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, July 29, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 7/29/22

It’s been hot and dry for the past week, but the forecast for the week ahead shows a higher chance of showers. In fact, it just started raining here as I’m writing this at noon on Friday.  So….

This week’s theme is “flip a coin.” 

The coin flip is whether a shower hits or misses your target watershed.

“Heads” equals no rain and low, clear, and warm water in most cases. Best bets when the coin comes up “heads” continue to be river bass and bream, those same pond critters, tailwater trout, and morning, mountaintop wild and stocked trout where the water is below 66F.  

“Tails” equals a pop-up storm and a surge of muddy water. Best bets during the storm surges are headwater trout - if the surge is cooler, river stripers, and pond and reservoir bass and bream. Small ponds and public lakes are a very good bet all summer long and usually don’t muddy-up as badly as rivers. A little stain in the lake is a good thing as it disguises your bugs and line.  In contrast, river bass need several feet of visibility to see your bugs well, so pay attention to river gauges and avoid those reaches with spiking flows and muddy surges.

We have Wes’ hot fly list, some local intel, and a couple of great western reports to entertain you this week, so check out our full report on our home and Facebook pages.

(Link in bio)

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Parachute ant, chubby Chernobyl, fathead beetle, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

Green weenie, squirmy worm, fire egg, hares ear.

Streamers & warm water:

Sparkle minnow, polar changer, bank robber sculpin, soft chew. Bluegill spider.


They remain low, clear, and warm. Take water temps and try early mornings when the water is under 66F, north slope streams, and higher elevations in NC and TN. Black and yellow are good colors during terrestrial season, and the Smokies headwaters still fish well for bushwackers.


New UO guide Caleb checked in:

“I had a lot of luck this week on blueline residents with a small caddis on top, size 16-18. I also had some takes in deeper pools on a “stubby chubby” size 12 stonefly with a rainbow warrior as a dropper to slow the drift down.”

Stocker Streams:

Watch today’s GAWRD stocking list for best bets.  If you saw yesterday’s posted video, we found evidence for recent stockings in cooler streams. They’re still heating up after lunch, though, so hit them in the mornings for your best luck. The low water will have them podded up, so cover some ground until you find a honey hole.

Here’s one more tip for skittish stockers in low, clear water. Sneak in way above them, cast quartering downstream, and swing a small soft hackle wet  on thin tippet (6X) in front of their noses.  If you don’t cast over their heads with big, meaty flies or bait, you won’t spook them. Just have that small snack drift by and then twitch in the current. It’s also an easy way to swing your bug under the rhododendron branches or beneath a submerged log.



We saw a video report from Andy at Cohutta Outfitters that said the lower Toccoa was warming up. Hit the upper 2/3 of the tailwater to catch Blue Ridge Dam’s cold discharge before the sun and air heat it up.

Warmwater Streams:

UO manager Jake said the river bass bite improved last week. The best pattern was tossing topwater bugs in the early morning shade, and then dredging deep offerings after the sun hit the water.

UO staffer Joseph: “I caught this  guy after a good afternoon shower. The high,  off-color water made for perfect conditions for river stripers.”

UO buddy Landon: “We had a really good float that included topwater action, a personal best shoal bass for one of our group, and even an 8 lb striper on a jerk bait. 

We all had a different pattern working for us. Buddy fished a small size pointer jerkbait and did pretty good in slower, deeper sections. Buddy 2, Pat caught his biggest shoal bass on a crawdad under a log with current. He had some luck hopping it off the bottom. I fished topwater all night and caught the most amongst us with the Berkley Choppo. Big thing I found with it for success was long casts to avoid spooking them in low water. Very few fish ate it when it hit water and starting swimming Most of time I’d cast upstream of a structure/ pocket,  let it drift down into it, and then start the retrieve.”

Flat Water:

My young neighbor, Kyle, shared a pic of his new personal best largemouth. The six-pounder inhaled a white Zara spook in a local, private pond. Congrats Kyle!

GAWRD intel:

The agency’s weekly blog is full of current intel, from lakes to river to trout streams. Sign up to receive your own copy via text or email.



UO buddy Sautee’s latest CO report: “Good evening of browns fishing in the Big Thompson River within RMNP. A few brook trout scattered among a couple dozen browns from 6-13". Water temp at 60 and, again, lots of bugs coming off. Anything yellow or brown in a mayfly or caddis pattern worked. 

Last week I picked a fight with this brown and lost.  However, I did get his address and made a mental note to pay him a visit again.  That visit was tonight and he lost this round.  I’ll give him a couple of weeks and issue a challenge to a rubber match.  He is a worthy adversary fishing dries with my 3 wt.”

UO owner Jimmy:  “Our visit to the Yellowstone area was different this year as you may imagine.  First, we couldn't visit the northeast area at all due to flood damage.  This meant no favorite lodge and no fishing the Lamar, Soda Butte, or Slough Creek; some of our favorite places.  However, we did have fun fishing some smaller streams both in and out of the Park as well as the Madison and the Gibbon.  Like most trips, there was a day or two where things were slow but, overall, this was one of the best trips I've had there in quite some time.  We hit the salmon fly hatch but those patterns were not always the ticket.  We probably caught more on Stimulators and Parachute Adams than most any other flies.  I have to admit, I did pretty well on a soft hackle Pheasant Tail dropper when the fish got picky.  The highlights of the trip were Grayling (both in and outside the Park) and perhaps my largest North American wild trout ever; a huge Cutthroat from a small stream outside the Park.  I didn't get a good photo but it was probably in the 24"-25" range and weighed close to 5 lbs (see Pic 1, above).  All in all, there were a lot fewer people in the Park and fewer anglers on the streams we chose to fish.  I love that place!

One other note.  If you're headed to Yellowstone to fish, I advise getting your license before you go.  You can no longer buy a license in a fly shop; you must purchase them online and it's not user-friendly.  Go to www.recreation.gov to navigate the process.”

UO guide Palmer:

“We returned recently from our annual pilgrimage to the great waters of WY, ID, and MT.  Our best bugs were Chubbies of various colors. We caught a huge salmonfly hatch in the park and also some major hatches of caddis, gray drakes, and PMDs. We caught browns, bows, Yellowstone cutts, and Colorado River cutts.   I miss the West already.”

UO buddy Ski, up in MI:

“Work has kept me busy all year, but I was able to escape for an hour this week and knock the dust off my rod. I packed some gear for our trip north to my son’s hockey camp.  While he skated, I went on a recon of the Boardman River.  Hoppers were in the streamside grass, so I knotted on an imitation and started tossing.  I’m claiming a moral victory for my first trip there and just an hour in the water.   I was 0 for 2, due to rusty hooksets, and had several others come up to take a look. At least I could find where the fish were.   I will return.”

UO trout wrangler Jessica checked in after a family vacation; “Hubby and I caught some tuna and mahi offshore at Bahia Mar in Fort Lauderdale. We had a fun trip.”

That’s the latest intel from our UO gang. Be ready with two attack plans, one for clear water and one for muddy water, and you’ll still score some summertime success. Watch the river gauges and then call us or stop by the shop so we can point you in the right direction. Good luck with your coin toss.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.



Wednesday, July 27, 2022

I Can See You!


Hey, you lookin’ at ME?

I can see you. Your hulk may be a bit blurry, but I’ve got you spotted and I’m outa here, heading toward cover!

Trouters, don’t miss this fantastic article in Fly Fisherman Magazine.  Read the entire text and study the diagrams and pics. The result: that awesome intel will improve your future angling success.   Don’t miss the fly photo series demonstrating trout visual acuity.  Then we will all know why a parachute Adams and a Pat’s rubberlegs are so effective.


Gold nuggets like this article are common in Fly Fisherman Magazine.  If you’re addicted to the sport like we are, then consider subscribing soon.


Good luck when our cool weather trouting returns.  Some fun summer homework, like memorizing this article, will have you ready for fall success. 

Pop quiz time:  What are the four characteristics of your fly pattern that will get it more closeup inspections and inhalations?  

Study hard…

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.



Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Roll Toward Success

Whether you’re bluelining for specks in a rhododendron tunnel or walking the pond banks while tossing your bream bug, a good roll cast should be in your arsenal.

We see a lot of folks struggle a bit with this cast.  Scientific Anglers gave us a good lead toward some help.  Here’s a nice, short instructional video by our friend, Orvis casting guru Pete, that should allow many new fly anglers to put that bug where they want it to go, despite the tree limbs behind them.


Enjoy, practice, and perfect your own casts today to catch more fish on your upcoming trips. Good luck.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.



Friday, July 22, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 7/22/22


The week ahead can best be described as “slim pickins’ due to the heat repeat.”  We are low, slow, and warm up here in northeast Georgia. Yesterday’s rains pretty much bypassed our region, so local streams are running low and clear.  The hot, humid nights aren’t helping, either, and our headwaters don’t have a chance to cool off after a long day in the sun. Two high Hooch tribs ran 67 and 69F at 9AM this morning.  At least the Hooch at Highway 115 had decent clarity of a few feet (good for bass) and I found gas at Leaf Grocery for $3.50.

Region fishing reports this week were also slim pickins’, as most locals took either a break or a long flight to more hospitable waters.  Given these tough weather and water conditions, your best bets are: tailwater trout, fresh stockers in the mornings, bluelines on cooler north slopes or a thousand feet higher in NC, river and pond bass and bream in the shade, river stripers after a rain, and deep lake spotted bass if you have great patience.  Of course, you can always do a Rockies road trip and hit those hallowed waters at the height of caddis and PMD season.  See Wes’ hot fly list and our light menu of this week’s local reports on our home and Facebook pages (link in bio). At least we have some great stories and pics from our staff and friends who traveled afar!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: parachute ant, Hi-vis micro chubby, royal wulff, quick site beetle.

Nymphs & Wets:

Green weenie, drowned ant, hares ear, lightning bug.

Streamers & warm water:

Sparkle minnow, finesse changer, swinging D, baitfish popper, bluegill spider


Most of our creeks are out: they’re too hot, warm, and low to pursue wild fish. As mentioned, try GA’s north slope headwaters before lunch or drive north of our border for taller mountains.  Remember the tips in last week’s report and our “ant candy” suggestions in yesterday’s post if you’re dead-set on bluelining.

Stocker Streams:

Watch today’s GAWRD stocking list for best bets. WRD staffers check water temps before stocking their loads of trout.  The fish may be a bit disoriented after their ride and deposit.  They’re often in much better moods and hungrier in the mornings.  Try lighter line and smaller baits in skinnier, slower water.  You may also need your hunting camo and best blueline stalk to sneak up on these nervous fish.


After a few morning hours of worm dunking, try another activity with the kids. The national forest and state parks offer some great opportunities like hiking, boating, swimming, tubing, mini golf, and even an archery range at Unicoi Park. Check out  Burton or Chattahoochee Forest trout hatchery on your way home.




Same as last week: Web reports indicate that the Hooch and Toccoa are still fishing well when dams aren’t discharging and when summer storms haven’t muddied the tributaries, which then muddy the mainstreams. If you’d like to swing for the fences, grab your 7-weight rod and toss some rainbow trout-colored streamers toward bankside cover. Trophy browns don’t get that big by sipping midges.

Warmwater Streams:

I saw that the upper Hooch was clear enough this morning for a decent bass float. UO manager Jake said the river residents have been sluggish in the heat, so have lower expectations for your number boated.

Other river fisheries will just depend on whether local storms have blown them out or not. Watch the USGS gauges and call the closest tackle shops for the most current river intel.

UO staffer Grant reported from Helen: “Monday after work my dad and I went fishing in the pouring rain. The water was stained and up a decent amount. My dad was using an olive swinging D. He cast up into the fast water and was retrieving it with quick short ticks. My dad ended up catching one 8lb striper and then another about 20lb. It was pouring rain the entire time that we were fishing, but we had a great time!”

(See first pic)

Athens Jay said: “River fishing remains good between runoff peaks. Most fish are hanging out near or under submerged rock. Swim a big light-colored streamer over the top and be ready for a fish to come up. But be very patient with the hookset because strikes are somewhat timid. Tie your streamers with a trailer hook and you will land a lot more fish.”

UO buddy Landon: “I helped sample the upper Chestatee for DNR again. Rains the day before had the fishing slow but we caught a few- all Chattahoochee bass in this upper reach.”

Flat Water:

Ponds and small lake bass and bream fishing should still be decent along the banks during low light. During the day, pull offshore and fish deeper, cooler water with a sinking line (or real long leader) and small weighted woolly buggers with soft hackle trailers.

Also remember the thermal refuges. Lake stockers will bunch up at creek mouths to avoid the hot water . And, like sharks on seals, big largemouths will lurk just offshore, waiting to ambush a straying stocker bow.  Try these hotspots with a big streamer or stealth bomber at low light.

UO buddy Landon: We worked the “night shift” on Lanier this week. Fishing was good before midnight then died. Big black spinnerbaits, slow rolled over the top of deep brush, got some attention. Larger diameter flurocarbon is the key to keep the bait in the zone longer and to help with recovering our lures from snags!”


UO buddy Sautee  provided another CO report: “Fished the  Upper XXX River one evening this week. Another great hatch and wonderful fishing and catching.  All brook trout except one that I swear was an immature cutthroat, but they’re not supposed to be up there, I don’t think.  Gotta check on that. Wish I’d taken a pic, but alas, no.  Anyway, had a great evening, again!”

Yellowstone: The Unicoi Guru and sidekick Athens Alan have jet lag today after returning from MT. They fished inside and outside the park and had a good time with hosts John and Laine M.  Hopefully we’ll get some detailed reports in the days to come, but they do share some pics of nice cutts, browns, bows, and even a few grayling. It was a nice escape to the cooler waters of the Far West.

RonW Returns!

We will end this week’s report with a fine fish story, one you can enjoy from the comfort of your air conditioning.

“Back to the Old Country: 

Kurt and I returned last Thursday 7/14 from our epic 16-day adventure to Bosnia &Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia. We flew out to Zagreb, Croatia on 6/29, landing the next day where our brother Moe met us with open arms and even gifts...our very own "Murses".  It's a European thing! I must say, we learned to embrace the "murse"  as the adventure went on. I no longer had to  pat my pockets every 2 minutes wondering if my passport was still there.  A quick coffee at the airport and we were on our way. Let the adventure begin! 

We drove from Zagreb about 2.5 hours down into Bosnia where we spent the night at Moe's inlaws, leaving the next day on our way to the Ribnik. 

We stayed right on the Ribnik River, which is one of the most beautiful and fertile rivers in the world. The Ribnik is absolutely teeming with fish, more fish than I've even seen in any one river and any one time. Wild Adriatic Grayling and brown trout were our quarry. The Grayling are as picky as they come, with #18-22 emergers being their favorite fare. We each fooled plenty of them, with some niceuns to hand as well. 

We immersed ourselves into the culture as much as we could in Bosnia. We stayed in someone's home, ate the food grown and harvested from their land and drank plenty of their homemade Slijva (plum brandy).  Our host seemed to have a never-ending supply of it.

After 3 days on the Ribnik  it was time to move on to Slovenia for the 2nd half of our trip, but not before spending the day driving thru Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the city of Mostar, which dates back to the Ottoman Empire. To see some pretty magnificent structures that were built 800+ years ago was pretty special. The will of man is a pretty powerful thing and something to behold. It will be hard for me to accept the response  "I can't do that" from anyone after seeing Mostar. 

The 2nd half of the day (4th of July)  was spent driving up the Croatian coast to Moe's brother-in-law's place, where we spent the night right on the Adriatic Sea. The whole drive was  absolutely breathtaking. It made me think of the song "Thank You" by Led Zeppelin....mountains literally crumbling into the sea. The color of the Adriatic should be the definition of crystal clear in Websters. 

Another 6+ hours of windshield time and we were finally at our B&B in Slovenia, only to find out that the local rivers were incredibly low due to virtually no snow melt and no substantial rain in the last 6 months. We had to work to find fishable water. Rivers that were loaded with fish in 2018 seemed barren this time around. Water levels were way down, algae growing everywhere and water that's normally ice cold felt like bathwater.  We had to go fish the bigger water to find the fish and cooler water. The 1st few days were tough for me. I hooked plenty of fish but just couldn't seal the deal and get anything to hand. 

It all changed on day four at our first stay in Slovenia, when we met our buddy Urôs about an hour away from our B&B on the upper Idrijca River, where we absolutely railed fish all day long. Big rainbows, big Browns and big Idrijca Marbles. It doesn't hurt that Urôs happens to be the best fly fishing guide in Slovenia. We fished till dark and then sat riverside, eating and talking life and fishing with our buddy till midnight. 

The next day we packed up and drove to the upper Soča Valley where we would stay for the next 4 nights and finish out our trip. The next 4 days were absolutely amazing fishing the Upper Soča,  which happens to be the most beautiful River I've ever laid my eyes on. We hammered fish all day, everyday! 

The only exception was on day two when we met up with our buddy Urôs again. He wanted to show us a small stream that feeds into the upper Soča. He let us know that we would not catch a lot of fish, maybe only one or two on the day between four of us, but it would be one of the most beautiful streams we've ever seen in our lives. He didn't have to twist our arms at all as we were game.  I happened to land a fish on the third cast in the first run I fished.... an absolute beauty of a wild marble trout touching 15" in length, but nearly a meter in beauty! She ate a Ronko (my pattern) by the way.  It was a fantastic day exploring this creek,  where we fished nearly a half mile upstream. We saw some very large Marbles and even a monster grayling. Moe got the only other fish to hand on the day which was a gorgeous marble touching 16".  Kurt hooked and fought a giant marble in the 22" range, who after a solid minute of fighting, decided to show him who was boss. She ran about 60' upstream,  underneath the boulder where she ultimately broke him off.  I also tangled with a beast of a marble who spit my RLWB back at me after doubling my rod over. 

The last two days we fished the upper Soča and again hammered fish on nymphs and on dries. The last day we drove up and over Triglov National Park, which has a 14% grade. We hiked to the source of the upper Soča, which starts high up in the mountains in a hole. I've seen this before in 2018 but was taken back once again by the sheer beauty and color of this water. 

In was an amazing trip with my angling brothers, one that will be hard to top and one I'll certainly never forget.  We ate good, drank good, and fished hard.  I'm still in awe of the sights that my eyes have seen. I yearn to go back again and as soon as possible. 

Dovidenja Slovenia! “

How about that for a fish story? Thanks Ron!!!

Locally, this is the best we can do, given the middle of summer. We’ll always shoot straight with you, given the your precious time off from work and fuel budgets. It’s pretty darn slow right now.  At least we’re about halfway toward fall and can start looking forward to that second fishing season.  In the meantime, aim carefully now and you can still have some good, short trips to fend off the summer doldrums.  Or you can hop a plane to Montana or Slovenia!  Stop in or call us if we can be of service. We might need a few extra minutes to read up on marble trout…

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.