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, November 27, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 11/27/20

Welcome to “Thanksgiving Leftovers.”  The UO Intel Bird is pretty picked over after serving you up three helpings of timely Facebook fodder this week: Monday risers, Tuesday legs and eggs, and yesterday’s streamflows and new Delayed Harvest stockers.   We do have some nice pics from those trips and some time-tested advice for your week ahead.  Get your smaller plate ready; here we go.

The weather and water will change soon and savvy anglers will change their techniques to match water conditions.  Most trout waters dropped to wadeable levels today, and warm weather tomorrow will keep them prime for one more day.

On headwaters, try one last shot on top with dry/dropper combos. Start with a caddis, stimulator, or Adams dry. If no lookers in 30 minutes, drop a #16 beaded pheasant tail or hares ear 1-3 feet behind it, depending on the depths you’re fishing. Try this rig at Smith DH, too, if fish have been hammered by heavy weekend pressure. Don’t be afraid to pull out your 6x and zebra midges, either. Add a #6 Dinsmore shot if you need to get the dropper down.

The good news on DH streams is their DNR redosing, so you can aim now for both frosh and sophs.  See our “DH University” tips in our November Angler magazine column. 

For new arrivals, try something flashy or buggy as your first fly: egg, rubberlegs, or small black or olive woolly bugger.  If they don’t eat the drift, remember to strip or twitch! For the smarter sophs, drop down a tippet size to 5 or 6x and try a #16 or 18 pheasant tail, prince, hares ear, or lightning bug as your trailer.

Waters are warm now and trout will swim up a foot or two to your fly tomorrow, but cold water after that will glue them to the bottom. Consider changing the number of split shot and the depth of your strike indicator before changing fly patterns. A good drift at nose level is typically more important than fly pattern. If you’re not losing a few flies on the bottom, you’re not fishing deep enough.

Most importantly, find the slower, deeper spots. Most DH fish have now been washed downstream into softer refuges by November floods. Leave the fast riffles alone til emerging spring nymphs chum fish back into them.  Prospect the pools and slower, deeper runs.

Sunday storms and next week’s arctic chill will chauffeur in winter fishing conditions. Be ready to go low, slow, and deep when those stream temps plummet.  In terms of flow spikes, recall our October Angler magazine article on reading flow curves and fishing them safely and effectively. Based on my frozen fingers and shins on Tuesday, dig out your fleece pants and gloves, too!

Private water fish will follow the same temperature trends as the public fish. Fishing’s been good for our clients on egg and stonefly patterns, and then small nymphs when the sun is high and the water is clear. Our guides have that instream experience and can dial in the “hot pattern of the day” for their guests. Hunter guided his gal, Casey, to success this week. He reports:
“No streamer action, but it wasn’t ideal conditions by the time we tried it. We had the most luck on legs, some eggs, but mainly small flashy nymphs.  Rainbow warriors, lighting bugs, and flashback hares ears did the trick.”

We’ve been too busy trouting to sample area lakes, but our flatwater buddy Henry C just checked in.  He said this week’s shallow striper bite was very slow, but Lanier’s spots compensated a bit for the striped fish.  He hopes it picks up after next week’s fronts pass through.  His book is still great, though (I’m up to page 157), so keep it in mind for a stocking stuffer.

And for more great Lanier intel, always check our friend Capt Mack’s page!

Go trout hunting soon before the floods and ice come. After that, bundle up, hit the 11am-3pm window, and add more shot til you bounce the bottom of deep, slow pools.

Good luck. And thanks for your patronage- from our Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials to your regular resupply trips. Stay distant and safe to help family and our health care workers, and share your holiday fish stories with us!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 11/25/20

Rather than waiting til our regular Friday report, here’s some more quick intel, in case you’re off this week and can put it to immediate use.

Workforce delinquents (aka retirees) Sautee and Dredger hit the Tooga DH yesterday afternoon. Water was low (2.0 on Clayton gauge) and clear. Fishing was great and catching was good. Good is the average between fair on long stretches and great in honey holes.

Best bugs were the “legs and eggs” combo, with a mix of bows and browns fondled. No brutes yesterday. Sautee’s hot fly was the Why Me. That’s the fly formerly known as the Y2K after its honey hole mugging.  Water temp fifty at our 5pm walkout.

There’s your latest chapter in “Thanksgiving fishing with Unicoi Outfitters”. Call, email, or stop by either store if we can lend a hand. We’ll even serve you curbside, or online via our new holiday gift guide.  Stay distant, safe, and thankful this season. Good luck!

Addendum: After this post, we were asked what “legs and eggs” are.  Here’s our explanation that should help all new anglers.   The “legs and eggs” concept refers to the use of some sort of rubber leg stonefly pattern as the “legs” and some sort of egg or Y2K pattern as the “eggs”. You can either fish these together as a tandem rig, or use your favorite legs or eggs and use a smaller more natural nymph with it as a tandem rig. The legs and eggs rig with both tends to work great for freshly stocked fish, and as they begin to become more educated the legs or eggs and a smaller nymph works well to offer flies to both the naive and educated fish. Both rigs work best with enough split shot to reach the bottom and you want your indicator roughly 1.5-2 times the depth of the water to really let them sink down deep.

Monday, November 23, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 11/23/20

It’s still Monday, right?  Why don’t we make this a “Cyber-Monday for Trouting Intel?” For the simple, prepaid  “cost” of your UO Facebook page follow, we’re providing this timely intel from a few hours ago.  What a deal!

A warm day and 50-degree water can create “back eddies and BWO’s.” Be on the lookout for blue wing olives! 

Remember my prior post about looking at the stream before rigging up. Today on Nan DH the BWO’s popped from noon til about 2:30. Good spots to find risers are the bankside eddies, where the slow upstream whirlpools go round and round, and keep delivering groceries to suspended fish. Many fish actually face downstream, since the eddy current is coming back in the opposite direction to the main streamflow. Enjoy the video I shot (before I caught...)

Walk the bank slowly and see what’s going on. You might be pleasantly surprised, like we were today, as bugs flittered by and fish noses poked up along the banks.  Then rig up and cast.

We caught most fish  on the small fly off the back (my #20 BWO dry and Sautee’s #16 soft hackle emerger).  But we also caught several nice fish, including wild bows, on our big first flies, used as strike indicators. I had a #14 parachute Adams and Sautee had a #10 orange stimulator, which a massive brown crushed, ran and broke off, and broke Sautee’s heart. But he has an address now...

Watch the weather report for warm days, stick your thermometer in the water, and take time to be the heron: look for fish and bugs. And you might just find a few Holiday  “treats on top,” too!

Good luck. Stay distant and safe, and thanks for your patronage. Happy Thanksgiving from the UO clan.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Sodium-Free Stripers - 11/21/20

Here’s “Henry’s Hot Intel” that we received late yesterday! Hope it helps your weekend hunts on Lanier, Hartwell, Toona, etc.  Hank reports, “Lanier fish are still on top mostly below browns bridge. 

They are up and down quickly in groups as small as 2-4 and as large as 30-40. Early and late is best. Probaby give the nod to PM being a tad more consistent. Somethin else and micro game changers are best flies on intermediate lines.”

If you’re serious about sodium-free stripers, buy his awesome book! I’ve already gotten to page 130 myself.

It covers freshwater striper movements, baits, and fishing techniques in both lakes and rivers and will help all anglers (bait, fly, or lure) to find these elusive fish.  If you haven’t been into your reel’s backing in a while, give these aquatic locomotives a try!  Don’t bring anything less than a 7-weight if you want a chance at a photo!

Good luck this weekend.  Now back to Hank’s book...

Friday, November 20, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 11/20/20

Welcome to your holiday fishing report! Here’s your bottom line, based on the past week’s trip results:  

Trout waters are super-clear, cold, and flowing well. We are dry til Wednesday.   Catching will be better in the afternoons as water temps warm from the low 40’s to the high 40’s. Fish are in the slower water, taking refuge from fast flows. Naive ones are still taking junk flies like legs, eggs, and mops.  (See our 11/17FB post on legs and eggs!).  A few new (11/1) stockers and all the residents are smartening up, so be ready with small, natural nymphs and Eurojigs if your junk flies (11/16 FB post) start striking out.  Colder lake waters should have more stripers coming up to chase threadfins at dawn and dusk.

Avoid the crowds to have better fishing and lower health risks.  Fish on weekdays or outwalk other anglers for plenty of fishing space. Here we go with some Thanksgiving hope for y’all.

Smith DH
UO buddy RonW sez,
“Met Mog up at Smiths this morning (14th) for a few hours. I was the first one in the lot at 7am but by the time I got my waders on, there were 6 other people there. The water was up and running fast! Fishing the breaks in the current was the ticket. The bank side eddies paid off as they always do in high water. I started off with my signature Pumpkin WB and it didn't take long for it to produce.  I stepped into my first run of the day and made a few casts when I noticed a big splash on the far side. Threw over there...strip strip boom...a nice 14-15" brown obliged! We worked down all the way to the bottom of the DH, picking up a half a dozen or more fish here and there.  The creek has changed in several places for sure.  We worked our way back to the top and finished the day around noon "flossing the teeth",  picking up a few more on the bugger which stayed on point all day.  We were also treated to some rising fish, which Kurt connected on.  Unfortunately I couldn't seal the deal (bass hooksets).  Big fish of the day was Kurt's 16-17" brown.  The fish are still learning their way but it won't be much longer before they wise up.  My purple hot wire nymph with chartreuse tungsten bead worked really well as a dropper, as did the egg .
Great day on the water in my book...wait,  any day on the water is a great day! “

Sautee hit Smith DH late last weekend and found a crowd.  He patiently waited, out of site, until each angler would leave a nice pool. He then fished behind them and did pretty well on eggs and nymphs. He felt that his secret to higher success than other anglers was his extra split shot.

UO friend “Nurse Kitty”
had a fun Sunday afternoon on Dukes Creek. She hooked about five and landed one chunky rainbow. It was a great learning experience as she “paid her dues” in only her second trip to this stream full of PhD trout, especially in clear water. The fish taught her valuable lessons on dead drifting, fighting big fish, and netting them. The lost ones and the landed bow all contributed to a great weekend of much-needed hydrotherapy. Congrats Kitty!

We’ve had no recent reports, as most folks are aiming toward the bigger, warmer waters. You should still be able to catch a few frozen blueliners if you hit the warm afternoons and be ready with a dropper nymph if those wild fish are too cold to rise to your dry.

UO buddy Athens Alan reports, “Made my first trip of the Fall 2020 DH season on Saturday. Beautiful sunny day; felt great to be in the river. Parked on the GA side and walked up the access road at 10:15. Two guys were fishing at the crossover point and one was below them. I crossed over and headed upstream. River was pretty high (2.5 on Hwy 76 gauge) and I was glad to have packed along the wading staff!

Fished with an indicator and a Y2K and black bead head stonefly with rubber legs.
Picked up first 10” bow on Y2K and then two more on the black stonefly. Fished up to IDBIS Creek, stopped and ate lunch, then tied on a parachute purple haze and tiny pmd. Got a pretty 8” brown to come all the way out of the water to hammer the pmd!

I didn’t see anyone else until I got back down to the crossover point.  An angler was In the river there and his buddy was just below him. I could see two more guys below them.  By that time it was a little after 4:00 and I hiked back out. Not a ton of catching, but was good to be in the river. 

Several of the large trees in the upper section that had been in the river have washed out changing the look of things up there.Lots of sunshine this week, hopefully the river will drop to a more fishable level.”

Dredger hit Tooga DH on Monday (16th: see our 17th FB post).  He found the vast majority of fish flushed into flood refuges by recent high flows. Refuges are deep pools below rock ledges and slow, deep bankside eddies. They ate dead drifted eggs and rubberlegs- when the legs were twitched. A few were hooked on a stripped bugger, but that pattern was much less effective than a week ago, as expected.  The third place finisher was actually his 3/4 inch, orange Airlock indicator! Several fish came up to eat this big “Purina pellet,”showing that they’re still fresh out of Walhalla Hatchery.

Only about 20% of the fish seemed to be adapting to their new environments and lining up in riffles and runs to intercept drifting groceries. He got them on drifted eggs. They will smarten up soon due to hunger and hookups on junk flies, then more fish will line up in these prime habitats.

The trio of Unico Guru, Sautee, and Dredger drove separately and distantly convened along Nan DH on Wednesday (18th). Water was clear and 44F at 11am, rising to 47 at four.  Flow was good, much higher than the historically low flow in fall, and wading was fine with a staff and a belt.  A few #18 gray caddis adults were seen “frozen” to streamside rocks and praying for sunshine to thaw them. Lots of cased caddis were seen on underwater boulders.
Only a few fish were seen suspended, which meant the rest were glued to the bottom.
Catching started slowly on a variety of our favorite small, traditional and Euro nymphs (good in clear water) til the gorge warmed after lunch.  Then it was on! Hot bug of the day was what our UO buddy Ron W calls “janitorial supply:” the infamous mop. The winning combo was a) warmer water, b) slower spots (either deep midstream pools or slow bankside runs with some depth), and c) that big, easy tungsten mop bumping bottom.  All three species were fondled, with biggest fish a 14” brook and 17” bow, and with best fish a colorful 10” wild bow.  Best “catch” of the day was our view of the young bald Eagle perched above us, and then providing a flyover.

Tip: if you don’t have tungsten mops, buy the unleaded flies and a bag of 4mm tungsten beads, and slip a bead up your tippet before you tie on the fly.

Private Waters
Ed Barnes caught a bunch of nice rainbows on a double-dip trip with UO guide Coach Mac They fished the morning at Riverside and the afternoon at Rainbow Point on the Soque. Coach Mac’s special recipes of eggs and nymphs produced, as always.

UO guide and Clarkesville store manager Hunter Pittman had a great time guiding a daddy/daughter duo at Nacoochee Bend. Dredged eggs and nymphs and even a stripped streamer (sparkle minnow) worked as the morning waters warmed. 

Lanier striper chasing will be worth a shot as cold air finally cools off the lake surface and brings bait schools to the top. The stripers and spots will be under them.  Since we don’t have many clouds in the forecast, it might be a short bite window early and late, when the sun is low a d fish are shallow.  

As Henry C sez, be a birdwatcher.  Use your binocs to spot diving gulls and wading herons with extended necks.

Your best source of intel is Henry’s brand-new book! “Fly Fishing for Fresh Water Striped Bass” has all of his tips in one spot. And For only $17! We still have some in the shop and another order on the way. Get this book if you want to significantly improve your odds for lake and river stripers on the fly or lure!

You can find this book and other great  products in our brand-new 


Just added to the menu of our online store:

We hope that all of you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, even if you are physically distant from most family and friends.  May Mother Nature’s therapy of a crystal clear trout stream and crisp mountain air help you to hang in there. It’s working for us. May we all be thankful for the abundant blessings that still surround us. Good luck and please be safe as you enjoy your holiday week.

Friday, November 13, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 11/13/20

This week’s theme is “try the tribs.”  Back-to-back tropical storms have our larger rivers still running very high and unsafe for most wading anglers. This weekend, head toward tributary streams, small lakes like Vogel, or big reservoirs for stripers on top.  Here’s the latest intel and some fishing reports gathered prior to this week’s 2.5 to 3.5 additional inches of rain dropped on north Georgia, before the last storm’s flows could recede!

I cruised a stream circuit today (13th) prior to watching the Chattooga River copter stocking event. The Hooch in Helen, Moccasin, Tallulah, and Chattooga were all very high, slightly cloudy, and still ripping along. (See all the storm debris piled up on the Burton Hatchery dam/intake).  They’re gonna need several more days to shed their stormflows and return to safe wading levels. 

Pay close attention to USGS streamflow gauges and call local fly shops to know current stream conditions.  Be careful- these are strong flows ripping through narrow stream channels!

We’d like to thank the US Forest Service, DNR, and county road crews for clearing the forest roads up here. I counted four Zeta-induced landslides on Tallulah River Road that the Feds cleared for us river recreationists and Tate City’s residents. 

When they drop, try some big, heavy stuff (tungsten mops, rubberlegs, and weighted Y2K’s, Glo bugs, and Woolly buggers) to get some attention.

Here’s a Delayed Harvest stream tip: aim accurately for schooled and unschooled fish. Schooled fish have been hammered by early season crowds and have already smartened up. Try some small (16-20) wets and nymphs on thinner (5, 6x) tippet to fool them. It’s usually not the fly pattern, but a natural drift that will get you more strikes.

The unschooled fish are naive ones out of reach to most anglers. They’re under logjams and in eddies on the far side of the river. Try swinging a small bugger into these gnarly spots (by pointing your rod and mending big loops to steer the fly) and twitch the bugger in these unfished niches.

Best bets right now are the upper ends of these big streams and all of their small tributaries.  Smaller streams have shed a lot of water and give you a chance to wade them. With a few more days of warm weather, try dry/dropper combos in soft (slow) spots. You’ll catch them before lunch on your flashy droppers like beaded pheasant tails and hare’s ears. After lunch, have hope for a few afternoon eats on top. Try high floaters like stimulators and small chubby chernobyls, and you might catch a few risers in November.

UO friend Ron W said he and his usual accomplices had a big time on Dukes at Smithgall Woods last Saturday. The trio has paid their dues and figured the fish out. He said:
“Hammered em today at Duke's! Also got to test out the first net I've ever built.  I need to build a bigger one for Duke's and bigger streams. This was built for small stream fishing in mind but I  finished it yesterday and just had to get some slime on her.  We caught fish on buggers, PT,  black stones etc.  Hooked and fought one easily 24".  Never saw him until after he broke me off 30 seconds into the battle. He then proceeded to jump four times, apparently he didn't like his new piercing. My best fish landed was just over 20 inches.”

Dredger hit the Smokies on Monday and had a good time. He got a late start after some elk distractions, then had high hopes with two chunky bows to hand in the first 15 minutes. They ate a mop and a rubberlegs.  Then the high sun and crystal clear water beat him up, badly. He landed just two tiny trout over the next four hours.  He tried to save face by hitting smaller pocket water, upstream, as the sun fell, and was rewarded with another 8 bows. Half ate the stimmy dry.

Hunter said that pre-flood anglers on our private waters did well, despite the lingering high flows from Zeta. He said,
“Armed services buddies Karl and Steve had a great time enjoying some hydrotherapy at Nacoochee Bend this past weekend. Had some action on everything from nymphs to streamers and even some dry fly action.They also had a great time fished Riverside on the Soque with UO guide Ron.  

I fished Ami DH before the flood and did well with legs and eggs. The rainbows hadn’t spread out yet, but I bet they are now, after this high water.”

Henry C and Jimmy said that Lanier stripers are surfacing more often these days. Try early and late, watch for birds, graph for bait schools, and go slow in river arms to see and dodge big storm debris.

That’s the latest from our Unicoi Outfitters gang. Give us a shout (706-878-3083) if we can point you in the right direction while we wait for our rivers to recede - again!  Please, please be smart, socially distant, and safe.  Good luck!

The Border Bird - 11/13/20

The Border Bird completed its second and final flight today (13th), delivering GADNR’s share of trout to the Chattooga River backcountry between Highway 28 and Burrell’s Ford. Today’s efforts finish up the annual co-op stocking effort among the US Forest Service, GADNR, SCDNR, and Trout Unlimited in both border states.  

Have fun with your backcountry trouting excursions this fall and especially next spring! Unicoi Outfitters salutes all partners in this 35-year success story on the Chattooga River.

PS: our Friday Facebook fishing report is forthcoming. Be careful; the big trout rivers are still very high. You might wish to wait a few days before wading them.

Friday, November 6, 2020

UO Fishing Report - 11/6/20

The weather is great and streamflows are dropping, so it’s a fine time to wet a line. It looks like we’ll be dry til at least Tuesday, and the warm days will keep afternoon stream temps up in the fifties.  Expect big crowds, esp on prime weekend days and times, so make plans to avoid them and stay safe.  Go on a weekday if you can! If you’re a rookie fly flinger, don’t miss our post and video this week on the drag-free drift. Practice this technique and you’ll catch more fish. (Trust me on this one.) Now here’s our latest hillbilly intel to get you set for your trips north.

This atypical warm spell might give blueline fans your “third last chance” at little wild fish this fall. We have no recent reports, but predict that warm afternoon stream temps will have fish on the feed. Stick with the dry/dropper menu and let the fish pick their flavors. If you’re lucky and the afternoon sun is warm and bright, they’ll look up. Stimmies, Caddis, and Adams are good choices for your “bobbers.”

DH streams are fishing as predicted. GA fish are gullible, while NC fish are smartening up. Remember, however, that DH trout will learn quickly from all this heavy fishing pressure, so be ready with smaller flies and thinner tippet.

Landon hit Smith DH early this week and did well on rubberlegs, leeches, and big hares ears.  He said fish were spread out real well, so try the small pockets and runs between the prime pools.

Sautee and Dredger met at the SC lot yesterday (11/5)and stayed two or more rod lengths apart as they taught Bugger Aversion 101 to Border River’s new residents. Water temp 53 at their noon start.   Class graduates were mostly bows, with a couple browns. Few wanted the legs or eggs, but many crushed the stripped buggers. Wading staffs were almost as important as the flies.

Tip: fish downstream and cover a lot of water to strike gold.   Cast down and across, mend up a time or two to sink it, put your rod tip in the water, and then strip the bigger back up in quick 4-inch strips. Olive (pic) and black worked equally well, especially with a big shot or two crimped a foot above the bug.

New UO staffer Abe and his girlfriend had a tough day on big, cold water in Fires Creek.
They had no luck on streamers and princes, but hooked up on squirmies and a green caddis larva.

Dredger hit Nan DH on 11/4 and was surprised to find more whitewater than flat water! The raging flow seemed higher than what the USGS gauge, on the river above the lake, would suggest. Either the tribs were still pumping in stormflows or there may be been some release from the lake.

He pulled out his Euro rod, hugged the near bank, and dropped a big tungsten, tan mop in the soft spots for success on a few stockers and a nice handful of wild, potbellied bows. 

Hints: hit the flood refuges, where fish might have washed into after last week’s flood. Also try a long (5-6ft) tippet below your sighter to get deep, quickly. Fish ignored the sexy walts and the small stuff (frenchie, surveyor) and only one ate a beaded prince. He ended up using that one big mop for most eats in the raging flows.

It was a similar theme on private waters: a slow start during cold mornings, and then a good afternoon bite when flies hugged the bottom in big flows. UO guide Hunter:
“ Some fresh private water intel after this cold snap:
Typical cold snap conditions,
Bite picked up more around midday as expected. A few on junk flies, but most wanted smaller more natural stuff. Hares ears, small rainbow warriors, soft hackle. Most were picked up dredging but still some action on the swing, but not as much as before the cold snap.   My keys to client success this week: 1) Natural drifts and getting deep, 2) Legs and eggs and small natural nymphs, and of course, 3) a lot of split shot !”

Jimmy gave Lanier a shot yesterday (5th).   He chased a lot of Striper schools but couldn’t catch up to them quick enough for a hookup. He said to aim for the lower end and watch both open water and the mouths of major creeks and coves. Fish are up and down super-quick, and are on small Shad.  Have Two rods ready: a spinner with a  Sebile plug and a fly rod with a small Cowen’ s Something Else. Watch for the few early-arriving gulls, too, as strike indicators.

That’s our latest hillbilly intel.  All of this weekly scouting and angling is a tough job, but we’re up to the task in service to y’all.  Stay safe and distant. Know your own safe wading levels and tread slowly on bigger waters while they continue to recede.  Plan your trips early, late, or on weekdays to avoid the crowds. Give us a call 706-878-3083) or email if we can help with your hydrotherapy trip via our store, our front porch, or our mailed goodies.   Good luck from all of us at Unicoi Outfitters.