk food flies (squirmies, eggs, buggers, and rubberlegs) at the ready. Tune into the WRD weekly fishing blog and the updated trout stocking lists at www.gofishgeorgia.com. Both are usually updated on Friday afternoons. Here we go with our latest intel and best bets:
NC DH Streams: BEST BET. Nearby waters got redosed last week and the fishing is great for the fresh NCWRC stockers. Destinations like the Tuck, Nan, and Fires are great for new anglers. "Lumis" took this week off and has had banner trips up there (20-40 fish/day), including some bruiser brookies. The usual junk flies are working. He also threatened to tape a hook to his Thingamabobber, since it was very appealing to those fresh brookies. They're smarten up in two weeks, but right now these new DH stockers will make anyone look like a Wyoming fish guide. Grab a kid and go soon.
GA DH streams: still fishing well. Smith's been hammered, so go light on tippet (6x) and small on flies (eggs, midges, pheasant tails), especially during the high sun of midday. Search for shade and shadows, where fish feel safer. Get there at first or last light to fish around the midday crowds and the fish might hit a small stonefly, leech, or bugger. Again, when GAWRD redoses our DH streams, average Smith Creek fish IQ will plummet and you can toss your big, gaudy junk flies once again. Chattooga DH has fished well. It's bigger water, so the fish aren't as easily picked on (most rookies don't fish deep enough) and trained up. Angler intel to the shop this week say that a girdle bug and pheasant tail dropper has been the winning combo. Try the same techniques on the Toccoa. Just do it soon, since that big watershed takes a long time to drop to fishable levels after big rains. It's also a great spot for a float tube or small pontoon. Just go with friends to be safe.
Dukes: Wednesday's warriors reported a banner day. Hot flies were egg patterns, with small (size 20) midges dropped off the back. Some good midge patterns include trout crack and the jujubee midge. Stop in the shop and get some before your next Smithgall reservation. And if you're gonna be there on high water, don't forget your bright red squirmies and big Pat's rubberlegs to "match the hatches" during flood events. Top secret: try a black squirmy, too.
Bluelines: Deadly Damer said he returned to stalk his missed trophy on a the Vet holiday, but struck out. While the headwaters are cold, there is still a shot at some of these fish as long as stream temps are above 40. Today should be good. Try some Euronymphing of the deeper pools, or a fluffy dry (caddis, Stimmy) and a 2 or 3-foot dropper to a #16 tungsten hares ear or pheasant tail.
Private Waters: have still fished very well. this week's theme was been eggs and midges, just like Dukes Creek. Jake Darling's client had a great day at Rainbow Point on the Soque, topping it off with this nice 22-inch brown (pictured). Jake gave away a couple secrets when pressed here at the shop this morning, uttering "root beer midges and skinny Nelsons." Our hillbilly Cajun, Como had a good guide trip here at Nacoochee Bend this week. He said some caddis came off in the afternoon, and his client did well on a #16 z-wing caddis.
Reservoirs: we've heard very few flyfishing reports this week. Jimmy struck out on Lanier one cloudy afternoon, when conditions seemed perfect. He said it was a nice boat ride with plenty of gulls on the lake, but no fish were breaking the surface. The GON message board intel also shows more action deep than shallow. But dreary, rainy days can change that, so boaters should have their binoculars in hand, and their 8-weights strung up with small Something Else flies, for quick dashes to Lanier, Hartwell, Nottely, and Chatuge. Hedge your bet with a spinning rod and Sebile, so you can cast faster and farther to quick breaks, if those schools aren't staying up long enough for false casts. Watch the weekly WRD fishing blog and the fishing forum on the GON message board for timely flat-water intel. Henry Cowen and Capt Mack Farr should also have good Lanier updates for early risers, so tune into the Oneill Outside show on WSB radio (AM 750) around 5AM each Saturday morning.
Good luck as everyone heads toward the holiday. Be flexible and let the weather and water levels guide you toward success. Think "USGS Real Time, Goretex, and Thermometer" and you'll be headed in the right direction. Or simply call or come by the shop and we'll coach you toward some trouting TD's. Good luck. May we all be thankful for faith, family, friends, and our fishing addictions as the holiday draws near.

Friday, November 15, 2019

UO Fishing Report - 11/15/19

This week's theme is "rebound." Our region's trout waters fished well until the midweek cold snap, which slowed everything down. As north GA's air temperatures now improve over the next week, our trout waters should rebound as temps rise from the low forties to the high forties. If we're lucky, a few streams might even hit the magic 50 degree mark late in the afternoons. We only got a half-inch of rain this week, and that water has already passed through, so wading shouldn't be too difficult. Only 0.2 inches are predicted for tonight, so that will hardly bump streamflows in our low and clear mountain streams. Given the nice water levels and a warming trend, things are looking good, especially in the afternoons, for weekend warriors and especially the lucky few who can fish on uncrowded weekdays. Here are a few more tips and best bets for y'all:

* Tailwaters: our tailwaters like the Hooch, Toccoa, and Smith below Unicoi Lake will run a few degrees warmer than freestone streams due to the moderating effects of the lakes above them. Dawn fishing fans might find the early catching better at these places. Just don;t forget your handwarmers and hot chocolate.
* Bad attitude browns: browns are in sparring and spawning mode, and are also chowing down for the winter. Try some small sculpin or minnow patterns on our mountain streams. On the tailwaters, match the hatch. What hatch? Stocker rainbows, of course! Try a big Game Changer, Yozuri, or magnum swimbait in rainbow or brown trout colors to hit a homer. NGTO's "Browniez" tossed us a pic of a 24-incher he enticed last week with a really BIG bait.
* Bluelines: I stand corrected! GAWRD biologist John "Deadly" Damer ignored my advice to go low and instead tossed his trusty elk hair caddis. Watch the WRD weekly fishing blog for its Friday afternoon update, which will include DD's Veterans Day "dry fly trifecta" on his favorite headwater stream. Check out our Facebook page for John's video of spawning specks, too. Maybe this week's wild trout will still look up. It's worth a try. Just have your natural nymphs and some small Dinsmores handy in case you have to go down and dirty, with a dropper, to achieve success.
* Smith DH: has fished well for many folks. There are several good reports on the NGTO Small Streams forum. The usual suspects (buggers, rubber-legged stones, mops, eggs, and squirmies) did a number on the naive stockers, which may remain under-educated for another week or so. Try your big attractor as your first fly on 4X tippet, but be ready to go down to 5X. Try some different colors on your buggers and squirmies to show them something they haven't seen yet. Also, start hedging your bet with a smaller (#16 or 18) nymph or soft hackle on 5X or 6x, dropped off the back of your bigger fly. Good dropper patterns are pheasant tails, soft hackle wets, rainbow warriors, lightning bugs, and zebra midges. Since Smith is a small stream, keep your distance between flies no more than a foot. You can also add a tiny dinsmore shot midway between the two flies to sink that rear one down to trout eye-level when the water is cold and they are hunkered down. Watch the tailouts and try a small black caddis emerger, according to Smith Creek regular Dennis O.
*Chattooga DH: has also fished well for folks with a good bugger strip or an adequate, drag-free drift. Ron "Big Browns" Wilson wrote a nice account on the NGTO river fishing forum. The same flies listed for Smith have also been working on the Toog. Use a long leader/tippet combo to get down to those fish.
* Ami DH: good reports on NGTO. Again, try big and bright in front, and small and bright as the dropper fly. Use enough tippet to get the fly down.
Fish across each Hwy 53 ledge with a Smith DH small stream technique before moving upstream to the next ledge.
* Toccoa DH; no reports, but I'd expect it to fish similar to the Chattooga. Long leaders, dredged apricot egss, and deep, twitched olive buggers have been my traditional winning ticket over there during past cold seasons.
*NC DH streams: The Tuck DH hopefully got stocked yesterday (13th), so that's a best bet for new fly flingers armed with buggers and squirmies and imperfect, but improving, technique. We had one report from our guide that said Nan was slow. Hopefully the bite will improve with some warmer air temps. If you have a new angler in tow, you might plan your road trip around NCWRC's next planned stockings for Nan (18th) and Fires (19). But if you already have a good dredging game, go now. There are plenty of wild fish under the stockers, but it might be time to practice a little Euro technique on them. A sexy Walt's worm and a Frenchie or #18 pheasant tail dropper might be the ticket.
* Leftover stockers: cover a good bit of water at Cooper, Dicks, and Tallulah to clean up the summer leftovers and take home supper. Carry a small blueline rod and try the tribs, too, if the sun shines down on them. Remember that Damer dude...
* Private waters: are still fishing well. Our guides just have to change flies often to dial in the right pattern each day. They've also gone to tiny stuff on 5X and 6X to entice the frozen big boys, so dig out your midge box for some WD40's and root beer midges if your traditional size 14's aren't getting any looks.
Smokies: road-trippers will enjoy the daily fishing reports by Little River Outfitters in Townsend, TN. Most of Byron's intel and advice is very applicable to our Georgia mountains.
Let's hope for some more sunshine and a nice rebound to our air and water temperatures. If we're still above 40 degrees, it will be a good game this weekend. And if we nose up toward 50 degrees, it will be another great game. And I'm not talking about the Dawgs and Tigers, either. Do what you must to honor the SEC on your sacred Saturday, but don't miss out on our exciting mountain game: Browns vs Rainbows! Stop by the shop of give us a call (706-878-3083) if we can help you further to enjoy the north GA mountains and their diverse trout waters.
No photo description available.

Friday, November 8, 2019

UO Fishing Report - 11/8/19

Weekend warriors, we gotta luv those USGS Real Time stream gauges! Area trout streams are flowing clear and their water levels are back down to normal for this time of year. We only got 0.2 inches of rain in Helen last nite (11/7) so there was only a slight bump in Hooch flow. The weather’s cooling off, so the best time to fish wIll be during the warmth of the midday sun, as chilly stream temps rebound a bit.

Lake fans should have a good time, too, as water temps are down into the 60’s and a lot of bass and stripers have come shallow to chase threadfin shad and blueback herring schools. Don’t miss the GAWRD weekly fishing blog, fresh outa their oven around 3 pm each Friday: https://georgiawildlife.blog/category/fishing/
And if you can “catch” a ride with Henry Cowen or one of his recommended buddies like “Fluffy,” now is the time to book that Lanier guided flyfishing trip for stripers and spots. The Guru, Dredger, and our buddy Alan struck gold yesterday (11/7) and jumped several nice striper schools on top. We lost more than we landed, but put several stripers to 27 inches in the boat. Tune into O’Neill’s Saturday morning radio show on WSB for Henry’s weekly updates.
Here are a few more best bets for northeast GA and southwestern NC.
Smith Delayed Harvest (DH): still a great place to bring new fly anglers. It will be crowded at midday due to good weather and fresh stockers. Try a contrarian approach of fishing early or late to beat the crowds. Just dress warmly if you arrive at dawn! Try some small (#10 or 12) twitched & stripped woolly buggers or dead drifted eggs, squirmies, or Pats rubberlegs (girdle bugs). Get the buggers deep! If they get picky due to pressure, downsize to 6x and a flashy rainbow warrior to pick up a few bonus fish.
Ami DH: Same deal as Smith. If you’re hitting the deep pools, ensure your tippet is long enough to get the fly down to the fish. Add several feet of thin tippet and an extra shot to slice thru the water column.
Chattooga DH: the two DNR’s said the big USFS bird has flown. Fish are now throughout the DH, but it can be famine or feast til you find those honey holes. Again, try a small bugger, twitched and stripped deep through the prime pools. Fish quickly upriver until you strike gold, then stay put to catch all his friends. If they turn off the bugger, then drift a rubberlegs, squirmy, or Glo bug they the pool. Blairsville’s Ron Sharpe has good luck yesterday afternoon (11/7) on a girdle bug. See our Facebook page for my 11/3 report.
Toccoa DH: this is big water, but the USGS gauge suggests wadeable flows for careful anglers. This is basically the Tooga with a road alongside it, so follow our Tooga tips here, too. Just be very careful wading or floating this reach. Special thanks go to USFWS Rock Creek Hatchery for the fat rainbows in this river!
NC DH streams: Fires Creek and Nantahala DH should fish well once they warm up around lunchtime. The stockers now have a month of experience under their belts and are no longer gullible to junk flies on crummy drifts. The wild bows and browns have always been smart. Try some smaller stuff (pheasant tails, zebra midges, and Euro nymphs) rolled along the bottom. See my 11/4 Nan trip report in the Unicoi Outfitters forum for more intel. There may still be a stray fish or two that will sip a dry fly in the slow backside pockets. Maybe you’ll see an eagle, too!
Bluelines: brooks and browns will be in full spawning attire. Cold water and no flying bugs give them few reasons to come up for a dry, so make sure you fish a deeper dropper (pheasant tail, lightning bug) under your buoyant strike indicator (parachute Adams, bushy Caddis, or yellow stimulator).
Backcountry solitude: try the copter stocked sections of Chattooga’s mainstream (a mile below Burrell’s Ford down to the top of DH at Reed Creek), or the remote reach of the West Fork below Three Forks. See Wes’ report on our Facebook page.
Trophy Trout Waters:
(Hooch in Helen, Soque, NCF)
They’re fishing really well right now. As with all fishing, some “catching” days are better than others. These are smart fish due to their experience with anglers, but good guides can switch flies and dial in some memorable fish for their clients. See a couple of this week’s trip reports on our FB page.
So grab your fly poles and run quickly to trout waters near you. They are fishing really well while our water temps haven’t yet plummeted for the winter. Stop by the shop in Helen before or after your trip for hot flies, fresh tippet, and the best local intel for this area. Right now we have our deadly dozen DH flies picked out and waiting for our guests. We’re also online and in the virtual phone book at 706-878-3083 for distant friends. Good luck, fishing folks!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Great Father/Son Trip

 We love stories like this.

"My son Alex and I rendezvoused at Unicoi Outfitters for a spectacular day of catching under the tutelage of Rabunite Jeff Durniak. The banter was spirited, the instruction welcomed and the stream was cooperative. This father/son gathering was made possible by the confluence of many like-minded trout benefactors. Jimmy Harris of Unicoi Outfitters provided first-rate equipment and stream. Jeff Durniak volunteered a full day of encouragement and fly retrieval. The Rabunites provided for the Rabun Rendezvous at which this day was won by silent auction. Through the generosity of all, I enjoyed a sunny day of casting, catching fish and catching up with my hard-working son. We really are fortunate to have a breadth of talent dedicated to cold water fishing and stream preservation. I know what I will be bidding on at the next Rendezvous this January. I hope others will attend and bid on all the other trips and prizes with this one exception!"

Tom West