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 16, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/16/22

Get out ASAP and enjoy a quick taste of fall before summer sneaks back into the picture next week.  Thanks to cooler nights, water temperatures have dropped and trout fishing opportunities are increasing. September’s shorter  days mean briefer afternoons of intense heat and earlier, longer shadows on the water. That’s good news.

Speaking of such, our rainless week provides a good news/bad news scenario.  The good news is that all of our waters, from trout streams to bass rivers, are clear and fish can spot your offerings.  The cooler water is enhancing their appetites, too.  The bad news is that headwaters are low and gin-clear, so resident salmonids are extremely nervous again.  Stick with your summer stealth game, with light leaders and small flies, and you’ll do fine. Same goes for our river bass; treat them like skittish browns in a drought and you should make some memories.

Best bets for this week are river bass, pond bass and bream, and high-elevation wild trout. Lake spots and hybrids are providing some surface action, too, if you can track them down.

Check out our full report, timely angler intel,  and Wes’ hot fly list on our home and Facebook pages.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: parachute ant, 409 Yeager yellow, humpy, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

CDC pheasant tail, copper John, rainbow warrior.

Streamers & warm water:

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


They’re coming alive once again. The higher the mountain, the better the fishing. Local reports show that the Smokies have really turned on, while GA headwater temperatures are finally dropping to a fishable standard. The high Hooch tribs were low and clear, and a bit cooler during my recon yesterday. 

Go soon, though, as hot weather at midweek may dampen the bite until colder air returns. The Smokies locals we watch are R&R Flyfishing and Little River Outfitters. Peruse their prospects right before heading north. R&R has a nice email newsletter and LRO posts a daily fishing report. Top off your trip with an hour of elk-watching at dusk. Bugling time is here!



Delayed Harvest:

While we still have a long wait til the November opener of the GA and SC programs, NC Delayed Harvest opportunities are right around the corner.  Pull that 4-weight rod and your trout fly boxes out of the basement and ready them for battle.  Check NCWRC’s fall DH stocking schedule to help your trip plans. Remember that many of those streams hold trout before and after DH season, too!

Here’s a page worthy of your bookmark:  


Stocker Streams:

Fall is usually slim pickings for Georgia’s summer-stocking leftovers.  Try the tailwaters and the larger mountain streams that are most heavily stocked (ex: Tallulah, Tooga, Dicks, Cooper, Rock) during spring and summer.   On those streams park at a bridge, head downstream, outwalk the bridge crowds, and fish the flood refuges where some bridge stockers have washed into.  Since the water is low and the fish have been instream for a while, employ your wild trout game: a stealthy, upstream stalk, light line, and small hooks and baits.


Private Waters

Thanks to dropping nighttime temperatures and fewer hours of daylight, several of our private tracts have finally cooled off enough to reopen to angling. The rest will come back online in October and are already being booked for fall trips. Call the shop soon (706-878-3083) to reserve your preferred fishing dates. For more info on our private waters opportunities, visit:


If you’re brand-new to the flyfishing game, grab a spouse or friend and book your duo a Gilligan Special on a pretty fall day in Helen.


UO guide Caleb: “I guided a lady yesterday morning at Rainbow Point on the Soque.  Fishing was overall a bit slow, due to the low, clear water.  We had some success using rainbow warriors and pats rubber legs.  My client fought a 22-24 inch rainbow for 6 minutes before it broke off!  At least we have its address and will return to knock on its door.”

UO guide Israel: “I had a fun crew this week and we explored a new stretch of the Soque that will be part of our shop’s private waters menu this year.  Despite the low, clear water, our clients had a good time (top photo). The most effective rig was a dry/dropper setup. The dry fly was simply a stealthy indicator, as all fish selected the dropper nymph. A hares ear was our top pattern.”

Warmwater Streams:

Take advantage of the low, clear, and cooling water and float our local rivers soon. The Hooch at Hwy 115 was fairly low and clear (4 ft visibility) when I checked yesterday.

Try the normal summer recipe: topwater bugs in the shadows and streamers or crayfish imitations at midday. Lengthen your leaders and casts, lighten your tippet (try 8lb), and downsize your flies to entice some late-season veterans that have survived many angler passes.

Athens Jay said the weather forecasters got it wrong last weekend and his favorite river stayed clear enough to fish. The shoalies enjoyed his latest experiment:the bunny fur hellgrammite. Jay even had time over the weekend to walk 

his favorite dog (bottom pic).

RSquared shared his recent victory with us:  “ I just got my 2022 Georgia Bass Slam certificate from GAWRD.  This summer I was able to land six different bass species on the fly: Largemouth, Spotted, Shoal, Coosa Redeye, Chattahoochee, and Bartrams.  It’s a fun contest and I’ve now achieved the Slam for four straight years. Give it a try, especially during the summer when trout fishing slows considerably.  You’ll discover new waters and appreciate the colorful and hard-fighting natives in many of our warmwater streams.”

More Slam info here:


Jake’s still floating with clients today and hasn’t had a chance (or cell signal) to check in.

Small Lakes

No recent reports. They should be fishing better as cooler nights drop surface temperatures and coax predators up from their summer depths. Longer and earlier shadows on the water will help your game, too, so follow them.  Aim for east banks in the morning and west banks in the afternoon.


Hank the Yank: “Very little has changed when fishing for our striped friends. Hybrid lakes are still fishing well all over the state for fly anglers. I've been fishing Lake Alatoona (aka... the Dead Sea) lately and it continues to fish well both early and late in the day. We hit it last Sunday and among 3 of us we boated a mixed bag of nearly 3 dozen fish. Hybrids, white bass, stripers and spots all made it to the net. These are 6 and 7 weight fish, so downsize your outfit to enjoy their battles.  The Somethin else fly rules , with small polar fiber minnows being a good second choice. 

Lanier is still not ready for shallow action, but should come alive in the next several weeks. Our best lake fishery is currently a short road trip away and worth the commute.”



Craig in NM:  “I thought you Southeasterners would enjoy this pic of a beautiful Rio Grande cutthroat I caught last week in the Pecos Wilderness. I’m heading back this weekend for another dose of headwater hydrotherapy.”

(Ed note: congrats to Craig on his book!)


UO buddy MI Ski:

My friend and I ventured to a wild and scenic Upper Manistee River between Yellow Trees and Burnt Cabin landings. The Upper Manistee watershed has not been stocked in 20 years, so all fish are naturally produced Browns and Brooks,  with a rare Rainbow. The very low, gin clear water and a sunny, blue sky suggested we’d have a tough time.  The fish were very spooky and we didn’t need our Blue Heron escorts. 

The day started good, as my partner landed a spunky 8-inch brown on his first cast with a small hopper and flying ant tandem.  However, our duo only brought 5 fish to hand (4 Browns, 1 Brookie) in a half-day float.  Best fish was a 10+ inch Brown. We did spook a handful of 15-20 inch fish during our trip. Despite the low catching, the float was still a lot of fun. We plan to return when there’s more water in the channel and clouds in the sky.

PS: this is one of several streams that MIDNR is considering for grayling restoration. That would be another fine fishing option up here!”

There’s your mid-September summary.   Get outside soon and enjoy a morning taste of fall before summer storms back. A least we know that a full course of fall is within sight.  Call or stop by our Helen shop for breaking news, timely supplies, and trout trip bookings.  Tight lines, y’all.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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