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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Hello Ida

How many of you trout anglers have heard the saying, “foam is home?” Well, we’re not sure that it applies very well to the Hooch today. The Helen gauge showed that 2.5 inches dropped quickly this afternoon, and the radar shows one more thick rain-band heading our way soon. So duck and cover, Nacoochee Bend rainbows!

The good news is that Helen’s long-range weather forecast shows a cooling trend. Lower nighttime air temps should drop water temps a bit and fire up our stream and river residents. So look ahead with a smile as we all weather the last round of Ida tonight.

And we will see y’all after this surge subsides.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Rolling in Blueline Tunnels

As we roll into this weekend, some of you may roll up here for a bluelining adventure. And you’ll be roll casting inside the rhododendron tunnels.

Here’s a link to a great video by our friend, Pete, at Orvis HQ. His 3-minute lesson on roll casting might help you catch more fish and fewer tree limbs.



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/26/21

We’re going to call this week “renewed vigor” as Fred boosted north GA streamflows and dropped water temps a bit. Flood flows have passed, but the forest is still shedding some water, so streamflows right now are “healthy.” That’s good news!  The waters are higher than their skinny summer baseflows that had our fish very wary before the storm .  Streams and rivers have finally cleared, too.

Higher flows and clearer water have given our sport fish some renewed vigor, so go soon and take advantage of these improved conditions.  Best bets are headwater wild trout, river float fishing, and pounding the pond banks at low light for bass and bream. Wes’ weekly hot fly list and some fresh fishing reports and tips follow on our Facebook page and at blog.angler.management.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Quick-site beetle, stimulator, Parachute Ant, royal trude, humpy, tan caddis, chubby Chernobyl.

Nymphs: Twisted mayfly, depth charge caddis, drowned ant, copper John.

Streamers & warmwater:

Bank robber sculpin, stealth bomber, May’s identity crisis, finesse changer.


UO guide Israel hit an upper Hooch tributary on Monday  and had a big time with its resident rainbows. He said,

“The small stream fished great on Monday.  I used nothing but a single ant and got hits in all spots that trout should be in.  The water felt great after all that rain.”

Dredger prospected local waters this morning (26th) and the blueline bows cooperated for him, too. They ate anything “fluffy and high-floating” on a 7 1/2 foot, 5x leader. He landed a couple dozen little wild fish in three hours, with a 9-inch “trophy”topping his small stream catch.

A #16 tan caddis, yellow stimulator, and tan chubby all did well when they rode high.  He stayed busy babying his dry with a chamois-squeeze and then a dessicant-dip after every five casts or surface take, whichever came first. He changed fly patterns only after each bug finally succumbed to multiple slimings and refused to float any longer.

Most fish had pot bellies, showing that they’ve taken advantage of high-flow groceries. And these headwater residents knew how to duck and cover to survive Fred’s flood flows!


Ron W’s gang did a river recon last weekend to Stream X, as its flows just started to drop. It was more of a scouting mission for their forthcoming fall trout trips than a real fishing trip. He reports, “You were right...pretty country up there! We went all the way upstream . Didn't toss a fly until we got about a 1/2 mile above a big tributary.  Moe caught this nice brown on his very first cast. No other fish were caught.  I did get tight twice but couldn't seal the deal.  Water was ripping! 30k steps on a little more than 4 hours sleep...  My body aches, but I can't wait for fall!  Oh yeah, Kurt and I got lit up by yellow jackets too, so warn your anglers to be on the lookout!” 

We had no river bass fishing reports because everyone played it safe and stayed away from roaring flood flows. Now the rivers are dropping and clearing, and the fishing conditions look good for the days ahead. I crossed the Hooch at Highway 115 last night and visibility was about four feet.


While wading might still be out due to higher flows, floating should be an option.  This week will be a good time to strip streamers or bounce some crayfish flies.  You might even consider an intermediate or sink-tip line to get your offerings down in the heavier current.  If you do find some calm water, you can even try popping your poppers to bring fish up in these higher flows. When rivers recede to summer base flows, however, then revert back to your skinny water tactics of dead-drifted surface bugs on thinner leaders.


Landon checked in: “I got permission to fish a nearby subdivision lake. It was full of small bass and some decent bluegill.  This local lake makes “getting a fishing fix” after work very easy.”

Athens Jay also avoided his raging bass rivers and hit flat water:

“Small impoundment fishing in the Piedmont was excellent this week around the full moon. Things got especially good late in the day when the sun dipped below the tree line. My Boogle bug/Rubberlegs combo was great. And this is Stealth Bomber season too! 

Catch the fishable downside of Fred’s recession and you just might have a great weekend trip. The fish have renewed vigor right now and you might, too. Call or visit either one of our UO stores if we can guide you toward some hydrotherapy and its resulting smile. After all, we can all use something to smile about these days!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Hello Joseph!

These mountains sure cultivate some fine young anglers and flyfishers!  Our home county, White, has really blessed UO with great staffers such as Helen shop manager and guide Wes McElroy. Well, we’ve got another winner for you in Joseph Clark!  Joseph recently joined our team and is a perfect addition to the Helen store. His combination of youthful energy, friendliness, and local angling experience is serving our customers well.  Here is Joseph, in his own words. Enjoy the pics, too!

“I’m originally from White County and am now a high school Junior.  I’ve  been fishing as long as I can remember. Most of my early efforts were aimed at largemouth bass in local ponds and small reservoirs.

I was introduced to fly fishing about four years ago.  Ever since then I have been primarily a fly angler. I like to do a lot of river bass and striper fishing near my house on the upper Hooch. By far my favorite style of fly fishing would have to be for those warmwater species but, when I’m not fishing warm water,  I love wild trout fishing on small mountain streams!

I love my job at UO and the opportunities to help the diversity of anglers who walk into our store. “

Please join us in welcoming Joseph to our UO team. He is eager to help you and looks forward to your next visit to Helen. Congrats Joseph, and good luck in school!

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/19/21

This week’s theme is “Recession,” as we all wait for streams to recede from Fred’s overabundant rainfall. Your best bets, or really your only bets, will be very high or very low:  small headwater streams and impoundments. Even with the predicted afternoon storms for the next few days , bluelines have small watersheds and typically shed their high flows very quickly - within a day or so. 

Flat water- ponds, lakes, and reservoirs- is your second option. Beware of washed-in debris such as logs, which are boating safety concerns. Find the “mud lines” where blood-red stormflows mix with clear lake water. Those zones of stained water are hotspots, where food and cooler water wash in, the lower clarity gives predators a sense of safety, and the stain hides you while disguising your flies and lures.

As stormflows recede, be ready for some “stream rearrangements.”  Old pools might disappear and new ones will show up. Same goes for logjams. You might enjoy fishing a “new” stream or two after these major flood events. 

In terms of future trout, these floods really loosen up stream gravels and flush fine sediments from them. That’s good news for romantic specks and browns this fall and the rainbows next spring. Clean gravel is vital to mountain trout reproductive success here in Georgia.

We do have some good pre-flood reports from local waters and some nice intel from friendly western trekkers. Wes’ hot fly list and some recent angler reports follow on our Facebook page and at blog.angler.management. Enjoy the weekend while being careful in post-storm flows.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Quick-site beetle, hard body ant, micro dchubby, yellow humpy, yellow stimulator, parachute Adams, tan elk hair caddis.

Nymphs: brown pats rubberlegs, San Juan and squirmy worms, tan mop, sexy Walt’s worm, flashback pheasant tail, mini leech, prince nymph, Green weenie, and black fur ant when waters clear.

Streamers & warmwater:

Black woolly bugger, chartreuse-over-white Clouser,  Kreelex,sweet baby cray, polar changer, Mr Wiggly, CK baitfish.


We had no recent reports. The key here will be to high-stick the flood refuges while flows are higher. Boost your dry fly a size or two (12’s and 14’s) to give residents enough reason to rise. Scale back down to smaller size 16’s or so once the waters recede and clear and those wild fish resume their summer nervousness.

Wash-Down Stockers:

Watch the Friday GAWRD stocking list. Look at last Friday’s list and head to downstream flood refuges (pools, logjams, etc) to prospect for wash-downs from upper stocking sites. Then check streamflows tomorrow and Saturday to see if this week’s stockers will hold in place or get displaced to those downstream refuges, too.


Dredger waited for the sun to fall and then hit a Hooch shoal at 7pm last Friday.  He stuck with “dries” in hopes of some summer surface action in the low, clear water. The black stealth bomber was eaten twice. He switched to a white one as dusk creeped in at 8 and had one more bite before quitting at 8:30.  All three Shoalies bent his 6-weight rod and then took to the air, with one successfully shaking the hook. He fondled two up to 15 inches and called it a successful trip.

Athens Jay said he had a really good shoalie float on a middle GA river prior to the storm. Fish enjoyed his big streamer concoctions that we’ve featured in past weekly reports. His pics backed up his prose.


We had no recent reports, but Dredger recently drove past Lake Zwerner in Dahlonega. 

Lake Zwerner and Yahoola Creek Reservoir – City of Dahlonega


Keep this 150-acre water supply reservoir, just north of Wal Mart, in mind if you’re a (non-motorized) yak or canoe-fishing fan within driving distance of Dahlonega. It’s good for bass and bream. Try the deeper, cooler water by following the Yahoola Creek channel. It enters from the west and flows under the highway bridge.  Enjoy the pics.


We had two great reports from UO contacts venturing to the Yellowstone region.  UO guide Palmer just returned from a fun, albeit smoky trip that included some beautiful bows from the Henry’s Fork and some colorful cutts from the Yellowstone River.

A trio of UO buddies are currently “camped” in the West Yellowstone area and making day trips to their favorite streams inside and outside the park. Ringleader sent me two reports and some nice pics in the last 48 hours to support his alleged successes. He said:

“Hoot Owl restrictions have all anglers off the water at 2PM every afternoon in the Park but the rivers are in good shape. The Gallatin was 50 degrees Monday. Today restrictions on the Madison outside the Park have been lifted. Hopper fishing has been good. The Gibbon and Soda Butte have been great.  Lots of smoke from fires to the west but the air quality has been better than expected.”

“Its 46 degrees and raining on Soda Butte this morning (18th). Yep, we’re sick people.  But we’re happy and the fish are beautiful!

I actually stayed out for about 30 minutes and then went back to the car and turned the heater on. The rain slacked up a couple of hours later so I went back out and caught a couple cutts before the 2:00 closing.”

We’re glad that Fred spared our Helen shop, so we’re still around to serve you.  Check USGS river gauges, call local tackle shops, and then plot a safe course to this weekend’s fishable waters. Remember to throttle down and be on the lookout for floating logs in lake headwaters. 

Use the stained waters to your advantage to sneak up on your quarry. Call or come by either UO store if we can help direct you toward fishable waters. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Goodbye Fred!

Tropical Storm Fred really had the Hooch rocking and rolling yesterday!  In fact, the river just below our Helen fly shop took at short cut straight across the field in Nacoochee Bend,  on the other side of  Highway 75 from the Nacoochee Indian Mound.  Enjoy the video.

None of us were brave enough to drift a bright red squirmy worm through the Bend’s fescue field. We thought we’d catch more trout if we remained on higher ground and lived longer. 

Check USGS river gauges and call local tackle shops for streamflow updates before your next trip up here.  Remember that the Hooch-Helen gauge has a camera that you can remotely control.   

Israel just told me that our fly shop is fine and we are open for business today.  Stormflows did creep up three back steps of our porch, but have since subsided.  Be safe as we all wait for the waters to recede.

And goodbye Fred!

Monday, August 16, 2021

Another Young Gun

UO friends, we’d like to introduce you to one of our recent additions to the UO team, Atticus Leithner. A native of west Georgia, Atticus has been fishing for nearly all of his life. He discovered
  flyfishing as a high school sophomore and has been hooked on the sport ever since. He led his high school fishing club and discovered new flyfishing techniques like Euronymphing and Tenkara.

Atticus is now a Biology major at the University of North Georgia, where he also serves as president of the college’s  TU-Five Rivers Flyfishing Club. An adventurer, he enjoys hiking, camping, fishing new waters, and overlanding in his pickup truck. He also enjoys helping our Helen customers with flies, supplies, and intel to enhance their times astream.

We are proud to have such a smart and personable young man on our staff.  Please join us in welcoming Atticus to the UO team and wishing him well in his college career. Atticus, we sure are glad that your life adventures now include a “camp” at our Helen shop while earning your degree!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Orvis River Bassing Tips

Here’s a new Orvis podcast on late-summer smallmouth tips. Tom Rosenbauer’s guest is Colby Trow of Mossy Creek Flyfishing in Virginia, a great smallie state!  During my Hokie days, I spent too much time away from my books, wading the New River for these critters.

It’s a great podcast. Many of Colby’s tips apply to all river bass, from smallies to spots to shoalies, Bartrams, and Chatts.  

So if you’re on the hunt for river bass this month, tune into the podcast one evening soon, and have even more fun with your summer river adventures.


Thursday, August 12, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/12/21


For this week, think “storms.”  Recent pop-up thunderstorms have been localized, abundant,  and intense. One watershed might be blown out for a day, while a nearby stream on the other side of the ridge might remain low and clear. It all depends on where these storms track.

We also have a storm brewing in the Gulf and possibly headed our way. That radar track is worth watching for stream conditions early next week.

Muddy storm surges are bad for dry fly action, good for stockers, bad for river bassing, and good for striper hunting. Pack a raincoat and have a plan of whether you will head toward or away from the storm surges. 

Regardless, we’re thankful for the north GA storms as they recharge our rainforest, reduce forest fire danger, briefly boost streamflows, and drop air and water temps.

Wes’ hot fly list and a nice bunch of fresh angler reports follow on our Facebook page and at blog.angler.management.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Quick-site beetle, hard body ant, micro chubby, yellow humpy, parachute Adams, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs: pyscho prince, flashback pheasant tail, mini leech, Green weenie, improved yallarhammer.

Streamers & warmwater:

Kreelex,sweet baby cray, polar changer, Mr Wiggly, CK baitfish.


High-elevation wild trout continue their cooperative ways.  Stealthy stalkers who can drift a high-floating dry, drag-free, through the small pools and runs are having lots of fun. Here are some fresh reports.

Sautee and an accomplice leap-frogged up a Hooch trib last Friday and did well on small wild rainbows crammed into the deepest water available. Sautee tossed his trusty yellow elk hair caddis (#16 early and a #14 as the shadows fell) and accomplice tossed a #14 chubby Chernobyl. They traded pools each time an angler caught a fish. A good stalk and good drift were their keys to catches.

Dredger took an afternoon road trip to Cherokee last weekend and hit some park headwaters. He stuck with a dry and tested his homemade chubby patterns (#14).  Both the peacock body/brown foam and the all-tan versions got lots of looks. Refusals outnumbered takes by about 5:1, but enough small bows and browns came to hand to call it a good day. His quick strikes, like he was fishing a small caddis, resulted in a string of early misses. He learned the hard way to hesitate for a count of one to give fish enough time to eat the small hopper pattern, then set the hook.  Think “western cutthroat” and your slower strikes might net you more fish on these small foam bugs. The elk harems have formed and Dredger even heard a bugle or two as he SLOWLY exited the park at dark. After all, elk and front bumpers don’t mix well.

UO buddy RonW returned to action and shared this report:

“Today was a another fantastic day for the Trio and  our buddy Steve chasing specks on a GA blueline.  We fished a new section of this  stream that none of us have explored before. The elevation was around  2600' - 2800' with water temps around 60° and air temps that never got hotter than 72-73, I'm guessing. We fished a little over 3/4 mile of stream, starting around 9am and exiting (retreating)  around 3pm.  It seemed like we couldn't go more than 20' without have to climb under/over a log or  tunneling thru the rhododendron. 

 I can unequivocally say that the juice was definitely worth the squeeze today.  

We landed 6-7 fish each and hooked several more, all brookies except for 1 very lost and adventurous rainbow. I started the day  with a Ausable Wulff and after  2 fish, I changed over to a Coachman and never tied on another fly all day.  The weather was great, the company was better and the fishing was downright awesome! “

Longtime UO buddy David Cannon survived brown bear photo-shoots long enough to return home and introduce his dad to blueline bows on fluffy dries. They had a big time on a small, north-slope stream. I don’t believe he said it’s name…

Check out David’s Instagram account, davidcannonphotography, for his latest round of great pics from afar. We’re glad those bruins prefer salmon over a thin, chewy Georgian.

Dredger ran out after Tuesday’s storm and prospected some Hooch headwaters in the cooler air.   Stream #1, to the west, was Yoo-hoo, so he kept driving to Stream #2, just to the east. It was clear, as the storm missed it.  Trout were cooperative in the few pools between long, skinny, fishless riffles. One hefty stocker and a nice handful of wild bows (6-8 inches) approved his homemade chubbies. Gnats were bad and he was thankful for his bug repellent- and also his dessicant, which he remembered this time!


Watch the Friday GAWRD stocking list. Late-summer best bets usually include Holcomb, Tallulah, Dicks, Rock, and upper Cooper. Aim for cold water and low light in the morning. Scale down to 4 pound test, small hooks (#10 or 12) and smaller baits and flies to pick off summer’s picky fish.


UO staffer Israel:  “River bassin’ for Chatts and Bartrams has been good early morning and in the evening, with a few bonus sunfish tossed in the mix. I’ve  had good success on a bass popper. Plop it on the water, give a quick twitch, and then let it sit. Tossing the popper into the shade and close to wood produced for me. Crawfish patterns and the critter-mite also worked well on the bottom when the surface action stopped.”

UO Helen manager Wes:

“I had a canceled guide trip earlier in the week so Jackson and I hit the water ourselves. 

The bass were very scattered but we were able to get some on top with stealth bombers as well as a few larger fish on a large 6” game changer. We also were able to catch a handful of carp feeding in a shallow flat.”

UO friend Athens Jay:  “Piedmont rivers continue to fish well for shoalies, especially late in the day when the sun dips below the tree line. Use big, weighted streamers in dark colors fished on a long fluorocarbon leader. Cast upstream and try to get a natural “crawfish” drift by giving an occasional twitch. A better option lately has been to use a clear,  sink-tip line and a short 3’-4’ fluorocarbon leader. This helps with your casting and gives you closer contact with your fly.”

UO owner Jimmy:

“After spending the day sightseeing Richard Russell Scenic Hwy. and Brasstown Bald with our niece Madelyn from Tx, we ended up back at Nacoochee Bend about an hour before sundown. The river was running clear and low but we decided to try for stripers before dark.  Our topwater offerings produced a half dozen aggressive follows but no takers.  (The same results other anglers had been experiencing.) A change in tactics brought a change in luck. A 6" baitfish imitation worked upstream, beneath the roughest water we could find,  resulted in Madelyn's first Striper and bragging rights for biggest fish among her cousins in Austin!”

UO buddy Landon: “We hit an Etowah trib on Sunday. Bass were in their usual bankside pockets. Our best rig was a dry/dropper combo of a small popper and woolly bugger trailer. Our best method was one good pop when it hit the water, and then dead drifting for a good while.”


UO staffer Israel:

“Tallulah was blown out this morning so I hit the lake in the state park.  Very little was interested in topwater bugs. A semi seal leech (black n red) was the ticket. A 6-inch strip and 3-second pause drew enthusiastic strikes near wood.  I probably caught a dozen bream and a bonus perch in an hour of fishing before opening our Clarkesville store.”

Check the forecast, remember your raincoat and repellent, and hang in the car til the lightning passes. Then aim toward or away from storm surges, per your plan.  Call or visit our Helen (706-878-3083) or our Clarkesville store (706-754-0203) if we can help you plot your course through this week’s likely clouds. Good luck from our UO gang!