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.

Friday, January 24, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 1/24/20

This week’s theme was coined by Jake this morning: anglers will “need an anvil” as overnight storms dumped an average of two inches on north Georgia watersheds. Right now (Friday at 3pm), our rivers are high and muddy and ripping! The Hooch in Helen is running about 700 cfs, way above the normal 160 cfs or so historic average for this day. The rain continues, but radar shows it clearing out shortly.

Big waters are gonna take two or more days to drop and clear to fishable levels, while small streams might drop to acceptable flows overnight. Just know your own safe wading levels and check USGS stream gauges or local tackle shops before you go.
The silver lining in all this cloudy news is rising air temps. Anyone lucky enough to fish during the upcoming weekdays will find a great combo of rising water temps and falling flows. If water temps are at least in the mid-40’s, and flows are still higher than normal but slightly discolored, anglers will have the advantage. Fish will wanna eat, but will have to make quicker decisions on drifting fodder, and will eat bigger flies on thicker tippet. We like that! Remember that lower elevation Georgia streams will be a few degrees warmer than NC streams. On really cold days those few degrees can make a big difference in trout appetites.
For hot patterns, the same winter best bets continue to hold true for this week: legs, eggs, buggers and leeches, and smaller stuff like princes and pheasant tails only after we can look thru three feet of stream and see our wading shoes again. Don’t forget little black stones, like our copper johns and lightning bugs in that color, since winter stoneflies are on the march now.
We have restocked some killer winter patterns here at the shop. The creator of the Y2K bug, Dr Dave Knowles from Arkansas, provided a big handful of our high demand patterns for GA traditionalists, including Y2K’s, fire eggs, root beer and ruby midges, and rainbow warriors. For our young guns, Jake tied up the new Eggstacy eggs in two colors, and Wes stocked up on UV2 roe yarn for the tiers among you.

Eggs and rubberlegs will continue to be a big hit for another month of cold, high water, until we see some spring nymphs getting restless in the warmer March flows and switch our eggs to big hares ears.
It was cold last week and angling effort and catches were both off, as expected. Folks here at Nacoochee Bend caught some nice rainbows on eggs, legs, and princes when the water warmed slightly after lunch. We’re proud of those tenacious gals with the GA Women Flyfishers, who braved the cold earlier this week and landed some chunky rainbows here at the Bend. Our friend “BigBrowns” shared this pre-monsoon Fires Creek report:
My buddy Stuart and I went up to fires creek yesterday (22nd). Spent the morning on the DH. Caught a 1/2 dozen or so each. Legs and eggs, Buggers and small natural nymphs, all fished deep of course. We spent the afternoon up above the DH in the wild water and had a really great afternoon, especially since us was a good 10 degrees warmer in the afternoon. Landed some nice browns in the DH and plenty of beautiful wild bows up top.

We took the road all the way up to around 3000' and found a really nice feeder creek that looked really promising. Will check that out next time for sure.
Dukes vet Landon finally filled his freezer with venison and swapped his rifle for his fly rod. He “landed” a Smithgall no-show slot last Sunday (19th) and had a big time, despite the cold. Here are his early and ending texts on that day:
Stonefly is winning over little stuff 3:1 right now.
Ended up with 21. Biggest was about 22”. Off the water early at 1430 when it got a bit too crowded for my taste. They ate the big bugs early and got off the big stuff once the sun came out, just random 16-18’s dropped off the back of a leech.
So there’s hope for us during the coming week. Keep your winter attire and equipment in your vehicles and go when the flows allow. With some high fifties in our weather forecast, the end of the week is looking real good for a rebound.
We’ll close this report with a quick look back and a glance forward. Thanks for the your fellowship at last Saturday’s Rabun Rendezvous, a great party of about 200 finatics. And we look forward to seeing you next Friday and Saturday at the Atlanta Fly Show. The lucky number there is F11.😉

Good luck and be safe while wading. It’s the time of the year for SIZE over numbers, so swing for the fences!

Thursday, January 16, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 1/16/20

This week’s theme is “winter mode.” Finally, our local forecasters are predicting a cold spell ahead. We’ll soon see a 20-degree drop in air temps and a similar plunge in water temps. That cold shock may dampen trout appetites for a few days until they reacclimate to “normal” winter water temperatures.

Despite the chill, at least it will be a little drier after the 2-3 inches of rain that fell recently and flooded out many streams.


The rains blew out most of your planned trips as well as our own, so this past week’s fishing reports are rather sparse. That’s okay since the techniques and catches from last week’s warm spell certainly won’t apply to our upcoming, chilly trips. Let’s spend our time looking ahead instead of back.

On the positive side, recent rains have recharged our watersheds. Small streams have already receded to fishable flows, while bigger waters have been slower to drop. The Hooch and Chattooga should see fishable flows in the next day or two,


while the Nan is still high and the Toccoa is really rocking along at 900+ cfs, great for whitewater rafting fans but a bummer for wade anglers.

This combo of high and cold water suggests that we will finally enter full winter mode. Unless we are on the slightly warmer tailwaters, GA trouters will now need to fish really low and slow. That could mean Euro techniques in pockets and runs, and super-deep indi rigs in the big pools, which are winter flood refuges for trout pods.

How deep? During winter, we often retire our tapered leaders and, instead, go to 8-12 feet of straight 6 or 8 pound mono, with 5X tippet knotted to the far end before we tie on a fly. Why? Fat leader butts just catch the current and drag our flies off the bottom. Instead, we cut thru the water column with thin leaders and tippet, and get into the winter strike zone quicker and longer. More details can be found in the “winter tips” articles on the webpage called, Secrets of the Rabunites.” Don’t forget that big bag of split shot and a bobber big enough to still float, despite its burden.

On big waters, the “legs and eggs” combo is a traditional winter go-to. In fact, Hunter says Nacoochee Bend fish are eating eggs right now, as I type this on Thursday at 3pm. If fish get picky, then pick only one of those two big patterns as your first fly and then drop a small (#18) pheasant tail nymph off the back. Other good patterns are small black or olive buggers, little black stones, black zebra midges, a little rainbow warrior, and the ole reliable prince nymph. After all, winter’s colors for natural bugs in the drift are black, brown, and olive, so “match the hatch” of the drifting blue wing olives, winter stones, fish eggs, and misc midges.

On smaller, clearing waters, aim for the smaller, natural flies, as these veteran fish have seen many fly patterns and have now smartened up. Better flows should give you the chance to use some size 14 and 16 bugs instead of the super small (#18, 20) stuff exclusively, since fish will have to make quicker decisions in faster currents. If the natural stuff isn’t working, go to something really off the wall, which the fish haven’t seen. Today it was a chartreuse mop fly for one successful Smith angler! Watch small stream water temps closely. Headwater wild trout may shut down if your thermometer nears that 40 mark.

Our 60-degree January afternoons may finally be history. Get ready for ice in rod guides and numb fingers and toes. And, if you get into full winter mode, also get ready for multiple fish excavated from each deep pool by your low and slow dredging techniques. Good luck. Call or come by the shop if we can help further. Better yet, join many of our UO staff at the Rabun Rendezvous, Saturday at 5pm at Dillard House. We’ll share some fish stories and cheer for each other’s raffle bucket wins!

Friday, January 3, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 1/3/20

This week’s theme is “rain check.” With one to three inches falling so far, north GA river fans will be sidelined for 1-3 days until streamflows drop back down to safe wading levels. “Rain check” is also a great reminder to check those USGS stream gauges for updates on rainfall totals, current flow conditions, and indications of when north Georgia streams will drop to fishable levels.

There’s actually some good news hidden in these soaking rains and heavy runoff. Those strong flows “polish” our trout waters. They flush sand and silt and loosen stream gravels. Have you ever noticed how much cleaner our streams appear each winter? Wild rainbows, in spawning mode from now til mid-March, appreciate Mother Nature’s help with cleaning up their spawning areas. Redds are dug easier in clean gravels, and eggs and trout fry enjoy fresher flows thru those incubation chambers within stream gravels.
While our big water game is on hold, small streams are already returning to fishable levels. Needing a break from tying Rabun Rendezvous auction flies, I ran up to Smith DH and Dukes Creek today (3rd) around 4pm and found both of them high, but fishable (see forthcoming vids). With less than a half-inch of additional rain expected overnight, north Georgia’s small streams and ponds (ex: Vogel) will provide some good angling opportunities for new year anglers itching to wet a line. Be careful wading and get down to the fish to score. It’s gonna be tougher than last week, as our air temps drop back down to seasonal norms tomorrow, but we should have some action in waters above 40 degrees.
Here are a few recent reports to aid your own angling plans.
Smith DH: Today’s sparse crowd of rainware-donned folks were having very good luck on eggs and small Euro nymphs. The stream had already receded a bit and had hardly any color to it. The warm, rainy, overcast weather and ample streamflow created perfect fishing conditions. I’d expect a big weekend assault on the creek, so go early, late, or somewhere else until Sunday afternoon, when most folks head home to ATL.
Dukes: should fish well for reservation holders and early-risers lucky enough to snag a rare vacancy from a reservation no-show. Be ready with smaller tippet and flies, as this stream was also high, but already clear at 5 this evening. Rabunites Pat and Tammy Hopton spent the New Year holiday at a Smithgall cabin and caught some nice rainbows, including at least one whopper netted by Tammy.
Should fish decently until the air temp dives. Try a dry/dropper combo in deeper pools.
Private waters: fished well last week. Our guides had good trips on the Soque, Nacoochee Bend (Hooch at our Helen fly shop), and Noontootla Creek Farm. Enjoy the pics of shop manager Jake’s two clients on the Soque and NCF.

Some secret egg patterns did the trick. Hunter’s Hooch guests did well nymphing and then stripping streamers when the water warmed in the afternoon.
Unnamed Border River and Trib:
Looks like Sam did well!
Nan DH:
A random Rabunite and young TUer Cameron F celebrated their new year in grand style. Brooks, browns, and rainbows (stocked and wild flavors) hit the Euronymphs at noon and after 330pm. For two mid-afternoon hours, however, the fish looked up to a BWO hatch, and the angling duo celebrated their earliest dry fly season start, ever, on January 1st!
North GA Bassin’:
UO asst mgr Wes and his buddy, home for the holidays, did well on Hooch shoalies before this week’s monsoon. Buddy landed 20 and 21 inchers. Jake ran up to Burton today (3rd) and said his best five spots and LMB’s pushed 22 pounds. Bassin’ fans can push these two guys for intel or book a trip by visiting their info booth at the Jiminar tomorrow.
More North GA Intel:
Check out the weekly blog by our good friends at GAWRD. This week’s author is John “Deadly” Damer, who tosses a mighty tight loop himself on north GA’s bluelines and on Montana’s Big Mo.
Good luck this week. Big storms are an inconvenience, but they sure beat extended droughts.
Give us a call (706-878-3083). or drop us an email if we can help you further.