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.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Timely Casting Tips

Since we are on the verge of topwater season, this nice article might help many of you to perfect your casting game.


I especially like the tip on a roll-cast startup.  With more line left outside the rod tip, fewer false casts are needed to reach your target.  I’ve been using that technique for decades to limit false casts and spend more time fishing instead of casting.

Special thanks to the late, great RocketRoy Lowe, who taught me the “backwards drift” technique at an NGTO fling years ago. Try the “heavy load” tip in this article and cast farther toward those breaking Lanier stripers.

As dry/dropper season “springs”upon us, give some of these tips a try. You just might find a few more fish on the end of your line this spring.

Special thanks to midcurrent.com for the story lead.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, February 24, 2023

Win a Yellowstone Flyfishing Trip

 Fly flingers, check this out!

A $10 raffle ticket will get you a shot at a five-day Yellowstone fishing vacation with a friend (plus rods, reels, flies, and $500 in travel money) and 11 great consolation prizes.

Raffle proceeds  will help send lucky teenagers to GATU’s annual trout fishing and conservation camp!


What a deal! Get your tickets here before the March 12 deadline. Check out the consolation prizes, too.  Good luck!


PS: please consider crediting my Rabun 522 chapter during your purchase. The chapter receives a small rebate for each ticket sold, which will help our local trout stream conservation and education efforts.  Thanks!

UO Fishing Report 2/24/23

Wake up!  This week’s theme is “Wakeup Call.”  The warm weather has awakened a lot of fish and even a few trout stream bugs.   Area streams are clear, with normal seasonal flows and water temps unseasonably warm- in the fifties.  


That’s prime for trout! Some of the early spring bug hatches are also getting a head start. It may still be too early for heavy hatches, but you might find a few fish that are now willing to “look up,” especially in the headwaters. Dry/dropper combos with a couple of Wes’ hot fly patterns will be great search rigs.

Lake fish are stirring, too. Stripers are still a run-and-gun game, but bass are getting more active in the warming water. Again, size is compensating for numbers. Match the hatch with your streamers. It seems like a small threadfin game right now. Let the diving birds and flashing sonar screens guide you to the predators.

While March may still turn wintery on us, this weekend will be a great time to wet a line. Just take a light raincoat to fend off a possible shower or two. So “wake up” yourselves from your winter naps and get outside while April pays us a brief visit.  

See our full report via our home page (link in bio) and come by either UO store for your early spring supplies. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: elk hair caddis, parachute Adams.  Add some quill gordons, blue quills, and hendricksons to your box for the weeks to come.

Nymphs & Wets:

Chartreuse egg, pink egg, red tag jig, lightning bug, CJ controller, CDC pheasant tail, hares ear nymph and soft hackle, brown girdle bug.

Streamers & warm water:

sparkle minnow, muddy buddy, finesse changer, Clouser minnow. Cowen’s Somethin Else.


They’re prime!   Start with an elk hair caddis or parachute adams and see if they’ll rise. If they’re sluggish or if you reach a deep pool, add a small pheasant tail dropper and watch your dry as your strike indicator.  A tungsten beaded fly will get the dropper down. We have some pretty ones in our shop bins. For unweighted nymphs, add a #8 or 6 tin shot four inches above your bug.

Foothillsbilly Bob:

“Pine Squirrel leech was the ticket today. Size 8. The bigger one took a size 18 egg. Dukes flows were up, but decent and clear. Fish were on the edges in feeding lanes off of drop offs into winter pools. Nothing really in the shallows right now. 6x mandatory. I didn’t get to Smithgall until 1:30, so I only had 3 hours. 5 fish to hand. 1 small one, a couple 14” and these two bigger ones.”

The Smokies are also in great shape, with a few bugs popping. Byron provides a dose of optimism in todays LRO report.


UO buddy Ryan:

“MadFishinSkillz and crew headed north to the waters near Bryson City for a fantastic overnight camping trip filled with wild trout.  Despite the high water from recent rains nearly blowing out nearby delayed harvest sections, luckily there were a few smaller streams which cleared up nicely to give up some really pretty wild fish! Euro-style hares ears size 14-18 fooled a good bit of fish thrown on 5.5x tippet.”

Delayed Harvest:

They should fish well for anglers with the right bugs and a good drift. 

Some streams got a lot of pressure last week and recent stockers have already smartened up. If action is slow on your buggers and squirmies, be ready to change to lighter tippet (5 and 6X), smaller nymphs and midges, and smaller, softer strike indicators like yarn, bushy dries, or the smallest Airlock Indi’s.  It often takes stockers several weeks to recognize adult flies as food, so DH dry fly action may still be a bit slow. Your droppers will get more attention.

All DH waters except the Toccoa look inviting.  The Toccoa drains a big watershed, so its flows may still be too high for safe wading.  Consider floating it.


New Rabunite KenK:”Nice to see fresh trout in Smith Creek.  I brought a friend, Jack, and we landed about 20. The infamous mop was the hot bug.”

UGA 5Rivers dude Connor:

“Hey, we ended up going to XXX on unnamed border river last Saturday and it went better than expected. We ended up catching 4 today and a majority of them were wild. We were fishing something like a caddis down to a stone fly nymph!”

Hatch Chart:

It’s time to start paying attention to these. Save and use this one to help you stock your spring boxes and match the hatches at hand.



UO buddy Ryan checked in with a Hooch report: “MadFishinSkillz and new fishing friend Mati hit the Hooch Tailwater this past Saturday for a day of euronymphing! The water was very clear, and the temps warmed to the mid 50’s around lunch, which was right about the time that the fish were biting well.  Mati had never euronymphed, but quickly caught on after MFS brought 2 browns to the net with a few demo casts in the first pocket.  Tight-line rookie Mati proceeded to net 4 nice browns, with MFS finishing with half a dozen, all mostly landed on a size 18 hares ear pattern in a light tan shade, tossed on 5.5x tippet.”

UO’s Casting for Recovery buddy Kitty: “My son and I had a blast helping GAWRD stock the Hooch DH at Paces Mill!”

Private Waters:

They’ve fished real well this week!

UO Helen manager Wes: “our private waters fished well this week with the warm weather. Small afternoon hatches made swinging unweighted soft hackles successful. Girdle bugs, pheasant tails, and streamers were good options as well.”

UO guide Como put his clients on some real nice Soque River fish.  Most were dredged up with either a rubberlegged stone or some of his hot midge patterns.

UO buddy Megan:  “Hi! Hope this comes through in case you need any pics! Took a friend who needed some hydrotherapy to Nacoochee Bend.  It was her first time fishing with anything other than a kids’ rod/reel in the late 70s. She hooked into plenty of nice fish, and we landed 8 in half a day on the water. It was exactly what we both needed!  Rainbow warriors, zebra midges, and squirmies were popular menu items. 

I went and fished Dukes solo. The duck butt fly that my hubs tied up before the weekend fished low/slow was super attractive to those good lookin’ rainbows.  Had some dry fly action to round out the day before the rains began!”


HenryC: The spring pre-spawn is definitely on. Fish are feeding both early and late. You just have to ride to find them. No one part of the lake is any better than the other as fish are both north and south. Warmer weather has shifted the bite. It feels like March for the past 8-10 days and water temps are already pushing 53-55 all over the lake. Even the bass are waking up, making for a nice mixed bag on the fly. You'll need both slow sinking intermediate line as well as a fast-sink line, too. We are starting to see stripers of all sizes mixed in the catch now. Fish from 10" up to 32" are now being caught.”


UO owner Jimmy got out on Lanier Wednesday afternoon.   He had high hopes as he soon spotted some diving gulls. Alas, as he crept up to the flock with his trolling motor, the fish and birds took off. He had no more luck finding action, and chalked it up as a nice boat ride. We all win some and lose some. But you can’t win if you don’t play.

Yakkin’ Landon couldn’t catch up to the stripers this week, but got some nice consolation bass: “ Had to drag a shaky head in dirty water to get my line stretched this morning.”

And at UO, we don’t embellish the bite. We’ll tell you when it’s hot and when it’s not. Despite our historic moniker of The Liars Club, we’re gonna give you accurate intel. Even when we’re humbled ourselves. Let’s why they call it “fishing.”

GAWRD has fired up its boat generators and is on the hunt for spring walleye. Watch their river reports and other hot intel (including trout) in their weekly blog, which is refreshed every Friday afternoon:


Remember that several small lakes were stocked with trout earlier this month, so give Vogel, Black Rock, or Nancytown a try if you don’t wanna wade. I’ll bet a fresh stocking report will be posted today:


There’s your wake-up call. Load your fishing stuff and raincoat tonight, check the USGS gauges, and make a plan. Get out that door early tomorrow and make some fine memories on the water. Stop in either shop on your way to destination X.

PS: don’t forget to net a few Dream Trip tix, too. When trouting dies here next summer, you just might headed to Trout Nirvana:


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, February 17, 2023

UO Fishing Report 2/17/23

This week’s theme is “Saturday’s Plan B.”  Last night’s 2.5 inches of rain have our region’s streams rocking and rolling. While most flows have already peaked, they’re still very high and will knock out your river trouting opportunities, at least for tomorrow. You’ll have to watch those river gauges carefully to see when flows drop back to your safe wading level.

It’s clear, real windy and cold here today. Air temps are dropping into the 40’s. Water temps are still pretty good, with Spoilcane and Dukes at 53F and Smith DH at 52F at 10AM. Those tribs are high and discolored, but will drop and clear quickly due to small, forested watersheds. We have videos on our full report. They’ll fish well today with bigger, brighter bugs and should be in good shape for the weekend. Therefore, high tribs are your first option for Plan B.

Other potential B’s are trout lakes and reservoirs.  See GAWRD’s trout stocking list last Friday and give those small lakes a try.

Reservoirs are also good, as bass and stripers chase shad under gulls.  Binoculars and sonar will be your two best strike indicators. We have some nice Lanier reports for you.

If you wanna stay high and dry, remember the Rabun Rendezvous and its great prize lists.

The Rabun Rendezvous - The Rabun Chapter of Trout Unlimited : The Rabun Chapter of Trout Unlimited

Looking ahead, next week will warm. Have your March gray and brown bugs ready.  Caddis are already popping on the Toccoa TW and we might see some hatches and “early risers” on bigger, warming trout streams.

See our full report via our home page (link in bio) and come by either UO store for your early spring supplies. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat, black elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, squirmy worm, mighty may baetis, Violet midge, WD-40, Girdle bug.

Streamers & warm water:

Simi seal leech, sparkle minnow, finesse changer, Clouser minnow. Cowen’s Somethin Else.


They’re high, muddy, and ripping, but fall and clear quickly. Most are fishable today for bank walkers and careful waders. Smith had a cloudy, green tint from the lake discharge, but was very fishable. Just use your toes as turbidity meters and match your offerings to water clarity. The clearer the water, the smaller and more naturally colored your nymphs. Go pickpocketing the pockets via the hi-stick methods we described in Tuesday’s post.

UO guide Caleb enjoyed an off day:

“Small stream season is warming up!  I got out and did some personal fishing on a local stream. Drifting a small pheasant tail underneath a micro chubby was the key to success.”

Lucky Smithgall anglers might have  some higher flows and a slight bit of color still left in Dukes tomorrow (today had the best color)

 Big boys could still be on the hunt for high calories, so toss squirmies and rubberleg stones.  This week I ran into Caleb Bagley and his 8-year old son, Rhett on Smith DH.  Caleb shared a pic of a trophy brown that Rhett wrestled in from Dukes last December. I thought you would enjoy it and use that reminder of big fish that come out to play in high, dirty water. Keep that option in mind as river flows drop to fishable levels.

The Smokies are in similar shape: blown out.  Watch the gauges and Byron’s daily advice on when you should reunite.


Delayed Harvest:

Most were still fishing well before last night’s storm, thanks to the early February stockings. A young Smith DH angler picked the pockets last Saturday and said he was north of 30 fish. The upper half of Smith has more fish and has fished better, but the lower half offers solitude in the gorge. Hopefully this high water will push a few more fish down, too. Last week eggs, squirmies, mops, and tungsten nymphs produced well. Again, it was more about a good stalk and drift than the fly pattern.

I’ll repeat this from last week: 

To beat the Smith crowds, try it early or late. If you’re first to the pool and it has shade on it, your odds are good.  If you stay late and outlast most weekend warriors, those shadows will make fish more comfortable to feed again. And if you stay real late, you might discover the midge-sippers during the last hour of daylight.

It was nice to see DNRLE wardens Ann and TR patrolling the creek this week. I always enjoy chatting with them and thanking them for keeping the trout in Smith and Dukes.

Bigger DH waters are blown out right now, but you should get ready for some good fishing when they drop. 

The high flows should scatter out the stockers, and increasing water temps should get more bugs stirring. Have dry and wet versions of the following ready: quill Gordon’s, gray caddis, blue quills, and maybe some stray Hendricksons and March browns. 

North Georgia and Southwestern North Carolina Hatch Chart

Slick folks will remember my previous flow advice and might try some trophy hunting on the down side of the flow curve. 


Have some squirmies, hefty rubberlegs, and even some articulated streamers ready for heaving. Then toss your dry/droppers as streams eventually clear and bugs hatch.

Private Waters:

They fished fairly well for the few clients we’ve had. When the water approaches 50 degrees, you know you’ll be in business. Call the shop if you’d like to book a last minute trip and take advantage of next week’s warm days.


Bass action was actually slow last week for the few folks who gave it a shot.


UO buddy Landon said he’s been chasing stripers in his yak. Sometimes he’s too late to the scene and sometimes he hooks up. Last week motorboater Alex took pity upon the poor, slow yakker and invited Landon into his vessel. And they had a big time chasing stripers under the gulls!

HenryC: “Striped bass fishing on Lanier continues to impress for the month of February. Normally the waters are cold and the fish get lethargic but thanks to global warming our fishing isn't slowing down too much. I suspect we will see an earlier than normal pre-spawn and the fish actually might start heading up the rivers a week or two earlier than normal. 

Keep your eye on the surface water temps and when it hits 56/57 degrees you can start looking up river. We are also seeing more white bass in the mix this season which we can thank our GA DNR for that fishery. Best flies are still the somethin else in about a 1 1/2-2" size. Sinking lines are a must in case you do not see surface feeding fish. Our numbers are clearly down but our size is clearly up. If Landon is catching double digit fish, that tells you something (grin). On a final note for fly anglers, stay clear of picking up hitchhikers in kayaks on Lanier carrying conventional equipment. You could end up with a permanent fishing partner!”


UO guide Israel:

“Perch were biting well on the GA Power chain of lakes. They seemed to like small crappie jigs. My family seems to like them fried.”

UO buddy Avid Jack (formerly known as Academy Jack):

“Yellow Perch are biting at Yahoola Creek Reservoir. Caught 25 on Tuesday by trolling small Crank-baits. They make great fish tacos.”

GAWRD has fired up its boat generators and is on the hunt for spring walleye. Watch their river reports and other hot intel (including trout) in their weekly blog: 


Remember that several small lakes were stocked with trout last week, so give Vogel, Black Rock, or Nancytown a try while your favorite rivers recede.


Trout Board Revival:

Fans of the North GA Trout Online message board will be excited to know that is has been overhauled and restored. It’s much easier to post fishing reports and attach photos once again. Give it a try soon.  


Version 1 of the old board is still around, with two decades of historic trouting info that benefits all newcomers to fly rodding for trout.

Know the flow before you go. Use streamflows to your advantage and have a big time afield. After tomorrow’s chilly start, it might just be an early kickoff to spring’s hot action. Are you ready? We can help, so stop in and load up on fresh intel, flies, and supplies.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.