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, September 25, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 9/25/20

Cool weather means hot fall fishing across north Georgia! Dropping water temps now have stream trout, river bass, and pond bream in much better moods this week. 

Northeast GA received 1-2 inches of rain overnight. This morning’s intermittent rain should quit by lunch. Similar to last week, our streams should drop back quickly toward their low baseflows.  My morning recon shows that bluelines are fishable today, while bass rivers might take a couple days to clear. The Hooch in Helen is Yoo-hoo right now, but might be fishable by this evening, and definitely by tomorrow.


Add a great weekly weather report and we have some fine fishing conditions ahead of us. Here’s the latest fishing news from our Helen home base.  Tomorrow (26th) is National Hunting and Fishing Day, and a free fishing day for GA residents,


so grab a new angler and turn them on to our favorite addiction, I mean sport!  

More good news: North Carolina’s Delayed Harvest trout season is right around the corner (Oct 1), so restock your fly boxes with buggers, eggs, and squirmies, grab fresh tippet, and make road trip plans soon.


Know before you go!  My friend, NCWRC trout biologist Jake Rash, told me that all of their abundant DH streams should be restocked by the middle of October, just as in prior years.  He suggested that trouting fans watch the daily stocking reports on the agency’s trout page to ensure the first loads of DH fish have hit their favorite waters before burning gas up there:


That link is certainly worth a bookmark.

UO Buddy Sautee had a good day bluelining “high above Helen” earlier this week. The little wild rainbows succumbed to stealth, first, a drag-free drift, second, and finally a size 16 yellow elk hair Caddis on the far end of his winning combination. He said:

“The recent cooling air temps resulted in cooler water which gave fish just enough incentive to spread out and look up more.  The increased activity meant more “looks and takes” of meandering dries.  Skinny, clear water put the odds more in the quarry’s court but a ninja approach balanced the ledger.  Fish to hand was the reward for deliberate technique.”

UO Buddy Ron W:

“Our Traditional Trio hit "The Park" on  Saturday to fish a creek we fished several years ago...and just like the last time, it didn't disappoint!  After a long hike in and  600' in elevation gain, we finally got in the creek around 10am.  We fished about a half-mile section, gaining several hundred more feet in elevation.  

The Specs were plentiful and  willing to look up all day long. Caught em on Yellow Sallies, Thunderheads, Split Wing Coachman's, Trudes  and just about anything else that was presented in a drag free drift! Fly of the day for me was a Yellow CDC Sedge Caddis. I brought over a dozen to hand on that fly alone before a rather large brookie stole it from me. The weather,  scenery, fishing, and company made for a Epic day on the water...I can't wait to get back out to Idbis creek! “

Leftover Stockers:

UO Guide Hunter Pittman said his Sunday client had a great time swinging small woolly buggers for stockers in the “hills above Helen.” Cover some ground with the downstream casts and bugger swings and you might have a great trip, too.  Hit the bigger waters with late-season stockings, and aim for remote downstream reaches. Suggestions:  Hooch, Tallulah, Wildcat, Cooper, Rock, and Toccoa tailwater.  If in doubt, hire Hunter for a day!

River Bass Report:

Our UO bunch held its annual staff fishing day last Monday. It was a great day of fellowship while afloat, with some nice river bass caught. The key to success was flexibility.  Jake said surface  bugs and streamers worked before lunch, but hardware was the ticket in the afternoon, with some swimming plugs and dredged soft plastics working well. Jimmy said that if he’d have thrown a small bream popper instead of a big bass bug, he would have worn out the redbreasts all day long!

Wes had a good guide trip on Wednesday (24th). Mike O from Atlanta and his dad had slow pickins’ before noon, then the action picked up as water temps rose above 60 degrees. Streamers were the ticket, with best bass in the boat hitting the 17 and 18 inch marks. The biggest fish of the day, however,  was a five-pound spot that inhaled a small redbreast, hooked on a small popper.  The huge spot was a great fight while it held onto the bream. With no hook in the bass, however, it finally gave up on lunch and sunk to the depths after spotting the raft.  Bottom line: It’s a great time to book a river float with Jake or Wes!

UO Buddy Jay’s  Athens Area Pond Report:

“I had a fishing emergency last night! I only had 90 minutes but I hit prime time topwater bass bite! Holy cow it was explosive, with 15 surface grabs in that short period.  Maybe late summer terrestrials had them looking up. The boogle bug sure was the ticket.   Thanks for the tip last week. Go Dawgs!”

That’s the latest from the UO bunch and our angling cohorts. Enjoy the fall weather and its improved fishing opportunities from the cooler waters.  Shoot us an email or call us at 706-878-3083 if we can help you restock your boxes for the fall.

Friday, September 18, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 9/18/20

Welcome to UO’s post-Sally fishing report. While we got 3-5 inches of rain yesterday In NE GA, it’s running off quickly. Your bets right now are headwater trout, lake bass and bream, and an early surprise: some shallow stripers on the reservoirs!

Your angling opportunities are decent for the weekend and will improve with each passing day of dropping and clearing water. And since base flows are low in the fall, our mountain streams drop much quicker than they do in the spring.  

The weather’s looking great, too, and you might want to add a sweatshirt to you tackle bag for the cold mountain mornings next week.  Here’s the latest intel from UO staff, our angling buddies, and our friends with GAWRD.

Your best bet right now is small stream trouting. While the Hooch in town was ripping last nite (5pm on 17th), the headwaters I surveyed had already dropped and cleared enough to be easily fishable. This morning the Hooch in Helen had already dropped and cleared enough for experienced anglers to give it a shot. 


However, downstream reaches will still be blown out for bass anglers, for at least a couple more days.

The higher flows have headwater wild trout feeling safer and hungrier. One tip is to use a dry/dropper combo. When the water is high, fewer come to the dry. But a lot will nail the dropper!

Last weekend Sautee took a buddy, new to flyfishing,  “speckulating” high in the mtns. Flows were real low and temps were a bit high (high 60’s) and the brookies were very shy. They landed a half dozen natives in the skinny water on a size 16 parachute Adams and same-sized yellow elk hair Caddis. Buddy was thrilled with his first native speck and said he’ll be back up here soon! Where? I don’t believe they said....

The Unicoi Guru also snuck out to a blueline before the storm this week and had a blast on his short rod. He reports, “Had fun. Caught a dozen or so. Fished about an hour and a half. Two went 8”.  Best spots were the deeper runs, especially with log or boulder cover. I used only one fly in the small stream and the size 16 Adams Klinkhammer was the ticket.”

Dredger and Sautee met Monday afternoon in the Smokies. They each caught about a dozen, mostly bows, on dry/dropper combos. Nearly all fish hit their droppers. Sautee caught more because he left his dropper on, while Dredger cut his off to go strictly dry, and watched his catch rate drop.  Hot patterns were stimulator and beetle dries, while the wets were tungsten ants and Sautee’s deadly, silver beaded, yellow soft hackle wet in size 16.

Jake had a decent, pre-flood bass float this week and reports, “Shoal bass fishing is starting to improve for us with the change in season. The fish sense cooler weather coming, and are beginning to feed more aggressively. The topwater bite has dropped off, but subsurface flies continue to produce. We still have a few more weeks of great fishing, and plenty of availability for guided trips left before the weather becomes cooler and the fish become more dormant. “

Small lakes should fish well. Hit the shade or shadows. Another good bet is working the stained headwaters of the ponds where the storm flows dump in. The stained water hides predators and also washes in groceries. Some of the biggest bass I’ve seen in NE GA have come from small lakes (Vogel, W Scott, Unicoi) with trout stocked in them or above them. Keep that in mind if you’re hunting the elusive ten-pounder. In the meantime, enjoy the big bream and small bass under the overhanging tree limbs, just waiting for your rubber spider or stealth bomber. 

GAWRD-Gainesville biologist Hunter Roop responded to my inquiry with this:

“Overcast skies have brought Stripers up shallow early and they are feeding aggressively on Lanier. Pre-spawn Hooch browns are biting on precisely placed nymphs and there is a quality over quantity theme afoot (unless you get into the desperate stockers). Visibility on the Hooch Tailwater is limited due to the annual stain from lake stratification but improves significantly around Jones Bridge. More details will be in this afternoon’s update to our weekly, statewide fishing blog.”


(PS- see last week’s blog for Deadly Damer’s wild brown report)

Hunter is right!  As I was finishing this report at noon, Henry Cowen called in with the freshest intel possible. This morning their Lanier duo did well on shallow stripers by throwing Pole Dancers in their fly rods and Sebiles on their spinners. Fish were shallow, but not breaking the surface. It’s a good time for good electronics and a lot of experience on the lake to track these fish down. It’s also a great time to pre-order Henry’s book on freshwater striper fishing. Thanks Henry!

That’s the latest from our Unicoi Bunch.  If you haven’t been washed away, plan to socially distance on a small stream or a lake soon, as cooler weather will begin to fire up our fall fishing. Good luck. Call either the Helen or Clarkesville store if we can help you further.

Friday, September 11, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 9/11/20

It’s a special Friday as we pay tribute to our fellow Americans impacted by the events of 9/11.  Personally, we salute our late friend Tom, PAPD badge # 1712, and his life-saving efforts in the South Tower. Your son proudly wears your badge now, and is a pretty darn good fly angler! We’re honored to call him our friend.

On to the fishing intel. This week’s report is nearly a rerun of last week’s.   Best bets continue to be river bass and blueline trout. Worst bet, until rains roil the river, is Hooch stripers. The two big changes affect bass rivers and stocker streams. River bassin’ is better because the streams have dropped and cleared, at least until the weekend rains hit. Second, GAWRD is winding down its stocking season, so anglers with kids or new to fly fishing should search for Labor Day leftovers in remote reaches below stocking stretches, and watch for this afternoon’s shorter stocking list.


Here are some fresh reports.

UO assistant manager Wes:

“I had a couple productive river bass trips this week. The low and clear flows had the fish looking up. It wasn't automatic, but once we found the fish we were well rewarded.”

Dredger finally saw dropping water on the USGS gauge for favorite, unnamed smallie stream just north of the border, and hit it twice this week.  The first trip was real slow (4 fish) as the water was still high and a bit cloudy. At least 12 and 14 inchers came up to crush his white stealth bomber.

The second trip was better as the river had dropped another 100 cfs and cleared.  But it was dead til dark!  He worked hard yesterday (9th) for a measly 6 fish in four afternoon hours.  The best one, 12 inches, hit his “ trolled” rubberlegs dropper as he waded back upstream. He’ll take any fish, even the accidents!

The last hour made Trip 2 worthwhile as 8 fish ate the stealth bomber at sunset. One may have pushed 12 inches, but most were 10-11 inches, jumping, and fun.

River bassing should be a real good bet until the rains return. When they leave and the rivers clear again, we should have another 4-6 weeks of good action in the low water of fall before cold water cools the topwater bite.  Bottom line: fish the shadows! And remember your wading staff and headlamp.

River stripers have lockjaw. The low, clear water has them nervous and not interested in any fly or lure tossed their way. Jimmy and Kathy hit Helen Wednesday nite and were shut out. This can change, at least for a day or so,  with one big rain and its stain.

UO friend Ron W’s marathon trout trip: 

“Awesome day for the Trio, a long one I might add! Left Woodstock at 5am and returned at 11pm.  We stopped by the fly shop in the Highlands to get some Intel in area streams. Did about 4 miles plus back in to one of them, last mile+ was all uphill. Beautiful brookies caught on top!

We had a quick lunch on the tailgate of the truck and then decided to go check out a stream we had good success in the past in North Georgia. Took the curvy road down from the Highlands and ended up stopping by "The River" to make a quick deposit...a new Flybrary I built recently.

After that we hit our intended stream and got our fix on some  beautiful wild bows. All came on dries and droppers, the Trude and Pheasant tail combo was working for me. 

All in all it was a great day to be out in the woods and on the water with my brothers in arms! My legs are sore my and back is toast but I'd do it all over again today if I had the chance!  Tight Lines! “

Remember, stealth is the key to a good wild trout trek. Don’t miss “Fundamentals” in Domenick’s  latest blog:


Jeff’s neighbor, Tim, had a short but decent yakking trip to a local lake. He landed 4 largemouth bass to two pounds along the shady bank with a Texas rigged Zman crawdad behind a 1/16 oz black bullet sinker.

Hopefully this fresh intel will help your weekend planning. Good luck as you stay safe, stay distant, and aim at the shadows. Call either one of our UO stores if we can be of service.

Friday, September 4, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 9/4/20

Welcome back to our Friday fishing report. It looks like we’re gonna be “high and dry,” so your best bets for this holiday weekend are river bass, blueline wild trout, and DNR stockers for the kids.  Notice that the days are now shorter, so our dawn or dusk adventures will now be easier on all of us!  Here’s our latest intel.

We are high on air temps and dry on the rainfall, finally. That means our bigger rivers are clearing. The Hooch at Highway 115 this morning (4th) had a good 3-4 feet of visibility, so yak and canoe fans should have a good time floating the northeast Georgia rivers while the bass and bream can actually see your flies.

Headwater trout are still rockin’ along! Jimmy and Jeff hit the Smokies yesterday (3rd) and had a big time on droppers and dries. They each caught a dozen or more, mainly bows, but the best fish for both were twelve-inch browns. Each lost a bigger brown, which was probably due to their inexperience.  😉 Almost all fish came on the dropper, which was a freshly tied tungsten fur ant. The few trout on top succumbed to a small stimulator or parachute beetle during the day and a large (#12) stimulator at Dark30.  To top off a stellar day, both drivers enjoyed Big Boy’s induced elk jam when he crossed Highway 441 on their way home.

The best headwater intel came from UO-Helen’s assistant manager Wes, who said, “ Got out on Monday for a couple hours of speck fishing on IDBIS creek. I caught about 7 fish that were all very nice. What the creek lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. The smallest fish I caught was probably 6” and the largest fish I caught went slightly over 8”. The trusty #12 black Wooly Bugger was my fly of choice. The two attached pictures are actually some of the smaller fish I caught. It was a crazy good day in the mountains.”

We had a great stocker report from our friend, flatlander Chris Moore, who took a brief family vacation up here last weekend to get his son on some trout. Chris said,”Nash Had a big time on Moccasin Creek. Best luck was on a 1/8 oz glitter fire tiger rooster tail.”  Nice job starting them young, Chris!

Today’s DNR intel here: 


Darren from Alpharetta ran up to Helen twice for some Dark30 stripers with a local fishing buddy. They had decent luck both times.  The first trip took advantage of a rain spike, and they nailed one small striper and a 3-pounder on a six-inch rainbow trout streamer in the muddy water.  Their return trip was to low, gin-clear waters, the toughest conditions to get any takers.  They finally fooled two small fish on olive buggers at dark, but Darren was haunted by the two BIG  blowups behind his six-inch trout streamer.  It looks like they were last-minute refusals, but those violent crashes right at his feet made Darren vow for a rematch.

That’s the latest from the UO gang. Be smart and distance yourselves from the holiday crowds. You can still find some great opportunities by getting off the beaten paths. Enjoy the break in our monsoon season, enjoy the long weekend, and make some memories of your own. Thanks for your patronage: online, curbside, and instore.  Call either shop if we can help point you in the right direction.