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, March 27, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 3/27/20


How about another dose of good news? Whether it’s fly tying, watching fishing shows, casting a new rod bought online, basking in the backyard sunshine, or even getting on some open waters, we all need a responsible distraction right now. Hopefully this report will make you smile.


For those of you who are not under a “shelter in place” mandate and want to get some fresh air while socially distancing, we’ve tried to summarize your angling opportunities that are still available. Pack your lunches from your safe home caches and be ready to roll. At the time of writing, it looks like GADNR properties are still open. Undeveloped lands of the Chattahoochee National Forest are still accessible, while the USFS developed sites such as visitor centers and campgrounds are closed. All lands and waters of nearby national parks such as the Chattahoochee Rec Area and the Smokies are completely closed to visitors, as is the Cherokee Nation
https://www.facebook.com/VisitCherokeeNC/ On Lanier, some boat ramps remain open, while the Corps developed sites such as campgrounds and restrooms are closed. https://www.facebook.com/LakeSidneyLanierUSACE/ Remember that many other ramps are operated by local governments, so you may have to check those websites for the status of ramps that are not on the Corps list. https://www.hallcounty.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=746 For facility updates, see the list of agency websites on our prior Facebook post. Dukes Creek remains open to anglers with reservations (706-878-3087), while the Smithgall visitors center is closed Our private waters are open and, with the tight restrictions on angler numbers, provide great social distance destinations.

Now let’s get to some fishing reports! We had three inches of rain Tuesday night, but flood flows are dropping and the weekend is dry and warm. It should be a great fishing weekend everywhere: ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. Just be careful when wading the big streams!
https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?02330450 https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?02176930 See our Facebook post for a Nacoochee Bend Special! https://www.facebook.com/unicoioutfitters Our big fish were crushing streamers during this week’s high water. They should change their tastes back to small nymphs and maybe some dries as the river drops and clears. On the local front, both Pescador and RodneyT have been wearing out pond bream and bass with their fly rods.


The warm shallows have brought fish close to the bank, where they are looking up! Black bass, stripers, and hybrids are chasing bait in the stained, warming reservoir shallows, especially when the sun is low. Upriver migrations should be in full swing for whites and hybrids, and just starting for stripers. There was some great intel in last week’s GAWRD fishing blog, and we’ll bet that this week’s report will be loaded, too. It’s time to take those small boats up the Hooch, Chestatee, Tugalo, Etowah, and Coosa!
https://georgiawildlife.blog/category/fishing/ This weekend is the traditional start of trout stocking season and we expect the state and fed trout trucks to roll. Last week’s stocking list was long, but might be outdone by tomorrow’s posted list. The popular sites are crowded on this traditional opening weekend, so this may be the year to avoid those crowds and socially distance yourselves to less popular waters that are lightly stocked. http://georgiawildlife.com/Fishing/Trout

Better yet, hike into some remote wild trout waters. RodneyT reported yesterday, “Some wild fish from this past weekend. Social distancing was rewarded with several wild & native trout which included a nice 13” Rainbow somewhere in the CNF!”
Smithgall has an angler quota of 15 and distancing is easy over its four miles of trout water. SammyC hit Dukes on the 25th and reported: “Fortuitously my buddy Adam and I set March 25 on our calendars - and the Dukes list - months ago. Despite the highest water I’ve ever seen, it was a very welcome relief from our jobs as doctors, and we are thankful to the State and staff for keeping Smithgall Woods and in doing so in a safe manner. The water was turbid and truly ripping - favorite runs were unfishable and unwadable. Pat’s rubber legs and heavy jigs on tight lines, dropped into eddies and slow deep runs were the ticket. Fishing picked up as the day warmed and we landed a half dozen between six and 16 inches and lost a bruiser to frayed tippet just before I could get the net under it. We really enjoyed our day astream.” AthensAlan reported: “Early ‪Saturday morning‬ light showers in Athens gave way to a beautiful sunny and warm day on the Chattooga. The lot on the Georgia side of the river was full but I pulled into one of a couple open spots in the SC parking area. Started hiking up the South Carolina side and counted 8 anglers in the water before stopping and fishing a nice run. The water was still up and a little off-color. I had checked the Hwy 76 gauge before leaving home and it was showing 2.05. Started fishing a size 12 purple haze with a small Pheasant Tail Dropper. Had two refusals on the dry in the first run and no action on the P.T. Decided to go to a smaller size 14 parachute Adams for my top fly and small size 16 caddis for a double dry set up, wasn’t able to get the refusals to come back up for another look. Walked on up river (saw another 6 anglers) and settled In at the upper end of the DH section. Tied on a #16 parachute Adams and picked up the first small rainbow. The action was slow but I was able to entice a couple of small browns hanging close to the bank. Best fish of the day was a pretty 12” rainbow that jumped 4 times and put a nice bend in my 4 weight (picture to follow). ‪Around 5:15 the bugs started coming off and a saw some caddis in the air.‬ Tied a tan caddis on behind my Adams hoping that the fish were going to start looking up, but never saw a rise unless it was a fish coming up to my fly. Watched a nice fish come up from a deep hole and chase my caddis downstream, but was a little quick on the trigger and didn’t let him take it all the way before sticking and missing him. I ended up with six to hand for the day, so not a tremendous amount of action, but was a great mental health day and a beautiful place to practice social distancingšŸ˜Ž” Toccoa Aaron’s Tooga report: “Landed 3 fish total. Missed about 8 lol. Had rises starting at about 10 am. The first little rainbow went after a size 16 copper stonefly/orange biot wings that was hanging off a chubby Chernobyl with 5x. The second was on a single size 14 elk hair caddis on a dead drift. And the third went after a size 14 stimi on a single rig with dead drift action. Of course, the junk flies did their jobs and attracted many hits. Good action on the trusty dusty creme mop. We just weren’t fortunate enough to get them to the nets. It was still a great day on the river.” Be safe and find a way to smile, whether it’s online, at the tying bench, in a back yard game with your kids, or alone on a remote trout stream. At least it’s spring, so the weather and the banter within our angling community will help us smile this week. Call or email the shop if we can help you further with your hydrotherapy prescriptions.

Friday, March 20, 2020

UO Fishing Report- 3/20/20

We all need a little good news right now to give our minds a break from the medical and economic woes. Hopefully this week’s report will meet those needs. Let’s call it “fresh air outdoors.”

We are so thankful for north Georgia’s abundant public lands and waters. The woods, lakes, and streams give us great opportunities to socially distance ourselves, and also to recharge our “psychological batteries” that have been drained down by each nightly newscast. A trail hike, boat ride, or stream wade on a sunny spring day may be just the prescription to keep us going during this unprecedented time in our lives. Give it a try. We did, yesterday.
Jimmy and Jeff drove separately to a Lanier boat ramp and distanced themselves once aboard the ship. They cruised slowly in the thick fog of dawn and watched for “birds,”
first the Humminbird LCD screen above the steering wheel, and then the terns that flew at first daylight. They were treated to a nice bunch of fat spotted bass and one small striper.

They tossed intermediate lines during surface breaks under the birds, and deep sinking lines on their other 8-weight rods when the graph showed spaghetti at 10-20 feet. Henry C’s popular flavors, the Something Else and the Cowen’s Coyote, were the winning patterns. The Unicoi duo also had a few brief shots at bigger, boiling stripers, but didn’t hook up. With lake temps now in the upper 50’s, it’s “game on” at your favorite reservoir. Just remember to bird-watch, as they are both awesome strike indicators!
Whites and stripers are also starting their river runs. We’ve seen good river reports on the GON message board. Other anglers also reported to our staff some success this week on Hooch stripers migrating up from Lanier. There will likely be some good WRD intel later today via their weekly blog:
Trout streams also took off as water temps stayed above the magic 50-degree mark. Private water success skyrocketed this week due to the winning trifecta of dropping flows, rising water temperatures, and hatching bugs. No single pattern ruled the week, as our guides and anglers had to adapt to the changing tastes of resident trout. Jake’s Nacoochee Bend morning group had “pot luck” on a variety of nymphs, worms, and eggs, while another angler had sole success on Dr. Dave’s root beer midges. Hunter’s afternoon clients found fish dialed into soft hackles with midge droppers, especially since midges were hatching in earnest. Big fish on the Soque ate well for both George and Stefan’s guided trips, where they again changed flies until the hot pattern of the day got dialed in.
It was a mixed message on public waters. Fresh stockers enhanced catch rates on nearby streams like the Tallulah and small lakes like Vogel and Black Rock. In contrast, Smith DH fished poorly, likely due to low, clear water and heavy fishing pressure, according to folks returning to our shop. The Chattooga DH saved the day for many other anglers as bugs hatched and fish rose off the bottom to take advantage of the drift. We just had a recent angler report of “tan mayflies” hatching. Watch the GON (fly fishing) and NGTO message boards for other “fresh” fishing reports.
Given the unseasonably warm spell, and the fact we’re nearing April, be ready with your April trout bugs, too. That month’s stars are Light Cahills and tan caddis. Go to “Spring Dries and Droppers” at the webpage called “Secrets of the Rabunites” for more April intel. Start big (size 14) early in the month and be ready with smaller sizes as the weeks pass and the bugs shrink.

The bottom line now is that we’re approaching prime time. Most fish will eat what’s on the end of a very good, drag-free drift. When certain bugs are hatching, however, anglers will do better to match the hatch. Have the normal eggs, nymphs, and small buggers in tow, but be sure to carry a few dries (Adams, March browns, gray caddis, Griffith gnat ), and nymphs and soft hackles of our favorite March mays (hares ears, pheasant tails) as hatch-matchers. Toss in the April bugs, too. Study the water for fish and bug behavior and let them help you dial in that day’s winning combination.
If there ever was a time for a fishing trip, it might be now. Go breathe some clean air and run your hands through some clean water. Dab on a little bit of sunscreen and let those rays warm your cheeks. You’ll feel a whole lot better and return to the front lines of our society’s battle with renewed hope and vigor. We sure did.
We wish you tight lines and good health in the days ahead. Call us if we can help you with a prescription for fun in the great outdoors.

Friday, March 13, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 3/13/20

Ugh, on top of everything in the news, today is ... Friday the 13th! Need a little good news right now? We have it.
Avid angler and Atlanta TV 5 meteorologist Ryan Beesley just announced this week’s theme: “Spring has sprung!” It looks like we have a very good fishing weekend ahead for both flat and flowing water fans. Last weekend’s time change and more hours of sunlight now give us a lot more fishing time. Given our community concerns, from the virus to the economy, it might just be a good time for a dose of hydrotherapy to get us through this tough time. Streamflows and temps look great,
and the weekend looks dry and warm. Midweek rains may deliver another 1-3 inches of rain up here, so go sooner rather than later. Some good reports support our predictions, so here we go:

We had some very good trips on private waters as our larger streams finally dropped and warmed enough to fire up the fish. It’s important to be flexible, though, and change your patterns and techniques until you dial in that day’s successful recipe. Joe from PA fished unguided at Nacoochee Bend last Saturday and had a great time on streamers. He said he landed eight bows to 25 inches, with only two under 20, and gave me his hot flies: a golden retriever and a Christmas tree (bushy black bugger full of crystal flash).
In contrast, Gary B (pic) had a good guided, midweek trip with Ron on a variety of nymphs.

Hunter’s guided party had a good introduction to flyfishing. He reports: “I never was able to find a really solid pattern on the bite, but pretty much all came on the swing. They wouldn’t take a streamer today. Most were on soft hackles, emergers, or midges. A bunch of midges were hatching on the warm afternoon.”
Public water reports to the shop were a bit sparse, but we expect them to fish very well this weekend. As we reported midweek, Quill Gordons hatched on the Soque, so they’re around now on all larger trout streams. Whether you hit hatch day or not is simply the luck of the draw, but those fly patterns should solicit strikes even on the off days. Be ready with both dries and nymphs for this bug, consider driving separately, and “socially distance” yourselves along the Chattooga or Nantahala for a good time, maybe even on midday dries! The March fly pattern lists were in last week’s report, so look back and then check your boxes. Here’s some more good intel from our Vol friends to the north, Ian and Charity:
BOLO (be on the lookout for) the next WRD stocking list, especially if you have kids itching to fish. We now approach the traditional start of the Georgia trout stocking season, so consistent Friday afternoon stocking lists should restart soon. See them here and sign up to have a copy delivered right to you:
In fact, the 2020 master trout stocking list (all waters stocked and their frequencies) has been posted on that site. Newly redosed Delayed Harvest streams are great training grounds for new fly fishers. A size 10 twitched black woolly bugger or a size 12 red squirmy worm, dead drifted, are hard to beat.
Spring has arrived and it’s now a good time to try the region’s rivers and lakes. The headwaters of large lakes should are finally clearing from the red-muddy river floods of a couple weeks ago. More importantly, these sunny, mild days and nights are warming surface waters and attracting shad and bluebacks to the shallows. And we know what follows them. Have your 8-weights, intermediate line, and Cowens something else, gray/white clousers, and game changer fly patterns rigged and ready for a dawn trip to upper Lanier coves. Follow the birds and bait. Check your drag setting before casting! I just bought a Hydros 4 yesterday and can’t wait to baptize it in Lanier.
Walleye, whites, and/or early stripers should be running up the feeder rivers to Lanier, Hartwell, Allatoona, Carters, and other north Georgia reservoirs. The best intel on these hotspots is the WRD fishing blog, fresh each Friday afternoon here:
If you can’t travel far, keep local waters in mind as pond bass,crappie, and bream shake off their winter hibernation.

Pescador has been nailing local small lake bass on streamers. Jay sez: “Bass are moving into shallow water. If you can locate the old creek channel in a pond or lake and fish the drop off, you will find lots of takers. One of our TU members reports awesome crappie fishing as well.”

Rodney’s been wearing out the pond bream: “With the warming weather, I have been fishing one of my son’s farm ponds. I tie these flies. They are awesome on bream! Need to get after some trout!!!!”
That’s a pretty good list of hydrotherapy treatments to help us through society’s rough waters right now. We wish you good fishing. More importantly, we wish all of you good health and safe times ahead as our north Georgia community rallies, helps each other, and survives our current “storm.” May we soak that hot fly in hand sanitizer before sharing it, refrain from carpools and high-fives after a great catch, and take our buddy’s fish pic from a little farther away. May we deeply appreciate our friends and families and the waters of north Georgia as we get through these tough times, together.

Friday, March 6, 2020

UO Fishing Report- 3/6/20

We have a very good weekend ahead of us, with abundant sunshine, warming afternoons, extra daylight hours, lower streamflows, declining winds, and some extra trout gifts from GAWRD giving us some excellent opportunities for the next few days. Get out there and take advantage of the good weather before more rain returns next week, when another 1-1.5 inches is expected.

Most of your success will likely be deep dredging, especially if you’re an early riser. Mornings are gonna be cold, so expect trout to be hunkered down, too, until the afternoon sun warms them and the stream bugs. Best bets will be mops, rubberlegs, soft colored eggs, and small dark nymphs like size 16 and 18 pheasant tails. We’re finally into March, so bigger bugs are now slowly stirring. That’s good news! With each passing day, larger (size 14 and 16) hares ear, prince, and pheasant tail nymphs and soft hackles will soon overtake winter eggs as our best bets for wets.
After lunch, BOLO dries! “Be on the lookout” for black winter stoneflies, quill Gordon and blue quill mayflies, and small dark caddis. As water temps exceed 50 degrees, the first good hatches of the new year will ring in our spring dry fly season. Make sure you put your dry fly boxes back into your vest or sling pack tonite. For more tips on expected spring bug buffets, check out the hatch chart by the Blairsville TU chapter:
Rookie fly anglers and spinning rod fans will enjoy this week’s gifts by GAWRD. Smith DH got redosed, and nine other waters got some fresh Buford stockers. Stick a Mepps spinner, small woolly bugger, or red squirmy worm on the end of a new angler’s line and be their champion fishing guide. Check out the fresh WRD intel and sign up for your own copy of the weekly trout stocking list here:
Also notice the start of spring river runs of walleye, whites and even some stripers. Chunky white bass on a six-weight fly rod and small clouser minnow are a blast. And an 8-pound striper on that rig will give you the fight of your life. For the walleye, leave the fly pole at home and drown some nightcrawlers.
Private trout waters have been too high for many safe client trips, so fishing reports are sparse. Those bigger streams have finally dropped to fishable flows and we expect good trips this weekend, since those fish have had nearly a month’s vacation from anglers’ offerings. UO guide Stefan Manole had a good Soque trip today. His angler trio battled high water, but were rewarded with nice rainbows on a variety of Stefan’s secret patterns. Private trout waters will only get better as they warm up and shed some more CFS this spring.
Landon went over the mountain to his favorite NC stream last Sunday. He said DH stockers were scarce, but little wild rainbows were very cooperative:
“All wild rainbows today besides a couple skinny stockers. Few bugs out, couple quill gordons, blue quills, black caddis and winter black stones. Only a couple fish rising and caught every one I saw. Water still ripping through there, wading the flats was safest bet, hares ear on bottom best bet. I had to go to 6x tippet for greatest success in the clear water.”
New fly flinger “Toccoa Aaron” has been practicing, and his batting average is rising significantly! He reports,
"I had luck at Smith Creek with brown and rainbow trout using a single fly rig (cream mop) under a thingamabober. I also talked to a fellow fisher who went to the Chattooga yesterday and landed 17 fish using mops and squirmies.”
There’s enough intel here to get you pointed back north to trout water. Shoot, you might even be able to leave your rain jacket at home for a day or two. What a novel idea! And with the time change, you now have an extra hour of daylight to end your fishing day. Grab the vest, toss the dry fly boxes back into it, and head north before the next storm clouds brew. A day astream this weekend might just help you forget that lost hour of Saturday night sleep. Call or email us at the shop if you need any more encouragement. And you can soon visit us at store #2 in Clarkesville if that site is closer to your Mapquest route to north Georgia trout nirvana. Good luck!