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.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Cyber Monday Stocking Stuffer

It’s the home stretch of our Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.
  Give the gift of a lifetime memory: a flyfishing trip to the Chattahoochee River at Nacoochee Bend, our private section of the Chattahoochee River in Helen.  


Certificates are great stocking stuffers. Your family member or fishing friend can hook the rainbow trout of a lifetime there, and always remember your special gift.  The lucky recipient can call our Helen store (706-878-3083) later to reserve their fishing date.

Good luck “fishing” for gifts this season. We are glad to help!

Friday, November 26, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 11/26/21

Welcome to “Thanksgiving Leftovers.”  They’re actually looking pretty darn good, especially on DH streams, since our three state wildlife agencies spiced them up during the last week or so.

Prepare for Skinny Water Saturday, as our region streams remain very low, gin-clear, and cold when the nights are freezing.  Fishing conditions and techniques will be about the same as those described in last week’s report (blog.angler.management) so be ready with your “long, light, and deep” game once again.

On those DH streams, tie a good attractor (egg, squirmy, rubberlegs) on to 4X or 5X tippet as your first fly for naive fish. Then drop something small (#16-18) two feet off the back on 6X to lure the seasoned DH residents and the wild fish.  Try “bright” first (prince, lightning bug, rainbow warrior) on that dropper.  If “flash and beads” are doing more spooking than luring, then go “natural:” pheasant tail, hare’s ear, dark soft hackles, or WD40.  Use that first hour astream to change up a bit until you dial them in. Always change your weight and indicator depth before you change flies.

The weather will warm with each passing day, so you may have other, fun opportunities on those sunny afternoons: 1) bugger-stripping, 2) dry-dropper, and 3) maybe some double-dries if the water bumps up near 50F and a few bugs fly by your nose. Don’t forget your good friend- a stream thermometer.

Private waters are fishing great, especially as water temps begin to rise at mid-morning.  Don’t miss our Black Friday deal for fishing Nacoochee Bend. That gift certificate makes a great stocking stuffer.


Lake spots and stripers remain hit-or-miss. We need Lanier to really cool off and the forage species to swim shallow to spark consistent predator action in fly rod range.

As always, specific intel and fresh fishing reports follow on our Facebook page and blog.  Take a few minutes to absorb those details if you really want to up your game this week. Otherwise, just enjoy a day off under a blue sky, in a clear trout stream, with nary a worry. Call or come by either UO store if we can help your holiday cheer.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Stimulator, elk hair caddis, parachute BWO.

Nymphs: Zebra midge, Oops, soft hackle partridge, slush egg, purple lightning bug, hare’s ear.

Streamers & warmwater:

Sparkle minnow, muddy buddy, hot cone bugger, Polar changer.


They are low, clear, and cold.  They weren’t too cold today (Smith 48F above lake and 51 in DH section at noon; Spoilcane 50 at noon), and that’s because last nite was relatively mild. Watch the weather forecast and hit small streams after warm nights or on warm, sunny afternoons. Dries will just be strike indicators for your droppers. 

Smithgall (Dukes):

UO young gun Grant:

“I had a great day on Dukes Creek with my dad last Sunday. We ended up catching about 21 fish, including a couple nice sized ones. The fish were not taking junk flies at all. We ended up catching most of the fish on size 18 rubberleg pheasant tails and size 16 and 18 olive twisted mayflies. Drifted well, of course.  These are smart fish at Smithgall.”

GA Public Waters:

Note: based my my experience, add about 2 or 3 degrees to the Burrell’s Ford USGS gauge data and you’ll be in the ball park for Chattooga DH conditions.  Note that Smith DH is a Tailwater, and the lake moderates water temps a bit. Smith DH usually runs a few degrees warmer than nearby streams. Keep this in mind for the frosty days ahead. NC streams usually run several degrees colder than GA streams, due to higher elevation and some that face (flow) north. That’s good in the summer, but tough in the winter.

Smith DH:

Last week’s redose inflated angler catch rates, if the web reports aren’t fibs. Soon those fresh stockers will smarten up. Try a junk fly (small egg or squirmy), but be ready to go small and natural very quickly.  Stealth, a good drift, and 6X fluoro tippet will be more important than fly pattern.

Chattooga DH:

Ron W: “The Trio made a hump-day trip up to "The River" today (11/24). To our surprise we had the whole river to ourselves, only seeing one other angler all day. Air Temp was 28F when we got up there but that didn't affect the catching at all. The fish were hugging the bottom and not moving too far for a meal. The theme of the day was typical winter fishing tactics... getting the fly down quick and hitting them right in the nose. 

We each landed 2 dozen plus... a nice mix of feisty  rainbows, chunky browns and some nice colored up  humpback brookies. Flies that worked....Eggs, squirmies, Ronco Fly,  Rainbow Warrior and a Olive cdc nymph to name a few. 

We also got a surprise visitor around noon who brought a few hundred of his closest friends from their former home along the East Fork Chattooga.  And our catch rates rose even more!

It was another great day on the water with great friends. We worked up a heck of an appetite for Turkey Day.  I certainly can get used to these midweek fishing trips. “

NC Waters:

Web reports showed Nan DH fishing well. It should have, since it was redosed on the 15th. Those streams have similar water conditions (low, clear, even colder than GA streams in the mornings), so plan accordingly - long, light, ad deep.  For that agency’s DH stocking schedule, go here:


And click on “hatcheries and stocking.”  Fresh fish are great confidence-boosters for rookie fly anglers!

Private Waters:

UO Helen manager Wes:

“I did a few trips on The Bend this week. With the low flows and colder temperatures don’t be afraid to downsize your patterns. Root beer midges, RS2’s, and small pheasant tails worked best in the mornings. When the water temps warmed up in the afternoon soft hackles and streamers worked well.”

UO Guide Palmer:

“My  Bend clients had a great time this week swinging soft hackles and egg patterns .  We also caught some nice rainbows by twitching a squirmy worm to get their attention.”

UO Guide Israel:

“My clients also had some great trips to The Bend, despite the low, clear water in Helen.  The river residents now seem to be favoring smaller nymphs and emergers in the 18-20 range. Here’s a pic of Kevin with his hefty rainbow that gave him a great fight.”

Flat Water:


“Struck out on stripers this morning but we found a decent shallow point bite on spots. Underspins on conventional tackle and clousers on intermediate fly lines both worked well.”

Capt Mack’s Reports :

(This page is worth a bookmark!)


Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend. Maybe even sneak out one warm day next week. Why? Soon you’ll be knocking ice out of your rod guides, so don’t miss the good times right now. Stop by either UO store, call us, or knock on the door of our online store if we can help you with intel, supplies, or holiday gift ideas.

UO: Friendly. Local. Experts.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Giving Thanks

The GA Foothills Chapter of TU enjoys a really nice fringe benefit: one  member just happens to own a fly shop and access to a trophy trout stream! 

Chapter members had a great afternoon fishing Nacoochee Bend, a 1.5 mile section of the Hooch in Helen last week.  Unicoi Outfitters co-owner Jimmy Harris said the gang had some good luck drifting small, natural nymphs deep. His duo’s hot bug was a flashback pheasant tail.

Jimmy would also like to thank his UO associates who volunteered their afternoon to buddy-up with the TU guests, young and old. Those UO staffers were Wes McElroy, Joseph Clark, Grant Barron, Ron Thomas and Atticus Leithner.

A very special thanks goes to one more UO staffer, Israel Patterson, who has a passion for photography.   Enjoy his photos!

Join a TU chapter and get in on the fun, fellowship, and conservation achievements. You’ll be glad you did.  To learn more and join these Foothillsbillies, go here:


Or here:


And to learn more about Israel’s talents, from guiding to photography, contact him here:




During this special week, we sure are thankful for our TU buddies and selfless UO teammates. Have a great holiday yourselves.

PS: we will be closed on Thanksgiving Day for our staff to enjoy time with family and friends. We’ll reopen on Friday for all anxious anglers needing to burn off extra calories with some hiking and wading. Now that’s good exercise!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 11/19/21

Welcome to the UO holiday fishing report. This week’s for the birds, from turkeys to loons to pelicans!

Colder weather may finally be settling in for good, so dress and fish appropriately.  

Area streams can best be described as low, clear, cool, and leafy when the wind blows.  Lack of rain has streams thin and gin-clear.  The good news is that your wading is easier. The challenging news is that fish have more time to inspect your bugs. Smaller flies on lighter tippet should get you more strikes than the big, gaudy stuff you tossed earlier this month.

Bump the bottom in slower pools and runs before lunch, when the water is still cold from the frosty night.  Like us, fish will be slow to stir until they get warmed up a bit, too. After lunch, try swinging some small soft hackles while you watch for a few bugs to fly by and snouts to poke up from the foam lines.  Our extended report on Facebook and the blog has specific intel on flies and techniques, from dredging to dries, that worked for our reporters this week.

If we are lucky, the agencies might redose the DH waters just before the holiday. Watch the GAWRD weekly fishing blog and trout stocking lists for any Thanksgiving news.  Same goes for our neighbor agencies in NC and SC.  Have some squirmies ready.

(Breaking news: as I’m writing this report at 3pm, my IPhone swooshed with a new message. Indeed, GAWRD gave us some DH gifts. And at 3:15, Ranger Ryan told me his agency has just reopened the Wildcat Creek Road near Burton Hatchery)

Mid-state bass got hungry, and the lack of rain had those rivers in good shape. Athens Jay did okay on streamers.

Lanier is for the birds.  Stripers and spots are still hit-and-miss on their surface action. But the hits are good ones when you can find some shallow fish. And the best news is that our strike indicators, the birds, are coming back for their winter holiday. HenryC’s report has the details.

Good luck on your forthcoming days off, hopefully with some time spent in the woods and on the water.  Give UO a shout if we can help you with your holiday angling plans.  Remember: low and clear equals long and light (tippet and flies).

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Stimulator, elk hair caddis, parachute BWO.

Nymphs: waltz worm, blowtorch, root beer midge, micro mayfly, pheasant tail, peach egg.

Streamers & warmwater:

Muddy buddy, bank robber sculpin, clouser minnow, finesse changer.


No reports. Keep that deep nymph dropper under your dry, and fish on warm afternoons.

Smithgall (Dukes):

RonW:  “Moe and I (knucklehead #3 is stuck in Tulsa) made another trip north on the 17th in hopes of snagging a couple walk-ons. Lucky for us,  there were a few no-shows, so off we went around 9am. The creek was skinny and super clear so we had an idea what was in store for us.

 I landed 4 decent fish early in the same run and also lost an absolute slab who busted my 6x.  Right after that happened, the switch turned off so we got a move on it.  I spotted a super colorful rainbow in some fast water from up on the bank. He was touching mid 20's and as colored up as I've ever seen a fish in that creek. We took turns at this fish for over an hour with no success.   After several fly changes, a few flies lost,  and a couple complete re-rigs, we moved on with our tails between our legs. 

The highlight of the day for me was when a 16" brown ate my fly on my first cast in a particular run. He smashed it as soon as it hit the water and immediately took off like a crazy fish! He dove down and I didn't even notice it was a brown until Moe was about to net him. I haven't seen a lot of browns in there the last few years so this one was surely welcomed and a great fish to end the day on. 

As always, it was another fantastic day on the water with a great friend!  Fish were caught, laughs were had and a few giants  were lost! Pretty good way to spend hump-day,  if you ask me.”


Fish are still podded up, since no floods have yet scattered them. On big water, cover some distance til you find gold.  Try some eggs, rubberlegs, and the smaller stuff in Wes’ hot fly list.  At Smith, go early, late, and on weekdays to beat the crowds. Small nymphs on 6x tippet may convince these battle-tested fish to take a nibble.


Dredger gave Nan DH a shot last Sunday afternoon. He snuck in as the weekend crowds began to dissolve. He started with Euro at noon in the low, clear, 45-degree water - and had a steady pick of bows with a hankering for his sexy walts worm.  As the shadows descended around 3, he saw two risers and switched to a double dry rig. The #14 October caddis was a good strike indicator for his tiny BWO trailer. 

The first riser was a nice 10 inch wild brown that took the itty bitty bug. A handful of bows ate the BWO while two more ate the caddis before the river went to sleep at 4pm. See his 11/14 post for pics.

RonW: “The Trio had another great day across the border yesterday 11-13 on a different delayed harvest  stream.   Air temps didn't get much higher than mid 40's all day and the water was low, clear and cold.  Most fish were hugging the bottom and not moving far for anything. 

Our hope was to tango with some larger fish we spotted on our last trip a few weeks back. Unfortunately this wasn't going to be the case as the poachers have made their way into the fold. Evidence of fresh worm containers and cans of corn in the exact locations of these larger fish let us know that we wouldn't be dancing with them today. The fish density was also noticeably less than what it was in areas that normally have tons of fish.  I did report our observations to the NC Game Wardens.

We still caught around 40 fish combined despite the illegally removed stringers full of fish. We parked at the bottom and covered the whole DH and all of its 13 stream crossings. We definitely had to work to find fish. Getting them to eat proved to be even harder than finding them. 

Flies that worked: Perdigon, Hares Ear, Squirmies and Eggs to name a few. I tried some small naturals, too, but they just wouldn't produce for me. The drifts were good...maybe I just didn't "hit em' in the nose" with those particular flies. The egg caught the most fish for me and surprisingly about half of the fish I caught were little wild rainbows.  It's great to see so many little wild fish in these.  I know where I'm going come dry fly season. There's miles and miles of water to explore.

Private Waters:

UO company manager Jake:

“I had two good days with clients on the Soque earlier this week. The change in the barometric pressure seemed to affect the afternoon bite, slowing them down slightly. That is now improving later in the week as we come up closer to the full moon. Most of my damage was done nymphing, with small soft hackles seeming to be the most consistent producer. I did pick up some fish with dry droppers, but I was running my droppers deeper (2.5-3 feet) with tungsten bead nymphs.”

UO Guide Palmer:

“I had a good time at Nacoochee Bend with Mike from Charleston 

He caught some hefty rainbows by deep- drifting nymphs and eggs, and also swinging and drifting soft hackles.”

River Bass:

Athens Jay:

“I had a real good day on the middle GA river throwing articulated streamers. 

I also had a neat experience when visiting family up north a few weeks ago. I had the chance to wet a line in flyfishing legend Lefty Kreh’s home waters!  A nice wild brown topped off a special day astream in Maryland.”

Flat Water:

HenryC: “Lanier has still been inconsistent, but we now have loons back on the lake as well as a buildup of gulls. The spotted bass are schooling a tad better, but the stripers are playing coy. 

I had white pelicans on the lake yesterday which is late for them. It’s usually one week in October ( I had a big group 4 weeks ago). I hear Hartwell is no better,  so turnover and whatever else that’s bothering our Lanier stripers is affecting it, too.  Here's a picture of one I caught on a game changer this week. One shot all afternoon and 1 fish... at least I batted 1.000.”


There’s your intel for your holiday break.  Our UO gang hopes that all of you have a great Thanksgiving week, one that includes a fishing trip or two and some new memories.  We sure are thankful for your business and your friendship. Good luck!

UO: Friendly. Local. Experts.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The DFD and Hooksets are Free!

As our region’s stream trout have now smartened up from your  fall angling pressure, it’s a perfect time for this reminder: 

a drag-free drift (DFD) will get you more looks and eats. Here are some DFD tips for everyone, especially our newer fly anglers.

First,  pick fly patterns you believe in. Wes’ weekly hot fly list is a great place to start. After that, adjust the amount of split shot and the height (depth) of your indicator above your fly. Try a height of 1.5 times the estimated water depth of the spot you’re fishing. Adjust the Indi as needed when you change spots.  Change flies only after giving your first choices some good drifts through some prime pools and runs.

Second, read the water and find a seam, the line between a fast and slow current.  Then cast a short distance up into the seam and let your indi rig drift along that seam, back toward you. Make sure your indi drifts along just like an adjacent leaf or bubble: at the same speed and in the same “lane” (direction of flow) The indi should also “tick” occasionally to show that your rig bumps the bottom a few times on its downstream journey.

Hooksets are free, so use them often. Every 10th “rock” might just be a fish! I prefer to set sidearm, downstream. If it’s a miss, I can continue that drift. If it’s a bad miss, I can retrieve my flies from the low streamside branches behind me and get back in the game quickly.

Want a demo?

Here’s a rerun of our Nov 2019 trip with of my buddy, Sautee, drifting well on Nantahala DH.  

Flyfishing vets, what other tips would you care to share with our newcomers?

We hope these tips produce more reasons for you to be thankful this month. Don’t forget your net and your friend with good photography skills. Good luck from our UO gang. Stop by either store for supplies and timely intel.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 11/12/21

Your weekend is looking good! We had about 0.7 inches of rain yesterday and most of it has already run off from our streams. The only exceptions are large watersheds like the Chattooga and Toccoa. Some of you might have to wait a day or two for their flows to return to your own safe wading levels.

Streams are clear and cold, and will get colder with Sunday’s icy start.   Your best tool will be your stream thermometer.  If temps are above 50, you’re really in business.  If they’re mid-40’s or better, you’re still in pretty good shape. Afternoons will fish better as the sun warms the water.

With temps below 50, your best bets will be dredging.  Watch for a few buzzing bugs and some risers on warm afternoons and you just might land a bonus fish or two on top. Carry a few October caddis, BWO’s, and midges if you’re a dry fly die-hard.  Wild fish are always smart, while DH and private waters fish are smartening up. Try a small and natural dropper nymph or soft hackle behind your first, attractor nymph or streamer.

Lake stripers are still spotty but slowly improving. That bite will get better as lake surface temps dive next week.

Dress in layers, bundle up if you go early, and shed a layer as the sun warms both you and the fish. Mountain foliage is still scenic, but you’ll have a few more leaves to contend with. As of yesterday, they’re still not that bad. So grab you gear and go! Our long version is chock-full of timely reports and tips from our staff and friends, so if you wanna know the full scoop behind these pretty Instagram pics, tune into our Facebook page or blog.angler.management.

Good luck this week. Give UO a shout if we can help you with flies, supplies, and directions.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Stimulator, parachute Adams, Parachute BWO.

Nymphs: peach egg, split case BWO, Frenchie, girdle bug, soft hackle partridge, pheasant tail, Pat’s rubberlegs, tan mop.

Streamers & warmwater:

Feather changer, CK baitfish, Jiggy craw, hairy fodder, muddy buddy, olive woolly bugger.


Sautee gave a high Hooch trib a shot this week. He tossed only dries on that warm afternoon in hopes of some wild bows on top. Alas, it was not to be. Despite some tiny cream midges in the air, there evidently weren’t enough surface bugs to make the residents look up.  Headwater fans oughta add a dropper if they want weekend success.

Smithgall (Dukes):

RonW: “Moe and I made a quick midweek jaunt up to North GA with a plan A (Smithgall) and a plan B (Smith) in mind. Lucky for us, we didn't need plan B. We got in the water around 9:00am and fished to 4:30ish.  The creek was low and gin clear, requiring us to bring our A game.  It's a good thing we have "Paid our Dues"  for years on this particular creek!  If you stay outta sight and get the drift right, you may just be in for a fight! 

We each brought around a dozen or more to hand, with several fish in the 16-22" range. A few giants were hooked and lost, which isn't hard to do when fishing 6x in tight quarters.  Fish were caught on several different flies including Walts Worm, Frenchie, Copper Hares ear, egg, and a CDC nymph that I can't remember the name of...to name a few. 

It was another stellar day on the water....Fish or no fish, any day on the water is a great one in my book!”


Ron W:  “Nov 6 was another fantastic day on "The River". We geared up in the dark before sunrise with new headlamps thanks to Kurt. The fishing was so spectacular we found ourselves gearing down in the dark after sunset.  

We covered just about the whole DH. The fish were in pods in the normal places but also surprisingly spread out. We were catching them in between the more fishy looking water. Flies that worked....Buggers, eggs, girdle bugs, soft hackles to name a few. I tied on my Purple Ronco with an egg dropper and didn't need to change flies all day!  The highlight for me was a 15" Humpback Brookie. Moe also caught a slightly bigger Brookie on a double hookup. I've never heard him beg for a rainbow to come off his line!

All in all, it was another stellar day sharing a little slice of Heaven with my brothers on "The River".   A big thank you to all the folks who have, and continue to make this piece of water what it is.....sincerely Mr. Sore Shoulder. “

Dredger slipped up to Tooga DH on a cool, soggy Thursday (10th). As he had hoped, the rain knocked down the crowds.  He didn’t have nearly the luck Ron did, but still caught a nice handful of chunky rainbows and one small brown in the 52 degree water.

He spent most of the day stripping an olive bugger using his Walhalla buddy’s technique: a versi leader in front of his floating line to create a sink tip and get the bugger deeper.  The best bow went airborne 8 times! A few other fish took a drifted rubberlegs. He found most of his fish in pods.  Hopefully future high flows will spread them out.


Dredger cruised up to his favorite Smokies stream on Monday (8th). It was low and clear and 52 degrees upon his noon arrival . He did fair with Euro during the day, with a mop and a rubberlegs tying for best bug.   He caught a handful of bows and one brown, with none topping 9 inches, from deeper, shaded spots.  A couple October caddis, a few BWO’s, and a bunch of midges buzzed by in the afternoon warmth, but he only saw two rises.

When the shadows fell at 4, he said “what the heck” and switched to a double dry rig.  And did well for that last hour, with 2 on his Oct caddis and about 6 little bows on his trailing #18 Adams. In the security of twilight, fish in a long, flat pool were looking up for those little dark flies. That last hour of “trout on top” made his trip worthwhile!

He topped off the day with some quick elk watching before the sun disappeared. The big herd is definitely hanging out on the green grass at the Job Corps Center.

Private Waters:

UO Helen manager Wes:  “I did a couple of trips on The Bend  this week. The water has been low and clear so the keys to success have been a clean drift with a natural fly like a pheasant tail or midge in the morning and a swung soft hackle in the afternoon. “

UO company manager Jake:

“I had the pleasure of guiding Julia for two days this week. We spent Tuesday at The Bend.  After a morning of advanced. Technique coaching, we hit the water. The afternoon was great, with about25 fish hooked on small eggs and soft hackles, dead-drifted.

Day 2 found us on the Soque. Julia perfected her dry/dropper game in the morning, and six nice fish all ate the tungsten dropper.  She then switched to an Indi rig and nymphed for the afternoon.  And lit them up again on small eggs and soft hackles!  They were two fun fall days with a talented angler.”

Special Bend Guests!

UO owner Jimmy: “For over 10 years now Unicoi Outfitters has been honored to host the Casting for Recovery Georgia retreats on their Sunday fishing outings.  After missing 2020 due to Covid, the retreat was finally held this past week at Smithgall Woods with the fishing at Nacoochee Bend.  To say this is a special event for all of us would be an understatement.  These ladies are such an inspiration and a blessing to all of us.  We love our time spent with them. “

Flat Water:

HenryC and Jimmy: “Striper fishing on Lanier is about to undergo the most dynamic changes of the fall in the coming week.  This week it's hit or miss; like deer hunting.  If you burn some gas you're likely to find a couple of schools of fish busting bait on the surface.  And if you are in the right place at the right time, you'll have a blast.  The weather coming in next week is predicted to be significantly colder and will bring in the gulls and terns; our bird dogs who help us find the coveys.  So rig your rods with an intermediate line and tie on Cowen's Something Else, a Mini Gamechanger, or a Gray & White Clouser and hold on!”


That’s the latest news from our hills around Helen. And it’s all good! Go soon while water temps are well above 40 and trout still have hefty  appetites. If your schedule is flexible, aim for a warm weekday afternoon and remember that box of dries. Give UO a shout if we can help y’all out!

UO: Friendly. Local. Experts.