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!

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