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, April 30, 2021

UO Fishing Report - 4/30/21

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 4/30/21



The weather and water conditions are great and April should end strongly.  The rain is even gonna hold off til Monday and give us a nice weekend of playtime.

Caddis and cahills are winding down for the season and the hatches will start pretty darn late, so don’t leave the stream before slap-dark if you want another good dose of dry fly action. Hatches usually get a bit spotty now, too, so you may hit a homer one day and strike out the next.

Since May is knocking on our door, it’s time to transition for trout.  In addition to your box of tan April dries, add two colors. The first is yellow: for big (#10 & 12) stones, small (#16 & 18) yellow Sally stones, and even some sulphur mayflies if we’re lucky to catch that hatch.


The second color is black, as the summer secret weapon starts to kick in: terrestrials. If it’s slow, especially during the day, try dredging a size 16 black fur ant as your deep dropper.   In the shady spots, try the dry version, parachute style so you can see that bright post in the shadows. Small black beetles(#12-16) will also coax fish to the surface with their extra calories.  You might find a few early risers while waiting for the Dark30 “switch” to turn on at 730 or even 8PM. Run the terrestrials past any wetted wood in the shade and see if a reclusive brown will nose up for that bigger meal.

We have two weeks left to the GA DH season, so go soon. Then you’ll have another few weeks left of DH season in North Carolina, where cooler water temps allow that season to reach June.

Rivers are clear for resident bass and even some spring tourists that haven’t left yet: stripers and walleye.

Ponds and lakes are still great. Get to them ASAP while surface temps are prime and the spawning urge has many species, like spots, up very shallow. Hit the low light of dawn and dusk for your best action. Stay tuned to Henry Cowen and other Lanier guide websites to dial in the blueback and shad spawns, when predators literally run the banks at dawn.

Our extended version of this report, with Wes’ hot fly list and guide/fishing buddy reports, follows on our FB page and, for non FB’ers, at blog.angler.management.

Wes’ hot fly list:

Dries: Yellow Stimulator (12, 16), light Cahill (16, 18), tan Elk hair caddis (16-20),Hi-viz micro chubby

Nymphs & wets: tan and cream mops, red Squirmy’s,Tungsten flashback pheasant tails, Trout crack

Sparkle soft hackle, Knotty girl, brown Pat’s rubberlegs 

Streamers & warmwater:

Headcase crayfish, Bugger changer, T&A Bunker (olive/white), Murditch minnow, Polar changer, Kreelex


Lower, clear water and perfect temperatures have created great dry fly conditions. If you don’t spook them, you should get a rise in every pool. Try a small stimmy, caddis, or Adams. There’s no need for a dropper right now.

Splatek went high into the hills to one of his favorite bluelines. He reports, “ I caught  about six native specks in as many casts, all on yellow stimmies.

I also landed about a dozen little wild bows further downstream on an equal split between my stimmie and a frenchie dropper.”

David Cannon showed off a ten-inch native speck from unnamed headwater stream and an 18-inch brown on a dry from unnamed DH stream.

His new book is due out soon and I wonder if all of the streams in it will have the same Rabunite name: IDBIS (I don’t believe I said). Enjoy his pics.

Delayed Harvest:

They’re still fishing well, especially at low light. You’ll have to dredge the depths or shady spots at midday to find cooperators, which feel sheltered from avian death from above. Hatches are happening late, so stay late for that magical last 30-60 minutes.

On a somber note, there was a web report this week of angler vehicle break-ins at the Chattooga and West Fork lots. Authorities have been notified. If you go, take the proper precautions such as carrying minimal gear (just what you carry astream), leaving nothing of value in easy sight inside your car, and  locking up anything else in the trunk.

Two Athenians gave Tooga DH trip reports.

Alan said, “Hey Jeff!

I hit the river Wednesday  night after work. When I walked in from the parking lot at 5:15 it was 78 and warm.  I hiked up the SC side and  picked up a couple of bows on a parachute adams at my first stop. There were no rises and very few bugs coming off. I kept moving upriver and had a couple of refusals to the adams,  so I switched to a small stimulator and one of your Cahills.  I picked up a nice brown and several more bows on the stimulator, mostly when skittered.  I even had one bow take it out of the air before it landed on the water, pretty cool!  A few rises let me target some fish, but not a lot of bug activity kept most Gish hidden.  About 8:00 some cahills started coming off and fish rose to them.  I landed three right in a row on the Cahill on the skitter, but the bugs only lasted about 15 minutes in the pool I was at. I hiked out and left the parking area at 8:50 after enjoying the “lower” river level and a dozen fish to hand. It was good to get back in the game!”

JM also fished Wednesday and reported: “I parked at the pulloff across from the gate on the Georgia side.  I packed in my gear and started near the end of the stocking road.  Somebody put fist size gravel on the road. If you have weak ankles it’s not a good route.  I fished up to Reed Creek and Saw no other fishermen!  I caught 9 browns and 1 rainbow, all on a royal stimulator.  No hatches!

Water level was a little high, but ok!  I had refusals from some big guys!”

Private waters:

They have fished really well for anglers with a good stalk and a good drift in the lower and crystal clear waters. As seen in last weekends video, RonW’s trio had a big time at the bend. All three anglers left with sore arms and wide smiles. Two left with broken nets! They said:   “Bring a bigger net! Yes, Tight-lining was the mainstay. I did strip a bugger for a while which worked well also.  A 3.5mm Pink Tung beaded euronymph seemed to work better than other colors, but shoot, everything worked if it was drifted well. A small brown Pat’s rubberlegs was also a killer pattern.  We fished  4x fluoro and they were not tippet-shy. They were net-shy though.  I lost a couple bigguns for Ron when trying to scoop them up. I'll be hearing about it for a while.

We quickly learned that 5x tippet was too weak for those torpedoes. “


Landon checked in: I had 2 good days this week throwing shallow on Lanier. I tried a Clouser on sink-tip line one day and Conventional gear with a super fluke the next day. The shallow water Bassin’ bite was very good!”

Hank the Yank: “Fishing since last week for spotted bass on Lanier was very good. Fish are shallow and eating top water. This should continue over the next several weeks. This is the time to take a child to catch a fish on a fly or artificial lure. The striper fishing was poor up until the last day or two. We’re re getting off the consecutive cold fronts and the fish are getting somewhat shallow. By next Friday’s report the fish will be chewing on top water flies early and late in the day. It’s a good time to fish area lakes and especially our crown jewel Lake Lanier” 


There you go; April’s going out with a bang!  We sure hope you can go out with a bang, too, this weekend.  Visit or call either our Helen (706-878-3083) or Clarkesville store (706-754-0203) to resupply on your drive to more memorable times astream. Good luck!

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Your Favorite Spring Hatch?

What’s your favorite spring hatch here in the Southeast? It’s okay; we’ll use the term “hatch” loosely to represent any bug-induced dry fly action, from emergers to duns to spinners. What event has you pacing in February for the arrival of warmer spring waters and the revival of your annual “trout on top” tradition?

I’ll help get this started. For me, it’s gotta be the dancing and dipping of adult caddis. As mature insects fly back upstream and then deposit eggs, trout are on the lookout. Surface takes are splashy. Some fish even leap out of the water in attempts to intercept the low-flying bugs.



I enjoy the surface smashes on my twitched and skittered elk hair caddis dries. They’re usually gray in March and tan in April.  Trout act like great white sharks when they think their prey is getting away.

Indeed, I get antsy as February wanes and March gives me hope of fifty-degree water and fluffy little “moths” flying low enough to make trout look up. And leap.

That’s mine. What’s yours?

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Gold Star

How about a gold star for Orvis? Take a look at this very brief “impact report” and tell us, what do you think?


Unicoi Outfitters is proud to be
associated with the Orvis brand and this fine company’s longstanding commitment to conservation and inclusion.

Monday, April 26, 2021

They’re Coming


Are you ready?

Have a big time now, but remember to look toward the horizon. We hope you’re having as much fun as we are with “trout on top” on tiny dries. Caddis and cahill time is hot this month and we still have “stonefly month” ahead of us.

Also on that horizon are big, black bugs. Be ready to trade in your whippy trout rig and wispy tippet for a stiff bass rod, 1X leader, big surface bugs, and fish measured in pounds rather than inches.

Brood Ten is coming!  


Are you ready?  

Call or come by either UO store in Helen or Clarkesville if we can rearm you with heavy artillery (like a nice 6-weight outfit) for the skirmishes ahead of you. Enjoy the UGA briefing. After all, good intel helps to win battles.

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Mother’s/Father’s Day Gift

What can you do on this cold & rainy Saturday?  Since Mother’s and Father’s days are just around the corner, you can grab the perfect gift for your outdoorsy family member: a Unicoi Outfitters gift certificate. 

That special person can make fishing memories that will last a lifetime, or splurge on a really nice piece of equipment or clothing that they might not normally buy for themself. Visit, call (706-878-3083), or email the shop (info@unicoioutfitters.com) to learn more about our gift certificates, or simply shop online:


Atlanta fishing buddies Ron, Mo, and Mog cashed in their certificates yesterday (23rd) for some epic battles with rocketing rainbows at Nacoochee Bend. They won some, lost some, and made another fine memory of their days together, astream. Enjoy the video of one of their wins.

Take it from this trio and give the gift of a lifetime memory. The recipient will be glad you did.  Hey, maybe he/she will take YOU along with them!

Enjoy the video:

Friday, April 23, 2021

UO Fishing Report- 4/23/21

We had another great week of north Georgia fishing and the week ahead looks equally promising. There is just one big bump in the road, our Saturday soaker. An inch or more of rain is expected, with strong storms possible, so Saturday is iffy. Sunday may be a washout on bigger streams if we indeed see an inch or more of rain. Be ready with some high-water Plan B’s (small streams, ponds, and lakes) while you wait for rivers to recede. Don’t forget the storm hatch (worms) and have some San Juan’s or squirmies ready for discolored streams.

Check flows before you go. Best bets are USGS gauges and favorite fly shops. Remember that the Hooch-Helen gauge even has a river camera that YOU can operate remotely!
We’re still in the middle of the spring bug buffet. Don’t leave home without some stimmies, Adams cahills, caddis, and a headlamp. I got home last night at 10:30, with a sore casting arm and a big smile!
Cold nights might force you to dredge til the afternoon sun warms the water, so be flexible and let water temps guide your technique.
Our extended version of this report, with Wes’ hot fly list and guide/fishing buddy reports, follows on our FB page and, for non FB’ers, at blog.angler.management.
Work around the rain and appreciate it, since we’re 4.5 inches short this year. Toss a squirmy on 3X into a honey hole and you might become a real “big” fan of dirty water!
Wes’ hot fly list:
Stimulator (yellow, olive), tan Cahill, Elk hair caddis, Royal trude
Nymphs & wets:
Soft hackle pheasant tail, Bird turd, Girdle bug, Jigged soft hackle prince, Silver lightning bug, death metal pheasant tail, Depth charge caddis
Streamers & warmwater:
Kreelex, Triple double leech, Hot cone bugger, Boogle bug (solar flare), Bugger changer,
Jiggy craw, Polar changer and Cowen’s coyote, both in chartreuse/white.
Angler intel:
Hunter hunted specks after work and had some afternoon fun:
Wes weighed in, “I had a wild trout guide trip with UO client Damien on Sunday. We caught some chunky rainbows between 6”-9” that were more than happy to rise up to an olive stimulator.”
Delayed Harvest:
Smith has been running low and clear. Try your best stalking with light tippet and small bugs during the day. Try a short dry/dropper combo if you stay til dark. The last hour of daylight on Smith can be magical.
Dredger took full advantage of April prime time. He hit Chattooga DH last Saturday night and again last night (22nd). His Saturday recipe for three big scoops of salmonids is here:
Yesterday he decided to go back and beat the weekend rain. Cold weather had his expectations of bugs and risers fairly low. They rose, however, as he crossed the river, saw small bugs buzzing, and measured water temp at 58. Fish backs were rolling occasionally in the first shallow run. He never figured out the small emerger they were sipping from the film, but he caught a small handful on his yellow stimmy and pot luck dropper (half the patterns in his wet box) to make him happy. (Ed note: if YOU decipher the emergers, please help out Ole Dredger).
He was pleasantly surprised as the cool weather pushed cahills to pop earlier than expected. There were a few at 4, more at 5, and enough from 6-730 to turn on the river switch. His #12 stimmy/ 16 cahill combo was consistently assaulted, especially when moved via twitches and skitters. When cahills left, browns still crushed the stimmy as the shadows fell. He actually caught “enuf” to call it quits early at 8 and walk out in the twilight.
Dredger ran up to Nan DH on Sunday evening (18th). It was cool and there wasn’t a good hatch of bugs. Sparse cahill spinners showed up late to dance and drop eggs. No wild fish were fondled since they did not have good reason to look up.
It didn’t matter, however, as chunky DH stockers inhaled his stimmy/caddis combo. Most hit the stimmy, which is apparently brown trout candy. Some nice brooks and a few bows added to the hefty total. Both dead drifts and twitches worked. His tips: Find the soft spots, cast and drift, and wait. If they don’t hit the drift, then cast again and twitch. After 2-3 casts, just move up the bank and hit the next soft spot -along the bank or behind the midstream boulder.
Private Waters:
Wes: “I also did a couple trips on Nacoochee Bend this week. It fished pretty good. Right now with the clear flows, the fish are just being a little picky so you have to cycle through a few fly changes to figure out what they might want. On Tuesday prince nymphs, soft hackles, squirmy worms, and small pheasant tails worked well. On a breezy Wednesday afternoon, the best flies were small lightning bugs and rubber leg stoneflies.”

Palmer: “Fishing was tough yesterday (4/22) with the cold snap. We caught nearly everything on soft hackles and maybe one of two on the egg. Catching will improve as air and water temperatures rebound quickly.”
Athens Jay checked in: “ Due to work commitments, I’ve only been able to slip out to my local ponds for a few evening hours. But my “paddleboard popper-dropper” fishing has been very good as I toss my combo against the bank. Big bream are still shallow and hungry. I had a nice surprise with a bass double-header! Native azalea blooms just add to the beautiful background of a Georgia farm pond in the spring.”

Landon launched his yak and has been enjoying a Lanier “river buffet” of species including bream, spots, shoalies, and stripers. He said: “they’re eating! Water was warmer than the air. A bunch of bass half-heartedly chased my streamers. All caught on a chartreuse/white Cowen’s coyote. Still fun! Slow and deep for shoal bass while floating.
Got the striper quartering downstream in a shallow riffle on the other side of a deep, fast run. The fish came up and swiped/ missed on my first cast over him. I got him on the next cast by burning it (fast retrieve ) and he hit it right at my feet!”

Henry’s update: “Fishing has taken a slight setback due to the multiple fronts that moved thru No GA this past week. It positively will affect what the stripers are doing. Last week they were up shallow in 1’-5’ of water and the fronts moved them back off the points and into deeper water. Once the weather settles down they will move back up for a short time til the next pattern takes over. The good news is that the long-awaited spotted bass spawn is now going on and these fish are totally committed to the bank. Now’s the time to take a 7 weight with either a floating or intermediate fly line and toss a Clouser, coyote, game changer, wiggle minnow or even a topwater fly for the first 3 hours of the morning and have a ball with a world-class spotted bass bite. Want to catch a world record? 4lb tippet and a 4lb spotted bass gets you an IGFA world record! Dock lights are also on fire right now for those wanting an easier bite on Lanier. This all should be happening on many No GA lakes around Atlanta. Go out and try to get a sore thumb from all the catch and releases that will happen over the next 2 weeks!”
So work on Saturday and save that day off for Monday or Tuesday. Appreciate the rainy stream recharge for our streams, and stock up on stimulators, caddis, cahills, and SQUIRMIES! Contact either of our stores if we can put you on more Awesome April fish.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Quick Speck Trip

What does a UO fishing guide do after his morning guide trip? He fishes himself, of course, since it’s APRIL!

Hunter Pittman grabbed a quick lunch and then trekked high above Helen for some sure-nuf specks!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Date Night

Dear “Fin,”

Thanks for our Saturday night date on The River, and the creation of yet another lifetime memory.

Dear Fans,

Here are some UO tips for your own date night.

4pm- park and walk in.

5 - dry/dropper, hope, and patience with all the daytime lookers and few takers.

6- stimmy/caddis combo, with a twitch

7- cahill dropper behind stimmy or caddis. #16 first and #18 later.

830- the headlamp hike out

9- bluegrass, loud, on return to Clayton.

Whether you’ve already planned a day or are suddenly developing a (spring) fever,



Stop by either UO store for hot flies to enhance your dating success.

Friday, April 16, 2021

Uo Fishing Report- 4/16/21

HenryC said it best: “we are in full spring swing!” this week as April’s hot action continues. It’s even better now as big streams and rivers drop and clear further. While we’ll be a bit cooler for a few days, the afternoons should warm up enough to spur some good bug action, and it will improve with each day of rising air temperatures. Be on the lookout for caddis and Cahills.

Don’t forget your PM trinkets. We made a checklist for you in yesterday’s post!

Ponds and lakes are great, too, as are the feeder rivers with spawning stripers and stirring shoalies and spots. If you have some vacation days left, this week will be another great time to spend one or two of them.
Wes’ hot fly list follows.
Dries: Stimulator, parachute adams and light cahill, tan elk hair caddis, 409 yeager .
Nymphs & wets: blue lightning bug, squirmy worm, tungsten hares ear, copper john, soft hackle partridge
Streamers: sparkle minnow, rubberleg bugger
Warmwater bugs: Feather changer, Clouser minnow, Murdich minnow, Boogle bug Amnesia bug, Girdle bug,
Sweet baby cray.
UO guide trip reports and angler tips follow in the extended version on our Facebook page and blog (blog.angler.management). Good luck this week. Grab your gear and go!

We had just a few reports from small headwaters because everyone was having too much fun with bigger fish on bigger waters, which had finally receded enough to fish well.
Headwaters will be good again. Try a big (#14) buoyant dry to call them up, and add a beaded prince or pheasant tail on a short dropper if they’re hesistant in the morning chill. Young UO buddy Cameron had some decent action on a north GA WMA. More little wild bows were missed than fondled, but it was great hooksetting practice!
RonW: “Kurt and I scouted a few streams in the Blueridge WMA on Sunday. We fished from 8am till noon and had a tough go at it. The water was up a little and off color. We tried everything (dry, dry dropper, nymph and streamers) but in the end the fish won this round. I managed the lone fish of the day, a lil' wild Brown who smashed a Stimi. It was an absolutely beautiful day to be out on the water with a great friend. We fished some cool new water and were home by 2pm, I guess we won after all!”
Wes: “I did a half-day public water trip Wednesday afternoon in town. Plenty of large fish are still left from the Helen trout tournament. We hooked 3 fish that were all 4+ pounds but weren't able to get any landed. We did catch several stockers. Worms, eggs, soft hackles, and buggers were the ticket.”
Delayed Harvest:
Apparently most DH streams, including Smith Creek, got some DNR redoses last week, giving newer flyfishers a good shot at success. Resident fish will still supply challenges for our angling vets. None of us had a recent DH trip, but web reports have been very good. DH streams should fish really well again this week, especially with lower flows in larger streams.
Cool mornings may keep bugs and fish deep, so go down to them if needed before your lunch break. Better yet, come late and stay late. For evening surface activity, remember to match adult bug size, color, and behavior:
UO buddy Aaron: “We are doing well. Recently moved to North Carolina and did Day 2 of this weekend of fishing. Let me tell you, since I switched to nymphing, my numbers have sky rocketed. Just today I’m closer to 50 fish in the net on some small streams.”
Private Waters:
George “Coach Mac” MacMillan: “Fishing on Soque private waters has been really good. Here are a couple of nice ones. Check out this big brown!”

Palmer: “my guests fished Nacoochee Bend on Wednesday. Water was still pushing pretty good. Lots of split shot were the key to our success with a variety of nymphs and soft hackles. The hefty rainbows fought real well in those strong currents and we had a blast.”

Jake: “Bruce and I had a good morning, with a mixed bag of stripers and bass on River "x" earlier this week. It's that time of year where lake resident stripers begin to make their migration into many of our local rivers, offering excellent angling opportunities. A population of fish can be found feeding on the surface right at daybreak, with heavier dredging flies producing more action once the sun gets up.”
Wes: “I also did a river bass float trip yesterday. If you put in the casts you can find some nice fish. While we caught a couple dredging, baitfish patterns are the ticket right now. Whether you’re throwing fly or gear make sure to add some pauses in your retrieve. That’s when they’re eating your streamer.”

Daytripper Landon: “Here’s a Bartrams bass report. They were there but they were on the bottom and wanted something slow-rolled past them! Action was decent until the swimmers came out and started swimming through the pools.”

Athens Jay said warmer weather has pulled bass and bream shallow and pond banks are a “target-rich environment.” He no longer has to dredge the bottom for them, but they’re not overly eager to eat topwater yet. He’s having best success with “mid-column movement via some Gamechanger abominations” (variants), his buddy’s black-over-purple Puglisi minnows, and a black or brown rubberlegs for the big bream.
Henry’s update: “Striper fishing is in full spring swing. Fish are spread out all over the lake and there is even a little schooling going on. The big schools are clearly up the rivers for the spawn. Both the Hooch and Chestatee rivers are loaded with fish. Bigger offerings like game changers and clousers are the flies of choice as the fish are gorging on blueback herring. “
Nightowl Landon:

“Stripes were really spooky on the Lanier lights last night. But we caught good number of spots to keep our lines tight!”
Remember to tune into GAWRD’s Friday trout stocking reports and fishing blogs. There is no better source of “shocking and stocking intel” than these stewards of your fish and fishing!
In closing, I hear an echo from last week’s report: “Go. Now”. Call or stop by our Helen or Clarkesville store if we can enhance your spring success. Send us some pics! Here’s wishing y’all tight lines and wide grins in April.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Vital Spring Trinkets

What are your vital spring trouting trinkets?

If you’re like us, we have a bunch, but always manage to forget one or two as we rush out the door toward Appalachian trout nirvana.  

Heres a checklist to help everyone prepare now for your next trip. You sure don’t want to be a mile back on River X at dusk and realize your flashlight is dead and the trail is steep.

Here are some of our vital spring  trinkets for  Dark30 trouting.  What did we miss on this list? Add your own essentials and help us save a fellow trouter’s epic trip this month.

  1. A box of dries (helped by Wes’ Friday hot fly list).
  2. A box of dropper nymphs and soft-hackle wets (Wes again). All boxes with your phone number sharpied onto the inside lid.
  3. An extra leader and fresh, full spools of 5X and 6X tippet.
  4. Tiny tin shot (size 6 or 8) to dunk the dropper fly a few feet under the dry while the sun’s still high.
  5. Bottles of floatant and dessicant (or a small chamois cloth) to prep and then rehab those dries  after a salmonid-sliming episode.
  6. Sunglasses for spotting pre-dusk risers.
  7. An insect sampler to help your hatch-matching: try a $3 Home Depot paint strainer over your dip net.
  8. Bug repellent for uninvited hitchhikers.
  9. A headlamp with fresh batteries.
  10. A small backup flashlight as a Plan B for #9.
  11. A good smart phone or camera - with a flash for your late-night trophy fondles.
  12. If prospecting alone, then a spouse or friend who knows your whereabouts and your ETA back home.

What did we miss?  Add your vitals to the UO list! 

  1. ______
  2. ______
  3. ______

Hope this UO bulletin helps your preparation for another great evening astream. Holler at either UO store if we can help you stock up on these spring trouting essentials.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Stalk the Seams

Stalk the seams! Here’s another great article by Dominick at

It sounds like he was following me during my last two trips to Nantahala and Chattooga, where trout pods indeed lined up along prime seams (where slow and fast water meet), which are grocery lanes!
It’s April and the dry fly fishing is hot. Use Dominick’s tips and our Unicoi Outfitters report intel (blog.angler.management) to maximize your fish fondles and Dark30 grins this month.
Call or stop in either UO store if we can help further. Good luck.
Pics: Nan wild bow doubleheader on my dry/dropper combo.