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, February 26, 2021

UO Fishing Report - 2/26/21

Welcome to “Spring Break-Out.” This is what we’ve been waiting for! Sunny days in the 60’s will push water temperatures above the magic 50-degree mark, triggering midday bug activity and trout gluttony. It happened a few days last week and will repeat in the weeks ahead. We just have to deal with March’s weather yo-yo’s and hit the warm days when streamflows aren’t too high and muddy from frequent rains.

Today’s rain will limit its dry fly action, but dredging should be good until the waters rise and get too muddy. Big streams might be blown out tomorrow if we get today’s predicted inch of rain. Their recovery time depends on their watershed size (drainage area), so have some small stream and lake Plan B’s ready. Check river conditions via USGS gauges and calls to local fly shops, like our favorite one in Helen...
Your March colors are gray and brown. Have plenty of gray caddis and gray and brown mayfly dries. Study streams before entering them! Look for bugs and poking noses in eddies and along shaded banks, especially in the midday warmth. BOLO the Quill brothers, Gordon and Blue, as they’ve awakened from their winter slumber. Thanks to our Smokies guide friends Ian and Charity Rutter,
you can do some homework:
When adult bugs are sparse, try a) stripping some small buggers or b)deep drifting a nymph/soft-hackle combo of those March bugs. For more March intel, review my “spring dries and droppers” handout at the Rabunite secrets page.
Wes’ weekly hot fly list includes: A) streamers: Simi seal leech black #10, olive woolly bugger #8-12, sparkle minnow #6 sculpin & black; B) wets: girdle bug #10 black & dark olive, hares ear nymph and soft hackle #14-18, Tungsten Jig CDC pheasant tail #14 -16, holy grail #14-16, rainbow warrior #16-18, soft hackle partridge #14-16, red squirmy worm #12; C) dries: gray elk hair caddis #14-16, black elk hair caddis #18, parachute Adams #14-18, Quill Gordon #12-14, blue quill #18, griffiths gnat #20.
Angler trip reports follow on our extended version at the Unicoi Outfitters Facebook page. Good luck and be careful in high flows. Wading safety = a staff, a belt, a buddy and, above all, good judgment.
Landon: “I did a big Lake Burton loop Monday after the rain. The tributaries were ripping, but I found wild fish deep on squirmies in bankside eddies.”
Sautee snuck out to his favorite blueline on a warm Tuesday afternoon and was rewarded. Enough caddis and mayflies were hatching to have residents looking up. He landed a big handful of wild bows to 10 inches. Most hit his #14 caddis dry, a few ate his #18 hares ear dropper, and none ate his egg fly.
Cannon’s Cohutta Trek: “ I even mimicked the guy who taught me. I let my new flyfishing buddy flail around for five minutes while Friend 2 and I watched. Then I told #2 I was heading in to coach #1 up. I waded in and said, “Alright Brad Pitt, let’s shorten the line up a little and maybe actually hook a fish.” I showed him how to water load, high-stick, mend, and see if he’s getting a good drift. Then I showed him how to set the hook. I had him repeat it for me a dozen times, then told him to start taking two steps upstream at a time and get some good drifts through the pool. Five minutes later he set the hook and his rod was bending too deep to be a seven-inch rainbow. It was awesome: a 15-inch wild brown!”
Delayed Harvest
Smith DH: the crowds are still here, so go early, late, or in the rain. Folks with stealth and a good drift are still doing well. I talked to one teenager who had a good drift. He said he recently caught more than a dozen, thanks to his hot flies bought at our Helen shop: trout crack, with a root beer midge dropper.
Chattooga DH: Sautee and a buddy hit the river yesterday (25th) and found lotsa bugs hatching, but no noses under them. They each caught about a dozen bows and browns up to 15 inches. Hot fly was a small olive woolly bugger. I’ve seen this before: the fresh stockers don’t yet recognize real food, since they’ve never seen Quill Gordons before. Give them another week or two of starvation and they’ll get on those little gray sailboats.
Toccoa DH:
UO’s Hunter reports,
“Last Sunday I floated the Toccoa DH with my dad and close friend Rodney Tumlin. Water was high, roughly 700 CFS, with a slight color to it. We did see a few anglers wading, however it would’ve been tough and risky with those extreme flows. However, even being stuck to the bank, most said they had some success. With the sun out that day, we saw plenty of midges and gray caddis coming off, however no risers. We swung soft hackles and dredged midges for success on the experienced fish and threw the typical legs and eggs for the naive fish. Roughly 20 fish were landed. Most fish were pushed to the edges of the typical holes with the high water, or hanging tight to boulders and ledges for relief.”
Private Waters:
From UGA-Jay:

“Last Sunday the UGA 5 Rivers Club leadership team had the privilege of visiting Nacoochee Bend. I arrived early to have my 5-weight line replaced in the shop. We then spent several hours picking up trash and after hauling it out, had an opportunity to fish a little. The weather was beautiful, and fish were active. I was bobber fishing deep with a jig-style tungsten bead black stone and a #16 soft hackle pheasant tail, and the good old PT got all the attention. The fish are really strong, and they gave me and my 5 weight quite a battle. I used 4X tippet to the jig fly, then 5X to the PT. I then switched to a red San Juan worm behind a brown Pat’s Rubber Legs with equally good results. I would simply adjust the depth of my Air-Lock indicator according to conditions. Fish were abundant in deep pools, but we also had great success in runs with big cobble substate. One of our group, Ben Comfort, mopped up (literally) - fishing Euro-style with a single fly in water that some might have though too shallow to hold big fish. We also spent time sampling aquatic insects since we had a professional entomologist with us. We observed an abundance of small brown mayflies (the reason that the soft hackle PT is so effective). We all learned a great deal about the right and wrong way to take on big fish. There are many ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when a big fish eats, and I think I experienced most of them. Thank you to my personal netman, Jimmy Harris, and the UO crew for their gracious hospitality. This was truly a special day. If you want to experience phenomenal fishing in a beautiful place, give Unicoi Outfitters a call.”
From North GA Trout Fishing Facebook Group (25th): “Unicoi Outfitters treated me to a great time today. Couldn’t have asked for a better first day on the river. Caught 15+ bows, all 14-18 inches. I assume it’s always this good???”
Ponds and Lakes

Pescador returned to his Athens-area ponds and found some willing bass: “caught several last night, 2 hours before dark, tossing big streamers.”
Landon on Lanier: “I know it’s not trout but I took my buddy today on kayaks and we shot docks with jigs. He had a hard time with it but caught a couple and I did decent with it. Did much better with minnows on slip bobbers in 8-15 ft of water. Lots of smaller fish but a couple nicer ones landed, too. It’s getting close to prime crappie time.”
HenryC: “This is a good weekend to go out and toss flies at stripers and bass. Even though February is typically slow, we are facing a slight warmup and it’s going to get even warmer by the time you read this report. If you add the overcast and slight rain over the next 4-5 days along with the full moon this Saturday, you’d be crazy to sit at home instead of tossing flies on area lakes in North GA. Largemouth bass are up shallow and spots and stripers will be aggressive and looking for an easy meal. The gulls are still around and will tip you off to the action. Don’t overlook a blue heron on the bank whose neck is extended! It’s been a long winter BUT this is exactly the pattern that changes the game. You can either read about this next week or make your own report to give to Unicoi this weekend for next week!”
Good luck as you aim for sunshine among March’s lingering winter days. Stay flexible and let the weather, water, and wildlife dictate your rigs. Rig streamside - and not in the parking lot beforehand.
Also remain distant and safe to maintain your health, especially on crowded weekends at popular sites. Try to hit them on uncrowded weekdays. Call, email, come in, or pull curbside if we can help you in Helen or Clarkesville. Don’t forget your sunscreen and dry fly floatant.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Up Close and Personal

“Good Things Happen Up Close”
(D. Swentosky)

There’s casting, then there’s fishing. Amen! Distance casting heroes, reel in nearly all that fly line if you’d like to catch more trout. Take a lesson from the best trout wrangler around these parts and “be the heron.” 

Give Dominick’s thirty-foot rule a try and see how close you can sneak up to your quarry. Thanks to Dominick for another great article. Enjoy.


Assembling Your Combo - Part 4

Hunter continues our discussion on the perfect flyfishing setup. Today we simplify leaders and tippet. We’ll start with an explanation of the role each plays, as it can be confusing for beginners. We'll end with the basics you need to get started with trouting in north Georgia.

First, the leader is a section of clear line (monofilament or fluorocarbon) that connects the thick fly line to your fly. It’s tapered, meaning it goes from thick to thin. Leaders come in different lengths and diameters depending on your situation. The diameter is only referencing the line thickness at the thin end of the leader where you tie the fly on.

Second, the tippet is a spool of mono (or fluoro) that is all the same diameter, not tapered. You add tippet to the thin end of your leader to extend its life or customize it. Let’s talk options.

When choosing leader and tippet, think about the kind of fishing you will be doing. Small, overgrown creeks call for shorter leaders (7.5 ft, 4X) whereas larger streams or low, clear water and spooky fish call for longer leaders (9 ft, 4X).

First, you can use tippet to repair a leader. As you change flies or break off, the leader will get shorter and thicker, so using sections of tippet to replace the broken portion can help your leader last much longer and save you a few bucks.  Google "triple surgeons knot" to learn a quick and easy connection!

A great way to get the most out of your leaders is to customize them. Here are some examples:
1) You can use the leader as-is (4X) for most stream fishing situations.
2) You can cut a foot off the thin end of a 4X leader and use the thicker end (about 3X diameter) for bigger flies or murky water.
3) For small flies or spooky fish, you can add 5X or even 6X tippet to the leader’s thin end before tying on your fly.
4) You can also use tippet to tie multi-fly rigs, increasing your shot at finding what the fish are looking for. Google “dropper flies” to learn about multi-fly rigs.

In summary, buy a few 7.5 ft, 4X leaders, a few 9 ft, 4x leaders, and one spool each of 4X, 5X, and 6x tippet. With that small supply, you’ll be ready for trout fishing this spring.

Next up is bugs. We’ll help you with a basic selection of trout flies for success this spring. As always, swing by the shop or give us a call if we can help you further with your new flyfishing setup!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

We're on the Square

Come see us on the square in downtown Clarkesville. You can find our second store now, since the sign is back up!

Jimmy: "We have our sign back! The historical renovations are now complete on our store and we had our sign and awning reinstalled this morning. We never closed for long during the pandemic but now we just look better. Drop in to see us!"

Assembling Your Combo - Part 3

Here's Hunter's low-down on fly lines!

Did you know fly lines can make or break your setup? It is very important to find a fly line that matches your setup and style of fishing to get the most out of your gear. Let’s talk about a few of the things to keep an eye out for when choosing a fly line.

The first aspect to look at is pretty straightforward, the weight and style of the line. Fly lines come in different weights, and you want to match this weight to your rod. Choosing the correct weight line for your rod is important as this determines how well the rod will load when casting so you can get the maximum energy from the rod throughout your cast. There are floating lines and sinking lines.  Most trout fishing calls for floating line, however, you can use a sink tip or intermediate line for throwing streamers on the larger rivers. Warmwater fishing may call for either depending on the species you are targeting and the situation you are targeting them in.

The second aspect to look at is the taper or shape of the fly line. The most common category of taper is “weight forward”. This means the head or front of the line is heavier than the rear section. This is the most common among floating and sinking lines. Some prefer a taper style called “double taper” meaning that the line is tapered in the very front and rear, while the body of the line is the same diameter throughout. This is common on small creek setups as it can be beneficial for the short technical casts seen on small streams. Double tapers can also be reversed.  When the front of the line wears out, turn it around and use the rear. When looking at tapers, they can be considered a soft taper, moderate, or aggressive. This refers to the rate at which the diameter tapers down in the front of the line. A soft taper is best for delicate presentations such as dry flies. Moderate tapers are good for all-around purposes, from dries, to nymphing, to small streamers. Aggressive tapers are found on lines designed for throwing large streamers or poppers to help turn over the weight of the heavier flies.

The third component is the materials in the line. Many lines nowadays are made with additives to help the line perform better. These can help the line last longer and cast better among other benefits. Our favorite, Scientific Anglers, uses an additive called AST or AST+ depending on the level you choose which we really like.

These are just a few of the things to look for, and the applications they can be used in. We could talk all day about different lines and what is best for you, so come by the shop, and let us help you find the perfect line for your perfect setup. We hope this helps narrow down all the options when looking to put together your perfect setup, and as always feel free to reach out if you have any questions about anything!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Our Adopted Sisters

Flashback to earlier, “closer” times with UO guides Chuck and Hunter and their special guests at the Casting for Recovery retreat.  
UO is a proud supporter of Beverly and Lynn’s CFR-Georgia program, providing volunteer guides and hosting participants at Nacoochee Bend for their Sunday fishing trip.

We can’t wait for “herd immunity” and a reunion at the Bend for more huge grins, high fives, and memories that will last a lifetime.

For more information on this program, the Smithgall Woods weekend retreat for breast cancer survivors, and donations toward it, visit the CFR-GA website: castingforrecovery.org/ga/ or contact cfrgeorgia@gmail.com

Assembling Your Combo - Part 2

Today Hunter's talking about reels!

The next component in your perfect setup to look at is the reel. There are a wide variety of reels on the market today, and there may be several that will work for your setup. The three aspects to pay attention to is the drag system, arbor size, and overall weight.

The drag system can be sealed, non-sealed, or a click pawl style which just uses a clicker mechanism as the drag system. For most all-around setups a drag system is preferred, a click pawl style can be beneficial when fishing small creeks with small fish which don’t pull drag. A sealed drag system is great for a low-maintenance set up whereas a non-sealed system can require occasional maintenance but are typically more budget-friendly.

The arbor size is the diameter of the spool, and this determines the size of the memory coils left in your line and the retrieval rate. Large arbor reels are popular for their ability to leave less noticeable memory in your line while providing a faster retrieval rate.

The third aspect, weight, can be a major factor in choosing a reel. The goal is to find a reel which balances the rod nicely, as a reel that is too light will leave you with a tip-heavy setup that can cause fatigue after casting all day.

So what is your favorite style of reel for your setup?

Hope these tips help, and as always, come by the shop, put some reels in your hand and see how they feel to you!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Assembling Your Flyfishing Combo - Part 1

Are you thinking about giving flyfishing a try? Hunter, our Clarkesville store manager, just wrote a brief series about selecting a flyfishing outfit. We are sharing it here for the benefit of our rookies and prospects. We’ll start with rods. Enjoy!

And thank you, Hunter.

What’s your perfect setup?

We get a lot of questions about what set up (rod/reel/line) someone should get. The answer is it really depends. Over the next few days we will be going over these key components and explaining what to look for when picking out a new setup for yourself. Today, it’s rods. So what rod should you get? Depends on how you like to fish.

To keep things simple, we’ll be talking about options for our local area. Let’s start with looking at length, this is probably the easiest to decide. 9 foot is the typical length you’ll want for most styles of fishing in the area. Some anglers prefer shorter rods on smaller, more overgrown creeks, something like a 7-8 foot rod on small creeks, all the way down to a 6-foot rod when blue lining.

What weight should you use? Depends on what you want to throw. A good size for most styles of fishing is a 5 weight rod. This will help turn over heavier nymph rigs, streamers, and the such and also allow you to land a dry fly delicately. Some prefer lighter weight rods if you are solely dry fly fishing very small creeks, or doing a technique called euro nymphing using a 10 foot 3 weight rod. A 5 weight rod will also allow you to do a little warm water fishing for bass and bream in the area during the summer with small poppers and streamers. If you are looking to fish primarily large streamers for trout or bass, and maybe even some large poppers in the summertime for bass, a rod in the 6-8 weight range will be best for you depending on the size of the fly you are looking to throw and the quarry you are chasing.

A third aspect that some overlook is the action or speed of the rod. This refers to how deep the rod flexes when being cast and how fast it returns to straight. A slower, or full to mid-flex rod will cast better with small lightweight flies or with short casts as this allows the rod to fully load up with the short amount of line being used on short casts, such as small mountain creeks. A faster action, or tip flex rod will cast better with large flies, large nymph rigs, or long distance as these rods take more weight to fully load the rod.

As always, there is more that could be discussed about rods, but this should help give you a basis for deciding what your perfect setup will be. Come by the shop, get some rods in hand and see how they feel to you and learn more about them.

Next up, Reels!

Bolo Bugs!

BOLO Bugs!

Start looking ahead to spring, especially on warmer tailwaters. My DNR law enforcement buddies taught me that BOLO means “be on the lookout.” Since it’s mid-February, it’s already time to BOLO bugs on warm days like our last two. One of the first spring hatches in north GA is the gray caddis. Although these two videos are several years old, note their dates. I had some good late winter days on top, indeed!
Tie or buy those elk hair caddis in sizes 14, 16, and 18. If you’d like to get real fancy, put a green egg sac on the end of the abdomen via a small green ball of dubbing. More importantly, watch the bugs and imitate their behavior with your fly: surface popping emergers, dead drifting, freshly hatched adults, upstream skittering bugs, and dead drifting, expired adults at dusk, riding low in the film.
Although you’ll still be going deep for most trout this month, dust off your dry fly box and reinsert it into your vest or sling. You’ll be glad you did.
Don’t forget the Gink, dessicant, and some hope for an early dose of dry fly action. BOLO those bugs!!!
Call Unicoi Outfitters (706-878-3083) if you need more advice, flies, or supplies. Good luck!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Tug of War

How about a front-row seat to the “Nacoochee Bend Tug-of-War?” Enjoy Jason Fallon’s video moment during his successful father/son trip to our Helen waters. It looks like their tag team was a winner!

Thanks to Jason for sharing the great video. He’s a mighty fine net man and father.

Plan soon to make your own lifetime memories on a sunny afternoon astream. Call us at 706-878-3083 to book your trip or to get some hot intel on public waters.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

New Fish Chief

We have a new state fisheries chief.

Dredger: “I worked with Scott for two decades. This is a great pick for WRD Fisheries staff and especially for the Georgia angling constituency, from mountaintop speck chasers to Okeefenokee bowfin fans.”

Congrats Scott! You’re welcome up here any time.


UO Fishing Report - 2/19/21

This week will be warmer and drier and will provide some very good fishing opportunities! Small streams are already fishable, while big streams will take some time to recede to safe wading levels after this week’s 3-4 inches of rain. Watch USGS stream gauges and call local fly shops for stream updates. Your other tools for success are a weather app, a stream thermometer, your trusty nymph box, your dusty dry fly box, and scheduling flexibility. If you can plan your trips for the warm afternoons, catching will be better with increasing water temperatures.

Wes’ weekly hot fly list includes: Skwala stone (olive) #10, Micro mayfly nymph (olive) #16, Squirminator (red, pink) #14, Egg (chartreuse) #14, Simi seal leech (black, red) #10, hares ear nymph #14-18, and a couple dries, the gray elk hair caddis #14-16, and parachute Adams #14-18 as the big dry above your dropper or the small BWO imposter. Angler trip reports, hot tips, and more great pics follow. Good luck and be respectful of high water! Headwaters Landon: “I caught a nice bunch of little wild bows from IDBIS creek while turkey scouting with my dog. Water was cold and high, and fish were found next to woody structure. Fish ignored the dry, but ate the #18 france fly dropper.”
RodneyT, “I have fished my favorite wild Brown Trout stream a few times this past month. The latest artic blast had fish hugging the bottom and the bite has been slow, but picky wild browns can be enticed to bite in the late afternoons when it warms into the high 40's and low 50"s. My best success has been derived from drifting a small black (size 12) woolly bugger and then slowly stripping it back. Dropping a size 16 or 18 pheasant tail behind the bugger can increase your catch rate.” We had a reliable trio of Dukes Creek reporters in Sautee, SimmsFlyGuy, and our own Jake. The standard Smithgall theme held true last week. When the water was clear and normal-to-low, small nymphs on thin tippet (6x) worked, but only when the operator was stealthy. Anglers lucky enough to hit high, dirty water scored on big, meaty bugs like stoneflies and leeches on thicker tippet. Delayed Harvest DH streams have fished well when the weather and water have been favorable. They should fish really well with dropping flows and rising temps this week. “Scratch’s” NGTO Smith Creek report: “Saturday 2/13: I figured the rain and cold would keep the sensible fishermen away from Smiths and I was correct - only a dozen cars in the parking lot at noon. I tried all the sensible flies - Y2Ks, black WD40s, rainbow warriors, olive midges, white midges, eggs, purple rubberlegs, olive rubberlegs, etc... - but the only action I got was on a white foam beetle used for a dry dropper that brought one rainbow to the surface. My resulting jerk put that beetle in a tree above my head, never to be seen again. At about 3:00 I switched over to streamers, figuring I might as well give all my flies an equal opportunity at failing. That turned out to be the best mistake I made all day. A white conehead wooly bugger (bought at UO earlier that day) stripped across the current and upstream brought 5 fish to hand over the rest of the afternoon. I tried several other streamers in that time and it seemed like anything 'weird' drew the interest of the trout. I had another catch on a custom olive wooly bugger with yellow lead eyes and some strikes on a large black sculpin-like pattern with a brown fringe. The streamers performed best in fast-moving water, especially near the heads of pools. Another couple I talked to in the parking lot said they had some luck on Zebra midges after about 3:30. I may be incorrect, but I think that was the end of a break in the rain. Maybe some pressure change triggered a bite. I can confirm that they put some of the large broodstock in at Smiths, but she wasn't interested in anything I threw at her. I'm sure she's had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at her over the last week, so good luck to everyone who tries!”
Chattooga DH: we have no recent reports due to last week’s crummy weather. I took a hike up there today (19th). It was milky and too high to fish safely, but should fish well when it recedes to safe wading levels in a day or two. Hopefully the high flows will spread out Walhalla’s superb February stockers. Remember to match fly size to flows, and try bigger and brighter bugs when the water is swift and stained. Scale down your flies as streams drop and clear. Tailwaters Told you so! UO Facebook followers may recall last week’s post, “Bolo Bugs,” and its videos. Folks on the lookout have indeed spotted waves of fluttering gray caddis on slightly warmer tailwaters like the Toccoa. Thanks to UO friend Daniel Bowman for the intel. Make sure you carry some gray bugs with you as the week’s afternoon sunshine “pops” some caddis like popcorn. Always check generation schedules and be very careful with dam discharges before fishing those tailwaters. Private Waters Nacoochee Bend guest Billy N: “Many thanks to Jake for the great tips today. We didn’t have the luck he thought we would on the section in the pasture, but the middle section made up for it. Look forward to fishing with y’all again soon. “
Our own Jimmy: “Young PJ Fitzpatrick and his dad Pres had a good Thursday afternoon at Nacoochee Bend. Water temperature held at 42 degrees and while there were little black stones coming off all afternoon, the action was deep in the clear cold water. Subtle takes required quick reflexes; something the younger anglers have an advantage with. Best flies at the Bend were a red squirmie worm, a Pats Rubberlegs, and Micro Mayfly, all behind a double scoop of split shot.” Lakes HenryC reports, “Striper fishing remains the same... You gotta pick your days for all the right conditions in order to be successful: a pre-frontal forecast with total cloud cover and preferably light winds (but that is not a game changer if windy). Combine that if possible with either the new or full moon phase and you’re putting all the chips for a good outing on your side of the table. On Monday of this week one of my addicted striper buddies hooked 5 under those exact conditions. This will work on ALL North GA impoundments (not just Lanier). It’s a very specific pattern to follow but one that works. The fish will be active at some point in the day when those conditions exist. If you can add a warming trend to this pattern then the fishing is even better! Let the gulls show you where the fish are. Plan your days to follow this pattern over the next 3-4 weeks and get after them!” Bonus Intel Sign yourselves up for GAWRD’s weekly fishing reports for lakes and streams. Most of you will likely tune into the north Ga segment of the statewide report. It’s great intel because they’re allowed to “cheat” with some electricity and nets... and use that trend data to manage the sport fisheries for our benefit. It’s about time for some hot walleye intel and a grocery run for fresh tartar sauce.
https://georgiawildlife.blog/2021/02/19/georgia-fishing-report-february-19-2021/ Good luck this week as you enjoy a brief taste of spring, maybe even with an afternoon riser or two! Call, email, come in, or pull curbside if we can help you in Helen or Clarkesville. Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Fish Story

We always enjoy a good fish story, especially when it hits close to home. What’s your favorite fish story?

This story certainly hit close to our home, and we thought we’d share Jessi’s “beginner’s luck” tale with y’all. She was fishing at “Headwaters on the Soque” with her guide, “George.” We know George MacMillan as our friend Coach Mac, who has also guided for Unicoi Outfitters since 1998.

If you’re a beginner and hook the fish of a lifetime, it’s always nice to have a veteran coach in your corner. Congrats to Jessi and 23-year veteran Coach Mac on this “fish of a lifetime.”

We hope you enjoy Jessi’s story as much as we did! Feel free to share your own memorable fish tales with us.

Friday, February 12, 2021

UO Fishing Report - 2/12/21

Welcome to Soggy Saturday and Wet Weekdays. Our extended forecast features frequent rains, which are actually good news. Our streams and rivers are low and badly need a recharge.  At least we’ll be spared from the Big Arctic Blast, which shouldn’t make it this far south. Stream temperatures are still pretty good, considering it’s mid-February!


This week savvy anglers will watch the weather and water and predict their windows of opportunity. If river flows are high, aim for Plan B, the small headwaters, ponds, and reservoir striper searches. 

If the afternoon will be warm and the stream is clear, carry your dry fly boxes and some hope. And if you’re only tuning into our Friday fishing reports, you’ve missed some great intel in our preceding, daily posts.  Scroll back and look at Rainbow Romance and Dropshotting.  BOLO hatching bugs including 

winter stones, BWO’s, midges, and maybe some early gray caddis if you’re real lucky. (Rumor also has it that there might be a FB page rod giveaway next week, too...)

Wes’ hot fly list this week is varied to reflect last week’s trip diversity.  Nymphs & wets include fire egg, partridge soft hackles of various colors, purple lightning bug, and olive hares ear.  Meaty streamers for river recons (for recently retired broods)  are the sparkle minnow, barred mini-dungeon, and sculpzilla.  Dries that worked on our recent, warm afternoons were #18 or #20 CDC comparadun BWO, same sized parachute Adams, and a #16 black stonefly. Wes said the small dries caught Smith DH fish that were taking small surface bugs on warm afternoons.

We have some great angler reports and hot intel to follow on our extended Facebook post.  The clear winner in this week’s “fish story” competition has gotta be Sautee for his “blueline innovation.”  Enjoy!


Hunter said, “I went with great friend Rodney Tumlin and did some bluelining the morning after the snow came through. I didn’t expect much with the cold weather but was still able to pick up a few brookies. Fish were deep, slow to move, and generally not too hungry unless you gave them something big enough they couldn’t turn down.”

To contrast the weather and fish response, Sautee scribed this fish story: “Tuesday afternoon was sunny with 60+ degree temps that spelled promise for rising fish on my favorite small stream.  After getting done with projects and workmen around the house, I had enough time to slip out for a couple of hours.  I got to the parking area about 3:15 and rigged up with a dry/dropper combo (October caddis dry with #16 beadhead hare’s ear dropper) that has worked well for me on this particular creek.  Once my rig was ready and I got in my waders,  I headed up the trail for about 10 minutes before dropping down to the creek.  

When I got creekside, I quickly realized that I had left my dry fly floatant and dessicant back at the house. I was not happy!  I quickly weighed my options which included: 1) losing the dry and fishing the dropper under a strike indicator, 2) placing the indicator near my dry to keep it topside and hoping it wouldn’t be too close to scare away any fish looking up, 3) fishing the dry/dropper “as is” and continuously drying my fly after every few casts in the hopes it would float, 4) make an attempt at euronymphing, although I knew fish would be watching the surface for bugs.  

But I had decided on the ride over to the creek that I was going to fish dry/dropper.  I just couldn’t convince myself any other rig was gonna work as well.  That’s when I got creative!  What could help keep my caddis on top without causing too much angst in the trout?  The only thing I could find in my pack that floated was my foam fly box and that, of course, was way too big....   

But wait!  Maybe just a piece of it?  Well, to get to the point, while streamside, I cut a piece of my fly box off, used my 6X tippet to tie it to my dry, and proceeded to fish dry/dropper for the next 2.5 hours.  As it turned out, the local wild rainbows had no interest in my hare’s ear dropper.  They did however take my dry occasionally and I brought several to hand that were looking up that evening.  However, the most fish were caught when I switched my dropper to a #16 beadhead Y2K that took advantage of the active, hungry, spawning rainbows. I ended up with 18 to hand ranging from 4 to 10 inches. I’ve included a pic of my “caddis creative float application”

as a reminder to always pack and repack your gear to ensure you don’t have to cut your fly box up while out in the woods.  However, it never hurts to stretch your brain while on the stream.  Thanks for joining me on just another mountain misadventure!”


Veteran Smithgall slugger Landon snagged a walk-on slot last weekend and made the most of his 3-hour tour before heading home to family commitments. He landed better than a dozen bows, including several hefty fish. He said the residents were eating leeches, rubberleg stones, and his soft hackle droppers on this quick trip.

Landon is a great example of an angler’s  “home field advantage” at Smithgall. Experienced trouters like him first pay their dues, learn the stream while striking out early in their career, and eventually up their batting averages with more trips to the plate. Reservations: 706-878-3087 for your chance at a home run. Worry more about your technique than your fly pattern and you’ll get more hits.

Delayed Harvest

These Smith Creek reports are “borrowed” from North GA Trout Online, a great resource itself. 


Hillis: “Dredger, thanks for the weekly report, always good intel and tips!! Following up on your intel about GAWRD redosing... Flies that worked for me yesterday afternoon on those freshly stocked trout at Smith were #12 and #14 Confusion Jig Nymphs 

(very similar to Walts Worm), #12 pink squirmy, and #14 pink egg. Caught My biggest fish of the day yesterday on a # 10 Sexy Walts Worm. “

Scratch: “I'll supplement with a Smith's trip from Monday.

There were a surprisingly high number of cars in the parking lot at noon when I arrived, and the majority of fishers were focused on those pools by the bridge (dozens of trout there). Caught my biggest on a pink/orange #10 y2k. I ran through all of my y2k colors and caught 1-2 fish on each. I watched another guy catch about a dozen fish by the bridge drifting a pink san juan.

Up closer to the dam I fished a round of dry-droppers in the afternoon sun and had multiple strikes on #18/#20 zebra midges and WD40s (both black). Watched multiple trout follow the nymph to the surface at the end of the drift and that's where the strikes occurred.”

Note that Smith DH has been very crowded, even on weekdays, so plan accordingly.

Dredger hit the Chattooga DH on a warm Tuesday afternoon. Water temp was 46F at noon and rose to 48F by 5pm.  He struck out via Euronymphing through the first hour. Then he saw a few fluttering stones and switched to dry/dropper.

The stones and risers were few and far between, with few fish convinced to leave their shady, predator-proof hideouts in the low, clear river to rise to his dry. He still caught a small handful of bows and browns. On top. In February.

Conversely, SC buddy Todd whacked them while wading downstream and tossing a double streamer rig.  Dredger crossed his path while fishing up.  They compared notes and here are the tips from two old Hokies. If you want numbers, aim high or low for the fresh winter stockers. If you want some topwater action, look for fall survivors and fluttering bugs in the afternoon.  Aim your dry/dropper rigs for the shallow flats in the middle of the DH section. We need “a good flush” of high river flow to spread out those new stockers.

Private Waters

Palmer reported, “I had a Nacoochee Bend trip on Wednesday.  The fish were extremely active and hungry. Eggs and legs and twitched buggers worked well.  We also caught a lot of trout on the swing with soft hackles.


HenryC checked in today, “Striper fishing is actually fair right now. The key is to properly pick your days to fish. You have to be flexible in order to have success. While there are lots of deep fish that fly fishers cannot catch, there’s also a fair number of fish on the surface or within reasonable depths when you fish around prefrontal weather or totally overcast weather. When it’s bluebird skies... stay home! Birds will help you find the fish; look in the creeks for single fish eating between the docks or wherever you see gulls over open water.  The Something Else fly is easily your best fly of choice to match the threadfin shad prey.”


That’s the latest from “Flyfishing Central” in Helen, GA.  Keep your distances, thank a nurse, and remember your raincoats this week!