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 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.

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