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, February 28, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 2/28/20

We are “high, clear, and cold” this week. It should actually be a pretty good fishing weekend, as streamflows finally drop to fishable levels across all but the largest trout waters. Our biggest challenges will still be double the normal streamflows for this time of year,

along with water temperatures sliding down toward that dreaded 40-degree mark of trout lethargy. We’re also expecting a half to two inches of snow at high elevations tonight. The bottom line: camp out early at Huddle House! Take your time in the morning to let the mountain roads thaw and clear, and let the stream temperatures head back toward the mid-40’s, or a bit higher if we’re lucky. Hit the streams hard and deep at lunchtime.
One other tip: go for thinner tippets and smaller, natural fly patterns. The gin-clear waters and their slightly slower velocities are allowing extra salmonid scrutiny of your offerings, so be ready to replace your gaudy Y2K with a softer colored apricot egg, and your big, bright lightning bug with a smaller pheasant tail or hares ear. Angler reports were more abundant over the past week, so we’ll share them with you now.

Private waters have just started to fish again. Flows have dropped to safe wading levels on the Soque and we’ve had some good client days over there. The Hooch at Nacoochee Bend should start fishing again this week as flows drop back down toward 2-250 cfs. Since these fish haven’t seen many anglers and flies in several weeks, their guard will be down. Don’t forget a big net!
Dukes at Smithgall was challenging even to its regulars. Ray V said he had to go down to 6X and some of his small secret weapons to fool its resident rainbows. He even landed a few!
Smith DH fished well for guests with good drifts and small flies. Michigan guide John Gouker and wife Chastity
did well on Wednesday on small, olive hares ears. We shared that intel with the Thursday’s two ATL anglers, who later called the shop after their successful Smith trip. Olive hares ears and small pheasant tail soft hackles produced well.
GAWRD spruced up both the Ami and Toccoa DH’s this week, as well as Little Amicalola Creek. Just be very careful with high flows!!! Check out the latest WRD weekly trout stocking reports here:
UNG student and UO weekend fishing guide Hunter Pittman had a short time to wet a line today. Here’s his intel:
“Amicalola at 53. Thirty minutes to fish. Landed one, lost one. They seem to be all in the big pool in front of the accessible pier. Water is still up, but barely wadeable for the holes that are close to the bank. Maybe 4-5 holes on this section that you can easily fish. Be careful!”
Our best bet has been the Chattooga DH. Dredger did really well on his two trips last week, despite really high flows that restricted his number of safe access points. A big handful of UCCTU members inquired with our shop, got that hot intel, and put it to good use last Sunday. In their own words,
“UO staff, thank you for the great tips, and I concur with Danny; it was a beautiful day on the water. We (Dan F and I) started the day (12:30 ish) fishing in the vast football field plus size glide, the one above the shelf that runs the whole stream. I picked up two very quickly (bow 9" and nice brookie 15" or so), with white mop/orange bead head.

Later moved up to the brown trout beach pool party with Danny and friends. Bugs started coming off about 1:30-2, a mix of LB Stones, Caddis, and a few Mayflies of some kind. The Georgia side had very aggressive rises from the pool down the side seam for a 100 ft or so and hooked a few browns on a 14 CDC caddis. Reminded me of being in Colorado, you would walk over the rises, and they would be back in five minutes. Dan F, did very well on the water for a newbie as well.”
“We had 7 TU guys out on the river and we converted a new fly fisherman, my brother in law. We showed him the UCCTU way by doing a parking lot cleanup. Cream Mop and zebra midge did the trick for fishing. To end the day, we had a late lunch with the biker community at Big Daddies in Helen. I bought my brother in law a new clearwater rod/reel setup from UO on Sunday evening on his way back home. ”
We had no NC stream reports last week, but nearby destinations like Fires, Nantahala, and the Tuck should rebound as their flows finally drop. Try euronymphing the pools and boulder pockets during the midday warmth in these cold, gorge-enclosed streams.
If you’re looking for less-crowded waters, aim for some “wash-downs.” Fish can’t read special reg signs, and many stockers are crummy at negotiating floods, so go prospecting below the DH signs at Ami’s 53 bridge and Tooga’s 28 bridge, and through the Hooch in Helen, where a bait angler told us he invited a half dozen rainbows home for supper this week.
Lake fans have two good choices this week: Vogel and Winfield Scott.
Check out the last two weeks of WRD fishing blogs for excellent lake intel. If you have kids, read about Little Ami ( park reflection pool):
Walleye fans should expect fish up the tributary rivers very soon. In the meantime, small Lanier stripers are abundant up the Hooch. The biggest angler challenge will be safely negotiating high, turbid flows. Details are in those two WRD fishing blogs, above.
The bottom line is that we finally have some dry weather and dropping flows. It might just be a great time to treat that cabin fever before our next big round of rains. Don’t forget your wool gloves and long underwear. Good luck!

Monday, February 24, 2020

How To Set Up Your Reel

Sometimes we often forget there are a lot of new fly anglers out there who have never set up a fly reel. Great tutorial here from Orvis.

Friday, February 21, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 2/21/20

This week’s theme is “proceed with caution.” As we dry out and are now anxious to cure our cabin fever, we should think of a blinking yellow light during our trip planning. Why?

Right now (2/21 at 8AM) we must navigate continued high streamflows, black ice (especially in the shade of curvy mountain roads), icy-cold water that we don’t want to fall in, flooded reservoirs and parking lots, and dangerous lake navigation hazards such floating logs, detached docks, and submerged fences, walkways, and even picnic tables. Think YELLOW and, if you go, proceed with caution! When in doubt, play it safe and stay home.

On the good news side, we missed a full monsoon up here yesterday and are now drying out. Only a half-inch of rain fell, which did not bump up (already high) streamflows very much.
We’ll soon warm up and lose the black ice, at least where the sun will shine. Watch for slick spots in the shade, however. We also have at least three dry days coming and they’re finally landing on a weekend. Streamflows therefore continue to drop, albeit slowwwwly. Small streams are returning to fishable flows now, while larger waters may drop to safe wading levels over the week ahead. They will depend, once again, on how much rain falls at midweek.
Think of that blinking yellow light as you pick your streams, lakes, and departure dates. Everyone needs to know his/her own personal limits to their wading ability and the streamflows that are conducive to their safe wading. The same goes for impoundments. How well do you know your launch ramp, navigation route, and submerged, hidden risks along the way? As you make your own risk/reward analysis, know that it’s better to err on the side of caution. When in doubt, don’t go. Why? You’ll fish many more years and make many more angling memories!
One tool that has helped my trouting plans is the notes page on my smart phone. After a day of wade fishing, I’ll go home, check the web for the closest USGS stream gauge (my favorite streams are bookmarked) and record the gauge height or CFS on that notes page. Then I’ll write a sentence or two on my wading experience that day. Examples of my notes are “blown out,” “don’t cross stream, stay on west side and fish near bank,” “high but fishable,” and “easy wading today.” After three decades of trips up here, I have a good reference page that helps me relate to those flows on the internet gauges and make my go/no-go decisions. Maybe this “fishing flow log” idea will help some of you.
Flows are still high, and now we have dropping water temperatures again, so slide back into winter trouting mode: go low and slow and after lunch. Add some extra weight and bump trout on their noses. Despite last week’s high flows, we do have a few reports to share. Here we go.
On the trouting front, we don’t have any private waters reports. The larger trout streams generally were still too high for safe wading by clients. Smaller waters were fishable. Experienced wader Landon said he hit both Dukes and Smith DH last weekend and had decent days by dredging leeches, pheasant tails, and small olive soft hackles in the soft water pockets he could find.
Dredger hit one stream with a long history of his trips, found a few soft waters within casting distance of the bank, and did well by alternating among a brown Pat’s rubberlegs, a Y2K, and a cream mop on a 4mm silver tungsten bead.

Smaller fish rose on the sunny afternoon to the egg-laying winter stoneflies that were dipping down to the surface. He ignored them to dredge for heftier fish, and was rewarded with some nice rainbows and browns excavated from the bankside flood refuges.
Lanier bassin’ fans have some new bankside cover to pitch their spinnerbaits and jigs toward, as Lanier heads toward an all-time high. I hear the picnic tables are hotspots.😉 Enjoy the pics of upper Lanier, taken on my Wednesday trip to Gainesville. Seriously, many Lanier ramps are closed and a lot of floating debris, like whole logs, makes navigation hazardous.
Captain Mack has one of the best lake reports for our weekend trip planning:
On the walleye front, WRD says it’s still a bit early for the spring spawning runs,
but a few fish are starting to head uplake (right, Jake?😉). Stay tuned into the WRD weekly fishing blog for timely updates on early spring runs of walleye, whites, hybrids, and stripers. After all, they’re allowed to use the best bait of all time: electricity! Go to this page and click on the “walleye” and “fishing blog” links for timely intel by your fine Fisheries folks. (Okay, I admit some slight bias😉)
Stocker fans should know that Burton Hatchery renovations are big news. I passed the place on my way to a Tuesday Rabun TU meeting and saw a new dam and water intake, and big holes in the ground where buildings and raceways has existed. We wish DNR the best of luck in rebuilding a hatchery that will serve us well for the next 50 years. More here:
We hope that this “cautiously optimistic” report gives you a little hope for your fishing future. At least it should entertain you while you’re on the sidelines, waiting for thawed roads and your own personal, safe wading level to show up on the stream gauge. Good luck as you “proceed with caution. “

Friday, February 14, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 2/14/20

Right now we have a brief, pleasant change: blue skies and green water. It has finally dried out and the sun is shining down upon north Georgia, at least for a few days until another inch of rain falls on Tuesday. This week’s fishing forecast is basically a repeat of last week’s: nearly all streams are blown out. It’s not surprising when we look at the river gauges and find that a foot of rain has fallen on northeast Georgia over the last nine days. I toured local waters today and found the Soque real high (see Mark of the Potter video), the Hooch in Helen

ripping along at 4 times the safe flow for our clients, Dukes Creek still boasting standing waves, and Smith DH ripping but fishable for real careful waders and smart bank anglers. Region water levels are so high that Lanier might set a lake elevation record this week, with many ramps and parks closed by high water.

It’s still a good time to tie flies,
read some great blogs,
or listen to Tom Rosenbauer’s awesome Orvis podcasts. Have you wondered about nylon vs fluoro tippet? Tune in:
Our streams are high, but they’re clearing. Instead of chocolate milk, they now have a slight greenish-brown tint to them from the fine sediments carried by those strong flows. Trout fishing opportunities will again be limited to small streams and maybe the lake at Vogel State Park. Try casting along the dam and at the mouth of Wolf Creek where it empties into the lake. For small streams, look for flood refuges and pick your wading spots carefully. Even the small streams are slow to recede right now because of the constant, heavy rains during the last week.
The sun brought out a small angler hatch today on Smith DH. Yours truly found Rabunite buddy D.D. and fishing friend Bama Vic along the creek and we compared notes. All three had lengthy trout droughts until we found the few calm spots along the ripping stream channel. We found success in those eddies and deep pools with big (16) rainbow warriors, small dark Euronymphs and midges, and heavy (4mm) cream mops, fished DEEP.

Squirmies got a few half-hearted hits, but our legs, eggs, and buggers were ignored. It was still nice to finally wet a line, and our trio’s combined tally was a handful of rainbows, a few chunky browns, and even a few hungry, displaced redbreasts that likely survived a roller coaster ride from Unicoi Lake. The last fish was fondled around 6pm, so beat the expected weekend crowd by going early or late. Remember to check-in at the Lodge first, for the free fishing permit, before hitting the creek.
Despite the floods, there is some hope. Streams should slowly recede and provide more opportunities with each passing day of runoff. More importantly, it’s trophy trout season. Why? They have two “ reasons to leave” right now. The first is obvious: floods. The second is “rainbow romance:” spawning season. Look for big fish traversing public waters this month and next as a) flood wash-downs and b) spawner swim-ups. More tips are here, in the “big fish” program on the Rabunite Secrets page.
Be ready to strip a streamer or drift a big egg as soon as streamflows won’t knock you down.
Fly tying is still your safer bet this week, but if you have to wet a line, don’t wade deep or don’t wade at all. Pick some small streams and hit their eddies, especially when their flows drop some more. Flood flows are a bummer, but we’ll take them over extreme droughts and 20,000-acre forest fires any day! Good luck. Be safe.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

UO Fishing Report- 2/9/20

Thanks to all of you who visited our booth at the Atlanta Flyfishing Show. That’s always a fun family reunion of us fly flingers.

This week’s theme is “ a good time for tying.” With yesterday’s 6 inches of snow sandwiched between last week’s 6 inches of rain and next week’s forecasted deluge, our stream fishing opportunities are nearly nonexistent.

There isn’t enough split shot in our fly shop to even get the Dredger back in the game right now. He did ponder a 4-ounce pyramid sinker on his surf rod, with a big bugger cast from the fly shop porch, but decided that strike detection would be too tough.
Fishing addicts can still find some casting opportunities on flat water in between the storms. The GAWRD weekly fishing blog is a great place for reservoir intel. Their “shocking” reports provide strike indicators for early season river runs of walleye, whites, and reservoir stripers chasing shad in the muddy, warmer shallows. Scroll to the bottom of this page and sign up for the blog’s direct delivery:
As for the rest of us stream fans, we can celebrate the winter recharge of our water table and prepare for spring. It’s a good time to resupply our fly boxes via tying or buying. Before we know it, March will be here and little dark bugs will bring some trout snouts to the surface.
That won’t be the time to discover that we’re short on gray caddis, blue quills, quill gordons, and chunky hares ear nymphs. Prep time is NOW! Just call or email our shop if you need a helping hand. Also, here’s a little more help with those bug lists via our friends at Rabun TU: 1) the “spring dries and droppers” note on the Secrets of the Rabunites page and 2) the fly lists on each of their monthly newsletters entitled Tightlines. Look at last spring’s newsletters to prepare for this spring’s hatches.
It’s also a good time to plan next summer’s western trips. If you’re in the neighborhood next Thursday nite, the Blairsville TU chapter will host us for a program on fishing the Yellowstone region.
Before all this liquid fell from the north GA skies, we had some pretty good fishing reports. They’re old news now, but still entertaining and informative, so enjoy them while you await the road thaw. Landon hit some bluelines in the Hooch watershed and dredged up a nice handful of little wild rainbows with his leech/pheasant tail combo. He invited a few home for supper.
Chris Scalley has been nailing some chunky, wild Hooch Tailwater browns. Check out his reports and pics via his River Through Atlanta guide service.
Smithgall guests found some nice rainbows, including a few brutes to 22 inches, during prior high water events. Eggs, pheasant tails, and hares ears worked for two groups, Jacob B and the duo of Garland and Dr. Dave, but were shunned on another day. Angler Group 3 found success only with a big black bugger with crystal flash in the tail. Dukes moral: if you’re in fishy habitat and have made some good drifts, go ahead and change flies til you find what they want.
Delayed harvest trips were slow or nonexistent due to high water. Smith was slow for Aaron. Smith did get redosed last Friday, so it should fish better as flows recede. Half those fish should be there. Wily anglers might find the other half washed down into Octoberfest-land. 😉
Private waters fished well when they weren’t blown out by high water. Here’s a report from a fun trio of Nacoochee Bend guests, including GA TU Trout Camp grad Aidan, who found success last weekend on eggs and small nymphs.
“UO staff,
thank you so much again for a wonderful day! Your hospitality, sense of humor and genuine comradarie made us all feel so welcome and important! We will be back! Mike, Aidan, and Rick”

We hope this week’s “filler” will mitigate a bit for your midwinter angling depression. Our trout streams will recede one day in the future and we’ll get back in the game. And we’ll be ready with overflowing fly boxes and overflowing hope. May our tying and buying begin!