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, October 30, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 10/30/20

This week’s theme is “drying out and cutting out.” Our skies are blue, the winds are down, and we have a nice, dry week ahead of us. That’s good because north GA is cutting its way out from Zeta’s impacts.  I did my “stream conditions” circuit this morning and drove past three sites with downed powerlines in just the short stretch from Unicoi Lake to Smithgall Woods.  Conditions are still tough up here, so beware of access limitations and be patient as hard-working staffs from DOT, power companies, GAWRD, and the U.S. Forest Service restore power and vehicular access across our region.

Our advice: take the weekend off from trout stream fishing. Head toward a lake or, better yet, clean up your yard (or help your neighbor) then prepare for next week’s fishing trips.

We do have a few tips and then a lot of good filler to compensate for our lack of trip reports due to the storm. Here you go with our post-Zeta intel.

Your best fishing opps, in priority order, are reservoirs, small lakes, and headwater streams near paved roads. On reservoir headwaters, go slow and watch out for storm debris, especially sunken logs sulking just beneath the surface, waiting to eat your prop.  Keep your life jackets on!  UO’s flatwater friend, Mack Farr, has some of the most detailed and timely lake fishing intel. We always enjoy his weekly reports on Lanier and Hartwell. Whether you’re tossing flies, lures, or bluebacks, Mack’s lake intel will get you in the game this fall. Details here:


Most small lakes should be accessible and a safe bet. Vogel just got a load of WRD trout last Friday to kick off its winter season for yakkers, canoeists, and bank anglers. County water supply lakes, state parks, and USFS lakes like Russell and Winfield Scott should be accessible. You’ll do more fishing than catching, but it will still beat working.

Headwater streams are high this morning, but clear, and should be wadeable for most anglers.  The challenge is their vehicle accessibility. It’s not a good weekend to expect to drive way back into the National Forest or WMA to hit your favorite blueline. Give the wildlife and forestry techs time to cut your road out for next weekend’s safe travels.

Instead, if you must tempt a trout, aim for small creeks close to paved roads. A few near our Helen shop are places like Smith at Unicoi Park, Spoilcane, Soapstone, Dukes for reservation holders, maybe Boggs, and the Russell Highway tribs.  Do some homework yourself and find others “close to the open road.” Your best tool is the interactive trout map on the GA trout fishing page. Do a little “learning and earning” on your own and your catches will be more satisfying. Dry/ dropper combos, described in our past reports, will do best as these small residents hold onto bottom boulders and try not to wash away. Hit the soft spots behind big boulders and ledges and against the bank. A bead head or flashy pattern might help in the faster flows, too. Our Helen shop staff can help you with hot flies and maybe an X or two scribbled onto your top-secret copy of your GA trout map.


After that, your safe weekend trouting opps are shot. Bigger streams are clearing, but are high and ripping and remain unsafe as they shed Zeta’s rainfall. Just look at these flow spikes for several of our favorites:









Don’t be a hero. Wait them out til they drop to your own safe wading level and then get your wading staffs, belts, and longh rods out. It will be midweek, at least, until they recede.

The GA Delayed Harvest season will kick off with Monday’s bucket brigades.  

(See bottom: https://georgiawildlife.blog/2020/10/23/georgia-fishing-report-october-23-2020/)

Fishing should be good as streamflows drop through the dry week ahead.  Remember to cover some ground with junk flies (eggs, squirmies, and small buggers) until you find a pod of fish.   Add some movement to your flies to attract their attention.  The fish will spread out and smarten up in the weeks ahead, but they’re real easy at the outset and great confidence-builders for flyfishing rookies and kids with single-hook spinners.

More Delayed Harvest fishing tips will soon appear online and at your local tackle shops when the November edition of The Angler magazine hits the shelves. Watch for our column, “Delayed Harvest University.”

While most trouters are sidelined by the storm for a few days, it’s a great time to inventory our flies and resupply them for colder waters ahead. This is easy for veterans, but can be intimidating for our new fly flingers.  Never fear, UO is here! We want to un-complicate fly fishing and get all you rookies hooked on the sport that we love.

To that end, how about “Dredger’s Bottom Six?”  If you buy or tie these six patterns and fish them correctly, you’ll  have great shots at cold-weather trout.  We’ll tell you how to fish them on a later post.  And around February, we’ll clue you in on a basic selection of spring dry flies so you’ll have shots at surface sippers.  Right now, as water temps drop and trout head deep, here’s the most basic box of bottom bugs to get you rookies started this November at your favorite Delayed Harvest stream.

Dredger’s Bottom Six

1. #12 peach globug

2. #12 red squirmy worm

3. #10 black woolly bugger

4. #10 brown Pat’s Rubberlegs

5. #14-18 pheasant tail nymph

6. #14-18 gold ribbed hare’s ear nymph

This “bottom six” consists of two junk flies, two meaty ones, and two slick imitators of the tiny nymphs covering the stream bottom. Make sure you get 3-6 of each of these patterns, in case you lose a few to the stream bottom or Moby Dick.  You sure don’t want to run out of your “hot” fly in the middle of your trip!

For the junk fly duo, stock up on some size 12 light-colored (peach or apricot) egg flies, also called globugs, and a size 12 red squirmy worm.  They are nice and bright, and trout love eating fish eggs and worms! These attractor flies stand out in stained water, too. If you tie your own, google “Orecks Easy Egg” and find my favorite pattern’s recipe in the Rabun TU newsletter.

The meaty duo consists of a #10 black woolly bugger and a #10 brown Pats Rubberlegs (stonefly imitation).  Big, natural-colored bugs also attract a lot of attention, especially from bigger fish.

Your last fly duo is aimed at picky fish.  They are the pheasant tail and gold-ribbed hare’s ear nymphs. Get them in sizes 14, 16, and maybe even a few tiny size 18’s.  We usually hang one of these as a dropper fly off the bend of the hook of our first fly (one of the four previous patterns) and give trout a choice between a full meal or a snack.

Stock up on these 6 basic bugs now. You can add more patterns to your fly box in the future (hints forthcoming in November Angler magazine column), but these first six will get you into the game right at kickoff.  If you need some help stocking up, just call our Helen shop (706-878-3083).  You might wanna add one of those lucky UO fishing caps, too, for good measure. Remember our free shipping on your tabs over 25 bucks.

That should cover the “what fly” question for you rookies. Stay tuned for our “how do I fish them” post in the near future. Before you know it, you’ll be just as “ruint” as we are, and totally addicted to cold-weather trouting. Good luck from all of us at Unicoi Outfitters. Stay safe and distant. Don’t mess with high water nor with crowds. We want to hear your own great fish stories for decades to come!


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