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 6, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report 10/6/23

Summary: headwaters are skinny, but cool. Spoilcane was 64F at noon today.  Both wilds and stockers are nervous and spooky, so employ stealth and hit the drought refuges. That same advice goes for river bass, too. Reservoir bass and stripers are stepping up their topwater game slowly as lakes start cooling off. And we’ve got a bunch of new bass candy at our Clarkesville store! 

See our full report and more pics and videos at:



Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Elk hair caddis, orange stimulator, micro chubby (great for dry dropping on bigger water)

Nymphs & Wets: Micro Mayfly, CJ controller, Plus one, Ruby midge.  squirmy worms, duracell’s, hot head pheasant tails, and zebra midges  will work well on NC DH streams.

Streamers & warmwater:

Flatliner, sparkle minnow, jiggy craw, polar changer.


They’re still extremely low and droughty, and spooky residents are still huddled into the few remaining drought refuges. If they’re not spooked, they’ll eat. Carry some tan and orange elk hair caddis, BWO’s, and midges for some dry action.

UO buddy Spangler checked in: “Howdy Dredger! I had one of the first reservations for Dukes this past week. I’ve fished this creek at least 6-8 times a year since 2021 and I can say this was the lowest I’ve ever see the water. I still managed to catch 37 fish…all 6-9” rainbows with the exception of one eager chub and a nice 16” brown trout which was the surprise of the day. The low, clear waters required me to adapt quickly to tiny flies (size 20 midges did a lot of work, along with micro eggs, size 16, Walt’s Worm, etc.), and go down on the fly weights. I also had to drop to 7x tippet…which a nicer rainbow did take advantage of (or my bad knot) and is swimming around with a Walt’s Worm in his mouth. Fish were mostly schooled up in pools with some of the smaller ones hanging in riffles or any little pockets near boulders. One good thing from seeing the creek in this state was being able to make note of some of the bottom structure I can’t normally see and also reached a few pools I normally couldn’t where it’s too deep.”

Due to low flows, the Smokies are just fishing “fair”, but you can catch a bonus of bugling elk near Cherokee.  Check out Byron’s daily park intel here:


UO buddy RonW and his team finally got back into the game: “The fellas and I hit "The Park" last weekend for our early Annual Smokies trip. Kurt and I drove up early Friday am and fished two new streams in the park, one in NC and one in TN. They were about 1.5 hrs away from each other so we only had about 2-3 hours on each creek.  Both creeks were gems that demand future exploring!  Classic small pocket water with relatively easy instream wading.  We both fished a dry/dropper and it didn't take too long to connect. My first fish was a beautiful wild brown, which ended up being the only one of the trip.  Nothing but wild rainbows for the rest of the day with about a 50/50 mix on the dry vs the dropper.  The coolest thing may have been seeing a bear on our way to the 2nd stream in TN . We also saw numerous turkeys and a fox. 

We checked in our hotel in Pigeon Forge around 7pm and waited for Moe, who made it up there about an hour later.  We grabbed a late dinner at the Alamo Steakhouse and then hit the rack to rest for the grueling day ahead. 

We hit the Continental breakfast early to fuel up for the "butt kicking" we were knowingly gearing up for.  We were on the road by 9am, headed to "The Creek",  a beautiful mountain creek we first fished about 6-7 years ago and have fished at least once a year ever since.  This creek is not for the faint of heart! It's the most technical and difficult to navigate stream any of us have ever fished.  If you fall in here and get injured, you're probably not getting out soley with the help of 1 or 2 friends.  After a 10-15 minute hike straight uphill, we were at our entry point. We fished about 1.3 miles of the creek this time, climbing waterfall after waterfall and gaining around 900' in elevation. The were a few more blowdows of 5'+ diameter hemlocks to navigate under/over which made it even more sketchy than the last trip. 

We all started out with dry/dropper and it didn't take too long for things to turn on. It was nothing but gorgeous lil specs for the rest of the day, other than the one lone and rather large rainbow that Kurt caught at around 3800' in elevation. I'm not exactly sure how this fish got so high up and thru about a dozen "barrier falls"?  It was a fantastic day on our favorite Smokies stream.  There were no major falls and we all made it out, only slightly bruised and sore as expected. If you can imagine what 7 hours of cross fit feels like...this is pretty much it, just way more fun. 

The high point, which was also the low point of the day was when the largest brookie I've ever seen came out of the depths and flashed my dry. I saw his whole side when he rolled and it was an easy 12" fish, maybe 13". It was absolutely lit up in color and a trophy of trophies for this stream or any other stream in the park. I know where it resides and will be back at least once more this fall to have another go at it.

We hit Cherokee Sunday for a half day on the trophy section. The water was low and clear and there didn't seem to be nearly as many fish in there as in the past. Moe landed 2 nice 20" plus rainbows and that was it for big fish. Kurt and I both landed a few smaller fish in the 12-14" range. We bailed around 3pm and hit the road "back to reality". 

It was a great weekend full of some much needed hydrotherapy. Fly fishing may start out as something you do, bit seemingly for most, it becomes part of who you are and something you must do for your inner peace, sanity and overall well being.  My batteries are recharged, my clock is reset and mind is clear for now. I feel like I may need another dose this weekend. I just need to convince my Doctor (Wife) to write me another prescription (pass) to go!  Wish me luck!”

Stocker Streams:

GAWRD trout stocking coordinators John Lee Thomson told me his agency stocked 60,000 trout at the end of September. There are still some leftovers in many of those target streams.  Just cover some water to find them, and stalk them with plenty of stealth due to the low, clear water.  Watch for tail wags, white gapes, and bottom shadows. I watched three browns dart for cover when I stepped to the stream edge for a temperature check today.


After stopping by my house, UO buddy Landon then introduced his twins to trout water:

“They learned what a riseform looks like, along with what a blue winged olive and October caddis looks like.  There was a pod of browns rising to bwo’s in that pool, which was fun to watch for a while.

Although my tackle remained at home, was still a nice road trip to one of my favorite streams.”

North Carolina’s Delayed Harvest program has kicked off.  Streamflows are low and stockers are spooky, but enough fish are eating flies to make our road-troopers happy. Check out Hillis’ reports on the North GA Trout Online message board.


More info and the agency’s DH stocking schedule are here:



No recent reports to our shop.

Private Waters:  We reopened our private waters on October 4. Call 706-878-3083 soon for info and reservations. While most prime fall weekends are already booked, we still have plenty of weekday openings for our Hooch, Soque, and Unnamed Northern Stream properties.

Warmwater Streams: 

They’re still clear in response to a lack of rain and remain a best bet til the water cools some more. Bass are in full fright mode and have vacated many traditional spots due to skinny water and vulnerability to birds. Try water that’s four feet or deeper, preferably with shade over it.

Dredger hit his NC smallie spots two more times. Friday’s trip was slow, with only three to hand. Wednesday was better, with a dozen bass to 13 inches landed along with a handful of rock bass and two plump redbreasts.  It was a better trip because of his recent experiences, which led him to the prime niches described above. He threw nothing but dries: a black stealth bomber during the day and then a more easily seen white model at dusk.

Small Lakes: 

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


Hank: “Lanier fished with okay over the past week. Both stripers and big spotted bass were available to both conventional and fly anglers. The fly fishing is much tougher compared to the conventional fishing but both are worth trying. I have my fly rod out and handy but if the fish are surfacing on herring, the conventional outfit has a much easier hookup ratio. Tossing magic swimmers and Sashimi Shad baits are effective, but not as effective as a chrome walk-the-dog bait. 

For fly anglers, I'd suggest the pole dancer or a polar changer. We are seeing some surface feeding with stripers on threadfin and this is where an intermediate line and a somethin else or mini game changer will work. Basically there are two types of bites on Lanier right now and it's important to recognize the pattern and choose your equipment accordingly. Nate (#53) and I an epic day earlier this week where we fed 15 fish and landed 7, so the bite is starting to ramp up.  Next week’s new moon and colder weather should really get things going. “


UO fish phenom Ben: “Here are some smallmouth from NC. Fall is almost here so they are moving into their fall patterns: creeks, secondary points, and mouths of creeks.  Lures to use: top water popper, jerk bait, Zoom fluke, finesse jig shaky head worm.  You can get all of these lures and more at Unicoi Outfitters in Clarksville. We now have a wide variety of bass fishing tackle. And we are always here to help out wherever we can.”


Athens Jay and his fishing partner recently returned from a bucket list trip. Their Costa Rican river adventure produced five hookups, with one tarpon landed. It was Jay’s first, and was the smaller of the fish hooked, with an estimated weight of 120-150 pounds. The 175-200 pounders shook their hooks!

UO guide Devin went west.  He’s just returned, shared pics, and promised us a forthcoming fish story. You can also catch him in the fishing department at the Orvis-Atlanta store.

That’s the latest intel from a cooling northeast Georgia. Get that fleece jacket out of the closet and enjoy our first real taste of fall this weekend. Watch the wind forecast before heading to the lakes.  Temperatures will rebound next week, but it finally looks like fall is here to stay. It’s the second best season, after spring, to wet a line in north Georgia. Go have some fall fun before the heavy leaf fall complicates your drifts in a few weeks.

PS: cruise through our Clarkesville store soon. Like y’all, we love to fish- for everything. So we’re complementing our flyfishing selection with some great new lines of conventional gear and baits. 

Now you’ll be ready for stream trout and lake bass and stripers this fall. One-stop shopping for all your angling needs - what a deal. 

What’s that knock on my door ? Oh, Jimmy and his boat are here. Armed with Hank’s intel, we’re on to Lanier. Bye!

Good luck and Go Braves!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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