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.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/23/21

Join us in celebrating the arrival of fall! The weather is great and some prime angling opportunities await us as we finally dry out and streamflows fall after 4 inches of rain.  Just remember a sweatshirt and maybe even your waders, especially if you’re fishing in the mornings. Wet-wading in a T-shirt might be a bit chilly until the afternoon sun hits the water and your body.

Best bets are blueline wild trout, stockers and holdovers in some larger, cooling streams,


river bass once those rivers shed the week’s heavy rainfall, and pond bream and bass while those waters are still warm.

Looking ahead just a week or so, some special trouting opportunities resume.  North Carolina’s Delayed Harvest program returns in October.  

Many of Georgia’s private trout stream operations are now reopening due to cooler water temperatures  for resident, trophy trout. Try an unguided half or full-day trip to the Hooch behind our Helen shop (706-878-3083).

Angler intel, Wes’ hot fly list, a Dukes Creek update, and North Carolina’s Delayed Harvest stocking schedule follow on our Facebook page and blog.angler.management. 

Call or stop by either UO shop for more intel and supplies. Remember tomorrow nite’s Sip & Stroll  event in Clarkesville and that sweatshirt for your morning angling adventure.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: X-stimulator, fat Albert, Humpy, 

Nymphs: girdle bug, Squirminator, Frenchie, Rainbow Warrior, hares ear.

Streamers & warmwater:

Sparkle minnow, bank robber sculpin, finesse changer, jiggy craw, clouser minnow.


RonW (aka “Motrin”) reported on his trio’s awsome weekend road trip: 

“Yesterday was another fantastic day in "The Park" for the Trio. We fished a new section of our favorite crick in the Smokies, Stream X, aka "Steep Creek."  With overcast skies, the fish  weren't looking up like we hoped they would, but we did manage to find few willing to eat on top. We climbed waterfall after  waterfall, gaining about 400' in elevation in the  slightly less than 3/4 mile of water we fished. 

After a slow start and only a few fish to hand on the dry, I changed tactics and added a dropper. This proved to be a very wise decision. 

I stepped up to a beautiful little hole tucked behind a small Boulder,  and managed to catch my personal best Speck on the very first cast: 9.5" of pure  Appalachian beauty!  It was awesome seeing him come out from under a rock and absolutely smash the dropper. What an absolute Appalachian Jewel this fish was. That was one fish I'll never forget! 

It's a good thing I tie in 3's, one for me and one for each of my brothers as that fly was a game changer and got it done for the rest of the day.

It wasn't all rainbows and unicorns though. We got rained on from about 11am till 2pm when we called it quits and were all completely soaked. Kurt lost his phone and glass, presumably right after he caught a fish. We backtracked looking for it with no luck. I did a scuba diver entry off of a massive hemlock that we had climbed over, tumbling backwards  about 4' to some rocks and landing on my back/shoulder. Luckily I didn't smash my head or break anything. I'm good, just a little sore today but the memory of that fish makes it all worth it. 

Spending the day in the woods with my brothers is food for the soul! It's always an adventure with these guys and the by-product of said adventure is pretty amazing!”

Landon focuses on hunting each fall, but did report on his recent distraction from his primary mission: 

“Location undisclosed, as I went scouting for a bear trip soon. Stopped and fished a couple hours on my way home. Water was stained from rain but I found a couple browns including this


Midsized Trout Streams:

Experienced folks can resume their battles with Dukes Creek residents. Smithgall State Park manager Will Wagner and his staff told me that, with cooler water, the stream will reopen to anglers on October 2.  Will said:

“Expect new waters this year with modified hydrological settings from significant flooding events.  However, the fish have fared well through it all with coolers waters and plenty of flow.  They are healthy and ready for a fight.”

The reservation list is already booked for October, so call (706-878-3087) soon to secure a November date. And remember the opportunity to walk-on, if you’re there early and a no-show opens up a fishing slot. Wednesdays are better opps than the two weekend days. If there are no openings, just have your Plan B ready. Right that that plan might be bluelining nearby headwaters with your short rod and fluffy dry.

Make sure you read and follow all the Dukes rules. They’re tightly enforced and meant to protect those big fish for spawning and for your future angling enjoyment. Review them here:


or “Regs” under here:


Bigger waters should start to fish decently again as daily high water temps remain well below 70F.  Try some reunions with your favorites like the upper Tooga, Tallulah, Cooper, Luftee, and Cataloochee. Combine some park dry/dropper fishing with elk watching. And elk hearing, as bugling, sparring, and harem-gathering should now be in full swing.

NC Delayed Harvest:

Remember that our neighbor state’s DH program kicks off in October.  While most streams may hold some wild fish and/or DH leftovers from last season, our fall catch rates are fueled by this season’s stockings. If you or your guest is new to flyfishing, you’ll have a better trip if you can find those fresh stockers.   Check out the agency’s DH stocking schedule here and plan your trips accordingly. See “ stocking schedule” and “Setzer Hatchery” on the agency’s trout page for their latest news:


Private Waters:

Our private waters will reopen on October 1.  Some prime fall dates are already booked by our longtime clients, but there are still some great opportunities available. HINT:  If you have a bit of experience and can drift a nymph drag-free through the pools, try an unguided trip (half or full day) to Nacoochee Bend, UO’s stretch of the Hooch right behind our shop in Helen. While it’s warm, aim for the mornings. When stream temps steeply drop around Thanksgiving, aim for the warmer afternoons.

UO friend RonW and an accomplice”test-fished” the Bend for us on a cold morning last week and gave their recon mission two thumbs-up.  Small, natural nymphs drifted deep were the ticket. Call the shop (706-878-3083) for more info on “The Bend” and to reserve your fall fishing slots.


River bassing was very good on low, clear rivers before this week’s storms. Some fish hit topwater, but more succumbed to minnow imitations fished mid-column and deep. See Wes’ fly list for the hot patterns.

River fans will have to wait several more days for flows to drop and clear. It takes a while to shed 4 inches of rain.  Watch the USGS gauges on the Hooch, Chestatee, and Etowah. Chestatee example:


If you’ve kept a notes page on your smart phone, look back at your last trip notes and compare your floating/wading conditions and fish catch to the gauged flows for those days. My notes page tells me my go/no go options on these large streams following stormflows. Give this “homework” tip a try.

Small Lakes

They’re still fishing well. With cooler weather sliding in, afternoons should start fishing better than mornings for our topwater fans.

Athens Jay recently hosted his best fishing buddy for an extended vacation and the duo did real well in Jay’s local honey hole. It’s clear that Jay inherited his skills from his dear mother who, at age-86, still has a great game herself!

Good luck this week.  Remember the Sip & Stroll event tomorrow nite on the Clarkesville square. Stop in our new store on the square and swap some fish stories!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Friday Sip n Stroll

This sounds like a great time! The rain will be gone and fall’s cool weather will greet you upon your arrival. Come on up and stroll the square this Friday, 9/24.  You might even stop in at your favorite Habersham outdoors store, Unicoi Outfitters, and stock up on some fall fishing favorites.

See y’all Friday?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/17/21

The cloudy, rainy weather this week bodes well for our angling plans.  Area streams received less than an inch of rain so far, and it fell softly throughout the past two days. That’s great, as the lack of pounding raindrops and ripping runoff through road gullies prevented much soil erosion and stream discoloration.  The low light of cloudy days also gives sportfish some cover from predators, and they’re more eager to feed than to duck for cover, as they must do on bright days to survive.

Most streams have already dropped back to normal flow and are very clear. For example, the Hooch at Highway 115 had a good four feet of visibility this morning. 

Clear water, cooler water, and cloudy weather should give everyone some great shots at headwater trout, river bass and bream, and pond residents. 

Those are our best bets again this week.  Angler intel, Wes’ hot fly list, and North Carolina Delayed Harvest Program news follows on our Facebook page and blog.angler.management. 

Good luck in the cooler weather and low light on our horizon.  October is just around the corner, and this cooling trend should bring some of our larger trout streams back to life for some great fall action. Feel free to call or stop by either of our UO stores for supplies and advice.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: chubby Chernobyl, elk hair caddis, trude lime.

Nymphs: girdle bug, soft hackle hares ear, depth charge caddis, psycho prince.

Streamers & warmwater:

Wooly bugger, muddy buddy, mini dragon tail, polar changer, headcase crayfish. BoogleBugs.


Two local speckulators checked in this week. UO friends Sautee and Tweed took separate headwater hikes and found cooperative locals. The specks had a taste for small, fluffy dries, presented upstream after careful stalks.

North Carolina Delayed Harvest - Good News

Our good friend, NCWRC fisheries biologist Jake Rash, passed along their agency’s fresh press release:

Delayed Harvest Trout Waters Open October 1


RALEIGH, N.C. (Sept. 16, 2021) — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will implement Delayed Harvest Trout Waters regulations on 36 trout waters on Oct. 1. Under Delayed Harvest Trout Waters regulations, no trout can be harvested or possessed from these waters between Oct. 1 and one half-hour after sunset on June 3, 2022. No natural bait may be possessed, and anglers can fish only with artificial lures with one single hook. An artificial lure is defined as a fishing lure that neither contains nor has been treated with any substance that attracts fish by the sense of taste or smell.


The Wildlife Commission stocks Delayed Harvest Trout Waters from fall through spring with high densities of trout to increase anglers’ chances of catching fish. Delayed Harvest Trout Waters, posted with diamond-shaped, black-and-white signs, are popular fishing destinations for anglers who enjoy catch-and-release trout fishing.


On Aug. 17, the Bobby N. Setzer State Fish Hatchery, which is the Commission’s largest trout hatchery, was severely impacted by flash flooding caused by Tropical Depression Fred.  Although the hatchery remains operational, approximately 67% of all trout at the hatchery were lost.  The agency is mitigating those losses by obtaining replacement trout from various sources.  Although Delayed Harvest stockings are slated to occur as planned this October, hatchery staff are still addressing impacts of the damage to the facility and future stockings could be disrupted. Flood-related impacts and any changes to trout stockings will be posted on the agency’s website at ncwildlife.org/TroutUpdate.


Some trout waters may be closed by local cooperators due to COVID-19. Visit the agency’s COVID-19 webpage for an updated list of trout waters that have been closed by local cooperators.


While fishing, anglers should consider these minimal steps to help prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species like gill licewhirling disease and didymo:

  • CLEAN equipment of all aquatic plants, animals and mud
  • DRAIN water from boats, live wells and equipment
  • DRY equipment thoroughly
  • NEVER MOVE fish, plants or other organisms from one body of water to another


Learn more about aquatic nuisance species by visiting the Commission’s Aquatic Nuisance Species webpage.


For a complete list of Delayed Harvest Trout Waters, information on regulations and trout fishing maps, visit the Commission’s trout fishing page.


About the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission 

Since 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has been dedicated to the conservation and sustainability of the state’s fish and wildlife resources through research, scientific management, wise use and public input. The Commission is the state regulatory agency responsible for the enforcement of fishing, hunting, trapping and boating laws and provides programs and opportunities for wildlife-related educational, recreational and sporting activities.


Purchase or a renew a fishing, trapping and hunting license and renew a vessel registrationonline at ncwildlife.org


Get N.C. Wildlife Update — news including season dates, bag limits, legislative updates and more — delivered free to your Inbox from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.


UO Helen manager Wes:

“I had a good trip Monday river bassin with Harry and his wife.  Fish were eating at various levels of the water column and once we got it dialed in the bite was great. Topwater bugs and mid-column baitfish patterns produced the best results.”

Athens Jay had a successful river bassing trip, too. Big, dark streamers with lots of action produced the best for him.

Good luck this week. Pack a raincoat in case a shower finds you, and enjoy cooperative bass and trout under the cool, cloudy skies of late September.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

September Skinny Water Secrets

What are your favorite topwater bugs for a) river bass and b) headwater trout?

Care to share your hot fly suggestions with our UO audience?

Toss them soon before surface temperatures cool into the fall.  We have about a month left of warmer water and some consistent topwater action for river bass and headwater trout, so take your last swings soon.

To help your batting average, we now continue our “September skinny water” theme.  To put y’all on a some extra fish, we offer a few more tips. They are “plop, drift, twitch, and dance,” and they’re described in the Unicoi Outfitters column in this month’s Coastal Angler Magazine - Atlanta Edition.  Pick up a free copy at your favorite fly or tackle shop, or view it online here.


The UO intel is on page 10 inside the magazine’s Atlanta local news section, so turn some extra pages to dig up these nuggets.

Toss your favorite surface bug soon and try our four tried-and-true tactics. Hopefully you’ll outsmart a few more seasoned river bass and headwater trout to top off another great summer of surface action. Good luck!

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/9/21

Air temps, water temps, streamflows, and water clarity are lining up to provide a prime fishing week ahead of us. Get out there and wet a line!

Headwaters are still running a bit higher than our normally low summer baseflows - - and that’s good news. With cooler nights returning, that will make high-elevation wild trout a best bet once again. I checked a small Hooch trib above Helen today. It was crystal-clear, about 64F  at midday, and flowing well.   Instream residents should easily spot and pursue your surface fodder, so grab your short rod, a fluffy dry, and best stealth game and hike high for wild bows and specks.

GAWRD trout stocking usually gets thin after Labor Day, as hatchery space is dedicated to the grow-out of next year’s crops. You can aim for last week’s long list of holiday-stocked waters, or hold out some hope for the Friday reports of occasional fall stockings.

Rivers are still receding, but the best news is that they’re clearing after a rainless week. The Hooch at Highway 115 and Duncan Bridge had ample flow today and clarity of about four feet. Water temp at 115 was 70F at mid-morning.  On forthcoming cool mornings, try your bass streamers and crayfish patterns. As the waters warm in the afternoon sun, tempt resident bass and bream with your favorite, rubber-legged surface bugs.

Small lakes are your last best bet.  Surface temps are sliding  down and that should fire up resident bass and bream.  Try a popper first to see if they’ll come to the top. If not, then go deep like UO staffer Joseph did.

There’s your short version of the UO report. All of the prime intel, fish stories, and Wes’ hot fly list can soon be unearthed on our Facebook page and at blog.angler.management, when I finish the unabridged version this evening.  Enjoy the early hints of fall and the great flyfishing action they will bring. Call or stop by either UO store for more advice and hot flies for the cooler days ahead of us in the mountains of north Georgia.

Wes’ Weekly Hot Fly List:

Dries: chubby Chernobyl, parchute Adams, royal stimulator, tan elk hair caddis.

Nymphs: prince nymph, depth charge caddis, micro mayfly, hares ear.

Streamers & warmwater:

Feather changer, bank robber sculpin, Kreelex, boogle bugs.


UO associate Hunter:

“Dad and I had a streamside reunion on a headwater stream “somewhere above Dahlonega.”  We caught a handful of little wild rainbows and even a few bigger stockers that had evidently migrated upstream in search of colder water. 

Of course, dry droppers with foam hoppers and various tungsten nymphs like waltz worms were effective. Fish were split equally between the dry and the dropper.  We also had success with small streamers. Most fish were tight to cover like root balls and large logs. It was a great day with Dad.”


UO staffers Joseph and Atticus road-tripped north of the border in search of another species. Joseph reports: “Here’s a pic of one of the smallies we caught yesterday. We were fishing small, articulated streamers, focusing on slower moving water in between shoals, as the river was running very high and fast.”

UO-Helen manager Wes:

“I had a good, local river bass float the other day with J.R and Howard. We had a great first few hours before the bite dropped off in the afternoon. Baitfish patterns were the main producers.”

Small Lakes:

UO staffer Joseph said, “Here’s a pic of a nice largemouth for this week’s fishing report.  I caught it out of a private pond.  It inhaled a Texas-rigged soft plastic worm.  I tried the fly for about an hour but the bass were not interested. It seemed like the heat had them glued to the bottom. So I went down to them.”

Piedmont Carp Report by Jamie from Athens:

“Plenty of fish in deeper water but fewer packs on the mud flats. The ones up shallow were happy, hawgin’ along the bottom, and readily took a well placed fly. Top producers were slow-sinking mop tail soft-hackles around vegetation and heavy hybrid carp worms on mud bottoms.”

Here’s something different, courtesy of Michael from Athens:  “I hit my local pond for an evening of flyfishing and had a surprise, catching a catfish on a beadhead nymph!”

North ATL buddy Splatek, aka “Gretsky”:

“I was able to sneak out after work  for a quick,  local warmwater trip with MiniMe.  On our first cast, we doubled up on tiny bream. It was a great evening of father&son time together.”

Good luck catching another dose of cooler air and water. Please remember to clean and dry or sanitize your wading equipment to prevent the spread of nasty diseases. GAWRD will appreciate our commitment to this common cause! Call or stop in either UO store if we can be of service.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/2/21

Welcome to September! We have a nice dose of cooler air leading us into a great holiday weekend. I’d call this week’s fishing prospects a “Rerun.” And this rerun might be even better than the original show! 

That original was last week’s post-Fred report. View it here:


Some cooler air and higher water after Fred fired up our sport fish. Now our “rerun” is the post-Ida prospects. They’re even better than the original for two reasons. First, we only had half the rainfall that Fred dumped. Second, we have even cooler air temps for the holiday!

Best bets again are headwater trout, float fishing for river bass after another day or two of storm runoff, and pond bass and bream. Ponds are stained and their color is perfect to pull bass and bream into the shallows.

And I verified the headwater prediction just a few hours ago, so…

See our full report, with Wes’ hot fly list and angler intel, on our Facebook page and at blog.angler.management.  I’ll have it posted shortly.  Good luck as you “labor” on your favorite waters this weekend.

Wes’ prediction and hot fly list:

“The national forest streams should fish great this weekend with the extra water. 

Two weeks ago they fished great after Fred came through!”

Hot flies:

Dries: chubby Chernobyl, X-stimulator, swisher’s PMX, royal trude, tan caddis.

Nymphs: pats rubber leg, copper John, squirminator, wooly bugger, psycho prince, Walt's worm, green mop.

Streamers & warmwater:

Polar changer, bank robber sculpin, sparkle minnow, 


UO guide Israel: A green weenie worked great on the wild trout sunday!”

Dredger finished his streamflow post today and then invited Battenkill to the headwaters high above Helen. The small stream was still ripping pretty good, but the rainbows acted like piranhas when D’s fluffy tan caddis drifted by, slowly. And that was the key: SLOW. He had to find the slow flood refuges, which were full of hungry residents. Tip: hi-stick the slow stuff, especially bankside eddies. You might even try a longer rod, if you have one, to reach across the main current and short-line your bug in those prime eddies.

Dredger and Batt had a big time in their 3-hour tour, with a bunch of little guys and a nice handful of 7-8 inchers plucked from the soft spots. Trip highlight was a white shark hooked in slow, skinny water and providing high anxiety during a several-minute tug-of-war. The elated  angler taped his best blueline bow of the year at 12 inches. 


UO guide Israel: “ our local river bass were bonkers for topwater bugs on Monday, right before the storm!”

Small Lakes:

Athens Jay was sidelined by work, but lined up this awesome pinch-hitter:

“Piedmont small impoundments report by Michael from Athens:

The evening bite has been the saving grace, especially near twilight. A hopper-dropper or even a dry-dropper rig set up to fish relatively deep (3ft plus) has consistently produced nice 7+ inch bluegill, shellcracker, redbreast sunfish, and the occasional largemouth bass. Setting that hopper-dropper rig up with two subsurface flies—one “point” fly and another off the tag from a double surgeon’s knot, euro-nymph style—let’s you test out a couple depths at the same time, and often produces two fish at once (sometimes one cast will even produce two species at the same time!). Those largemouth bass and double sunfish hookups will strain your 3 weight for sure! If you choose the right spot at the right time (again, near twilight) the topwater bite can also be fun on foam flies, small poppers, or classic dries. 

Go-to surface patterns include GFA hoppers in black and yellow/green, chubby Chernobyls in yellow/green, classic foam poppers, and even larger (up to size 8) versions of the venerable humpy dry fly. Nymphs fished as droppers or alone include brown and black versions of the rubber-legged dragon, variations on the guide’s choice hare’s ear with a hot-spot collar, and small woolly worms with red “tails”. 

There’s your holiday intel, from fresh streamflow videos to a midday blueline report. Usually reruns aren’t as exciting as the original show, but we think After-Ida might even top After- Fred in terms of your weekend fishing fun! Good luck and be safe this holiday.  Call or visit either UO store if we can help you celebrate. Please remember to clean and dry or sanitize your wading equipment to prevent the spread of nasty diseases. GAWRD will appreciate our commitment to this common cause!