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 1, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report 9/1/23

Hello September! We have anxiously awaited your arrival. 

Folks, get outside and enjoy the next couple of cool days while you can. It should be a long, fun holiday weekend for everyone. Enjoy some time on the water before our oppressive heat returns next week.

Your best bets should be bass and bream in cooling ponds and slowly clearing rivers, stocked trout in cooler, recently redosed streams, and tailwater trout.  Most of our wild trout streams remain too low and warm for survival of released fish, so wild trout fans should still hit north slope creeks at the highest elevations, especially north of our state border. Reservoir bass are up and down quickly, and spincasters just have to be in the right spot at the right time.

Check out our complete intel in UO’s full report at :


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  


Elk hair caddis, 409 Yeager yellow,  parachute ant 

Nymphs & Wets:

Drowned ant, prince nymph, soft hackle partridge, Duracell, gold ribbed hares ear.

Streamers & warm water:

Double barrel popper, sweet baby cray, low fat minnow, jerk changer, polar changer.


They are just a trickle and are often too warm to fish. At 8AM today Smith was 67F and Spoilcane was 68, too hot to fish them.

You may have a couple brief morning windows this weekend if our darn overnight air temperatures would just drop further. We need overnight lows in the low 60’s to prevent rapid stream warming, which happens quickly when our streamflows are so low.

I did sneak out this week for a few hours and found some cooler water high above Helen. The big problem was finding pools with enough depth to hide adult trout. I caught a handful of little wild bows, with one that might have pushed 7 inches.  Hot flies were the usual duo, with the #16 orange stimmy doing slightly better than the tan caddis. Adults are packed into those rare flood refuges. If you don’t spook them on your approach, you’ll get some rises. Just watch the forecast for cooler nights, go early, and check water temps before you cast.

NC forest and national park streams are cooler at their higher elevations.   They’re still a better bet than our wild trout streams if you head up those higher hills. Check out Byron’s daily intel here:


Young pups Conner and Van Smith of UGA’s Five Rivers Club heeded past UO advice and migrated north. They reported: “We were fishing on Smokies Creek X and Stream Y. Dry/droppers were working well, and we were fishing an Adams down to some sort of copper head nymph or golden stone.  Elk sightings were just icing on our weekend camping cake!”

Stocker Streams:

The Labor Day weekend is the last big blowout of the 2023 stocking season for WRD and federal trout hatcheries. Check out today’s very long list of streams stocked this week.  I saw fish in two local streams today, so the stocking trucks have indeed made their weekly rounds.

Hit creeks early for the coldest water and best bite. Squirmies, buggers, and soft hackle trailers will get you some action, especially if you twitch those flies to attract attention.

WRD also does some fall stocking if year-end fish supplies are good. Keep an eye on that stocking page during October and November.

See today’s looong stocking list and sign up for the Friday  stocker reports here: 



They’ll still fish well on their upper halves, before hot afternoons heat up their lower ends. Again, hit the Hooch downstream of Highway 20 for better oxygen levels and hungrier trout. Todays WRD fishing report had a good Hooch report:


Private Waters:  No reports. Larger streams are shut down for the summer to give their trophy trout a break. We hope you noticed this week’s post, where we’ll reopen our private waters on October 4. Call 706-878-3083 for info and reservations.

Warmwater Streams: 

The Hooch was 72F and slowly clearing at 9AM today. It had about three feet of visibility at Highway 115 and a bit less downstream at Duncan Bridge, due to the Soque’s muddy influence. With a dry weekend forecast, local rivers should fish well with clearing water. You’ll just need to go early to get ahead of the holiday tubers and floaters. Try big black bugs dead-drifted against the bank, or lighter streamers fished back to your yak on an intermediate or sink-tip line.

UO Helen manager Wes and his floating buddy hit the Hooch before this week’s big rain. Wes said they had a really good bassin’ trip on topwater bugs.

UO buddy Landon got a weekend babysitting respite from his kind mother-in-law and reported: “Fished upper Hooch. Overall pretty slow, with long casts and not pushing a wake producing the few fish we caught. A 1/32 oz jig head with half a trick worm threaded on the hook cooled our few shoalies.”

Athens Jay and Dredger tried to fool some Helen stripers in Tuesday night’s higher, muddy storm flows. Despite a buffet of streamer patterns offered, they struck out on those picky veterans of a summer’s worth of angling pressure.

Small Lakes: 

They’re cooling a bit and should fish well early and late in the day. Unicoi Lake surface temp was 78F at 830AM today. I saw several nice bass cruising the shady shallows during my lake loop hike.


Hank sez: “Still some nice bass being caught on topwater lures and flies. Walk-the-dog baits are still your best bet and it's time to start mixing in some small stick baits (conventionally) as we are starting to see small shad on the surface early and late in the day. Herring are still the choice bait for catching the bigger fish. This week allowed us to take advantage of the full moon, light winds and dam generation to put a chip on the anglers side. Some fish schooling but it's mostly tossing on points and humps over the brush. Starting to see lots of bass up shallow on the bank,  looking for juvenile bream. Finally, carp fishing has tough due to the rivers being blown out due to all the rain we've seen this past week. Enjoy our favorite Falcon, Nate, with a chunky Lanier  Bama bass. Ole Nate is a fishing machine!”



UO buddy RSquared: “I spent four days fishing the Watauga & SOHO tailwaters with Hunter & Don Pittman. We waded every day and used Hunter’s drift boat twice. Sulfer dries in size 16 and 18 worked on top , while split case mayfly nymphs in size 18 and 20, dropped under the dries, worked subsurface. Lot's of browns and rainbows fondled.”

UO friend Athens MD: “Good morning! Got the chance to head out from Deale, Maryland with my brother this past weekend. The plan was to head across the Chesapeake Bay and grab lunch on the Eastern Shore and then find some spots to chase stripers (usually called “rockfish” in MD and VA). We had a great day on the water, and managed to pull in a number of nice stripers (right off the rip-rap, true to the rockfish name). My brother was throwing soft baits and I was casting chartreuse over white Clousers on a sink-tip line. At one point the bait ball was so thick we had to make things stand out as opposed to “matching the hatch”. So great to get back on the Bay!”

Memorize this hot intel, search for some cool waters this weekend, and wet a line before we all melt again next week. You have three days off to enjoy, so take advantage of this short spell of cooler, dry weather to find some trout AND some bass. We look forward to your own fish stories!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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