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 9, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 4/9/21

After “floating” through two monsoons and 9 inches of rain, we’ve finally welcomed Epic April. Big waters are still receding, while small streams have returned to normal springtime flows and are clear. Water temps are prime and trout bugs are popping. It’s hatch-matching time for mountain trouters! Be ready with the right bugs and the techniques that match the naturals, from dead drifts to twitches and even to upstream skitters. Gotta-have dries include parachute adams and cahills, tan caddis, and yellow stimulators.

The only event that can rain on your weekend trout parade is, literally, rain. If we get more than an inch tomorrow, you might have to allow big streams a day or two to drop and clear.  USGS flow gauges and fly shops can tell you when they recover. While you wait, just head uphill to smaller streams and have a blast.  If rainfall’s under an inch, toss worm or rubberleg stonefly patterns in the dingy water.

Ponds are heating up for bass and bream, so pull your yaks and canoes out of basement storage. Lake stripers and bass are hungry but challenging, since they are literally scattered throughout the reservoirs and up the tributary rivers for stripers’ annual spawning attempts. Hunt more than cast and your catch will increase.

The next four weeks will be great, so get outside and take advantage of them!

Wes has a lengthy hot fly list that won’t fit on Instagram, so check it and our angler reports out on our Facebook page or our blog:


Good luck.  PS: BOLO bears, too.  Hope you enjoyed today’s video!

Wes’ hot flies list follows.

Nymphs: Improved yallarhammer, Frenchies

Psycho prince,Sparkle soft hackles, Y2K egg, Squirminators, Mini mop (beige).


Sparkle minnow, Hot cone bugger


Stimulators, Parachute Adams, Elk hair caddis (tan in #14-18, gray in #18), Doculator (for wild trout)

Warmwater bugs:

Finesse changers, Jiggy craw

Feather changers, Sparkle minnow, Mini dragon tail

Bully bluegill spider, Clouser minnows

Detailed angler reports and tips follow. 


Wes: “I did a wild trout guide trip on Tuesday. With the higher water most of our fish were coming on subsurface flies like an “improved yallarhammer” and “psycho prince”. We were able to trick a couple into coming to the surface for an olive Stimulator.”

Hunter had a guided trip to public waters high above Helen. His anglers caught stocked bows and browns and wild bows. They had success nymphing, tossing dries, and streamer chucking. It was a great trip.

Delayed Harvest:

Smith still has some fish in it that survived the floods. It’s slightly off color today, but very fishable. The two successful anglers I spoke with during my “bear trek” caught some fish on a pink San Juan worm and a tan squirmy worm.


Ole Dredger had a “lost count” Tuesday, with most of the chunk bows and browns caught on top.  It’s chronicled on our Facebook page and blog. Dark30 is here again!


His timely tips: when the sun is high, dredge deep flood refuges with mops and brown rubberleg stones. Even the river natives like a mop (enjoy the colorful river chub).  

When the sun is low

(dawn and dusk), drift and/or skitter a stimulator/caddis combo through the shallows.  Right before dark, change the dropper from the caddis to a cahill.

Private Waters:

Wes: “I did a half-day trip yesterday at Nacoochee  Bend next to our fly shop.  The water was up, which limited the spots we could fish and required a lot of split shot to slow down our drifts. However, the fish were very active. We landed probably 25 rainbows between 12”-22” that fought long and hard with the high water. We even had a couple make long runs into our backing!  We had good luck on  Sparkle minnows, Squirmy worms, Soft hackles, Frenchies, and mops.”


Jay reported from Athens:

“Last night I fished a local pond. Perfect conditions- native azaleas blooming always means fish are going shallow. Lots of evidence of spawning activity. Cream mopfly landed many large bluegill and redear. Bass went crazy for the Blurple (black and purple baitfish streamer - unweighted) fished slow so it suspends in the water column.”


Henry chimed in: “This week’s striper report is all over the place. Lanier is fishing well if you are in the right place and not so well if you’re not. There’s a big group of fish on the south end that sporadically decide to show themselves and when they do, it’s great. When they don’t, you’d wished you went north. There’s fish making their way upriver for the spawn. Those fish are on points and they are easily catchable “if” you hit the right point. That means playing the onesie-twosie game. Catch one or maybe two and move on. Both rivers have fish in them, as the spawn is on. Also, the lake spots are waking up too. That’s a bonus for flyrodders. Lastly some nice white bass are starting to show themselves (thanks GADNR). That’s about it... by next report we should be seeing lots of fish eating topwater.”


The GAWRD weekly fishing report is  chock-full of timely intel, too:


In summary, “it’s all good” across north Georgia, so take a few days off, watch the flows, and match some hatches.  Bring your bug repellent, dry fly floatant, and headlamps. And dontcha dare leave early. Trust me on that one.  Call either UO store if you need a little more help. Good luck!

Momma's Love

How about a NatGeo moment for your lunchtime entertainment? Let’s call it “momma’s love.”

I’m on the Smith Creek DH trail right now for a little bit of exercise and a stream recon for today’s Unicoi Outfitters weekly fishing report. Ten minutes ago, I round a bend and freeze! A hundred yards ahead on the trail is a really big, black furball. Next to it are three tiny furballs.
Enjoy the video as Momma crosses the log with a cub in her mouth. She made three trips. This is cub #3, who waited patiently for his turn.
Now that’s some love and dedication from Momma!
I’ve already had a great fishing trip to start my weekend and I didn’t t even need a rod! May you also make memories in the Georgia woods and water during this magical month of April. Sometimes it’s not even about the fish.
Now back to my hike, with a smile!


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

River Recon


UO Army,

If spring break allows you to beat the week-ending rain, give Chattooga DH a try ASAP. The water’s still a bit high, so wade safely. If you miss this week’s window, try it when it drops and clears once again, next week. The following intel should still hold true.
This Forward Observer went on a recon mission today. Based on extensive intel gathered from 1200-2000hr, arm yourselves as follows.
During the high afternoon sun, use heavy artillery: dredge the flood refuges with tungsten tan mops or weighted brown rubberlegs. If you want a few bonus fish on top, try a short leader to a #12 or 14 yellow stimulator. Then add 4-6 feet of tippet from the stimmy down to your heavy dropper fly.
When the shadows fall on the water, ditch the big bug, cut the tippet back to two feet, and put a tiny (18-20) gray elk hair caddis behind the stimmy. Reposition to heads and tails of pools and cobbled runs (shallow bug factories). Throw quartering downstream 20 feet, hi-stick, and skitter and v-wake the bug duo back upstream to you. Yes, upstream.
An hour before dark, change your dropper to a #16 cahill, so your ammo matches the bug switch that just occurred. Dead drift and skitter the stimmy/ cahill combo. Watch the naturals and make your fakes act like the real things.
Charge your phones and cameras. You’ll need lots of battery life. Good luck with your assault. If you need more ammo, stop in or call either UO supply depot in Helen or Clarkesville.

Monday, April 5, 2021


Mountain old-timers call them “stickbait.” And for good reason! Now you know why. April is a prime caddis month here, so be ready with your dries, larva, and emergers. Match your bugs to the flows, too. In heavy water after storms, try a big, tungsten beaded tan mop or sexy Walts worm. As streamflows drop and clear, scale down to smaller, natural colors and sizes. Also arm yourself with tan elk hair caddis dries from size 14 to 20. Come by or call UO’s Helen (706-878-3083) or Clarkesville (706-754-0203) stores if we can help you prepare for caddis time in north Georgia.

Video here:


Thursday, April 1, 2021



This week's theme is "Recovery Mode" as north Georgia streams shed their second round of major stormflows.  Cold weather may dampen dry fly action for a few days until the Easter warmup begins.  Right now, be ready with a dropper below your dry on small streams.  On bigger waters that finally drop to safe wading levels, be ready with a double dredging rig and hit the flood refuges; aka slow water.  Behind your split shot, try a small streamer, big Rubber Leg Stone, or Tan Mop as your first fly; the attractor.  Drop a small nymph or soft hackle wet off the back as your "money" fly.  Match your flies to the flows.  On big flows, use bigger and brighter flies.  As streams drop and clear, go back to the smaller natural patterns.  Don't leave home without some size 14, 16, & 18 Hares Ears and Pheasant Tails in both nymph and soft hackle wet patterns.

Bugs will also return with dropping and warming streamflows.  Right now it's transition time as March's gray and brown bugs hang on just a bit longer while April's tan bugs begin to heed the mating call.  Be ready for the restart of hatches next week with some Adams, March Browns, Light Cahills, both gray and tan Elk Hair Caddis, and a few midges.

Lake fishing for stripers on the fly has been tough with all the extreme weather we've had.  Things were going very well until the storms hit.  Lots of muddy water in many creeks and, of course, working its way down the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers.  This should change in the coming days as the stripers begin staging to make their annual spawning run up the rivers.  If you've never tangled with a river striper, be prepared for a wild ride!  You may even lose some of your stuff. 

The hot fishing on the lake is for spots and they may certainly be reached with a fly.  Try hitting as many primary and secondary points as you can but beware that you'll likely be sharing many of them with other anglers since everyone knows about it.

Water Conditions as of 4/1

Headwater streams, as we write this, are high and clear if you're a careful wader.  We recommend staying away from the sections of creeks that have dramatic elevation changes.  Now is not the time to be rock hopping.

Mid-size streams like Dukes Creek, the Chattahoochee River in the WMA, and the Tallulah River are high and lightly milky.  They'll be clearing over the next few days but, for now, you may find it best to fish directly from the bank or in calm water adjacent to the bank.

Smith Creek Delayed Harvest is chocolate milk today since Smith Lake (Unicoi Lake) is muddy.  There may be 2 feet of visibility.  One note of caution, the second bridge on Smith Creek (the one at the end of the big field) has washed out.  

The Chattahoochee in Helen is still raging; 1061 cfs.  Nuff said!  

Further North

And don't think you'll be able to drive further north to find fishable water.  Dredger took a ride up to the Park in Cherokee before this last storm blew through and found it unfishable then.  Since they actually got more of the brunt of the storm than Georgia, it'll be a little while before it's worth the drive up there.  He circled back around by the Nantahala and found it high also but fishable from the bank.  He saw a small handful of #18 Gray Caddis and one lone #18 Blue Quill hanging onto a streamside boulder for dear life.  He also watched a few Blue Winged Olives hatch in the afternoon when clouds rolled in.  A few small rainbows were chasing them.  All in all, the high water put a damper on the bugs and, therefore, the risers.  He was content to watch safely from the bank and never wet a line.  As he said, "Better times are just ahead of us."

Until Next Week

Be safe when wading and have a good Easter weekend.  And don't forget these guys will be here soon!