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, November 17, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report- 11/17/23



Trout waters remain skinny and warm enough to toss dry flies in headwaters and dry/dropper rigs in bigger creeks. Stealth is still more important than fly pattern.  Leaves are only bad when the wind blows.

September stocker browns are still holding out in bigger streams. Some fresh DH stockers have made NC trips easier, while more fish should be on the horizon for GA DH anglers. Little rain is expected tonite, but we’re hoping for a good rain next Tuesday, along with cooling waters that might change our games from topwater to dredging.

Stripers are big but scattered. You will often zero while burning gas to find them, but your hero moments will be worth it, as fish are running bigger this year.

Find all of the gotta-have details in our blog. Folks who click on that blog link will net our hot UO intel and catch more fish. Good luck this week!


 (Link in bio)

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Elk hair caddis, orange stimulator, parachute Adams, BWO, cream midge.

Nymphs & Wets: 

WD-40, zebra midge, Hares ear, redneck, pats rubber leg, mighty may.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) sparkle minnow, rubber bugger, (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, finesse changer.


Our high mountain streams remain a trickle, with few spots left for trout to hide. But if you find those deeper spots and don’t spook the fish, they’ll eat. Leaves are lining streams, but are only bad in the current if there’s some wind.

Thin, fairly warm trout water for November gives us an extended dry fly season, so take advantage of it before you’re forced to dredge for the winter. Yesterday at lunchtime, water temps were: Spoilcane 56F, Smith above lake 54 and 60 below (lake effect). Remember that trout “look up” fairly often when stream temps exceed 50, so try those dries while you still have the opportunity.

See Deadly Damer’s GA speck trip in here:


(Also notice a new WRD  program: Lake Blue Ridge trout stocking)

Dredger returned to his favorite Smokies stream last Tuesday to take advantage of these last licks of warm fall weather. Water temp was 50F at his noon start.  He started with Euro and found fish in most of the deeper pockets and runs. He landed a decent bunch of small bows and two browns, with about two fish hitting the black France fly dropper for each one that ate the anchor fly (Walts, sexy Walts, or tan mop). Biggest fish was a 14-inch reservation migrant, but best fish was an 11-inch resident brown.

Gooduns were spotted finning mid-column in deep, slow, clear pools, but he passed them up during the high sun.  At dusk he returned and found some hefty nose-tail “risers” sipping something in the film, probably midge emergers. He cast a WD-40 downstream, let it drift down to the pod, and spooked them by his second drift. Oh well. His consolation prize was a 6-inch rainbow that popped a #18 para Adams at the swifter pool head. He dodged elk in the median on the ride out in the dark to end another great day in the park.

Delayed Harvest:

They’re fishing well, despite low flows. Where depths allow, indicator rigs are producing. In skinny water, dry/dropper rigs with tiny trailer nymphs are the ticket. Refer to my Smith DH technique in last Friday’s fishing report. It will hold til we get enough rain to boost flows.

The NC streams were recently redosed and fresh fish have increased catch rates.


We gave you some border water news yesterday (good reason to follow us on IG or FB daily).  Keep in mind that GADH streams should be redosed soon, as well. WRD often provides us some “gifts” just before the two major holidays on the horizon, so be on the lookout. In fact, see the breaking Hooch news here:


I ran into longtime friend Tim from Gainesville while hiking the Smith DH trail yesterday afternoon. He said the fish were picky in the slow, clear water. He managed a couple on a small elk hair caddis and a couple on a small stripped bugger. We also watched an interesting park resident amble past us on his own fishing trip. Stay tuned for that story and some vids next week.

UO buddy Lumis: “We hit up the Nantahala  last weekend as it seemed to be raining everywhere else. Well, it was raining there too, but it meant there was way less competition. So I caught one of those big'uns that lurk in some of the pools. Personal best, down south at least.”

See his epic battle on YouTube here:  https://youtu.be/CGXzamG6_E0

Stocker Streams:

GAWRD’s browns are still holding out in several of the larger streams that were stocked heavily in September.  And they’re eating dries!

UO buddy Matt:  “Hey dredger! It’s Matthew from UGA 5 rivers. Some buddies and I went fishing on a popular NEGA stocker stream last Saturday and the bite was on! Caught some good brown trout using a dry/dropper rig. Mostly used an orange stimulator or tan/orange elk hair. The dropper we used was a grey hares ear or a small pheasant tail. Caught a majority on the dropper but a few came up for the dries. Bite was great in the morning and slowed down hard as the morning progressed. The water temp was 57 and air temps 48-53. The fish were active and loved the rain!”

UO buddy Nanette “guided” two fellow Rabunites to success on her favorite local stream last Monday. A warm afternoon had the fish active, as water temp was 52F at eleven.  Long leaders and light lines were required in the low, glassy water. A good mix of stocker browns and little wild rainbows fell equally for dries (Oct caddis or orange stimmy) and droppers (pheasant tail, black France fly). 

Her Rabunite bunch welcomes new fishing buddies. Check them out here: https://rabuntu.org/about/


UO guide Devin took Jimmy and his Athens buddy, John, on a trophy hunt down the Hooch yesterday. Streamer-stripping produced this nice 15-inch brown for John.

UO buddy Skilz had an epic day nymphing the Hooch Tailwater. His fish tales and tails are on his FB page: https://www.facebook.com/share/KFnMKox6Ad4vncJu/?mibextid=WC7FNe

Private Waters: 

UO guide Caleb was busy this week: “Nacoochee Bend fished well under the overcast days this week. An olive sparkle minnow on a long, heavy leader was the best strategy though a dry/dropper with a micro chubby and a PT soft hackle was another good idea. 

Rainbow Point on the Soque has been on fire this season. Wes and I tag-teamed a guide trip last weekend on a cold, cloudy day and brought in dozens of fish for our clients. An orange stimulator with a soft hackle hares ear and a nymph rig with an egg pattern were the way to go.”

UO guide Ben: “Our private water to the north fished great for my guest, Kevin.  We had a chilly morning, but just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the fish won’t bite.  We caught chunky rainbows on egg patterns and pheasant tails under a small, lightly landing indicator.”

UO guide Israel’s sage advice: “Im still having the best success targeting fish feeding in the film and midwater column, where they’re eating emergers.  Ruby midge, partridge and orange, wd-40, and griffiths gnat all produced this past week at Nacoochee Bend.”

To book a UO trip or order a trip gift certificate, check them out here:



and give us a call at 706-878-3083.


Hank: “Striper fishing remains pretty good, especially if you know what time of day the fish are going to feed on top. If someone has that info then please let me know (grin). 

Fish are big, mean and strong this fall. Many fish are double digits and pushing into the mid-teens in weight. Fish are all over the lake so burning gas is the ticket. They can feed in early AM, midday or end of day so the pattern is JUST GO! 

I'd say most of the fish are feeding on small 1"-2" threadfin shad so small flies and heavy tippet is called for. I'm hearing of more fish being lost to anglers using 12-16# tippet than I can remember. Just fish 20# tippet and call it a day. 

Somethin Else flies are working on both floating and intermediate lines. You have to fish with a sense of urgency as these striped zebras are moving quickly. While it's great to use a trolling motor, there are times where it simply isn't effective. Just slide up as stealthy as you can with the big engine and DO NOT run over the fish...unless you're looking for a neighboring boat to look upon you with great disdain. 

We are almost done with winter bookings, so if you're interested, it’s last call to get on my calendar. I may have 4 days open til end of Jan. See you on the pond.”


UO buddy Landon:  “Fish were pretty hard to feed last weekend. Up and down real quick and moving. Real finicky on real small shad. I trimmed the tail off of my somethin else and finally got bit.”


UO-Helen manager Wes: “Atticus and I snuck down south to fish in some blackwater to target toothy natives.  We caught a good number of bowfin as well as some pickerel. It was a great road trip to the swamp.”

We hope this intel helps your holiday planning.  Tonite’s rain isn’t going to amount to much, so take advantage of another warm weekend to find some trout on top. Tuesday might bring us a decent rain and cooling water temps, so be ready to change your game for Thanksgiving. And note that our UO stores will be closed that day so we can celebrate with our own families.

Lake fans can chase stripers, which like overcast skies, and y’all have some shots at big fish. Just ask Jake!  And for any bassmasters, check out our new selection of reservoir baits at our Clarkesville store on the square. 

Good luck as we enjoy one last warm, dry weekend before colder, weather arrives next week, hopefully with some much-needed rain.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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