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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Summer Bassin’

 As summer bassin’ season is now in full swing, we thought we’d share this nice article on the Flymen Fishing Company website. Check out the deer hair Zara Spook bug!


Have fun chasing lake and river bass with your stouter  rods this summer. Remember, five or more species will earn you a Georgia Bass Slam certificate from GAWRD.


Call or visit either of our UO stores for some hot summer bass bugs, heftier leaders, or some good intel for your species hunts.  Good luck!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Prime Lies

We’re glad everyone liked last Friday’s brief headwater video with this inquiry: “Where would you cast your caddis dry to tempt the best resident in this reach of a cold Hooch tributary?

Thanks for your answers on Instagram and Facebook. We also had the question, “where would YOU cast?” So here’s my answer.  First, let’s remember: there’s no one “right” way to fish. Find your own way and have some fun!

For me, my path is influenced by 3 decades as a state fish biologist and 5 as a fly flinger. I think of two factors for a chunky trout’s prosperity: shelter and food. They first need shelter from predators now and floods after a big rain. And they need food delivered efficiently, so their calories consumed exceed their energy spent to get it.

I’d start out downstream, do my heron-creep upstream, and crouch down just below that pool below the big log (pic 1). I’d first toss 1-2 casts to the tailout on the far side of the main current. Sometimes big fish or sentinel fish will slide back down there for an easy meal.

After that, I’d aim for that inside “elbow” of softer water along the far side of the main current, just below the log. The main current and the back eddy coming upstream from the far bank provide two “fast food” lanes, while the depth and log cover provide shelter. If I’m lucky and sneaky , an 8-9 inch wild trout will inhale my dry right on that current seam.

After that I’d hit the undercut on the far bank, under the tree roots (pic 2),  and hope for a 7-incher.  Depth limits the suitability of that spot. After that, I’d wade upstream slowly and hunt the next good niche with the winning combo of “ shelter and food”, and toss my dry 2-3 times. If no looks, then keep moving upstream in my hunt for prime niches.

Hope you enjoyed your blueline trip with Dredger. Let’s do it again, soon!

Friday, June 25, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 6/25/21



Let’s call this week’s report a “rerun,” as our fishing conditions and best bets will be similar to last week’s pre-storm intel.  

Last Sunday’s  3+ inches of rainfall from the tropical storm has run off and our creeks and rivers have receded to their low summer base flows.

USGS Current Conditions for USGS 02330450 CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER AT HELEN, GA


So, unless one of these afternoon storms sits on your watershed, you’ll be aiming for spooky fish in low water again.   If you get a storm flush, then try the big/ugly/bright flies in the stained waters. 

Best bets: headwater wild trout, cool stocker streams, cold tailwaters, ponds at dawn and dusk, and lakes at dawn. Keep in mind that GAWRD typically stocks  trout far and wide for the July 4th crowds, so plan your holiday week accordingly.

Wes’ hot fly list, my region recon, and angler reports follow on our Facebook and Blog pages.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Juan’s hopper, Quick-site beetle, Parachute ant, Yellow humpy, Stoneflopper, tan elk hair caddis.

Nymphs: Squirminator, Jigged prince, Green weenie,Frenchie, Bird turd

Streamers & warmwater: Headcase crayfish, May’s identity crisis, Bank robber sculpin, Stealth jig, Feather changer, BoogleBug 


Splatek and Son had a great fishing/camping trip last weekend. His tale is chronicled here:


I checked a Hooch headwater’s streamflow and temperature during this morning’s region recon.  It looked prime for a fluffy dry, but I had to move on my recon instead of flinging a fly, so the fish are still there for you. Our creeks have returned to summer baseflow, while some cool nights and heavy tree cover are keeping water temps down. We hope you enjoyed today’s video and note the temp (62 in the shade at ten).  

Sneak upstream slowly, hit the shaded pools and undercut banks, and be ready for quick strikes on your high-floating dries. Bows are all over the place, while the lazier browns and specks prefer slower flows and a roof over their heads. Recall our “niches” lesson:

Know Their ‘Niches’ | Coastal Angler & The Angler Magazine


Private Waters: 

They’re fishing about the same: some fair action early in the main current, then the fish take a long siesta, from mid-morning til dark, as water temps creep up toward and sometimes past 70 degrees.


Remember that Lanier and Blue Ridge have enough winter-water storage to maintain trout-friendly Tailwater temperatures throughout the year. RonW’s gang gave Lanier a shot and reported, “ Our trio hit the Dam on Saturday 6/19 and had a heck of a day. Despite the clouds, slight wind, and very light drizzle towards the end (2pm), we all managed 6 or more fish and most all on dries.  We started off by getting in about 9am just  downstream of the creek and worked our way down to the top of Bowman's Island. I fished a big split wing Cahill with a dropper off the back early and then went straight to the dry. Only got 1 on the dropper; the rest came on the dry. The guys were hammering them on fan wing Coachmans and an assortment of other dries that weren't matching any type of hatch. I caught another bow at the end of the day while stretching out line way beyond my capabilities. While not designed for it, the 10' 6" 4wt Kurt built me can throw a bugger well out past 60' with ease! It was another fun trip for our trio.”


No new reports registered. The Hooch at Highway 115 looked pretty good today: low, with the usual greenish summer stain, and very fishable. Use the same techniques (flies, niches, and times) described in last week’s report. Just check the gauge or call our Helen store to ensure that an afternoon storm in the upper watershed hasn’t muddied it up too much for your targets to see your streamers and poppers.


And for you floaters needing a shuttle, I took a pic this morning at the Hwy 115 access of your potential yak taxi service.

Small Impoundments:

Some redbreasts were still on the bed at my local lake this morning.  Some decent largemouths were also cruising the shallows before the sun got above the tree line.   Early risers should have good luck on surface bugs, tossed under the tree limbs or under docks at dawn.

Athens Jay checked in: “After work paddleboard hydrotherapy is the only thing keeping me sane (and hopefully improving my core strength and balance for wading.) The impending full moon has the bluegill very very frisky- now is the time to get them on flies! The dropper/dry combo of boogie bug/ black rubberlegs is deadly for bedding bream and the ever-present bass hovering around them. “


Landon had two brief reports: “The Topwater bite on Nottely is good right now. Spooks and chug bugs on main lake points got several decent bass for a buddy and me the other night.

I also hit a Dahlonega trib the other night between storms with my ultralight. It was slow but a couple small shoal bass and redbreast kept it interesting.”

HenryC is still chasing Lanier bass at dawn for his clients. Today’s GAWRD weekly fishing report has more intel to help our large lake fans, as many species head deep or upriver in search of their preferred water temps.


There’s your late-June fodder from the hills around Helen. Have fun either fishing now or getting your camping and angling gear ready for the holiday ahead. Call or visit either UO store if we can enhance your pre-trip confidence.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Speckulation Season

This is a great season for speckulating. Yes, the term is spelled correctly!
  Folks well-versed in Rabunite will certainly understand and apply this term. They’ll grab a short rod, a few  fluffy dries, and their best pair of wading shoes for hiking. They’ll head waaay uphill, above the barrier falls that blockade the bows and browns, and cast into the shaded, slow pockets. If they’re lucky, they’ll score on some true natives, the ones with light spots on a dark background.

Speckulation is not about numbers or size. It’s about exploration and the celebration of Mother Nature’s original gifts. Grab a topo map, a fit buddy for safety and celebration, and a short, whippy rod. Then head up the mountain and speckulate this summer in the chilly headwaters. If it’s good enough for the Rabunites, it’s certainly good enough for us.

Stop by either UO shop for a few nuggets of intel to point you in the right direction. Then enjoy the treasure that your hunt will earn you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Are You Troutbitten?

The rain is gone and the sun is shining.  The bright rays are a great reminder of the value of our sunglasses. Dominic at https://troutbitten.com just composed another timely article. This one covers everything an angler needs to know about sunglasses. Take a look:


And consider subscribing to his blog for more great trouting articles like this one.

Thank you, Dom!

Have fun reading stream bottoms and spotting your quarry before it spots you this summer. Visit or call either of our UO stores if you’d like some help with upgrading your polarized sunglasses and upping your catch, from stream trout to river bass to flats carp. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Western Migration

As summer heats up and our larger Southeastern trout streams take a seasonal siesta, many Georgians migrate toward the Promised Lands of the West for their annual trouting vacations.

Keep us in mind if you’d like a hand with your western trip preparations.  Our staff and guides have fished and guided all over that country, from Colorado to Wyoming to Montana. We’ll be glad to help you with supplies, intel, and recommendations on great western guides and fly shops that we are familiar with.

Good luck with your summer plans. Take lots of pics and share them with us upon your safe return.

Note: First photo courtesy of UO guide Stefan, pulling his normal summer shift in the West Yellowstone region.

Friday, June 18, 2021

UO Fishing Report - 6/18/21

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 6/18/21



To win the game this week, prepare two game plans. Your first is your drought plan, as our running waters are currently low, clear, and warm at lower elevations. River residents  are spooky and sluggish in the sun.  For trout, be on the stream at dawn, or any time if you’re on shaded, high-elevation headwaters.  For the other species, cast during the first and last two “shadowed” hours of the day.  With the exception of some web reports about Toccoa trout, we think the  Brood X cicada mania is now history. Most spring aquatic insect hatches are also history, so try terrestrials as your first pick from the box.

Your second game plan is your flood plan. If the Fathers Day cyclone drops 3-5 inches of rain as predicted, that’s a game changer. While streams are blown out, hit the ponds and lakes, especially where streams flush in some food and dirty water for cover.  As streams recede to your safe wading level, pound the big, dirty flows with big, ugly bugs, streamers, and spaghetti. The uglies are buggers and Pat’s rubberlegs. The streamers are the ones Wes listed, and any trout imitation if you’re aiming for stripers. Spaghetti is a squirmy or San Juan to match the earthworm hatch.

“Hit the curve” by rereading my high-flow tips in last October’s Coastal Angler magazine(p 16 of 60):


Detailed reports and Wes’ hot fly list follow on our FB page and blog.


Call the shop if you need a little more intel or a raincoat!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Micro chubby Chernobyl, Fathead beetle, Transparent Ant, Yellow stimulator (#12, 16), foam stone.

Nymphs: Tungsten mop, Tungsten drowned ant, Soft hackle pheasant tail, Micro mayfly, Knotty girl, green weenie (be on the lookout for inchworms).

Streamers & warmwater: Crittermite, May’s identity crisis, Kreelex, Stealth jig, Roamer, black woolly bugger, brown Hairy Fodder.


Little streams are low, clear, and still cool (low 60’s). Dredger hit the Smokies earlier this week. Residents were super-spooky in the skinny water and he had a slow day on mid-elevation bows and browns, despite 64-degree water.

 A few hit his stimulator, but more ate the dropper, either a #14 sexy Walts or a #16 hares ear behind a small dinsmore shot.

He came to his senses very late in the day, and fish were more cooperative up in the headwaters. Cahills and sallies danced at dark, too. 

So, aim high and stay late in the park, unless you’d like to watch some elk next to the Cherokee visitors center at dusk. If so, drive slow! The lush grass in the Hwy 441 median is an elk-attractor and potential fender bender!!!

Delayed Harvest: forget them til next fall. Find cooler water for trout.

Private Waters: UO guides Como and Hunter reported decent action at Nacoochee Bend for their clients.  The keys to success have been: 1) an early start, when the shadows are long and the water is coolest, 2) small nymphs and soft hackles, 3) fished on perfect dead-drifts in faster water, where fish are feeding and have to make quicker decisions. The sulkers hanging out in the slow pools have been much less cooperative. The best action happens before 10AM, when the sun hits the river -  hard.

Hunter has a good story on yesterday’s bycatch (def: nontarget species). Enjoy:

“John had a fun fight at Nacoochee Bend.  We ended the day throwing dry/droppers at the mill dam, sight fishing trout in the shallows.  However,  after getting a good drift over one trout and setting the hook, we quickly realized it was no trout.  It went full-bore ahead towards the mill dam, ripping line from the reel.  After several nice runs, and a lot of chaos, we were able to net a juvenile striper on a 5wt rod with 4X tippet! It was a cool sight to see and a fun way to end the day!”


Sautee stayed up late last night to scribe this report for y’all: “I aimed for shoal bass at a favorite local watering hole on 6/17.  

Landed 7 shoal bass and 3 sunfish for the evening. First 4 bass came on the hairy fodder early in evening, before the sun fell.  Switched to a stealth bomber (white) as the shadows overtook the river for 1 shoal bass and 1 sunfish.  Last 2 bass and last 2 sunfish hit a popper (chartreuse head with yellow tail), as the sun set and the frogs started singing.  Most fish wanted the topwater bugs moving (stripped/popped) and only a couple came on the dead drift.”

Landon:  “Fished an east-side river yesterday and caught a handful of spots in slow water under woody structure.  They took a hairy fodder, dredged and bounced ”


Small Impoundments:

These will continue to fish well, as long as you’re there for the first or last two hours of the day.  Toss your bugs against the bank and under the tree limbs. During the rest of the day, try some weedless, weighted streamers and crayfish flies on Fluoro in deep timber. Check out the bream intel in our 6/16 post.


RonW ditched his fly rod and hit the big pond with a boatload of coworkers:

“Fished Lanier last Saturday with some co-workers of mine. The fishing was great for most of the day until we left at 1pm.  Several species caught. Unlucky for me, I apparently was on the wrong side of the boat all day as I only caught 1 lone striper.  Bluebacks were the meal ticket, of course.”

HenryC’s intel:

“Right now I am bouncing between fishing Lanier for spotted bass and the occasional striper as well as the Chattahoochee River for carp around the Bull Sluice section. Fishing this past week was pretty good with carp being picky as usual but willing to eat flies like the hybrid, carp tickler and the carp scampi. Fish in the 8-15lb range were sight-cast to and it's important to use 9 foot leaders with either 8 or 10 lb tippet. The Lanier bite is best in the AM and we were tossing topwater flies on humps with brush and sea walls. The bites are explosive with bass up to 4 lbs being seen.  A line-class record largemouth was caught by angler Diane Minick this past week!”

Ed note: Diane’s duo won a guided trip with Henry, which he had donated as a Casting for Recovery fundraiser. Attagirl Diane and attaboy Henry!



There’s your dual-intel as you brace for the storm and welcome the river  recharge. Have a happy Father’s Day, likely indoors. Then hit the streams next week, when they start dropping and clearing. Good luck.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Not Just About Trout

Flyrodding is not just about trout. That’s especially true during summer, as our steamy days restrict trouting fans. They’re forced either way uphill to cold headwater bluelines, or way downhill to the icy winter waters discharged from Buford and Blue Ridge dams.

So now is a great time to pursue other species. Let’s label today’s UO installment as “Bream 101.”   Enjoy some biology and angling intel from our local experts, Habersham extension agent Steven and UO manager Jake.


Then recall our recent tips on poppers and droppers here:

Atlanta Fishing E-Magazine | The Angler Magazine Atlanta Edition

Also enjoy my pic and video, shot this morning, of redbreasts on their beds at a local lake.

Finally, grab your bream buster flies and supplies from either one of our UO stores, and paddle your new fly angler or yourself around a pond perimeter soon.

Watch for the pizza-pan patches of polished sand & gravel in the shallows and you’ll be in business on the bream beds.

And if some folks are still a bit young for the fly rod, hedge your bet with a spincast rod and a tube of crickets.

“Not just trout” will give you many summer smiles. From gar to bass to bream, they’re all fun, especially on a flimsy fly rod.  Good luck!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Flyfishing for Dinosaurs

Need a Monday uplift?  Many UO fans really enjoyed last Friday’s photo of Wes’ trophy gar. Here are a few more photos of his recent catches for your viewing pleasure.

By the way, last night’s recon revealed that there are still a lot of gar “dating” at Nacoochee Bend.  Toss a gar fly or two in your box if you’re booked soon for trout or stripers at the Bend.  For more info/booking, call UO’s Helen shop at 706-878-3083.

Enjoy the pics!

Friday, June 11, 2021

UO Fishing Report - 6/11/21

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 6/11/21



Welcome to “foam bug summer.” It’s that season again to toss some high floating, rubber-legged terrestrials at your targets. It’s true for everything: headwater specks on small chubby Chernobyl’s, pond bream on boogle bugs, river bass on stealth bomber
s, and lake carp on cicadas.

In addition to “foam and rubber legs,” carry a raincoat and a stream thermometer. Pop-up storms have been heavy and abundant. They’re great because they are recharging our north GA rain forest. Storm surges also cool off trout streams, wash in groceries, and give you good shots at stained-water trophies. Watch USGS river gauges and call your favorite fly shop for “current” stream conditions, which will guide your travel plans.

Your best bets are headwater wild trout, high elevation stockers for kids and hungry forest campers, lake bass and bream at low light, and river bass when rivers clear enough for them to see your bugs. Oddball opportunities include river stripers and gar and cicada-inhalers if you can find the bugs.

Don’t miss today’s GAWRD report, since it’s chock-full of intel on big Burton bass, a new abundance of brookies, a scarcity of snakeheads, and headwater speckulation tips.


Detailed reports and Wes’ hot fly list follow on our FB page and blog.


Call the shop if we can help you further. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: 409 Yeager, Micro chubby Chernobyl, tan elk hair caddis, Yellow stimulator,, and parachutes in these patterns: adams, sulfur, black ant, and royal coachman.

Wets and nymphs: Yellow soft hackle, pheasant tail soft hackle, silver Lightning bug, Frenchie, Girdle bug (pats rubberlegs), red squirmy, black fur ant, brown and black WD40’s, and green weenie or mop.

Streamers and warmwater:

Kreelex, Mini dungeon, Krystal bugger, #4 black woolly bugger,  brown hairy fodder, white stealth bomber, cicadas, Boogle bug, Finesse changer, and Cowen’s coyote.


Little streams are low, clear, and cold. They get big and slightly brown after each heavy shower, but drop and clear within just a few hours. Try the usual fluffy or foamy dries for skinny water, and toss shot-laden  squirmies or stonefly nymphs when the water is high and stained and the bigger fish come out to eat.

Delayed Harvest:

UO staffer Lee and an accomplice ran up to Nantahala DH on harvest-eve. Bugs were sparse last Friday night, but fish were still looking up. And abundance of freshly stocked brookies fought over their stimulators when drifted through pool tails. Finally, around 8PM, a smattering of yellow sallies showed up and turned on the fish, both stockers and the resident, wild bows. That last thirty minutes of targeting and picking off the risers with their size 16 sallies was worth the drive.  Enough fish may still be left up there, despite harvest, for y’all to give it an evening shot soon.

Private Waters:

Our larger trout streams  are fishing decently in the mornings. The action is over by 11 or noon, as water temps nose toward 70 degrees. Low, clear rivers are tough on rookies, but great fun for experienced folks who want to perfect their dragless drifts before venturing West this summer.

Wes had a Nacoochee Bend guide trip this morning and called in this report. The action was good til about 11. The morning started with a slight stain from yesterday’s rain, and Bend bows ate squirmies and stonefly nymphs. As the river cleared and dropped, Wes switched them to the ever-reliable #16 soft hackle pheasant tail, which fish ate on the swing. We’d said to aim for some current and turbulence.  Feeders were there looking for groceries, while only sulkers hung in the slow water and had no appetite.

UO guides Palmer and Hunter have had some good mornings with their clients on the Soque.   It’s been a similar theme of squirmies/rubberlegs at first light or high water, then small stuff (pheasant tails, lightning bugs) as the sun rose and water cleared.  Enjoy the pic of nice brown trout caught by Palmer’s talented angler.

Hunter shared a story on his recent Soque trip. It sounds like he earned his guide pay on that day! 

“Charles hooked a nice trout at the base of a large root ball and kept it in front for a bit before the fish decided to head south. It took off running downstream towards a large log jam on the far bank.  We tried to turn it but it was no use and just dove headfirst into the log jam. I thought it would surely break off! But I could tell it was still on, so I ran across stream, jumped into the log jam, and started w

untangling the fish from the trees while keeping my net below him in case he came off. The fish had managed to go over, then around, then back under, then over, then back under again several different logs,  and managed to hook the loose dropper fly on a log at the very bottom. I was just waiting for the fish to come off and swim away while I was untangling it, but somehow it stayed on!  Even with light tippet and barbless hooks, he stayed connected. I was able to untangle him and get him in the net for a well-deserved grip and grin. After all that, I think Scientific Anglers fluoro tippet has won me over!”


When I crossed it this morning, the Hooch at Highway 115 was off-color, with maybe 3 feet of visibility due to the afternoon storms. Rivers will fish well when and where the bass and stripers can see your bugs. For bass, aim for the shady, shallow (3-4 ft deep) banks when it’s dingy, or toss big, bright streamers with lots of flash or a spinner blade (ex:Coyote) in slightly deeper water. For stripers, toss BIG (4-9 inch) streamers in muddier water than what is acceptable to bass.  You can fish deeper water as the storms subside and rivers clear next week. Striper success is indirectly related to visibility.  They need bad eyesight to be fooled with a fly.

Wes and new UO staffer Joseph had some fun trips for stripers and gar. Enjoy the pics. Wes said the water’s gotta be stained to convince the wily stripers!

Small Impoundments:

I hope you enjoyed my video of cruising largemouths, looking for a meal in a local lake when storm clouds blocked the sun.  Try something in foam and very leggy, tossed under the overhanging tree limbs at low light.


Athens Jay shared this report: “Paddleboard this afternoon. Popper (boogie bug) and dropper (black/purple Pat's Rubberlegs) produced multiple doubles. Two beefy bluegill on a 5-wt will sure take you for a ride.”


HenryC’s intel:

“Carp fishing is still going strong as the waters continue to warm up here in metro Atlanta. However we are nearing the end of the 17 yr cicada brood X event. We might have another week left at most. Then it will be back to the more traditional approach to carp. 

Lanier bass fishing is still pretty good BUT the warm temps are sure to send fish over deeper brush and structure. For now you can still manage some good fish early in the day on top water flies as well as tossing intermediate lines and game changers, wiggle minnows and coyotes over bumps with brush on it and sea walls.”


That’s the latest from our warming mountains. It’s still very cool in the shade of the national forest, so come up, wet-wade, and cool off soon. Stop in or call either store if we can be of service.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Fishing Father Gifts

How about a few more Father’s Day gift ideas from our Helen store?  First, introduce Dad to flyfishing with a nice starter kit (rod, reel, line, leader).  Just add a few flies and some water, and he can wade right into the sport!

Second, how about a box of hot flies, based on his preferred quarry and fishing season? Call the shop and we’ll create a nice box for you.

Third, how about a really nice pair of Costa sunglasses? Expert anglers and fishing guides use these “tools” to spot fish well before the fish can spot them. We have an ample supply to choose from. 

Last on our short list is the ever-popular and super-easy gift certificate. Pick any amount from $25 up and give Dad the “kid in a candy store” experience of picking his own goodies. Certificates also take the pressure off non-fishing family members to select the right gifts for the experienced angling dad.  He’ll be able to upgrade his tackle with a slick Orvis Hydros reel or Recon fly rod and his eyes will really light up!

Our two stores have many more items and experiences (from flyfishing lessons to guided trips) to choose from. Feel free to call our expert staffers, describe Dad’s favorite fishing experiences, and find that perfect gift to fit your budget and spawn a smile on Father’s Day. Call Helen (706-878-3083) or Clarkesville (706-754-0203) today and we’ll guide you to success on June 20!