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, March 31, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 3/31/ 22

Welcome to April and prime time for north GA sportfish!  Last night’s storm dropped a quick inch of rain on our mountains. This morning’s recon through White County revealed high water as streams are shedding this runoff. 

Streams are high now but should subside quickly, since it was a sudden surge of storm runoff.  Water temps are perfect- the mid 50’s.  Small streams are fishable already, while big waters like the Chattooga may take a day or two to recede to your own safe wading levels. 

Have you started that notes page on your smart phone yet?  Document your wading ability vs that day’s stream flow on those USGS gauges that you’ll  check when you get home.  Add that note on your phone.

What to throw?  Match your bugs to the flow. If flow is big and dirty, use bigger, ugly bugs (buggers, rubberlegs), heavier tippet, and more shot.  When flows are low and clear, use smaller, natural fly patterns, thinner tippet, and less weight.

Lake action is heating up. Bass fishing is great, while stripers are still hit or miss. HenryC says to cover some ground to find the bait and birds. Or head up the rivers to target a few early birds on the spawning grounds.

Catch more timely intel in the long version of this report. You’ll find it on our home and Facebook pages. Good luck this weekend!

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: Mimic May March brown, Olive Stimulator, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

Soft hackle partridge, squirrel nymph, girdle bug, root beer midge, hares ear, squirmy worm, slush egg.

Streamers & warm water:

Triple double leech, kreelex, bugger changer, polar changer, bluegill mini slider.


They are high but already clear. Folks can walk along the bank and hi-stick a dry-dropper combo for some action. Given the high water, use some bigger and brighter flies to get their attention quickly in these fast flows. Try a bigger caddis or stimulator as your strike indicator.   Then drop a tungsten bead pheasant tail or lightning bug about two feet off your dry. Aim for soft pockets behind boulders and along the bank. Downsize your bugs as flows drop and fish get pickier.

RSquared Reports: “The Cohutta Chapter SOTM (stream of the month) was held on the Blue Ridge WMA last Friday-Sunday. The water was high, fast, & clear. Friday proved to be the best day for catching fish, mostly  small rainbows. Saturday & Sunday were more of a challenge. Most trout were caught on nymphs, but a few took dries. We also landed a couple of colorful warpaint shiners in the lower elevations.”


Delayed Harvest:

Birthday Boy RussF checked in today:

“ I’m still the only person here and just getting below the road bridge.   Even after the morning rains, the water is clear, 58F, and moving.    I’m using two #4 shot and have my indicator about 8 feet up from my top fly.    Fish are gobbling up a pink San Juan and I haven’t seen a reason to change yet.   I’ve brought 5 to hand in my first hour here. Smith DH on your birthday and all by yourself = Life is good! “

Private Waters 

UO-Helen manager Wes: “I had a private water trip on Tuesday. The fish were pretty picky and we couldn't ever nail down a pattern. The key to getting bites seemed to be a clean drift and changing up flies till you got something that grabbed their attention.

We hooked fish on girdle bugs, soft hackles, pheasant tails, lightning bugs, streamers, midges, and perdigons.”

UO Guide Israel: “Fishing has been tough at The Bend on the Hooch and at Rainbow Point on the Soque after that big rain last Wednesday. Water is clear but high. Fish have not really shown a pattern; they seem to be eating a zebra midge one second and a pats rubberlegs the next. We’ve been changing flies a lot and covering more water to prospect for feeding fish. 

We are seeing more bugs hatching. Midges, blue wings, and the occasional March Brown have been spotted. We are not seeing many fish rise yet,  but usually see a couple rising in the late afternoon. Dry fly action should improve in the warmer weeks ahead of us.”


If you’re heading to the Smokies, they just may be real smoky. FYI on the wildfire near Pigeon Forge. Hopefully the storm’s rainfall has helped the firefighters.


Flat Water

Remember to watch the GAWRD weekly fishing blog at this time of the years. Field sampling crews are out gathering annual data on sport fish populations, and that intel can help guide you to some fine fishing. Tune in here each Friday:


UO Staffer Joseph: “Here’s a picture of a white bass I caught on Lanier. It ate a white Kitech on a 3/8 ounce jig head.  I was working it pretty fast high in the water column to get the white bass to eat.

UO buddy Landon: “We dragged plastic worms in the cold earlier this week. We found the bass on main lake points with a rocky bottom. Reports later in week suggested that fish moved shallower as the waters warmed.”

HenryC: “Striper fishing has gone from really consistent and good to really unpredictable-  but still good when it happens! One day you'll find them and the next day they're like ghosts. However the spotted bass bite has been very very good if the stripers do not cooperate when you're on the pond. The stripers are moving a lot as they ready themselves for their spawning run up the rivers.”


Enjoy our current intel as you enter April with high hopes and big smiles. We will do our best to ensure that your fuel funds will be well-spent on some grip-and-grin moments and lifetime memories. Come by or call either UO store if we can help further. Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Emerger Time!

Are you ready for the spring insect hatches on your favorite trout streams?  Have you ever been in the middle of a big hatch, with risers all around you, but can’t get a strike on your dry fly? You might wish you had an emerger pattern!

Most folks come armed with their dry flies and nymphs, but often lack the right flies to imitate the emerger phase. That’s when the nymphs float in the surface film, split their shuck, and emerge as a dun.

Here’s a great podcast on emergers. 


Tune in at a convenient time and let Tom and Tim prepare you for fishing emergers. Then stock your box with some emergers and try one as the dropper behind your dry fly. See if that  low-riding emerger is the secret to success during your next big hatch.  Good luck!

Hooch Sweep

Unicoi Outfitters led a great group of folks on the river Saturday as we participated in the annual Sweep the Hooch project.  Our group was a tiny portion of over 1,000 volunteers up and down the Chattahoochee River, removing litter and assorted trash.  It seems like an unlimited supply but, hopefully, we'll get everyone's attention one day, and Sweep the Hooch will become a relic of the past.  Well, we can dream!

Thanks to Mike Smith (http://www.mikewphotos.com/) for the photographs.     

Friday, March 25, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 3/25/22

The week ahead looks very good for north Georgia anglers. Rivers are receding after our midweek deluge, which dropped one to three inches of rain across our mountains and cancelled our midweek guide trips.  Stream temperatures will start out cold due to chilly nights, but will warm nicely in the afternoons. Have your dry/dropper rigs ready.


Lakes are warming, too, with predators following the shad and herring schools into the shallows.  Some spawning migrations also make the tributary rivers a good bet for the weeks ahead. See the GAWRD blog for more intel:


We hope you can find some time to wet a line this week.  Give us a call or stop in either shop if we can lend a hand.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Elk hair caddis, March brown, stimulator.


Soft hackle pheasant tail, mop, squirmy worm, girdle bug, depth charge caddis, psycho prince.

Streamers & warm water:

Sparkle minnow, bank robber sculpin, polar changer, mini finesse changer, flatliner.

Angler Reports:

Mountain streams:

RSquared:  “And so, it has begun! Ga. DNR fisheries is working frantically to stock all of our trout streams by Saturday! John R. & I, caught & kept our limit from a local trout stream late Wednesday afternoon. They will be grilled for dinner Friday night at the Trout Unlimited: Cohutta Chapter #242 Stream of the Month fishing trip in North Georgia.”

Hooch Tailwater:

Splatek’s Hooch tailwater report: 

“Even on Sunny days the fish are deep, strikes are slow. A tiny dark colored, drab midge out the most fish in the net. But the fishing was tough.”



“Lanier right now is "find the bait and you’ll find the fish.” We spend more time “hunting” for the bait schools than casting, but that’s the key right now.  The backs of creeks were good for spots and stripers the other night.”

HenryC: “Fishing overall has gotten tougher the past week with fish feeding sporadically. You just have to be there at the right time to get the bites. I had 4 trips in the last week with 2 really good days and 2 stinkers. No birds and few surface activity.

Put in your time, pay your dues and you'll eventually be rewarded.  Oh yeah, here's some interesting news: I got robbed on the lake this week! Pulled up to a gas dock to get petrol and the pump basically stole my wallet at $5.50/gallon!!!

See you on the pond.”


Good luck this week. Use your hunting skills to find the trout bugs and shad schools, and you’ll find your target species. Stop in or give us a call if we can fine-tune your hunting skills and supplies.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 3/18/22

Good news! Y’all have a great weekend ahead of you. We delayed this fishing report to count today’s raindrops and judge the weekend fishability of region waters. It looks like we’ll escape with only an inch or so of rain and some slight bumps in streamflows. Those stained stormflows will recede quickly.  On top of the positive fishing flows, y’all will have prime stream temperatures, too, as they hover in the mid-50’s. 

Lakes are warming, shad are swimming shallow, and more spots and stripers are within flyrodding range with each passing day.  A few stripers should start their spring romance runs up the rivers next week, too.  Peak densities will be found in the first two weeks of April, but eager males get some early head starts.  Add some nice air temps and you’ll complete the recipe for a fun weekend ahead.

Check those monthly hatch charts at the Rabun and Blairsville TU websites, review Wes’ weekly hot fly list, and be ready with your dry/dropper rigs. Peruse blog.angler.management for more spec’s from our staff and fishing friends that will boost your Saturday success.

Add a buddy to split your fuel tab and load up tonite for your weekend explorations. Call or come by either UO store if we can help with intel and supplies. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: black elk hair caddis, griffiths gnat, Sparkle Dun, parachute Blue Wing Olive, parachute adams.

Nymphs and wets: Depth Charge Caddis, span worm, jig CDC Pheasant Tail, PT soft hackles, pats rubberlegs, apricot slush egg.

Streamers: mini gulp snack, Bank Robber Sculpin, Kreelex, Chocklett’s Bugger changer and gray/white clouser for the lakes.


Splatek:  I spent Tuesday in the hills fishing before scouting for turkey sign.   netted three wild rainbows in about ninety minutes.  It was super slow.  The water was at a good height but very cold and the trout were deep..  I found a solo nymph or a dry/drop combo with a very slow drift got the most takes. And they were sluggish takes, so I had to be ready with my hooksets. Headwater fish should look up as the bluelines warm back up.”

RSquared:  “This time of year, you would normally find me chasing DH trout in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. However, recent rains, which create dangerous flows, have pushed me up to high altitude bluelines in search of wild trout. I have experienced good success with a "Never Sink" caddis dry fly and dropper of a pheasant tail or prince nymph about 18" behind it.  Wild bows and specks have been cooperative.“

Smith DH:

New UO fishing buddy JR (the Jefferson Rambler) checked in with his first UO report:

“I had just a few hours on Sunday to spare, so I hit Smith Creek at mid-afternoon and caught a nice handful of rainbows. The larger fish enjoyed my Pink Squirmy, while the smaller ones sipped my small pheasant tail dropper. It was a nice trip for this new flyfisher as I learn this drag-free drift gig and improve my game.”

 Nan DH:

Remember last week’s post about high flows and tough wading due to dam discharges into the Delayed Harvest river channel. It might be a good time to explore some DH alternatives like the Tuck, Fires, or Big Snowbird.


We all had to start somewhere, right? For many of us, that was stockers on bait. Fly rods were somewhere in our distant future.  

Today’s GAWRD fishing blog


 says that state and federal trout trucks will kick off the ‘22 stocking season next week. Grab some Powerbait, nightcrawlers, ultralight rods, and kids to cast those rods.  Be the hero and introduce them to trout fishing 101. Make it easy and fun with some bait-chucking for naive stockers.  After a few years, those youthful trouters will desire greater challenges and that will be the perfect time to introduce them to flyfishing. Here’s the WRD excerpt:

Getting Ready for Stocking Season: (courtesy of John Lee Thomson, Trout Stocking Coordinator with Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division) —It is that time of year to dust off the trout fishing gear and make sure you plan a fishing trip to your favorite trout fishing destination. Next week GADNR, in cooperation with the USFWS, will stock over 40,000 trout in north Georgia. It is a great time to make sure your fishing and trout licenses are up to date. If you don’t have a favorite destination, visit our Trout page on the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division website .

Private Waters:

UO Guide Israel:  “I had a great recent trip with Eli and Nadine. The father/daughter duo hit the river right, as flows dropped and the water temp rose back into the optimal range. Honestly, the resident rainbows were eating just about anything presented on a drag-free drift. “

UO guide Palmer: “I had a decent trip Monday. The water was high and clear. It was pretty slow until those periods when bugs started coming off the water. Most of our success came from swinging soft hackles and dead drifting small nymphs.”

UO staffer Atticus: “I fished the Bend for about an hour Wednesday evening after the rain.  The water was high, stained and rough to wade.  I hooked about five nice rainbows, but most won our high-water war.  I did manage 1 fish to the net.  I aimed for the slower, deep pools (flood refuges) with heavy flies: squirminators, mops, eggs, and some small streamers. I packed a lot of fun into that single hour.”

UO Company Manager Jake:

Karen and I had a good morning at the Bend earlier this week. Fish bit better this week due to higher flows. It was a bit slow at the chilly start, but quickly improved as the sun rose and warmed the water. The strikes were light and we used a yarn indicator to detect them. Best bugs were eggs, rubberlegs, and especially a pheasant tail soft hackle, all behind several shot to get them near the bottom.

The midday sun had fish rise in the water column to feed in the drift. They were skittish in the clear water and we had to downsize to fool them. That meant 5 and 6X tippet and ruby and root beer midges. Karen caught a nice bunch of bows, with the best one pushing 23 inches. It was a fun way to spend half a day.


Landon: “Black crappie are still a bit slow in migrating to Lanier’s  shallows, but there are a few! Shoreline fishing will get better with each passing warm day.”

HenryC: “Fishing the lakes of No GA continues to get more consistent as our springtime weather settles in. Fish are both on the surface over deep and shallow water. They are also in large schools roaming the big bays. Birds can be a big help in finding the fish. My last trip had no birds flying but we still managed a nice mess of stripers on the fly. Game changers, somethin else and Clousers are the ticket. Olive/wht, grey/wht or chartreuse/wht are your best color choices. The spotted bass are getting shallow and are also mixed in with the stripers making for some really nice fishing on most days.”


There you go. We’ve just been spared the huge deluge and stream blowouts. More bugs will hatch with each warming day and these longer evenings of daylight.  Cut your grass on Mondays or let it grow til June. Spring weekends are made for fishing, so don’t miss the fun. Call or come by either UO store if we can help your pursuit of smiles.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 3/11/22

Spring forward this week!  While we remember to change our clocks, we should also spring forward with our trip plans. The weekend weather looks crummy and gas costs an arm and a leg, so consider staying home or fishing close to it for the next two days.  Then spring forward with your road trip plans and aim for warming days next week, when you can resurrect your dry/dropper and double-dry games.  We will have longer daylight hours, too, with the time change.

Weekend diehards should come with both winter and high water games. Water temps and flows will dictate tippet size, shot size and number, and fly patterns.  Look down on wet pavement, ID the storm hatch, and match it with your squirmies and San Juans.

If you hang near home this weekend, fine-tune your fly vest. Look over those spring hatch chart websites that I gave you last week and ensure your boxes are stocked. Be ready to catch the real bugs, too. Go to Home Depot and buy a paint strainer to slip over your landing net. Swat some adult bugs and seine below submerged boulders and leaf packs that you’ve turned to sample the nymphs. You don’t have to know Latin names of bugs nor fly pattern names. Just match your fake’s size,  shade(color), position in/above water column, and behavior to the real bugs you see.  Then you’ll be in business.

The lakes are waking up. We have several decent reports in our long version of this.  One extra tip: fish the funnels! Lakes are big and intimidating, but spring spawning runs funnel favorite predators to lake headwaters and incoming rivers. The next month is prime. Walleye are winding down, but whites and hybrids are firing up. Striper romance will follow around the last week of March and last three weeks. Don’t miss the prime intel from GAWRD. Electricity doesn’t lie. Look over biologists’ brand new annual fishing prospects and the weekly sampling results via the blog. Mine this agency intel here:


Aim for Blog and Prospects.

Good luck. Let’s look beyond this crummy weekend and smile at the bright horizon, when we all spring ahead to the best two months of flyfishing in this neck of the woods. Stop by either UO store or knock online if we can help your spring celebration.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: black elk hair caddis, griffiths gnat, quill gordon, parachute adams.

Nymphs and wets: hot rib Duracell, span worm, hares ear and pheasant tail nymphs and soft hackles, pats rubberlegs, small peach eggs.

Streamers: mini gulp snack, hot cone woolly bugger, Kreelex, and mini finesse changer and gray/white clouser for the lakes.


Landon: “We went shooting on the national forest and stopped for a little break on Notellum Creek. We did pretty good on small wild fish for short time we fished. A soft hackle hares ear was the fly of choice.”

RSquared:  “I fished one of North Georgia's most popular wild trout streams Thursday. The Spring-like weather had the wild rainbows looking up. Caddis & orange stimulators were working for me. This coming weekend’s cold front will have the salmonids hugging the bottom again.”


We had few angler reports. Since it’s a new month, we do expect a GADNR maintenance stocking soon.

Sautee and a buddy hit Nan DH and reported: “Nantahala DH was rolling on Tuesday with an apparent water release from Nantahala Lake. Freshly stocked fish weren't responding to small naturals or egg patterns. I Caught 2 on squirmy late in afternoon. Very few bugs ( a couple March browns, a few stoneflies hatched at water level on rocks) and nothing rising.  Folks planning a trip up here need to check both the USGS river gauge at Rainbow Springs and the Duke Energy Lakes web page to get an idea of DH flows before coming up.”

Private Waters:

UO Helen manager Wes said his clients did well last week swinging small, dark nymphs in the clear, warmer water. He predicts that we’ll have to dredge “legs and eggs” during the next few icy, wet days before returning to that early spring pattern next week.

UO Guide Israel: “The Hooch and Soque are both fishing great. Most fish are still on smaller nymph patterns. A few others are starting to eat bigger bugs. My clients have had good success by swinging soft hackles in the afternoon for something different.  I’m also seeing a ton of midges hatching in the afternoon.”


Web reports show birds diving and stripers busting the surface on Lanier.  


It’s sporadic, so you must be in the right place at the right time.  Practice your B’s: 1) burn some gas to recon a lot of water; 2) use your binoculars to spot some birds; 3) buy Henry’s book to unlock the secrets to inland stripers.



“Fish are still hit and miss on Lanier. Hits are becoming slightly more normal than misses if you have the right weather pattern to follow. Go out and fish pre frontal vs post frontal and you can find fish that have obviously started their pre spawn phase and are fattening up to make the long swim up the river. They are eating both small shad and micro shad 1"-3" in length. Keep the somethin else's as well as Clouser's and game changers handy. If you're blind casting then a coyote is a good choice. Spring is here and so are the linesides.”



Landon: “ I threw the slip bobber rig at Lanier, prefrontal on Tuesday before the rain came in. Had 5 bass in an hour and saw some stripers and loons working back there, too.”

UO staffer Joseph:

“Here are some pics of some largemouth I caught the other day. With the temps finally starting to rise, it’s starting to pull bass in smaller impoundments into the shallows. These fish came on a white clouser but any baitfish pattern 2-4 inches long should get the job done. One important factor I want to mention is having a intermediate fly line and trying various retrieval speeds through the day. Overall it seems a countdown method was the best bet if you aren’t able to sight fish any.”

In summary, be ready to revert to your winter game for a few days. Then, as waters warm, be on the lookout for bugs and match the hatch with your dry/dropper combos.  Stop in the shop for a shot of heat and a handful of hot flies. If you’re stuck at home, go online and win yourself a summer week in Yellowstone:


Good luck online and afield!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.