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.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 9/21/23


Our fishing fall has indeed kicked off!  From our free fly shop programs  to trout waters and even to area lakes, the news is great. We have two newsworthy events on Saturday, and area waters are fishing much better after the past week of cooler nights. Here’s the short version, below, while details can be netted in our full report at:


Don’t miss our Unicoi Outfitters Fall Kickoff on Saturday at our Helen fly shop. Sign up for one or more of our free programs. Details here:


The other big news is that September 23 is National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD). Georgia residents can fish without a license that day. It’s a great way to introduce your friends to the sport. GAWRD details here:


Cooler water has heated up area fishing. NC streams are still fishing well, while our skinny GA trout waters have finally cooled down.  We anticipate a decent stocking list from WRD tomorrow in celebration of NHFD. Pond and lake fish are waking up from their summer slumber. Check out Henry C’s hot topwater intel in our full report.

C’mon up to White County on Saturday and combine some free UO seminars with an afternoon of fishing. You’ll enjoy the best of both worlds. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Elk hair caddis (#14-16 tan, #14 orange), orange stimmy, micro chubby, parachute black ant.

Nymphs & Wets: Drowned ant, pheasant tail, sexy Walt’s worm, green weenie, small black bugger and red  squirmy worm for stockers. 

Streamers & warmwater: Double barrel popper, sweet baby cray, jerk changer, polar changer, chartreuse over white clouser, black mohair leech, and black pats rubberlegs as a dropper under your bass popper.


Don’t forget about UO’s two free events at our Helen shop this week:  We start our Third Thursday Tying nite tonite at 6PM, then welcome a big crowd of y’all for our Fall Kickoff on Saturday.


Our local trout waters are still skinny, but they’ve cooled off significantly in response to our fifty-degree nights and seventy-degree days.  Both Spoilcane and the Hooch on the lower end of the WMA ran a cool 61F at noon today. Fish will still be real spooky in the thin, crystal-clear water, but they’ll have much better appetites in comfortable thermal surroundings.

 Dries are a best bet, while dropper nymphs will dredge up bigger fish in the few deep pools you’ll wander across. Cover a lot of ground to fish a decent number of drought refuges. NC forest streams have better flows and even cooler temps for Nantahala and Pisgah forest fans. Grab one of our Nat Geo maps on Saturday to navigate those distant forest roads and headwaters.

I saw some good web reports on fishing in the park, where nighttime air temps are already downright chilly. A road trip up to the Smokies now for wild bows and browns, and bugling elk at dusk, is definitely worth the drive. Try an orange caddis or stimmy as your buoyant dry to float your drowned ant or tiny Sexy Walt’s dropper.

Check out Byron’s daily park intel here:


Stocker Streams:

Note that September 23 is National Hunting and Fishing Day and GAWRD has traditionally stocked some trout to celebrate the date.  Stop by our Helen open house in the morning and then hit a trout stream that afternoon. Watch for an updated stocking list posted tomorrow, here:



Web reports show both the Toccoa and Hooch fishing well. Experienced floaters strip streamers for high-water trophies, while low-flow waders are still doing good on small, dark nymphs and midges, and occasionally on their dries above the nymph droppers.

Private Waters:  We reopen our private waters on October 4. Call 706-878-3083 soon for info and reservations, as our prime weekend dates are going fast.

Warmwater Streams: 

They’re clear in response to a lack of rain this week. They’re also cooling off, so your sunken streamer and crawdad bite will probably be better than the topwater bite. Go soon, as that river bass bite will slow down with cooling water temps  - and our attention will then turn to stream trout and reservoir stripers.

Small Lakes: 

No recent reports. Catch rates should improve with cooling surface waters.


Hank’s hot news: “The cooler weather has definitely changed the temperament on Lake Lanier. We are starting to see a little bit of schooling now but it's not really a fly angler’s time just yet. Tossing conventional gear with a magic swimmer or soft plastic will get you most bites.

 Fly rods can be used, but you'll need to toss a 3 1/2" to 5" long fly to mimic the herring that the fish are feeding on. You'll get way more shots if you see fish on top using conventional tackle. The fish are up and down so quickly that flyrodders are at a clear disadvantage. That will change in 2-3 weeks as the water cools further and the fish stay up longer. The previous new moon that we just had helped trigger this change. By mid October whippystickers will be able to take full advantage of the start of topwater season. We are now booking trips for Oct-Jan and choice dates are starting to get booked up...”



Wandering UO buddy CDB: “Apologize for recent absences, but I wandered out west yet again this month to explore new water. While there’s an abundance of trees, there is a shortage of the kind that carry phone signals. I have already written to somebody about that.

The trip was worth it for the scenery alone.  Due to some of the inclement weather the fishing was solid, but unspectacular. 

Topwater offerings produced best, and it’s hard to beat the fun of casting a dry and seeing the top water take.  When surface action slowed or stopped, very small streamers continued to produce. 

I’m delighted to Ursus Horribillis did not make a showing other than some magnum piles of scat to keep us on our toes. The fluffy cows out here seem to think they own the place and have no respect for one’s fishing hole or personal space!”

Come see us for fly-tying tonite in Helen and on Saturday for our big Fall Kickoff. Snag several free seminars from some of the best in the business of north Georgia fly fishing. After all, for 28 years, we remain:

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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