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, May 21, 2021

UO Fishing Report - 5/21/21

We have it “made in the shade” this week.   Streams and rivers are clear and fairly low due to lack of recent rainfall.  Fish can see your offerings, but can also see YOU, so pull out your summer stealth tactics a bit early this year.  Best bets are shaded stream trout, river bass and stripers, pond bream and bass on top at dusk, and the river gar run for “something different.”

GO ASAP,  before Sunday’s heat wave sets in for a week, maybe more.  And aim for the shade.  Use your stream thermometer and you’ll find good trouting where water temps are below about 68F.  Bigger, lower elevation trout streams with open tree canopies will catch more sun and heat up. As their water temps rise into the upper sixties, trout appetites wane.  

Try them at first or last light for the last of the spring hatches. Maybe you’ll luck into a few coffinflies in the tails of silty pools at dark.

If you have extra time and gas, extend your trouting spring and hit some cooler, higher elevation NC rivers with Georgia’s mid-April bugs and techniques.

Cool- and warmwater fish like stripers and bass enjoy those warming rivers, so aim for them in clearing water.   Crayfish and minnow patterns may outfish topwater bugs this early in season.  For something different, go for gar; toss some  gar flies at this week’s spawning runs.

Enjoy our extended report , with Wes’ weekly hot fly list and our guide & UO buddy fishing reports, on our Facebook page and at 


And remember our Tuesday fly tying night from 6 to 8pm at the UO General Store in Clarkesville. Details on our IG and FB pages.   

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

We are re-running last week’s list, with a few additions, because these bugs remain best bets for another week of low, clear water.

Dries: Parachute adams, Deckers yellow sally, Yellow stimulator, Micro chubby, Stoneflopper, Green River super cicada. Carry a couple big Green drakes and Coffinflies in case you luck upon that hatch in the next two weeks here and a bit later as you drive north along the Appalachian spine.

Nymphs & wets: Yellow soft hackle, Yellow sally stone, Lightning bug, Girdle bug, Squirminator, Depth charge caddis, pheasant tail soft hackle.

Streamers & warmwater: Kreelex, Mini dungeon, Krystal bugger, Bluegill mini slider, BoogleBug, Transfoamer, Finesse changer, Bugger changer 


Headwaters are in great shape. They’re a bit low and very clear, but running cold. Two Hooch tribs ran 58 degrees at nine this morning.  Dark clothes, stealth, and casting fluffy, visible dries (caddis, small stimmies, parachute adams) into the shade will get you on the weekend scoreboard. For trout numbers, use smaller bugs (16, 18). To cull the smaller fish, aim for a size or two larger on your dry and they won’t be able to eat it.

UO dudes Hunter and Atticus speckulated this week and found a nice handful of natives “somewhere high above Helen.” The water was low and clear, and fish succumbed primarily to a good stalk. The duo’s small chubby Chernobyl’s and yellow stimmies sealed the deal.

UO buddy and Tumlin protege CameronF shared his perseverance story: “I went out to catch some wild brookies in the hills above Blue Ridge, and caught everything but a brook trout! I found this perfect, deep pocket under a downed tree.  I crawled in from the back side and got on my knees to set up my bow-and-arrow cast. Right before I released my fly, I saw this brown rise.

I immediately released. NOTHING! Tried again.  He came up for my fly and dismissed it. Tied on another fly, same thing. After a solid 25 minutes of persistent casting, perfect drag-free drifts, and 5 different flies being looked at and dismissed, I tied on an elk hair caddis and told myself that was my last fly. This fish was teasing me for way too long.  And...He crushed it on the first cast! “

Delayed Harvest:

There should still be some fish left in, above, and below the Georgia DH waters. Watch water temps, though, as numbers nearing 70 degrees will turn off trout appetites. Dawn will be your best bet for survivors.

Private Waters:

Jake had back-to-back trips at the Bend. He said the morning session fished a bit better than the afternoon session. His best technique was bottom-rolling smaller, natural nymphs and soft hackle wets in the main current, especially with some turbulence. Fish in those spots had to make quicker decisions on their potential meals.  His clients were even able to coax a few fish up to dry flies.

Wes: “I did a few trips at the Bend throughout the last week.  The water is clean and the river level is dropping so the fish are starting to wise up. 

The swing was king this week.

Soft hackles & girdle bugs on the swing were the big producers, while a well-presented #18 pheasant tail also fooled a few.

In the late afternoon we are seeing quite a few yellow sallies and golden stones coming off. When the bugs were out and about we were able to have a couple rise up to #14 tan micro chubby’s and a #16 decker yellow sally.”

Hunter:  “My two guests had a great Saturday at Rainbow Point on the Soque.  Our best patterns for the river’s chunky rainbows were squirmies and small soft hackles drifted deep in the shadows.”

Coach Mac:

“Tina and Keith had a great morning on a Gilligan Special at Nacoochee Bend.  

Learn to Fly-Fish – Unicoi Outfitters

We landed some nice rainbows and I think they are hooked on flyfishing.”


Extend your spring by going higher up the mountain. NC streams will still fish well due to higher elevations and colder water.  Try your late April bugs and techniques on our northern neighbor’s streams.  Their DH program runs until June 4. 

General Mountain Trout Regulations | North Carolina Hunting & Fishing Regulations – 2020 | eRegulations

You might even luck upon some drakes and coffins at Nan DH.

The Smokies will fish well. These are wild fish, so up your game and drop your expections on numbers to hand when compared to DH streams. But they are colorful, spunky, fun, and wild. Toss in an evening elk sighting and your road trip will be complete.  Our local friends up there at R&R and LRO have some great intel themselves, so peruse their reports before you go.

Fishing Report | R and R Fly Fishing

Little River Outfitters - Fly Fishing Report, May 21, 2021


The Hooch at Highway 115 was fairly low and very clear when I crossed it this morning.  Go soon!  Float or wade it or other region rivers (Chestatee, Etowah) before the next rain blows them out for several days or a week.  Aim for the river’s residents (bass), spring vacationers on extended stay (Lanier stripers), or recent honeymooners (gar). Our DNR friends scribed a great Hooch guide for you a few years ago:


UO regular Landon reports that the river is loaded with spawning gar right now. If you’ve never hooked a 3-4 foot long, cartwheeling “freshwater marlin,” you should give it a try. We usually land about one out of ten fish “hooked,” which is fine because unhooking them is a chore. But the fight is worth it, so “jump” some gar soon.

PS: the best gar flies have no hooks; the nylon rope is combed and the thin strands tangle in gar teeth. 

FlyFishGA - Gar

Bring a pair of work gloves and some needlenose pliers to help with unhooking and release. If you wanna try, this “Gar 101” lesson will help:


Flat Water:

The best and hottest  intel comes straight from the WRD technician’s boat to the biologist’s keyboard and to your smart phone:


Landon said he did pretty well this week on spots and largemouths on the north end of Lanier. He tossed super flukes toward the bank at dusk.

More than a week ago, he lit them up on the south end:

“We fished the south end by pounding the banks with flukes and the reef markers with chug bugs. We had over 30 in the boat before noon. I brought an 8-wt intermediate and managed a handful of decent spots on a clouser when we saw some schooling. Nice change of place for this north-ender.”

AthensJay reported on his pond gluttony and backed up his tales with pics. Evidently his popper/dropper rig, with a Pat’s rubberlegs as the wet, is tearing up local bass and bream:

“Double bass fun. One ate the popper and the other ate the Pat’s.”

He did not say exactly where these are and he did not invite me. Yet.  :)

There’s your updated intel from the hills around Helen.

Call or come by our Helen (706-878-3083) or Clarkesville (706-754-0203) stores if we can help in any way. Good luck! 

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