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, September 30, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/30/22


Hello October!  Instead of the trick, how about the early treat we just received?  Ian steered toward the Carolinas and has spared us the excessive wind and water!  Our region remains high and dry and your fishing week ahead looks great!

Before we dive into our good fortunes, please join us in continued prayer for our FL fishing friends and yours, too.  So far we’ve heard from a couple of them who made it through the storm in decent shape. We await word from others. 

Our friend, Rusty, shared a video on storm surge just south of him that is a true eye-opener.


May their recovery go well, especially with support from all of us.

Now back to the fishing prospects. My morning recon today showed the Hooch headwaters drought-low and aquarium clear. The bassing portion of the river was also low and clear.  So your bottom line is cover, as these fish have a current mission. In simple terms, it’s “hide from herons!”  Until our streams recharge, our finned targets will focus on survival first and feeding, second.  Therefore stealth, long leaders, and casting into cover (heron hides) will help your catch rates.

Best bets for this week are subsurface river bass, dry/dropped wild trout, NC DH trout after the agency trucks run, and reservoir spotted and striped fish when we can find the surface schools. Ponds cool quicker than lakes, so your subsurface flies might outfish topwater offerings as we enter October.

Check out our full report, timely angler intel,  and Wes’ hot fly list on our home and Facebook pages. Call or come by the shop for more intel and fall supplies. Good luck on this unexpected, bonus weekend.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: elk hair caddis, orange stimulator, micro chubby.

Nymphs & Wets:

Prince nymph, drowned ant, hare & copper, soft hackle partridge.

Streamers & warm water:

Finesse changer, polar changer, sparkle minnow, muddy buddy.


UO friend and fishing fanatic RSquared:  “With cooling air and water temperatures, I have now turned my attention from river bass to salmonids! I was able to fish one of my favorite streams which is teaming with wild rainbows that are still looking up. Fish are spooky with the low clear flows.  Friday, ahead of the storm, I'm visiting a remote brookie stream I have not seen in months! I can’t wait!”

UO buddy RonW:  “Moe and I made our annual late September trip up to "The Park" (9/24) to fish our favorite  creek and it was fantastic as always. The only thing missing was our brother Kurt, who was summoned to work to cover a coworker. 

We met at my place in Woodstock at 5:30 and started the long haul north. We finally arrived at our destination after a few stops and a little food to get us going.  We were geared up and on the trail heading up the hill by 9:30. This isn't a hop in and hop off the trail type creek.  This is a very high gradient creek. There is very little access so once you're in it, you're committed. We climbed the creek, scaling waterfall after waterfall for about 1.5 miles and gaining 1000' in elevation. 

It was cloudy for most of the day which seemed to put the fish in an off mood. They weren't their normal selves where they smash everything in sight with reckless abandonment. We had to be extra stealthy, make perfect casts and really work for fish.  We have had a few banner days in this creek  in the past so we definitely noticed something was off.

I made a comment to Moe that it felt like we were fishing behind somebody. Could it be our hidden gem is not so hidden anymore?  Not too long after that comment Moe snags some Rhodo on a back cast and in retrieving his fly, we find two flies on the same tree. We had no choice but to push on and luckily for us, we didn't see any other signs of anglers and most importantly, no wet boot prints ahead of us. 


The brookies were still plentiful with both of us landing well over a dozen each throughout the day. We got some nice quality fish too. Moe even got him a "two hander". I still consider a day like this pretty epic in my book, especially when you can fish a high elevation stream, not see another person and catch nothing but colored up wild brookies all day. 

We both fished dry droppers all day with about a 50/50 mix on fish caught on each.    Moe fished a yellow sally all day and never needed to change. I threw a Goddard Caddis, Orange Stimulator, Ausable Bomber and and an Ausable Wulff.  Only the bomber didn't connect for me.  Droppers that produced were greenie weenies, a small green caddis nymph and a small hares ear.   

We stopped around 1:30 for our mandatory streamside lunch, replenishing some much need calories that were burned climbing the creek.  After filling our bellies we filled our water bottles with some of that filtered mountain water and pressed on. 

Moe spotted a nice colorful brookie feeding on tiny dries off the current in some skinny water.  He got snagged after making a few casts to him but left his fly in the water so I could have a go at him. I changed flies and tied on a small little sulfur cdc emerger. I made a few casts, got him to chase but not  commit. I ended up spooking him back under a rock. I did catch a smaller consolation Speck in the same run and then one more in the run above it before I changed back to a big bushy dry I could actually see. 

We finally made it up to the big waterfall that is not passable. We scrambled up the hill and to the trail for the long hike back down the hill to the truck. We wanted to fish the creek above the big falls but our bodies had other thoughts. We made a pit stop in Cherokee for some much needed grub and then it was back in the truck for the 3 hour drive south back to Woodstock. 

It was another great day on the water for sure.  We ate good, fished hard, and laughed harder,  tucking away some more lifelong memories. We missed our brother Kurt, who was there in spirit.  I guess this gives us another reason to fish it again, as soon as he can join us.”

Smokies daily intel here:



Smithgall staffer Joe told me today that Dukes Creek reopens to anglers tomorrow. Remember that this is reservation-only, with strict fishing regulations. Review them in GAWRD’s annual fishing regulations pamphlet or online at the agency site.

Joe said October was booked , as were nearly all November Saturday slots. Call soon (706-878-3087) to grab your reservation. Or you can try showing up early in a fishing day and hoping for a no-show, which might allow you to fill one of the angler slots. Remember our shop, in town, for flies and advice on Dukes. It’s in our back yard and we know it well.

Stocker Streams:

GAWRD redosed a few streams ahead of last Saturday’s free fishing day, so check that old list and aim for some downstream leftovers.

A certain neighbor state does some fall stocking, so you might venture to the border for some Wild and Scenic action on bridge wash-downs.  

UO friend Lumis:

“We hit a popular stocked stream last Saturday. . It was way less packed than I expected,  with plenty of fish to go around. Friend and I brought about 30 combined to net and kept a few for supper.

The water was clear and a tad low. An Egg + squirmy wormy did the trick for me, while my friend spin/fished the whole time with powerbait and a Panther Martin and did just as well. It was great to get back on the water.”

Private Waters

We are opening in October for your fall trips. Call the shop soon (706-878-3083) to reserve your preferred fishing dates, as our fall calendar is filling fast!


If you’d like to learn how to flyfish, check out our Gilligan Special.  Just bring yourself and a fishing partner and we’ll supply the rest.


Warmwater Streams:

UO staffer Joseph: “We a good float for Monday’s staff fishing day.   Three rafts full of UO folks drifted down the middle Hooch and threw a variety of flies and lures.  Monday was a bit slower than expected,but we moved a ton of fish and caught some decent ones on swim flies. “

UO manager Jake:  “The river bass fishing this week has been good with the colder nights, which have caused water temps to decrease. The river is very low and clear, making a stealthy approach and long cast a must in order to get bites. We have seen a bunch of big fish moving around this week, but they are very spooky given the currently conditions. Hopefully, we will receive some rain soon to bump the flows up slightly. The main players this week were soft plastics bounced along the bottom, or various "swim flies" fished on an intermediate line. The key to getting bites on the swim flies was fishing something neutrally buoyant on an intermediate line and allowing the fly to hover in place longer, giving the fish more time to make a decision. The fall transition is here, and should only get better over the next couple of weeks as we hopefully get an increase in flows.”

Wes: “The river bass bite has been heating up! Baitfish patterns like game changers have been productive in the morning hours.”

Athens Jay has been too busy at work, but managed to slip out one evening last week for a few river bass on deep offerings.

Small Lakes

No recent reports. Given the reluctance of river bass to eat topwater, we think it’s a safe bet to direct y’all toward streamers and crawdad flies.


Hank the Yank: “With the cooldown taking place in North GA the past week, water temps have started to fall. This is good news for lake fly anglers across the state. Both bass and stripers are starting to move around more and can be caught on the fly. Is it off the charts? Not yet, but an obvious pattern is emerging as fish start staging off points and especially points with deep brush. Tossing a fast sinking line w/a game changer can get you some extra bites while waiting for the fish to start schooling. Fall is in the house and burning boat gas to look for schoolers will pay dividends shortly. Fish are feeding on both threadfin from 1 1/2" to 3" as well as bluebacks from 4"-6". While there is no consistency just yet, it's worth taking a peek if you are just sitting at home wondering when it will happen.  Go and be the first to find the fall treats.”


UO buddy Landon: “Last weekend we rolled up on a big school of white bass/ hybrids as soon as we left the ramp that morning. Then we didn’t see another school! We spent the rest of the morning searching and casting to cover, and caught some spots around reef markers on small swimbaits.”

GAWRD has excellent lake intel and a bonus blueline report in today’s blog:



UO buddy Will in MI:  “It’s been a while since my last grip n grin update. Panther martins have always done the trick for me on browns at Dad’s cabin on the PM.”

My old friend Les had a great trip to MN with son, Forrest. Plenty of chunky smallmouths made last month’s father/son excursion a memorable one.

That’s the latest news and weather from your favorite outdoor channel, UO Online!  Thanks for missing us, Ian. Folks, take advantage of the fine weather and water at hand. And if you have to leave a bit early to tune in your TV, you’re excused this time. And we’ll join in your cheers:

Go Braves!

Go Dawgs!

Have a great weekend, dear friends. And may we all hear some good news from our Florida buddies.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, September 29, 2022

Unbutton from the Bottom

What’s the matter? Are you stuck?  Hey, if you’re fishing where the trout are during the colder months ahead, you certainly should be snagging the bottom occasionally. That’s where the fish are!

Bet you’d sure like to retrieve that hot fly, wouldn’t you? Here’s a great three-minute video from Orvis expert Tom that will help.  


Take a look at Tom’s tips and rescue more of your flies when dredging the depths this fall and winter. Always remember the Orvis website for more great lessons to enhance your flyfishing fun.


Good luck!


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ian Storms In!

 Info from our Fed friends:

Know before you go! 

Visit the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest website at www.fs.usda.gov/conf for important alerts and safety warnings. Learn the current status for recreation sites before you decide to visit. Some campgrounds, roads and trails could be closed as a result of flooding or storm damage. 

Our highest priority is visitor and employee safety. Avoid the forest during hazardous weather for personal safety and to prevent further stress on emergency responders who may not be able to quickly respond to emergencies because of conditions that limit access or create safety hazards.

Low-lying areas are especially vulnerable to rapidly rising and swift water. These areas should be avoided during and after major storm events. Excessive rain and high winds have the potential to create high water, flash floods, falling trees, mudslides, and severe damage to roads. Our national forests are heavily wooded, remote and mountainous, making the potential for hazardous conditions significant. Trees falling or large limbs breaking off are common occurrences during storm events. 

Stay connected with us to view alerts related to possible hazards and closures on the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forest on Facebook and twitter @ChattOconeeNF and on our website at www.fs.usda.gov/conf.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

UO’s Hot October Trout Bugs

Last week we asked y’all for your five favorite October trout fly patterns. Thanks for your responses via our Instagram and Facebook pages. That intel will help our newer fly anglers prepare for fall action.

We thought we’d return the favor, so here are UO staffers’ top fives for their respective October trouting trips:

Jimmy: Orange Stimulator, Pheasant Tail, Pat’s Rubber Legs (Brown/Black), Prince Nymph , Sparkle Minnow(Gold/Tan)

Jake: Orange soft hackles #14-16, October Caddis Dry #14, Girdle Bug brown/coffee #10-12? Soft hackles pheasant tail #16-18, Skwala Stonefly #10

Wes: Orange stimulator, Sparkle minnow, Hotspot pheasant tail, Soft hackle partridge, Muddy buddy 

Israel: The Ticket, Blue Poison Tung, Pheasant Tail, Sweet Meat Caddis, Micro Mayfly nymph 

Caleb: I’m a big fan of small nymphs and jig streamers once fall hits. 1. Slump buster jig, 2. Zebra midges, 3. Hares ear patterns, 4. Eggs, glow bugs, etc. 5. Woolly bugger variations 

Joseph: # 14 orange stimulator, #16 bh pheasant tail, #16 hares ear caddis, #16 walts worm, #20 trout crack 

Grant: Silver beaded france fly, olive twisted mayfly, pink bead sexy Walts worm, soft hackles/ yellow or orange, and soft hackle hares ear

Palmer: soft hackles, elk hair caddis, small dark woolly bugger, pats rubber legs, prince nymph. 

Newest UO staffer Ben:
France fly, Olive walts worm,  clueless Caddis, Frenchy, and a peach egg.


#14 orange stimmy as a buoyant indicator for my dropper.

# 18 parachute Adams for skinny water prospecting and a BWO imposter.

#14 prince nymph for searching faster water.

#18 pheasant tail nymph for skinny or slow water.

# 12 sexy Walts worm (silver bead) for storm surges and a smaller version for lower flows.

Peruse the list, pick a few patterns you like, and resupply soon. Stop in either UO store if you need a little help restocking your box for some great fall fishing ahead.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, September 23, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/23/22

Welcome to the autumnal equinox. In plain-speak, fall has finally arrived!  I grabbed a light fleece jacket before stepping into a 53-degree dawn today for furry daughter Dolly’s morning routine. Whether we’re hunting, fishing, or hiking, this is what we’ve waited for all summer. Hello fall! As air and water temps drop, our catch rates should rise. Here’s the latest scoop from our UO staff and finatic friends.

Best bets for this week are river bass on the bottom, wild trout on top, pond bass and bream under the trees, and maybe some reservoir spots and hybrids when we can track them down before they dive. Remember that tomorrow (24th) is National Hunting and Fishing Day and a free fishing day for GA residents.

Check out our full report, timely angler intel,  and Wes’ hot fly list on our home and Facebook pages. Call or come by the shop for more intel and hot bugs.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: parachute ant, yellow humpy, orange stimulator, parachute Adams.

Nymphs & Wets:

CDC pheasant tail, hares ear, rainbow warrior, black WD-40,

Streamers & warm water:

Boogle bug popper, finesse changer, polar changer, sparkle minnow, muddy buddy. 


They’re coming on strong as cold night air once again blankets high mountain peaks. Streams are low and clear, but cold enough to get trout hunting some groceries. Stealth and soft tippets are still more important than fly pattern in these skinny streams. Be the heron!

UO guide Caleb: 

“We had a successful Monday of wild trout fishing with a client from Florida.  We were able to get a few trout rising to stimulators, while the rest hit the dropper: rainbow warrior or pheasant tail. It’s finally cooling down.”

UO friend RonW’s Saturday report: ”I’m back from the dead after an 8 week hiatus from fishing. My wife and I threw the dog in the truck early this morning and headed north to explore a couple new waterfalls.  She told me to bring a rod so I did. Armed with my 7' 3wt  glass rod and some intel from yesterday's UO weekly report, we set off for a  high elevation, headwater stream and waterfall. We arrived at the trailhead a little over 2 hours later.  It was a nice hike downhill for a little over a mile and a half to the waterfall.  I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the stream too. Eager brookies willing to eat a #14 yellow humpy. 1st fish in over 2 months was a brookie who got a crash course in aerial hole relocation due to my bass hookset.

We went down below the waterfall (barrier falls) and I immediately shook hands with a nice, colored up wild bow.  After swimming the dog for while, we started on the hike out back to the truck,  but not before we explored the water above the waterfall a little more. I ended the day with 5 brookies (4  fingerlins' and 1 niceun') and one lone rainbow to hand in about 2 hours of combined fishing. It was nice to finally give my trout legs a test after 6+ weeks of being sick and a nice little warm up for next week's Smokies trip.  Now

where is my ibuprofen?”

Smokies daily intel here:


Stocker Streams:

There are still a few summer stragglers left. Just cover a lot of water to pick off the cagey stockers that have now found refuge in the logjams, boulder fields, and overhanging rhodo branches.

A certain neighbor state does some fall stocking, so you might venture to the border for some Wild and Scenic action on bridge wash-downs.  

Breaking news: GAWRD’s noon fishing report hinted at some stockers released for National Hunting and Fishing Day. Check their site later today for any updates to the stocking list.


Private Waters

The cooler days to come allow us to reopen all of our private waters in October for your fall trips. Call the shop soon (706-878-3083) to reserve your preferred fishing dates. The fall calendar

 is filling fast!


If you’d like to learn how to flyfish, our Gilligan Special is a great deal. Just bring yourself and a fishing partner and we’ll supply the rest.


Warmwater Streams:

UO manager Jake:  “Ben and I slid the jet boat in north of Lanier on Tuesday, and had a pretty good morning. We boated just over a dozen fish, both spotted bass and shoal bass on bottom bouncing baits in and around the lumber. Water temps are cooling, and things on the river are improving and should only get better over the next few weeks.”

UO friend Landon: “I fished with the guys doing the shoalie genetics study on Tuesday. We floated the lower Chestatee.  Fishing was okay where the habitat was good. We landed a mix of shoal and Alabama bass by dragging worms around instream structure.”

Small Lakes

These should be good for several more weeks until surface temps dip below 70.  ATL suburbanite Splatek said the cooler weather allowed him to take his boys back to the ‘hood pond, where a dry/wet dropper combo was the ticket for the older boy and bread balls were hot on the young’uns kiddie pole.”

DNR intel:

Sounds like a few stockers might be around this weekend. Also check out the extensive lake info:



Hank the Yank: “Hybrid lakes are still your best bet in No GA. Hartwell, Chatuge, Clark's Hill, Russell, Oconee and Allatoona should allow you to find some top water to toss a fly at or for spin fishing anglers (since it's national hunting and fishing day this weekend) you can toss a float and attach a fly behind it as the fish are feeding on small threadfin shad. 

Lake Lanier has NOT turned on yet BUT with temps dropping by the time you read this report, I believe we will see the change over the next several days. Plan your exploratory Lanier trips either early or late in the day. Bass are starting to be caught nearer to the surface on walk the dog artificials or flies. “


UO staffer Grant:  “My dad and I went up to Chatuge and saw a lot of busting fish, but they were hard to target in their short times on the surface. We ended up catching a few spotted bass on some moving baits. Actin should improve with falling water temps.” 

UO friend RSquared:  “My son Matt & I fished Carters Lake Monday for spotted bass. The bite was slow but we managed to boat a few. The ones willing to play took flukes & worms on a shaky head.”


Craig in NM:  “My return trip to the Pecos Wilderness was just as rewarding as the prior trip.  I found more Rio Grande cutthroats in the headwater stream and a few were hefty for such small water.  They are such beautiful fish.  Enjoy the pic.”

Sautee checked in with a new CO report: “ While wildlife and stargazing have occupied most of my time and camera lens, I did sneak back to the Big Thompson this week.  I had another fine afternoon of surface action on a #14 parachute black ant.  A nice handful of resident brookies and browns spoiled me again.”

That’s the latest news as we grab a sweatshirt each dawn and watch the first leaves drop.  “Fall” into some tight lines during the beautiful week to come. Fishing is fun and catching is even better. With the changing season, both will improve in the days ahead. Call or come by the Helen shop for hot flies, breaking intel, and fall trip bookings. We’ll be glad to lend you a hand.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.