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, 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.

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