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, October 28, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -10/28/22

The week ahead is best labeled, “tricks (f)or treats.”  If you follow our veteran anglers’ tricks  in our full report, you’ll have a good chance at treating yourself to some successful trips.

The region only got about a half-inch of rain last week, which has already run off, so streams remain low, clear, cold, and leafy. And they’ll get leafier in the days ahead, especially with some wind.

Best bets are headwaters on warm afternoons, tailwaters any time, NC DH waters any time, and GA DH waters once that special season kicks in on 11/1.

Bass rivers are cooling and the bite is slowing, but you still have  some shots at nice fish. Reservoir temps are cooling down and the surface bite is heating up, thanks to some thick, shallow schools of shad.

The river and stream theme  is “spooky,” as low, clear water still has residents fearful of predation. Find the shady hiding spots and those bass and trout might feel safe enough to grab a meal. Again, hunt with stealth and you’ll have a shot.

The catching might take a back seat to the scenery this weekend, as our mountain foliage is showing off its fall colors. Enjoy your rides and wades at this great time of the year to get outside.

We’ve got Wes’ hot fly list and a boatload of intel in our full report. Check it out on our home and Facebook pages. Good luck this week. Stop by either UO store for more intel and vital supplies.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Comparadun BWO, Elk hair caddis, Adams.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, soft hackle partridge, tan mop, oops, lightning bug, pheasant tail.

Streamers & warm water:

Bank robber sculpin, finesse changer, jiggy craw.


Fewer folks are fishing up here as bigger, downstream waters start fishing well again.  It’s the same set of tricks as last week: stealth and light stuff. Creeks are still very skinny and gin-clear. My tributary sampling site ran 54F at 11AM today.

One note of caution as you stalk these streams. If you spot specks or browns paired off, give them a break and don’t interrupt their date. Go in the woods around them and let them repopulate that stream for you. There’s plenty of water ahead of you.

New reporter Vic said he’s returned to his GA home for a while and had a reunion with one of his favorite wilderness streams. It was nice for him to knock some rust off his southern tricks:

“I did catch one brown trout on a little black stonefly under a foam orange caddisfly, about 1.5 miles north of the trailhead at XXXX.”

I don’t believe he said exactly where he was. That’s a good Rabunite!

Delayed Harvest:

 This week’s tricks are in my November 2020 Angler Magazine column.  You’ll be fishing for Frosh in GA and for Juniors and some Seniors (resident wild fish) in NC. Reacquaint yourselves to the flies and techniques that should treat you to some success. Turn to page Atlanta-2 in here:


UO friend Athens Jay:

“Members of the Oconee River Chapter of TU make an annual trip to North Carolina to fish various trout streams. ORCTU graciously opens this trip up to members of the UGA 5 Rivers club (the college version of TU). This fall I am teaching a freshman seminar at UGA entitled “The Science and Art of Fly Fishing”.  This year three students from that class joined us on the Brevard trip. This past weekend us “old guys” took 15 young and inexperienced fly anglers on a big adventure. While we did spend a lot of time untangling massive knots and replacing lost flies, the young folks persevered and everyone caught fish. We mostly focused on DH streams. We started throwing “legs and eggs” under a bobber. The low flows and mild weather also made it possible to fish dry/dropper rigs successfully. Best producers include peach egg, small (#16, 18) soft hackle pheasant tail with/without a bead, #16 elk hair caddis in cream or tan, #14 orange stimulator, Pat’s Rubberlegs variegated black/brown. Us old folks managed to prove that we have skills considered valuable by the young folks. We came home exhausted. The young folks came home highly motivated and ready to make another trip. A big thank you to the folks from ORCTU who willingly shared their precious time and wisdom with the next generation of coldwater conservationists. “


Athens Jay slipped over to the Hooch Tailwater for a few hours and found success on wild browns: “Actually it was a lot like shoal bass fishing: sink tip line, short quick strips, and a pause with articulated baitfish imitations. Black and brown were the best colors.”

Stocker Streams:

Real slim pickings here til the stocking trucks roll again next March. Best bets are the two tailwaters, sparse leftovers in the big stocker streams,  and post-flood wash-downs on public lands downstream from delayed harvest-regulation waters.

Private Waters:

We had a blast hosting last Saturday’s All Kids Fishing event at Nacoochee Bend. The talented mentors found some success for their kids via good drifts of smaller bugs. Here’s a report from UO guide Caleb: “All Girls Fish was a huge success last Saturday. Tempe caught her first ever fish on a fly rod and it happened to be a massive rainbow. We used small jig-style nymphs under an indicator to catch her fish, then stripped some micro leeches in the pools after the nymph bite turned off. It seemed all participants at the Bend found success.”


That same trick, small bugs on light line, produced for our clients this week. One duo told me that their larger nymph was hardly touched, with most success on a small flashback pheasant tail (or was it a hare’s ear?) dropped behind the first fly on 7X tippet. UO guide Israel said the same thing: stealthy approach, good drift, and small dark nymphs and wets on light tippet were necessary to convince educated fish in our droughty rivers. It’s a good time to have some 5 and 6X fluoro tippet in your pocket.

Warmwater Streams:

UO friend Landon: “Our group of upper Chatt shoal bass project volunteer anglers floated the Chestatee  for probably our last trip of year.  The water was super-low and fish were tight to structure. The bite was decent on my light-line ned rig. Otherwise, it  was tough going a lot of our group.”


HenryC: “Fishing on Lanier is still tough going BUT if you put the time in you can pick up a nice fish or two. Fish are scattered all over the lake. They are both on the north and south end of the lake and it's just a wacky season so far. While there aren't lots of fish being caught,  you can see this striper we caught recently that weighed 16lbs before being released. 

Hopefully things will improve as the weather brings in the colder air. In the meantime we are seeing teen-sized fish again which is a first in many years. It’s quality over quantity right now. There are some nice spots mixed in with the stripers, too.  WRD’s Lanier biologist, Hunter, hopped in my boat this morning and landed this hefty spot.”


My friend, Academy Jack, is having good luck on those Lanier stripers, too. He sent me this pic and said his tricks will be in today’s WRD weekly fishing blog. 


UO friend Landon: “The Lanier nite striper bite is improving. My friend Brandon’s been getting mostly smaller fish but is seeing some bigger fish recently. They’re real spooky.”

UO staffer Joseph: “ Here are some fish we I caught in my first high school tournament of the year. It was tough fishing as Lanier has had a lot of anglers on the water lately.  My partner ,Brody, and I were able to catch a few on moving baits.  The trick was targeting fish on bait and catching them when they pushed bait up top. They made quick decisions with reaction strikes.”


UO friend RonW: Kurt and I ventured far north of the state line to spend his birthday with our buddy Steve on his family's private property. 

The fish were snooty until we figured out what they wanted.  We each had several fish to the net, with some absolute bruisers to boot. Best fish of the day for me was a 24" ornery brown who showed no interest in meeting me and certainly wasn't in the mood for a photo op. Kurt and I also both lost what we believe to be the biggest trout we've ever connected with on the fly rod.  Mine decided to take me downstream as fast as it could, nearly got me into my backing before it broke my olive soft hackle off. It felt great while it lasted but seemingly, all good things must come to an end. Sometimes the ending is not what we hoped for but as in life, that is what makes you come back wanting more..... That's fishing for you and why I love it so much. “

Okay, we’ve given you all the tricks you need this week. The treats are now up to you, so suit up in your Orvis costume and get out there soon.  Good luck this week. Call or stop in either UO store if we can restock your Halloween basket with flyfishing goodies.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Paying It Forward

Today we celebrate last Saturday’s successful kids fishing event held at Nacoochee Bend. Kudos to our dear friend, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper staffer Becca Klein, and her small army of awesome flyfishing mentors and event photographers. Thanks to their benevolence, several dozen kids experienced the thrills of flyfishing.

Special thanks to UO owner Jimmy and several of our own staff for volunteering. We think you’ll really like the photos from our own professional photographer, Iz (@israelpatterson) and a great testimonial from volunteer Mary Beth from Bama.

Enjoy and celebrate with Becca and our UO gang!

From Becca:

The Becca Sue Klein All Kids Fish event was off the hook! We are grateful to all the sponsors and partners for this special event including  Orvis Company Unicoi Outfitters Smithgall Woods State Park Wildlife Resources Division - Georgia DNR United Women On The Fly The Y and many others. Want to know more about this event? We will hook you up with all the details here:


And stay tuned for 2023 events.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

GA/SC Delayed Harvest Prospects


Despite the low flows in our streams,  things are looking good for the start of our Delayed Harvest (DH) season. I spoke with our great state agency partners last week and got the scoop. 

GAWRD trout stocking coordinator John Lee Thomson said things were looking favorable at the state and federal hatcheries and he expected a normal stocking year. He added two big nuggets of good news. First, the fine feds at Chattahoochee Forest National Fish Hatchery in Suches have some brook trout to add to the stocking diversity. Good places for a species slam will be Smith and Toccoa. Second, his agency plans to stock the Morgan Falls DH in ATL, as long  as flows are good. If it’s high, muddy, and unfishable, WRD will hold those fish as long as they can, and hope the Tailwater clears. John Lee has lined up his annual TU volunteer bucket toters to help spread out the stocked fish along DH streams on 11/1.

SCDNR regional fisheries biologist Dan Rankin said it should be a fairly normal year on his side of the border, too. Some fish will hit the Chattooga DH on 11/1. A few brookies will join the bows and browns on their ride to the river. And if the weather cooperates, the border bird will fly some time in early November to enhance the DH and renew trouting in the 15-mile backcountry reach above it.


He also rubbed it in a bit, and said that after attending the recent Wild Trout professional symposium in West Yellowstone, he found some free time to tackle several fine bows and cutts.

There’s the hot news from our hills and our great agency partners. Good luck as you ready your gear for the cool weather trouting on the horizon.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Sunday, October 23, 2022

Care with Campfires

Worth a share. Be careful out there. Smokey Bear is counting on all of us.

From our Chattahoochee National Forest folks:“Humans cause nearly nine out of ten wildfires. When you visit the forest, fire prevention is YOUR responsibility. Forest visitors are also reminded to ensure that all fires are extinguished and cold to the touch before leaving them. Learn more about campfire safety from Smokey Bear at: 


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Leaf Relief

Who’s catching more leaves than fish lips?  Of course, it’s all of us! Dealing with leaves is just part of the game at this time of year.  We do have a few tips that might help you rake in fewer leaves on your next fly casts. Check out our column in last  October’s Angler Magazine. Flip to page Atlanta -10.


And take solace in this fact: those annoying leaves are an investment in your future success. How? They’re the food source for many aquatic insects, so leaves are the foundation for your spring bug hatches and your well-fed, wild trout.  Maybe that fact will give you a little more patience while you’re unhooking poplar leaf #100 from your woolly bugger today!


Good luck from our UO gang. May you find some leaf relief this fall!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, October 21, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 10/21/ 22

“Puddle jumping” is what many of you can expect to do this week, as our rainless streak continues. If you saw yesterday’s post, then you noticed that our forecast for trout waters was low, clear, cold, and leafy.  Despite the challenges of low flows and leaf fall, mountain trouting has been excellent. It’s all about those prime water temperatures. And we have a slight warming trend aimed our way next week, which will enhance angler comfort.

Other prospects are river bass, deep and slow, and reservoir spots and stripers if you can track them down. Regardless of your catching, this beautiful fall weather guarantees everyone some fine fishing trips in the days ahead.  Just bring warm clothes til the sun rises above the treeline and warms your buns. You might even dig out those handwarmers that you stashed in the basement after last winter.

We have several great reports, timely intel, and Wes’ hot fly list in our long version of this report. Check it out on our Facebook page and home page, where you will simply click on “fishing reports.”  And for our flyfishing rookies, try clicking on the adjacent “learn to flyfish” tab for some good, brief notes to get you going.

One note of caution: dry weather, low humidity, and winds have our national forest mighty dry.  Please be careful with your campfires until our woods get a good soaking.

Good luck this week. Call or stop in either UO store if we can aid in your fall festivities.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Parachute ant and Adams, elk hair caddis, chubby Chernobyl.

Nymphs & Wets:

mighty may sloan baetis, rainbow warrior, split top, tan mop, red squirmy.

Streamers & warm water:

Sparkle minnow, wooly bugger, finesse changer, sweet baby cray.


Same as last week.  They are high and dry, and their scared residents will be packed into pools or squeezed under logs. If you saw yesterday’s blog post, those videos show you how skinny the headwaters are.  Puddle-jump to find the available predator cover (depth, turbulence, boulders, logs, and rock ledges) and you’ll find fish. If they see you first, you’re toast. But if you have good turkey hunting skills and a long, light leader, you’ve got a shot. A lot of mountain climbers have enjoyed the wild trout prospecting over the last week.

Ian at R&R Flyfishing in Townsend said the fishing has been very good and leaves are now at their peak in Smokies Park.


Also recall Byron’s daily park report, here:


Notice that our headwaters are cold in the morning. Wild trout action picks up after the sun gets high and warms up the water.

Delayed Harvest:

UO friend RSquared: “Cohutta TU members began arriving at the group campsites located at Rattler Ford before lunch on Thursday. The mountains of Western North Carolina were putting on a show with their brilliant fall colors from the deciduous trees that are native to this area. It did not take long for tents to be erected and plans made for fishing the afternoon. 

Measurable rain had been absent from this area for weeks, leaving the rivers and streams gin-clear and running low. However, despite the adverse conditions, the recently stocked DH streams had plenty of willing fish. Cohutta anglers took advantage of the naive salmonids and everyone caught fish during our final campout of the year. 

The wild trout of the area were shyer. The low, clear water had the wild fish hiding under rocks, logs and undercut banks. It was difficult to entice them to hit our flies, but those that tried were rewarded with a few fish. 

This campout is known for its food and fellowship and our camp cooks, led by Nelson Withers and Larry Vigil,  did not disappoint. As always, the meals, cooked in cast iron pots, were amazing. At night, the campfire blazed and tales of the day’s  fish were told. After breakfast on Sunday, camp was broken and goodbyes were said. This was a great end to what has been an amazing year of Cohutta SOTM's (Stream of the Month). Come join our club!


UO friend RonW:  “I ventured up across the state line to see if I could get my friend and neighbor 4 houses down the street, hooked up tight with his first trout on a fly rod. He has very little fishing experience and has never held a fly rod which he let me know several times, almost in an attempt say "Do you know what you're getting into"? Challenge accepted my friend!  

We left the neighborhood at 5:00 to make the 2 hour drive up l, with a quick stop at the Huddle House to fuel up.  We arrived Streamside to realize we were the only ones there. We got geared up and had "boots in the water" by 8:30. Kurt joined us shortly after that and nearly made me jump out of my Waders when he greeted us with his infamous stream side Cujo bark.  I didn't do Jimmy any favors,  starting him off with a Euro rod and a 2 fly rig. I let him know this, which challenge he gladly accepted. He was hooked up after about 30 minutes or so but the fish came unbuttoned.  We greatly overstayed our welcome in this run so we moved on, looking for more fish and some prime runs. He had a few more hook ups and  "long distance releases" over the next few hours but couldn't seal the deal, due to the small soft hackle dropper combined with him allowing slack in the line while fighting the fish.

We came to a beautiful run that looked promising. I took off the girdle bug and tied on one of my purple bead Roncos. Jimmy chucked it in there and made a nice drag free draft and the line went tight. After a short fight, his first trout was in the net and it was  on my fly. I'm not sure who smiled more but I'm sure he was a close second.   

The fishing was tough today!   The fish weren't willing to eat the normal junk food you'd expect this early in the DH season. "These fish are no longer freshman", "these fish are now juniors" as my mentor would say. They have gotten a fast education due to the high pressure and abundance of sharp, prickly and flashy fare drifting downstream. 

A #16 soft hackle was the fly of the day. I fished very little today as it was all about Jimmy and getting him connected. I only made a few casts here and there to show Jimmy "how to do it" as he'd say. I must say I felt the pressure to get him one in the net. There was a great sense of relief when it finally happened.

  I did get a good 20 minutes to pick apart a little piece of water while he ate his sandwich.  I landed a nice wild bow in some fast skinny riffles and a then a few stockers in the softer stuff, all on the soft hackle. I also fooled a few on the Bugger while prospecting, which we had rigged up on the other rod. 

We bailed around 4pm and listened to the Vols/ Bama game in the truck on the way home. Dredger is grinning from ear to ear tonight as are thousands of Vols fans. Us Jawga' fans are equally as elated!  It was another fantastic day on the water with friends. Jimmy thanked me up and down for sharing my passion with him, which I thanked him in return for allowing me to do so. Maybe  me telling him about my fishing trips won't sound like I'm speak Russian to him any more.”

There’s a bit of GA DH news in today’s GAWRD weekly fishing report. See Reservoirs for the link.

Stocker Streams:

You’ll do a lot more fishing than catching, since the stocking trucks are long-gone. Best bets are the two tailwaters and remote, downstream sections of bigger streams that were heavily stocked last summer. Breaking news: two sites were stocked this week. Check the GAWRD weekly fishing blog, linked below.


Web reports have both tailwaters fishing well. Watch the Hooch reports by Devin at the Orvis-Atlanta store. On the Toccoa, note that GAWRD started a voluntary creel survey. Give them your fishing trip data and help them enhance the management of that great stream. 

From WRD Facebook:

“We have instituted a self-report Trout Angler creel survey on the Toccoa Tailwater in Fannin County to help biologists evaluate current angler use, guiding, revisit rates, effort, satisfaction, catch rates, trout harvest sizes and harvest rates.  Anglers can quickly access the short survey on site by scanning the QR code on the signs posted at each public river access point.”

And I found our old hatch chart, which you might wish to bookmark.


Private Waters:

UO manager Jake sure hasn’t lost his guiding skills. He reports: “ Israel and I spent Thursday afternoon over at Soque River camp with Zack, Ted, and Mike, and had a banner afternoon as the water temps spiked with the afternoon sun. We caught fish on dry/droppers, double nymph rigs, and even had some success on streamers. The Soque River Camp is our newest property, and has been offering up some great days on the water for all of our anglers recently.”

UO guide Devin: “We did well at Nacoochee Bend this week, mostly on streamers.”

UO guide Caleb: “We had lots of success Thursday morning on the Soque. Indicator nymphing brought in lots of fish, but stripping a sparkle minnow through the deeper runs produced bigger fish.”

Satisfied Customer SheltonB:

“Just wanted to share a photo from Nacoochee Bend a couple weeks ago. Feel free to use on social media. Thanks!”

Call the shop soon (706-878-3083) to reserve your preferred fishing dates while they last:


Warmwater Rivers:

No reports, as the rivers aren’t warm any more and most folks’ attention has turned to trout. There is still a good chance to pick up some big fish by slowly bouncing the bottom with crayfish flies, soft plastics, and lazy streamers. Plus, there will be few folks on those rivers and all of the sweet spots will be yours. Have you broken the 20-inch mark on a shoalie yet?


Hank the Yank: “Fishing on Lake Lanier started looking up last weekend. Saw some groups pop up and down quickly but no fish were brought to hand. Then the front and the wind came in and shut everything down. We got a few spots on fly this week but the striped bass were ghosting us (sort of like Alabama's defense last weekend). Water temps are perfect so hopefully a rebound is in order...”


UO friend Landon: “Lanier was windy as heck on Tuesday. We caught a couple spots on jerkbaits and had one school of stripers come up for about 30 seconds. They dove before we could get to em.   Since we were wet and windy, we decided not to stay out for the nite Bomber bite. It should pick up next week.”

There is some fine lake intel, including Lanier turnover info, in today’s GAWRD weekly fishing report:



UGA 5Rivers Clubber ConnorS:  “we went north of the border last weekend.  The stocked trout were not eating anything on Saturday, however, the resident wild rainbows were. This was the case for most people on the river. We were using dry/droppers down to a squirmy, and they were rising to the dry (parachute Adams) occasionally as well as taking the squirmy (red or pink). We were also replacing the the squirmies with mop flys (grey or tan) and they worked, too.”

UO friend Sautee: “Went back into the park Wednesday afternoon when air temps hit the mid-fifties.  After several consecutive nights of temps dropping into the high twenties, water temps have reached a low of 40 degrees.  The days of wet wading have faded to memory as of two weeks ago.  With falling temps and brook trout spawning, feeding activity has slowed down considerably and this southerner is having to learn the nuances of Colorado fall fishing.  Fish were not looking up yesterday, so leaving an October caddis on as an indicator, I, again, began cycling through my favorite droppers.  After several changes that produced no interest from the resident fishes, I tied on a grey #18 soft hackle, trailing it about 24” behind the dry.  And WHAM!, fish on.  The soft hackle turned out to be the right choice and over the next hour and a half, I was able to land a dozen browns ranging from 6-10”.  Fishing a 3 wt., 8 and 10-inch browns are a boatload of fun, exhibiting deep runs and enough aerial acrobatics to keep me pleasantly entertained throughout the late afternoon. Tight lines everyone and we look forward to our return to Georgia in a couple of weeks!”

That’s the latest “leaf season” news from our part of the world. It sure is nice to no longer sweat through 90-degree days. Don’t miss this perfect season to get outdoors. Holler if we can help y’all to enjoy your romps through the forest.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.