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, July 30, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 7/30/21

Summer sulking” is the best way to describe our current conditions. The crummy combo of heat, humidity, lack of rain, and maybe some western smoke has most regional action, from human to piscine, real slow right now.  We need a good storm front to blow through, drop some rain, and flush this stagnant air out of here. Grab a big straw hat and some swim trunks. When the action slows during your wade or float, take a swim.

For die-hands, there are still some decent angling opportunities if you know when and where to go. And that why UO is here for y’all!

Best bets will be blueline wild trout, stocker streams in the mornings for this week’s DNR/USFWS gifts of brook trout, river bass in low light, and pond bream.  

One note: low, clear, and warm may not be great conditions for many species, but it’s a fun combo for stalking big, wary river bass. It’s almost like trying to outwit trophy brown trout.  Lighten your leaders, dead-drift your leggy foam bugs through the bankside shade, and be patient as a big bass hovers under your stealth bomber for 5-10 feet of drift before deciding whether to inhale or refuse it.

Low rivers also allow us to wade to better spots, where bass are packed into their summer refuges. It’s a good time to knock out some species for your Georgia bass slam. 

Wes’ hot fly list and angler reports and tips follow on our long version of this report on our Facebook page and at blog.angler.management. We had fewer reports this week as some folks were on vacation and others simply sidelined themselves til stream conditions improved. 

Wes’ hot fly list:

Last week’s list worked well, so we are rerunning it.

Dries: Quick-site beetle, 409 Yeager yellow, Parachute black ant, yellow sally, parachute Adams.

Nymphs: Drowned ant, Soft hackle partridge yellow, micro mayfly, Green weenie, Yellow sally nymph, Copper John, Green mop, girdle bug, Yellerhammer.

Streamers & warmwater:

Black wooly bugger, hairy fodder, , Triple double rainbow, Clouser minnow, Finesse changer, poppers with rubber legs, stealth bomber


Wes had a trip this morning (30th) to a nearby WMA. His client used a dry/dropper combo of a small chubby and yellerhammer to land a mixed bag of wild bows, a stocker bow, and a couple of fresh stocker brookies.

Longtime UO friend Bama Vic hadn’t trout fished since last spring and was suffering withdrawal symptoms. He contacted us first for intel and then came up for a mountain weekend. Here’s his debriefing:  “ Giving my UO friends a post-trip report as promised.

The Luftee fished pretty well Saturday morning with good consistent action on small bows and some decent browns. Best flies were a beadhead soft hackle PT dropped off a yellow body Hippie Stomper. The bigger fish took the hippie, go figure, including a couple of decent browns in the 10-11 inch range and a nice rainbow with one of the brightest red stripes I've seen on one in a while. Beautiful wild fish. Water temps in the low 60s at 9:00.

Fishing turned off in the afternoon like you said it would. One of the problems with fishing the Luftee on a Saturday in July is you have to go through Cherokee on a Saturday in July. Wow, that place never ceases to amaze. I dealt with it by telling myself the fishing wasn't going to be good anywhere at 2:00 in the afternoon, so that took out some of the sting of the crowds. Still amazing to see it all. Killed some time by driving over to the trophy section of the Raven Fork to see if I could see any big fish from the bridge across from the school. There were two hogs sitting just below, but of course the river was full of tubers and tons of fishermen upstream. Had a conversation with the father of Michael Bradley, the competitive fly fisherman from Cherokee, who had just dropped off some tubers. 

Made it through the Cherokee jungle and headed to the Nan DH. Started off slow, but around 5:30-6:00 it turned on and it really turned on. Fished that long flat stretch where I have run into you before. Started with a big stimulator and the beadhead PT, but took one nice bow on the stimi, then a brown and then another bow. They were long slow takes, kinda like cutthroats in Yellowstone, with slow rises to the fly and then a hookup. Great to watch it all happen! Took off the dropper and consistently caught fish for the next 2 hours, mix of wild and decent size holdovers. Great fun. I was surprised there were as many nice bows and browns still in that stretch, but they were there and hungry. Also caught some decent brookies. Some, not all, were pretty lethargic on the fight though so you know they are hurting. Just a great summer night of fly fishing, especially for July, all on dries. Best of all, nobody else was around fishing.

Sunday I headed over to Fires Creek DH to see if there was anything left in there. There were, including a couple of brutes. Stuck one of those huge rainbows for about a second and a half, but that was it for him. Caught several brookies and rainbows, mostly on a sparkle soft hackle and yellow bodied micro chubby. Again, nobody was fishing so I had the upper stretch of the DH, at least, all to myself. Am certainly not complaining. Perfect summer morning of trout fishing. Water was crystal clear, low 60s, and incredibly beautiful. 

Great weekend. Thanks again for the tips. Not sure when I'll be back, but hopefully soon if things keep going well.”


As mentioned before, GAWRD cuts back on stocking after July 4, but the streams still stocked provide nice late-season opportunities. Check those Friday WRD stocking lists! Note today’s WRD blog that even says there are brookie treats for you this week. Try a short fly rod and a woolly bugger and get your daughter or son on their first fly-caught trout. Aim for the cooler mornings.


And have a plan B (ultralight spincast rod and worms) in case the fly fishing is slow.

Splatek: You’d  be proud of Spencer and me today. We hit a favorite spot loaded with rainbow trout. There was a family there taking a dip in the creek. The dad -of five little ones- was looking interested. I finally stick up a conversation with him. Turns out he was a Florida surf angler. Never fly fished. 

I gave him a 2 minute stream side lesson and in a dozen casts he has caught his first ever fresh water trout. 

Smile as big as Spencer’s!! 

Gotta pass it on.

I reckon next time his family takes a family vacation to the north Georgia mountains he’ll be carrying a small fly rod.”

Ed note: you two get two gold stars from UO!


They are low, slow, and lazy. So are the fish in them!


“I waded a Hooch shoal early one morning this week.  I caught a couple shoalies on a hairy fodder early.  I was hardheaded and stuck to a popper for the rest of morning. It was pretty slow, with only 4 to hand over a couple hours. Saw a timber rattler, when getting out late am, down under a rock ledge by the trail. It’s time to watch where we step as everything is searching for some cooler spots.”


“ Our duo aimed for Chattahoochee shoal bass yesterday evening (28th) . We landed 5 shoalies up to 14". None on top as all fish seemed to be hunkered down in the warm water. Hairy fodder worked best for me, with 2 fish landed and one lost. My buddy landed 3 on a blue/black stealth bomber. “

Wes had a midweek float trip and said the bass action was slow. They started early and caught some fish on top and on some minnow patterns. The bite died by noon.

We had no striper reports. Those fish are typically very lazy and very discerning in low, clear, warm water. They have too much time to inspect and refuse our streamers. We need some rain to increase the stain and current velocity.

Small Lakes:

No reports, as our pond fans were away on vacation. They’ll still fish well at dawn and dusk on leggy terrestrial patterns “plopped” under the overhanging tree limbs.


No reports, as most predators have gone deep or way upriver in search of cooler water. The attached pic is a nice one of Kathy hooked up to a chunky Lanier spot several weeks ago, when the topwater bite still existed.

That’s the latest from here: slim pickings. But we will always shoot straight with you so you know what to expect when you hit north GA waters. And fishing still beats work or lawn care, even when the catching is a bit thin. Good luck and may the shade be with you, somewhere! Call or visit either UO store for flies, supplies, and dose of hope.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 7/23/21


This week’s advice is a rerun of last week’s intel due to similar F-Squared: flows and forecast. Pack your summer, low water equipment and techniques for most days. In addition,  bring your stormflow tricks in case you’re lucky enough to have an afternoon shower boost and muddy streamflows. I often pack 7/3, 9/4, and 9/6 or 9/8 flyfishing outfits when I am road-tripping this season. I also toss into the Tacoma my fly vest and my river bassin’ sling pack.  I’m ready for anything from blueline specks to river bass, and let the water conditions dictate the “club” I grab out of my angling bag.  

Best bets continue to be blueline wild trout, cold stocker streams on today’s GAWRD list, river bass when clarity’s at least 3 feet, river stripers at dawn and dusk, and pond bass and bream at low light.  Wes’ hot fly list and angler reports and tips follow on our long version of this report on our Facebook page and at blog.angler.management.

Wes’ hot fly list:

Dries: Quick-site beetle, 409 Yeager yellow, Parachute black ant, yellow sally, parachute Adams.

Nymphs: Drowned ant, Soft hackle partridge yellow, micro mayfly, Green weenie, Yellow sally nymph, Copper John, Green mop, girdle bug, 

Streamers & warmwater:

Black wooly bugger, hairy fodder, , Triple double rainbow, Clouser minnow, Finesse changer, poppers with rubber legs, stealth bomber


UO guide Israel: “This week I had a public water guide trip to stocked waters and my own personal hunt for wild fish.  We had. success using san juans after the rain in softer pockets and edges along the banks.  A few wilds hit a fat head beetle, but the worm pattern was most consistent in the high water.”

Splatek (aka Davy Crockett) checked in: :Snuck out last Friday to pull a few cam cards in the bear woods. After getting tired of walking, I dropped into a drainage that I knew would take me back to the main creek and eventually my truck. 

This “little” drainage was bigger than I thought with some nice, deep pools. I always keep my tenkara rod in my hunting pack so I knew all I had to do was tie on a simulator. The stream was narrow, but running with deep gin clear water. Surprisingly, the canopy was open so I pulled back on my fly to bow and arrow cast to the top of the run and let it fling. The fly landed softly on the water and I immediately saw a flash and a swirl of water under the fly; But no take. Second cast, I caught a standard sized speck. He was hooked deep so I knew I’d be keeping that one. Walked down to a flat area where there was another good run. Third cast and this fish demolished that dry fly. I decided to make a fire right there on some flat ground and eat the little one with some fresh picked chanterelles and take the big one home to try out a smoked trout dip recipe. 

Both meals were great. But there is something about eating a fresh caught streamside lunch that’s unbeatable.

I also hit our local warmwater stream with MiniMe this week. Spencer had a great time micro-bass fishing with dry flies. A good’un is in the eyes of the beholder. Enjoy the pic.”


Wes was busy this week: 

“I got out a couple of times for river stripers and did well.  The combination of high water and low light really helps stack the odds in your favor when chasing these predators in the summertime.

UO staffer Joseph Clark:  Here’s a pic of the striper I caught last night at the Bend.  The high and slightly dirty water was perfect for convincing the smart ones to eat. I had a good time with Wes!

We caught them on game changers but with the water color, any bigger baitfish pattern would have worked well.   We were just stripping it in with pauses. I even caught one swinging it in faster water. Having heavier, weighted flies helped us to get down to the fish in the high, fast water.

UO buddy Darren: “ I had some luck this week wading a big Lanier trib for stripers in the stained water. A real big, articulated white streamer did the trick.  I do enjoy these summer vacationers.”

Wes: “I also did a guided river bass trip this week. The fish were very scattered out, so covering water was key. We were able to catch a few on the surface on stealth bombers. However, the most productive method seemed to be tossing a 3” baitfish pattern and stripping it fast through likely pockets.”


“Here’s a cool pic I got of a dobsonfly this evening on the upper hooch while I was shoal bass fishing this evening. I also caught a few on a stealth bomber in some flat, slow water by casting up under rhododendron.

UO buddy RodneyT:  I got Number 5 for the 2021 Georgia Bass Slam: a Spotted Bass on the Etowah with Boogle Bug poppers. All 5 were caught on a fly rod. This makes my third annual Bass Slam!”

Small Lakes:

Joseph:  “Here’s some pics of hefty bluegills that I caught from a NC friend’s pond on woolly buggers and poppers. I also caught a lot of smaller bass on a black bunny leech.”


Jimmy and Kathy gave Lanier a try last weekend and said the topwater bite for spots, and an occasional striper, had slowed. They found a few spots. Best bets will still be offshore humps with brush and marina seawalls, both a dawn.

Clarkesville store:

UO staffer Lee: “We had a small but spirited crew gathered on Tuesday night to tie Wes’ hot summer bass bugs. It was a good time and folks are looking forward to our next sessions. See the Clarkesville store Facebook page for the schedule.”

The dog days of summer continue. The good news is that any dog that rises early, stays late, or hikes way up the mountain can have some really good days in the woods and waters of north Georgia. Call or stop in either one of our stores if we can “point” you in the right direction.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Safer Fun in the Summer Sun

Our rains are finally abating and the summer sun is shining once again - hard. It’s a good time for a reminder- protect your skin from the sun!

This spring we started stocking Shelta hats. They’ve been a big hit with the UO staff and our fishing buddies.  There are several styles, colors, and brim widths to choose from. Two awesome features are the no-flop front brim and the hat’s ability to be cinched tight and not blow off in the wind. That’s important during a boat ride or that annual cutthroat trout trip to the windy Rocky Mountains.


I bought one a couple months ago and have been very impressed. I got the Condor model, which has the widest brim at 3 inches. I’ve tested it on bass river wades, headwater trout hikes, and even on a 30mph Lanier tour with Jimmy as we searched for topwater stripers and spots.  I’m glad I bought it and, in fact, sent another as a birthday present to my brother, who’s almost as fair-skinned as me.

Athens Jay (pictured), one of our regulars for Friday report fodder, provided his own testimonial: “I really do like it. And you know I had a melanoma removed from my ear. That’s when I stopped wearing regular caps that offer no ear protection. Shelta is just what I needed! Plus their customer service is outstanding.  Ball caps are cool, but the sun is not always our friend! “

The seventy-dollar tab for a Shelta might seem a bit high, but compare that to your cost of a dermatologist visit.  Try on one of these Shelta hats the next time you’re in one of our two stores. You might like it as much as we do and invest in one, whether for style, comfort, or personal health. Good luck and have fun, protected from the summer sun!

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

What Would You Do?


What would you do in this high-water situation? 

Thanks for all of your great responses to yesterday’s Facebook question, “what would you do?”.  They were equally valid as each of us defines our own fun (even Cannon 🙂. 


What would Dredger do?

Like any true angling addict, Dredger would have found a way to wet a line this week! He would have recalled the UO column, “Hit the Curve,”in the Angler Magazine-Atlanta October edition:


and the UO Facebook/blog posts on July 8 and 19. 


He’d see on that flow graph that the Hooch in Helen was running too high for his safe wading and then drive uphill.

Above Helen, he’d hi-stick some bright squirmies and rubberleg stones, a foot behind a split shot or two,  in the “flood refuges” of slow water behind boulders and against streambanks. And he’d make a UO reservation for Nacoochee Bend stripers in the morning.

Today he’d first check the flow gauge again for a safe wading level and then head to Helen at dawn. He’d trade yesterday’s 4-weight for an 8-weight and throw big black game changers and rainbow trout streamers up into the whitewater at the heads of pools. And hold on!

Enjoy the videos of yesterday afternoon’s flows in tribs above Helen and at Nora Mill. Can you find the trout niches in the trib vids? 

Our UO staff hopes this conversation has given you some great ideas for your next post-storm plans, from dining to streamer chucking.  Thanks to y’all for the menu.  Good luck in hitting the next flow curve and putting a hook into “Homer’s” jaw.  Call or visit either UO store if we can help perfect your swing.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Your Natural Meter

This week’s rainy forecast spawned today’s UO fishing tip: use your personal turbidity meter! 

Turbidity is a measure of water clarity. Clarity dictates the species we aim for and the techniques we employ. While scientists use fancy meters, we can simply look down upon our natural meters: our submerged toes!  How many feet of visibility do you see?  Then adjust your own techniques to enhance your success!

In blood-red flows, with visibility less than a foot, it’s hard for fish to see anything. Cast big, dark flies on heavy tippet into soft shallows for a small shot at river stripers and trophy stream trout.

With vis at 2-3 feet, you have a great shot!  Again, toss big and dark or very bright streamers for river bass and stripers. For trophy trout, try big, dark buggers and leeches, big rubberleg stonefly nymphs, or bright pink San Juan worms. This is trophy time!!!

As streams clear and vis jumps to 3-4 feet, get more subtle and use more natural flies. For example, I’d look down at my shoes after a few hours at Smithgall and see that had Dukes already cleared a bit. I’d switch my San Juan from hot pink to shell (soft) pink and restore my catch rate. As the stream cleared further, I’d change to a small leech and then small hares ears and pheasant tails on thinner tippet to stay in the game.

So let your toes be your turbidity meters as welcome summer rains recharge area streams.  Judge a fish’s ability to see its forage and use the right bugs to match the water clarity. And, if the stream has some stain to it, remember a big net and a friend with a camera!

Friday, July 16, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 7/16/21

This week’s theme is “rain or shine” as our rainforest weather continues across the region. Be ready for low, clear summer flows and spooky fish between the PM storms. But be ready for brief, high, muddy slugs right after the storms. Both conditions will fish well if you fish them correctly: a) stealth and dainty bugs in skinny water; b) big ugly bugs/streamers and heavy tippet in the chocolate milk. Remember a raincoat, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug dope, and a headlamp. Head away from the sun for your best summer bets. Despite this being our “slow” season, today’s UO report is chock-full of successful angler stories, so tune into our long version on Facebook or blog.angler.management.

Good luck, fellow summer vacationers!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Micro chubby, Fat head beetle, Quick-site beetle, Parachute black ant,yellow humpy,  yellow sally at dark, and small parachute Adams (16, 18) in the shade.

Nymphs: Drowned ant, Soft hackle hare’s ear, hares ear nymph, Green weenie, Little yellow Sloan, frenchie. For stained water: tan mop, sexy Walts worm, brown Pats rubberlegs, and red squirmy worm.

Streamers & warmwater:

Black leech, Crittermite, Mini dragon tail, Triple double rainbow, Stealth jig, Bugger changer,  white and blue boogle bugs, white and black Kent’s stealth bombers.


Wes reports: “Smoky mountain bluelining”

Atticus and I headed north earlier this week and fished one of my favorite spots in the Smokies area. We had a banner day on this beautiful and rugged brookie stream. We landed around a dozen natives.  Three of them were over 10” and one southern Appalachian taped just over 11”.  While our legs were sore the next day from the mountaineering,  it was definitely worth the effort!”

Dredger also trekked north to the Smokies last weekend and reported: “I went up late Friday afternoon to fish behind the storms. Water temp was 64F and clarity was good as I slipped into the midsized stream at 6PM.  I hi-sticked a dry/dropper combo through shaded bankside runs and boulder pockets- anywhere with some depth and cover.  The yellow stimmy was a good strike indicator for my deep dropper, but brought few strikes itself. I caught a handful of small browns and bows on the Frenchie, especially as the sun dropped at 7PM. I switched to a tungsten mop dropper at 8PM and its extra calories attracted larger fish.  I caught four nice bows to 9 inches and two decent browns to 11 inches.  The big one must have been a shark week fan, since he breached four times and got two feet of air.  At 830 I switched to just a #16 yellow sally dry and picked a few off the top to end my day. I drove out slowly from the park at slap-dark and was glad I did, as four elk munched green grass inside the Hwy 441 median at the Luftee visitors center.

UO buddy Rodney T also went north of the border and said: “Wild bows on dries in the upper XXX River at high elevation.

The drive was worth it.” Ed note: we think his lucky hat contributed to his success.  Get you one, too!

Stocker streams:

Athens Jay set aside his bass box for a day and did a trout trek. He reports: “Cooper Creek was very crowded but I had a few minutes and thought “what the heck.” Your easy egg pattern caught trout, chubs and war paint shiners. It was a nice, cool break in the national forest.”

The post-July 4th period is actually a good time for stocker stalkers, if they’re smart.  Here are some UO tips to fill your frying pan.  First, check the abbreviated DNR stocking lists each Friday.  Second, stalk the wash-downs. The pool under the bridge is known to everyone as a stocking site and fished by all, so skip it.  Park there, but walk the road downstream for a couple hundred yards before hopping in. Then fish back up to your vehicle. Hit each nook and cranny with two casts and keep moving upstream to cover some ground. My favorite baits are 1/3 of a night crawler or a small ball of Powerbait hiding a size 10 bait holder hook,knotted to 4lb mono. My ugly stick indeed bends, but never breaks, as I bushwhack through the instream rhodo thickets, where few anglers venture.

If you or your kids would like to flyfish instead,  use a short (6.5-7.5 ft) rod, short leader (7.5 ft, 4X), and small (#10 or12) black or olive woolly bugger. Get in at the bridge, roll-cast quartering downstream, stick your rod tip in the water, and twitch and short-strip the bug back up to you. Wade slowly downstream for 200 yards and hit the pockets. Swim the bugger under overhanging branches and just above knarly logjams. Twitch more than strip to give stockers plenty of shots at your wiggling streamer.


Mornings will fish better due to cooler water and fewer anglers, so be the early bird.

You’ll find the wash-downs that other anglers have walked past for weeks.  Drive up to the next likely stocking site and repeat the technique.

Save your afternoons for a streamside cookout (fresh trout?) and then some instream splashing with your kids, and you’ll be known as the champion fishing guide!

Trout Fishing | Department Of Natural Resources Division


Landon hit the Hooch and shared this: “I fished Buford Dam the other day until it got crowed around noon. My dry:dropper rig, fished in boulder fields and woody structure,  caught good numbers on 6x and a good drift. My rig was a stimulator with two tungsten bead midges below it.”

Rivers and Lakes:

UO guide Palmer checked in:

“We floated a Lanier river the other day, when it cleared a bit, and caught most of everything on bass poppers. The topwater action was fun.”

Landon hopped aboard his buddy’s boat and reported;  “Good morning on Allatoona! Spots and a few hybrids were chasing  bait on the surface, off and on, all morning! We caught most on a fluke/ keitech, with a few crushing our chug bug on top, early.”

Hank the Yank remains happy: “Nothing has changed since last week... carp and striper fishing in rivers is very good, especially for trophy stripers. Topwater bass on Lanier continues to be a wonderful option, especially with the full moon only 1 week away. “

Check out Henry’s Facebook page for more intel and some great pics:

Henry Cowen

That’s the latest fishing news from the hot, humid rain forest of north Georgia. Go early or late to avoid the sun and the afternoon showers and you’ll still have a great time.  Enjoy your wet-wades and the fact that you can feel your fingertips and toes. You’ll remember this summer fun when you’re shivering in a December trout stream. Call or visit either UO store if we can help you out.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Real Deal!

Unicoi Outfitters is pleased to announce the addition of Mr. Israel Patterson to our staff. We are truly lucky to have Israel decide to include us in his homecoming plans!

Raised in the southeastern United States, Israel grew up testing the Georgia reservoirs for Largemouth Bass and exploring southern Appalachian streams for trout. He has fished from Baja, Mexico to Alaska, and east across the United States.  His photographs have been published in The Drake Magazine, The FlyTying Artist, and in multiple industry catalogs and advertisements.

After a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Israel moved to Colorado and guided in and around Rocky Mountain National Park.  He specialized in backcountry, overnight fishing trips to high alpine lakes, as well as daily guide trips to small mountain streams. 

Israel recently returned to his native Georgia and enjoys chasing trout and warmwater species.  When not guiding UO clients or serving customers in our Helen store, Israel can be found traveling to the next destination in his search for new species and new cultural experiences.  

Israel, thanks for your military service to our country and for sharing your flyfishing expertise with anglers across it. We’re honored to have you join our UO family!