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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Get Back in the Yak

There’s still a good month or more of excellent river and pond bassin’ left until the fall chill slows the bite.  Many of you will still be kayaking to your hotspots in the weeks to come.

How about a yakking PSA today?  That’s a public safety announcement. Jimmy found a very nice story and 10-minute video in Kayak Angler magazine that might help you to reboard your kayak after flipping it.


Take ten minutes out to watch Chad Hoover’s tips on flipping the yak upright and then getting back into it.  It might be the best ten minutes of your yakking career and help to make it a long and safe one.  Thank you Chad and Kayak Angler Magazine!

Good luck with the home stretch of your warmwater fishing season. We hope there’s a fat spot, shoalie, LMB, or smallie in your future.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Monday, August 29, 2022

The Fever

The Fever. I’ve got it.  So does Jimmy.  So do most of our UO clan.

Are you afflicted, too?  

Rabunites (www.rabuntu.org) call it Rocky Mountain Fever.  They know that once you are infected, there is no cure.  Only constant annual treatments allow trout anglers to live with their condition.  A hydrotherapy trip each summer to the hallowed waters of the West are prescribed by senior Rabunites to new victims of the infection.

Our friend and DNR partner, John “Deadly” Damer, recently completed his annual therapy. John, his brother, and his father dosed together in their favorite rivers and spring creeks of western Montana.  He was kind enough to share a few pics with us. Enjoy, and remember to plan your own treatments soon.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, August 26, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/26/22

After a welcome week of cloudy, cooler weather and improved fishing conditions, we are now returning to our summer slowdown. The week ahead looks hot and clear, with some chances at scattered afternoon thundershowers.  So it’s the same old song of the last few months: have your summer game ready.

That means tailwaters and mountaintop bluelines for trout, or just giving them a break until we get some colder overnight air temperatures.  The usual selection of terrestrials and a couple trusty nymph droppers will get you some looks IF you have a stealthy stalk and lighter tippets.

Pond and river bream and bass will still be the best game in town. Just make sure a recent storm hasn’t blown out your planned floating reach. Tactics remain about the same: surface bugs under the shaded limbs and crayfish and streamer patterns down deeper when the sun is high.

There’s a bit of topwater reservoir action for folks willing to put in the work. See Jimmy’s trip intel in our extended report.

Rocky mountain trouting continues to rock along, as Sautee narrates for us in his two recent fish tales.

Check out those angler tales, their timely intel, and Wes’ hot fly list in our full report. It’s featured on our home and Facebook pages.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: parachute ant, stimulator, foam stone.

Nymphs & Wets:

Drowned ant, copper John, green weenie, mop.

Streamers & warm water:

Feather changer, double barrel popper, Boogle Bug, sparkle minnow, may’s identity crisis.


We had no recent reports in the shop.  My morning recon today showed the high Hooch tribs very skinny, transparent, and warm. Give them a break or go real high or to the Smokies for best results.  Downsize your bugs and lighten your tippet for more strikes. On the positive side, adults now cram into drought refuges and are real competitive for groceries in those prime pools and shaded undercuts.  If they’re not spooked, they’ll eat.  Any stormflows up this high will quickly recede to low summer baseflows, so plan to stick with your skinny water game.


Today’s GAWRD weekly fishing blog says streams have been stocked.  We will all know more by 5PM today. GAWRD usually stocks streams in advance of the Labor Day crowds, so I’d expect to see a big list next Friday, as well. Good luck getting the kids outdoors as summer winds down and school schedules fill up your taxi calendars.


Smokies intel:

The national park peaks have already started cooling off and fishing has picked up there, according to some nice online reports by Ian and Charity at R&R Flyfishing.


There’s always a nice daily report of stream conditions and best bets here:



We’ve had no recent reports at the shop. They should still be fishing well when not blown out by muddy tributaries and dam generation schedules. There’s some Hooch intel in today’s WRD blog thanks to Chris Scalley. Just scroll way down past the lake intel to find the trout reports.


For more info on Blue Ridge Tailwater, check out TVA’s website and consider downloading their app:


Warmwater Streams:

UO manager Jake said river bassing was slower this week. They had to work hard, but still found a few nice fish (top pic). Fish are scattered across the river. Topwater action is good early and on cloudy days, while dredging is better when the sun is out. I checked the Hooch at Highway 115 today and found it slightly muddy, with about two feet of visibility. If you hit these muddy waters, consider these tips: 1) fish shallower, where bass can see your offering; 2) add some rattles to your crawdad flies and a spinner blade to your streamers (Ex: Cowen’s Coyote). Help them to find your flies.

UO staffer Joseph: “Here’s a shoal bass that inhaled a stealth bomber. We also had several fish eat streamer patterns when the water was higher and faster.”

New UO staffer Ben:

“Here’s a cool little tagged shoal bass caught while wading.  Fishing can be a little slower in the early afternoon, so you really have to move slow and cover the water thoroughly to find the cooperative fish among all the afternoon nappers.”

UO Regular Landon:

“We hit the middle Hooch stretch above Lanier for the first time last week. Pretty slow float, as we only had a combined 10 bass between our duo. We could just never figure em out. We got a few on a jerkbait in faster water and the rest were while slow poking structure with small plastic worms.”

Flat Water:

UO young gun Joseph:  “I got some nice pond bass over the last week or so.  My biggest was 7.3lbs . Fish were more active last week but preferred something moving slowly along the bottom.”

UO friend R Squared:  “I recently took fellow educator & new fly fisher, Brice to a private pond in NW Georgia. It was a day of many firsts: First time fly fishing, First time catching a fish on a fly rod, First bluegill on a fly rod, First bass on a fly rod. All fish were caught on Boogle Bug poppers. Pay it forward & help someone new to fly fishing. You’ll be glad you did!”

UO owner Jimmy: “There's nothing more satisfying than seeing the smile on a kid's face when they're hauling in a fish.  This past Saturday was magic on the water as my grandson and I were surrounded by fish busting the surface.  At times they looked like schools of Bonita racing across the surface after baitfish.  The hot ticket was a Cowen's Somethin Else fly dropped off the back of a hookless Rapala for Crosby while I threw a Somethin Else on my Sage Smallmouth rod.  The key to getting kids hooked on fishing is for them to actually hook a lot of fish.  It was all over in about 2 1/2 hours; perfect for those short attention spans.  Find a kid and take them fishing; you'll both be glad you did.”


Sautee had two more nice CO reports for us:

“I had the opportunity to spend the day on a greenback cutthroat restoration stream with world famous fish biologist, Dr. Brett. We had a great morning of fishing and Brett caught his first greenback!

We hiked up 1.5 miles from trailhead before dropping off to the river. Water temp was 47, and the water was so clear it looked like the rocks were on top of it instead of under the surface. As we rigged up streamside, a young bull moose crossed the river so close to us that we literally picked up our stuff and moved so as to give him plenty of room.  We started catching fish right away on top using caddis and a tan Adams (#16).  Over the next couple hours we caught about 25 greenbacks up to 12”.  

The last fish he caught was a beauty and we ended the day after releasing the pictured cutthroat.  

Spending time on the stream with Brett was a real hoot, as you can well imagine. He’s an excellent fishing companion.

I also fished with two Rabunite friends on the IDBIS headwaters a couple days ago.  We all caught fish (brook trout and 1 brown). We fished for a couple hours, then caught up with one another until late afternoon,  when they needed to head back and get some supper.  That too was a good time.”

Our fly shop recently made friends with Craig from NM. You may recall his daughter pictured with a nice shoalie while visiting GA and floating with Jake a few weeks ago. He shared this: “here’s a nice pic of a colorful Rio Grande cutthroat that I landed on a favorite stream in the Carson National Forest.”

Check out a nice story by Craig here:


And his most recent book here:


Good luck as we “return to July” while anxiously awaiting the shorter, cooler days of September. Let’s all hope the showers fall here and boost streamflows a bit. In the meantime, stealth, soft casts, and drag-free drifts will still bring you some smiles. Stop in our shop if you’d like more intel or just swap a few fishing fibs.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Unintended Targets

Been there? Done that?

Sure you have.  I have.  We all have!  

Jimmy and I take turns fishing the small, tight pools on our headwater adventures. When we catch more trout than trees, we know it’s been an exceptionally good day.

And if we all flyfish, we’ll continue to find those overhead branches and underwater obstacles. It’s just part of the game we love.

Here’s a nice list of unsnagging tips that should help all of us to get back into the game quicker. Thanks to midcurrent.com for the story lead and to @flyfishermanmagazine for sharing it.


Good luck scoring more trout than trees yourselves this fall.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, August 19, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/19/22

Today we’re just waiting on the rain. Region streams are still running low and clear, but they’ve been a bit cooler, thanks to moderating air temperatures.  Hopefully we’ll get an inch or so of rainfall to briefly recharge our rivers, but it will run off quickly.

So be ready to continue your summer, low-water game for the coming week. It’s been a good game for river bass, which have renewed appetites with the cooler temps and shorter daylight hours that are our early hints of the coming fall. Just call tackle shops and check river gauges first to ensure that a local storm hasn’t blown out your target water for a few days. Those storms can also turn on some river stripers if waters turn chocolate!

Pond bass and bream are still rockin’ along. As always at this time of the year, aim for the lower light of dawn, dusk, and cloudy days. Popper-dropper rigs are a great bet when fish are skittish. Remember our prior column on these rigs in the June 2021 edition of The Angler Magazine.


Headwater trout are still iffy. Go high and to north slopes to find cold water. Longer, thinner leaders and smaller flies will help your riser rate. When they’re not muddy, tailwaters are still the better trouting bet.

Check out more angler intel and Wes’ hot fly list in our full report. It’s featured on our home and Facebook pages.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Micro chubby, fathead beetle, parachute Adam’s.

Nymphs & Wets:

Squirmy worm, hare’s ear, rainbow warrior, flashback red tag jig, sunken ant.

Streamers & warm water:

Finesse changer, double barrel popper, swinging D, bank robber sculpin


They remain low, skinny, clear, and a bit warm. Rest most of your favorite spots until colder nights drop their temperatures further. North slopes and highest elevations can still show you some waters below 66F, so hike high or try the taller mountains in NC.  Better yet, stick to the warmwater game while all these fun summer species are readily available, even in our own back yards. Stream bream are a lot of fun on a three-weight rod and small rubber spider.

UO friend R Squared said: “Blue-lining, I found some high elevation water in the low 60’s. The brookies were taking size 14 orange stimulaters until the rain began. I switched to pheasant-tail  nymphs & continued to catch & release fish.” 


This is probably on off week for the truck fleet, so refresh yourselves on last week’s GAWRD stocking list, go early, and go high. Again, lighter lines and smaller flies and baits will enhance your dinner harvest.


Smokies intel:

Area guides north of us report good fishing, as those high elevations have cooled off even further. Stick with your summer game and have a fun road trip. If you’re lucky enough to find higher, stained water, dredge some big bites like squirmies, rubberlegs, and sexy Walts on slightly thicker tippet.  The browns might be out, chowing down! Daily updates here:



They’re still holding their own. UO guide Caleb checked in: “I fished a 59 degree tailwater last weekend and had lots of success on bows and browns. Pink mop flies and squirmy wormies worked well alongside cased caddis patterns(dirty carrot, Walt’s worm type flies) in the riffles.”

Warmwater Streams:

UO manager Jake said river bassing continues to be good (see first pic).  Fish are scattered across the river. Check out his video report that we posted last Friday. Topwater action is good early and in cloudy days. Dredging is better when the sun is out.

UO owner Jimmy waded into the river for an hour or so after work. While no trophies were landed, four small shoalies made his brief trip worthwhile. The hot bait was a four-inch worm bounced along the bottom.

UO friend R Squared reported:

“Don & I fished a middle GA river last Sunday. The water was high, fast, & muddy from recent rains but we managed to bring some to hand using a crawfish pattern. The Ga. Bass Slam continues!”

That’s  the latest news from our staff and friends. Watch the weather and have both a dry and a wet game ready to go. Don’t forget your raincoat and some hope.  Give us a call if we can help with updates on weather, water, and hotspots.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Smokies Parking Fees

Heads up!  Smokies parking fees are coming next March. Story here:


More details can be found at the park’s website:


Keep this in mind during your 2023 trip planning. We hope this information is helpful.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, August 11, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 8/11/22

How about a “breath of fresh air?” The summer fishing remains about the same, but we have a cold front coming that will bring much lower humidity and a slight drop in air temps. This forecast should improve the catching a bit, but will really improve our fishing conditions. Enjoy the coming comfort!

Your summer targets remain the same.  Wild trout are out - except for high, north-slope streams and icy tailwaters. Stockers will be good in the mornings on any cold waters that GAWRD redoses this week. River and pond bass and bream remain a best bet, especially in the shade and clear water.  River stripers turn off in low, clear flows but turn on in cooler, muddy storm surges.

Check out more angler intel and Wes’ hot fly list in our full report. It’s featured on our home and Facebook pages. Enjoy the brief hint of fall that we might catch this weekend.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Parachute ant or black beetle, para-Adams, 409 yeager yellow, yellow elk hair caddis, Micro chubby.

Nymphs & Wets:

Green weenie, drowned ant, squirmy worm, small frenchie.

Streamers & warm water:

Feather changer, double barrel bass bug, bank robber sculpin. Swinging D, Kent’s stealth bomber, Boogle Bug poppers.


UO guide Caleb:  “Wild trout in the high headwaters have been slow except for very early in the morning.  Green weenies and ants were good patterns in the pools, while rubber-legged stimmies brought in a couple elsewhere.”

Smokies intel:

The national park should fish well with this forthcoming slug of cooler air. Check out the forecasted morning lows in Cherokee and the daily fishing reports by our friends in Townsend. 


Stocker Streams:

Stockers will still be a good bet for Georgia early risers. The summer sun will heat up a lot of those waters and turn off the afternoon bite, so hit them in the cool shade of early mornings. (For example, Spoilcane ran 69F at noon today.) Tune in to GAWRD for those Friday stocking updates, and use light line, small baits, and stealth in these skinny waters.



Recent reports suggest that the Hooch trout bite is picking up. Lanier should be strongly stratified this month, and Buford Dam discharges will be discolored and real low in oxygen.  GAWRD  describes Turnover 101 here:


Dissolved oxygen recovers downstream by Highway 20 due to river turbulence, while the color hangs around longer (farther). That color hides you and your line from wild brown scrutiny. The result: advantage to anglers!  Watch Devin’s weekly Orvis-Atlanta reports on their social media pages for more specifics.


UO friend Landon:

“The Hooch Tailwater was good to us this week. We were hardware fishing and didn’t catch a ton of fish, but they were good quality. Most were chunky 10-12 inch browns.  I found one good one laying under a log. I caught all my fish today on a pins minnow that I found in the grass in parking lot!   Fall river discoloration looks like it is just starting, as there was a green tint to the water.”

Warmwater Streams:

River bass fishing continues to rate fair-to-good. Topwater bugs work in the early morning shadows, while dredged flies and hardware are better bets in the sunshine. I saw about three feet of Hooch visibility today at the Highway 115 bridge. 

If this evening’s storms miss the watershed, the river should remain clear enough for some decent weekend  bass action.


UO staffer Grant: “River Striper fishing has been slower the past couple weeks due to the low, clear water that we get this time of year. However, the afternoon showers bring high stained water,  which makes for great striper fishing. Dawn and dusk are typically the best times to target these powerful fish in the slug of muddy water, when they can still be fooled on flies.”

UO staffer Joseph : “Here’s a pic of a gar Grant caught while wade fishing on the Hooch the other day. The fish jumped like crazy and gave us a good show. Gar weren’t the target species but we weren’t going to turn down a opportunity to sight-fish one of those Dino’s! 

Fly selection isn’t important for these gar, as simple baitfish patterns seem to work the best . The fish aren’t super picky. The most important thing is making a good presentation to the fish and making sure they can see the fly.”

Flat Water:

Athens Michael says evening kayaking on public lakes can be great for panfish when you don’t have storms. A black rubber-legged dragon under a chubby Chernobyl did the trick on his shellcrackers. 

UO manager Jake said local pond bass fishing has been good for smaller fish up shallow. He’s been tossing buzzbaits early, especially on cloudy days, and then working a small plastic worm along bottom structure once the sun rises above the treeline.


Athens Jay:  “Ansley Whitley is a UGA Warnell student and 5 Rivers Club member. She just caught her first flounder on a fly and is very excited. She considered the injury sustained during the process, when she fell on an oyster bed, a small price to pay. Ansley is a passionate fly angler.”

UO friend Sautee’s latest CO report:   “I moved a little higher in my local river drainage yesterday and the species composition changed from browns, brooks and rainbows to browns, brooks and cutthroat. Good to see that the population of fish is still holding fairly high, even though the most recent wildfire burned up all the shade-producing vegetation.”

UO friend Darren: “ I did a week of fishing in San Pedro Belize. The bonefish in the pic was tailing in about a foot of water and I caught it while wading the flat barefoot. It was pretty cool. I had several shots at permit but the conditions were never totally right. Also, permit are often impossible.  Everything can perfect and they still won’t eat. I was hoping the migratory tarpon game would be on, but they apparently didn’t come in the way they usually do.  I stayed local and focused on bones and permit.  And caught a lot of bones!!!  It was much less crowded in late July than when I went last May.  The turquoise water and crystal clear flats are some of the most beautiful on the planet. I had a great trip, despite those darn permit!”

That’s your early August summary from our neck of the woods. Take advantage of the break in hot, humid weather and wet a line this weekend. Call or come by if we can help you out.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.