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 8, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report 9/8/23

It’s still hot and dry up here, but air temperatures are starting a downward slide and getting our hopes up.  The lack of rain has allowed our bass rivers to clear again, making them your best bet. Wild trouters will still have to migrate to north slopes and NC higher elevations to find water cool enough to ensure trout survival after release.   Stocker fans can hunt leftovers from last week’s extensive holiday stocking.   Ponds are improving while Lanier takes a nap.  Check out our complete intel in UO’s full report at :


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Elk hair caddis, micro chubby, Royal Wulff.  

Nymphs & Wets: Drowned ant, pheasant tail, Ruby midge, plus one.

Streamers & warmwater: Double barrel popper, sweet baby cray, low fat minnow, jerk changer, polar changer.


This is a rerun from past weeks: they’re still very low and very warm. South slope streams remain too hot to fish. The two I measured at 8AM today ran 66F before the sun hit them.

Four degrees! That’s what a north slope is worth to our local trout stream temperatures. From 2-3 pm yesterday I visited two streams on each side of Unicoi Gap, above Helen. The south slope duo ran 69 and 70F, while the northerners were 65 and 66F. Until we get cooler nights and consistent rains, hit north slope and higher elevation NC streams.

Smokies trout guide and budding artist Ian Rutter painted a very rosy September prediction for the park. Read it here:


Check out Byron’s daily park intel here, too:


Stocker Streams:

Given last week’s long holiday stocking list, I don’t expect to see one today from WRD.


But there are a decent number of leftovers from last week for this weekend’s pursuits. Just cover more ground to find the wash-downs and swim-ups. They’re real spooky in the low, clear water, so go early, fish the shade, and use light lines and small baits or flies, like soft hackles and tiny buggers. The colder the water, the better the bite, so get on the streams early tomorrow.

Don’t give up on stockers for the year.  There is a good possibility of some stockings later this fall. Just sign up for the WRD trout stocking lists and keep an eye out for them in the months to come.


UO guide Devin and his buddy, Paul, had a good day yesterday chucking streamers on the Toccoa’s high water. He said they landed a nice bunch of smaller browns, with one going 16 inches. They had some follows by bigger boys; thus their return to the river today. He just called in this report while rowing his raft and did not have a third hand to send me pics.

NOTE: the Toccoa is dangerous when TVA is generating. Know the flows before you go and stay away from high water unless you’re with a vest experienced friend or guide at the helm.

Do your homework here:


Pick “lake levels” and “blue ridge.”

The Hooch’s  color from Lanier’s stratification and low deepwater oxygen often makes it a bit easier to fool the wily wild browns. Leftover stocker bows will still eat bright (eggs, squirmies) and/or moving (buggers) flies. 

Private Waters:  No reports. Larger streams are shut down for the summer to give their trophy trout a break. 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: 

UO manager Jake has had a good couple of weeks with clients on the river.  He reports: “river bass fishing remains consistent with low flows and clear water. The name of the game right now is to be sneaky and pick your shots. Topwater has been a player when conditions are right, but the most consistent bite has been subsurface.”

UO friend RSquared: This past Saturday, I fished a well known creek near the northwest Georgia town of Cave Springs with longtime TU member Paul Diprima. We were after Alabama Brook Trout. (aka Coosa Redeye Bass) The bass were willing! We landed about 80 between the two of us, with several over 9 inches and a few over 10 inches . They were hitting poppers on the fly rods and Mepps Spinners and curlytail jigs on the conventional gear. I love to pursue these creek bass when north GA trout waters are too warm to safely release trout.

UO owner Jimmy had a nice weekday evening wading the Hooch.  He said all his shoalies were caught on top in just 2 - 3 feet of slow water.  He never changed flies from the white Gurgler-type fly someone gave him a while ago. It was a good choice to tie on!

Small Lakes: 

Athens Jay: “Pond bass are feeding aggressively in the shallows.  Fish seem to move shallow early in the morning and again as the sun sets. They are herding baitfish up against bank but are picky (gotta match the hatch in terms of size). In ponds with threadfin shad, 2.5” white streamers are great. In ponds where bluegill are primary forage, dark streamers including black and purple work great. Try both! But also throw a stealth bomber if you see surface activity! “


Hank sez it’s real slow on Lanier right now. He’s hoping for some cooler weather to kick-start our fall topwater action.


You can catch more lake and trout intel in todays’s WRD fishing report, here:



We’re just glad we made it back alive from our summer Montana trip. But the rewards of those big cutts, bows , and browns is worth the risk.



Don’t forget our September 23 fall kickoff and our Third Thursday Tying nites each month. Both activities will be at our Helen store.

We slowly creep toward a cooler fall here in Georgia. Take advantage of some prime river and pond bassing while you wait to break out that trout rod once again. Call or stop in either UO shop if we can help with hot bugs and hotter intel for your September adventures. 

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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