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 27, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 5/27/22

Our prayers for rain were answered - and then some. Helen had 6 inches of rain this week and the Chattooga watershed tallied 8 inches!   Large trout streams and bass rivers will be blown out for several days until all that water runs off toward the flatlands.

Best bets for your holiday weekend will be ponds, bluelines, and reservoirs for dawn bass, before the holiday crowds wake up, get into big boats, and throw wakes across your bows.

Today’s morning recon showed small bluelines running high, but clearing.  Slightly larger streams on the national forest were high and off-color. Fishing on or right next to their banks should be possible this weekend as those flows drop. Know your own safe wading level, then check stream gauges or call local fly shops for the latest stream conditions.

Wes’ hot fly list and some extra tips follow on our extended version of this report. You can view it on our home and Facebook pages.

May we all note this special holiday and pay tribute to all those members of military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.  Let us appreciate our freedom to fish on this Memorial Day weekend.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: 409 Yeager yellow, elk hair caddis, yellow, humpy. Chubby Chernobyl.

Nymphs & Wets:

Girdle bug, squirmy worm, mop fly, lightning bug, prince nymph, soft hackle pheasant tail.

Streamers & warm water:

Feather changer, finesse changer, boogle popper, dragon tail, mouse rat


They are a best bet, as stormflows subside quickly and these heavily forested streams never muddy-up anyway.  Aim for the flood refuges next to the bank, along submerged logs, behind big boulders, and below rock ledges. Hi-stick a dry/dropper combo to let it hang a while in those soft spots. Use a buoyant dry like a chubby or elk hair caddis, then drop a small but heavy nymph a foot under it. If there’s color in the water, try a bright tungsten bead on the dropper. If it’s clear, try a black tungsten bead or an unbeaded but weighted pheasant tail or hares ear nymph or soft hackle.

Stocker Streams:

GAWRD usually stocks heavily for popular holidays, so watch todays list when it’s published.  High water should spread out stockers, so try aiming for some wash-downs below traditional stocking sites. Again, aim your fly, bait, or lure toward the flood refuges.

Bigger Trout Waters:

Most public waters, tailwaters, and private waters have been blown out this week, so we don’t have many fresh reports. They should fish well as flows drop and a little color remains in them. Recall my prior post this week about squirmies and stones in those dropping flows. Aim for the mornings to catch colder water, before the afternoon sun bakes it.

UO friend Landon:

“I took my boss to the Hooch Tailwater on Sunday AM.  Fairly slow morning but we caught a few rainbows on pheasant  tails under an indicator, fished around woody structure.”

NC streams:

The same storm front hit NC and those bigger streams are also blown out. Our headwater tips, mentioned above, should apply to the NC bluelines, too.

RSquared got up there before the monsoon and reported:

“Once again, I ventured north of the state line. My fly box was loaded with yellow caddis, yellow stimulators, & yellow mayflies. However, the trout at 3500ft elevation & above had evidently not read the NC hatch chart! Disappointed in the absence of activity, I switched to the old reliable Parachute Adams in a size 16. It was like turning on a switch. I began getting strikes & landed several nice wild Rainbow’s & Native Brookies over the following 3 days.”


Hank the Yank said that shallow lake stripers are gone for the summer, as surface temps approach 80 degrees. It’s about time to aim for river migrants, once these floods pass.  Spotted bass have been spotty. Try tossing 5-inch game changers on long points, since the spots are chasing bluebacks.

Henry did see one very dedicated flyfisher on the lake and said, “Fly anglers will do whatever means necessary to toss feathers at a fish!”



UO Helen manager Wes:

“Jackson and I had a fun weekend getaway with some buddies and wete able to get on a few river stripers.”

(See first photo, above)

UO owner Jimmy: “Here's a photo of a nice Redband Rainbow from the Deschutes in Oregon last week.  I was there for the salmonfly hatch and there were big bugs in all the bushes but very few on the water.  As a result, the fish were not yet keyed in on them so most of the catching was done on nymph droppers.  This beautiful lady, however, was caught on a salmonfly dry.  Magnificent country and great friends to fish with.  For what it's worth, I hear the fishing this week is lights out.”

There’s your holiday report from our UO gang.  The rains were welcome. While they may put a brief damper on some of our weekend opportunities, they will remedy low streamflows for a while. Hopefully we will get into a summer pattern of weekly storms to maintain flows and drop water temps. 

We thank and honor all of our military heroes on their day of remembrance.  Our freedom is special, and it certainly has not been free. May we all enjoy our days in the woods and on the water, and remember our heroes with deep gratitude for their ultimate sacrifice.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Give and Take for Wild and Scenic

Check this out!  What a great give-and-take.  You can give a few bucks toward the conservation of the Hooch and take away a great movie night - -  or nights!!!   It's the Wild and Scenic Film Festival hosted by our friends at the 
Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

Watch 14 short films in a theater setting at Brenau University on June 11, or tune in online, at your convenience, from June 11 thru the 17th.

Details follow in Riverkeeper's post.  Make sure you click on their link and then on "this year's films" to peruse the roster.

The Hooch has given most of us some very special lifetime memories, from leaping rainbows to trophy shoal bass to scenic floats.  Here's our chance to say thanks and give a little back to its conservation.  Hey, we can pass the popcorn, too!


Friday, May 20, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 5/20/22

We sure could use some rain up here!  Low, clear, and warming river conditions continue. That means picky trout but very good river bassing.   Best bets for trout will be cooler, high elevation streams, the bigger waters before 11am, and the icy tailwaters. Yellow is still a great May color for your bugs.

Stripers are a bit more scarce up the rivers, as the spawn is over.  Surface action is slower on reservoirs as those shallow temperatures approach 80 degrees.

Here the latest from our UO staff and friends, via the long versions on our home and Facebook pages.  Please join us in a rain dance to enhance our stream success up here next week.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

(Same as last week)

Dries: stimulator, 409 Yeager yellow, elk hair caddis, yellow stimulator, yellow humpy.

Nymphs & Wets:

Pats rubber leg, soft hackle partridge, jig CDC pheasant tail, mop fly, psycho prince.

Streamers & warm water:

Amnesia bug (for bream), Boogle bugs, kreelex, hot cone bugger, finesse changer.


They remain low and clear, so stealth, thinner tippets, and a yellow Sally or Adams should keep you in the game.

UO friend Sautee:

“Got on the river at 5:30. Fishing dry dropper of several combinations. Missed first 3 fish and then picked up 6 over the next 2.5 hours. At 8:20 the switch flipped and bugs started pouring off. Tied on a #14 yellow elk hair caddis. Picked up 6 more in last 25 minutes on top.”

Stocker Streams

They’re still a good bet, especially during the cool mornings. Lighten your line, reduce your weights, and shrink your baits in the lower flows. 

DH streams

NC’s DH streams will still provide good action, especially in the shade and shadows.  Dark-30 opportunities continue, so stay late and toss some double dry rigs (cahill first and a caddis trailer). Remember to twitch and skitter, too.


UO friend Mo: I hope yer fishing today. Here's some fodder from this am. The trio descended upon Settles Bridge this am in hopes of finding some hungry trout.  

They were snooty to begin with but we found some browns and rainbows in there. Had the place to ourselves till about noon, at which point we made our way out.

A #20 frenchie trailing a bigger, heavier, nymph produced well again today. Never had to change flies all am. Getting down quickly and dredging was the ticket. 

Ron and Kurt wore em out pretty good today and even I managed a couple fish to hand.”

Private Waters

They are still fishing real well, especially in the mornings.

UO manager Jake:

“I fished the Soque and Nacoochee Bend on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and had mid teen numbers both mornings, with a nice 25 incher from the Bend on Wednesday. The key for me this week has been long leaders, lighter tippet, yarn indicators, and small bugs. Most of my damage came on small Pat's Rubberlegs, Squirrel Nymphs, Ruby Midges, Clear Water Emergers, and I even caught a few fish on small Soft Hackle Pheasant Tails. The streams are low and clear, and the fish are settling into their summer routines, but down-scaled approaches are still producing quantity and quality. With rain in the forecast this weekend, hopefully we will see a bump in flow, which will help things going into next week.”

UO guide Israel:

“Today on the Soque. Been having success with Chubbies and Stimmies on the surface. Soft hackles are still producing well. Dropped off a dry fly or run a nymph rig. Cant go wrong with the partridge and orange.  Caught a few wild fish on a green weenie, too!”


The park is still fishing well.

Note: Daily fishing reports here:

Little River Outfitters - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains


UO friend Gayland:

“I went to Montana May 1st through May 10th.  Caught some pretty trout and stayed cool in the Montana snow showers and windy weather.   It was great fun and relaxing.   I waded on the Missouri below Hauser Fam and below Holter Dam.”

Warm Rivers:

“Steve W. & I fished one of our favourite local creeks. We came away with a mixed bag of trout, Coosa Red-eyed Bass, & Red Breasted Sunfish. One of the Redeye's was long enough to qualify for the Georgia Bass Slam. As water temperatures heat up, I turn much of my attention to fishing for the 10 different black bass species that inhabit our states rivers,streams, & lakes. It is a great way to stay on the water during our summer months without needlessly stressing  our cold-water resources. I am currently working on my 4th consecutive slam. I would encourage all those that pursue our wild & native trout to give the Bass Slam a try!”

Flat Water:

Athens Jay: “TU Fundraiser trip today. Grandad took grandson who is new to fly fishing. Started with Pat’s Rubberlegs under an Air-Lock with good success. Graduated to White Boogle bug popper/dropper and got some good surface strikes. Bluegill are spawning tight to the bank, especially under overhanging tree limbs making it important to do the side arm thing. We had a great time on the pond.”

UO staffer Joseph:

“Here’s a schoolie striper I caught on a dock light. I seemed to have more success on above ground lights rather than green lights in the water .The stripers are very few and far between as water temps are rising. But the bass are eating good and are aggressive. “

Hank the Yank: “Lanier is fishing ok these days. The previous full moon allowed us to see some schooling stripers during the mid to late morning timeframe as well as midday. Groups are chasing herring and are up and down quickly. Bigger flies are the norm right now for these last lick stripers. We are turning our attention over to spotted bass, which has been interesting to say the least. Fish are schooling some as well as singles chasing herring on the surface. Anglers must throw on top of the fish in order to get an eat. Not the easiest of fishing but extremely visual. Larger flies are called for here with game changers, coyotes and kinky muddler flies your best bet. You can also toss a pole dancer or larger gurgler on a floating line and get them to eat it off the surface. While catching numbers isn't the norm just yet it is still fun watching all the surface activity on the pond. “


That’s the latest intel up here as we start on some summer patterns. Stop by either UO store or give us a call if we can help. Now go have a lucky day.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

A Second Scoop of Smiles

You may recall that I said we were blessed with opportunities (plural) to give back to our flyfishing community last weekend. Here’s the other event that we co-hosted with Smithgall Woods State Park. This one focused on growing grins on kids!

Saturday found some Unicoi staff, a boatload of vols from across north Georgia, and several dozen kids knee-deep in our section of the Hooch at Nacoochee Bend. It was the Becca Sue Klein All Kids Fishing Event, led by Becca and her outstanding conservation organization, @ChattahoocheeRiverkeeper:


Kids tangled with the Hooch’s hefty rainbows and enjoyed lunch back at a Smithgall Woods State Park shelter.  I heard that a few of the parents got into the angling action, too.

Hats off to Becca, Riverkeeper, the Orvis Company, and all the volunteers for nurturing our next generation of angler-conservationists!  Unicoi Outfitters was honored to be a part of the initiative.  And you can tell from the picture of our owner Jimmy that we had a lot of fun ourselves!

Take a kid fishing soon. Before you know it, they’ll have a drivers license and take you to some of their secret spots!  I have that fact on good authority from ole Jimmy himself… (details to come)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Catching Smiles

Thanks to all of you, Unicoi Outfitters has been blessed to be in business for 28 years.  We really enjoy returning some of those blessings to our north GA flyfishing community. Last weekend was full of such opportunities!

Yesterday (5/15) we were honored  to host, once again, special guests and volunteers from Casting for Recovery- Georgia. The group of brand-new and veteran flyfishers enjoyed a Sunday morning full of grins and tight lines on the Hooch at Nacoochee Bend. New friendships were spawned and lifetime memories were made!

Beverly and Lynn run a fantastic CFR program, one we are proud to support. Their Smithall Woods weekend retreat for the gals is unforgettable. If you have a friend or family member who may qualify for a future retreat, check out the CFR website:


Then choose “retreats” from the drop-down menu and scroll down to Georgia.

Hydrotherapy is good for the body and good for the soul. We are happy to share our Hooch hydrotherapy with special friends such as our CFR sisters. We thank all of you patrons for your support of Unicoi Outfitters, which allows us to give something back to our community.  Leaping rainbows and wide smiles, anyone?

Photo: CFR Participant Janet Gill with volunteer River Helper Devin Lancaster. Devin is the fishing manager at @OrvisAtlanta.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 5/13/22

Let’s make this your lucky day and lucky weekend, thanks to another helping of timely UO intel!

Our rain-free days continue so the region’s low, clear water conditions persist. That’s been real good for river floating, as bass and some stripers can charge your streamers from afar. Trout, on the other hand, remain skittish in the skinny water. 

Here’s some UO/Rabunite intel to make your trouting trips lucky ones this week.  First, think yeller. That’s May’s color for your topwater bugs, so try them first before falling back to your trusty Adams, chubby, or tan caddis. Second, aim for low light: shade, dawn, and dusk will give you the best shots on top. Third, force their quicker decisions! Find some broken and/or faster water, where residents must choose between eat/don’t eat much quicker. Long, slow pools may hold more fish, but they can study your fake food and often refuse your flies.   Save the flat water til the shadows give you an advantage.

Go soon to cash in on possibly the last week of spring. It looks like we will warm up next week, so river trouting will decline. That’s okay, for it’s just about time to switch to river bassing or go on the road for colder trout water.

Check out our long version on our home and Facebook pages. Ignore today’s date, employ our UO intel, and make today and the days to come very lucky ones. Stop in either store if we can help you further.

Wes’ Hot Fly List

Dries: stimulator, 409 Yeager yellow, elk hair caddis, yellow stimulator, yellow humpy.

Nymphs & Wets:

Pats rubber leg, soft hackle partridge, jig CDC pheasant tail, mop fly, psycho prince.

Streamers & warm water:

Amnesia bug (for bream), Boogle bugs, kreelex, hot cone bugger, finesse changer.


They are low and clear and hatches are getting sparse. Residents are spooky, but hungry. Toss something in yellow (stimmy, Sally, small chubby Chernobyl, or elk hair caddis) to start. Carry a few Adams, tan caddis, and coachman trudes as backups. Start with 4X tippet so you can retrieve your bugs from the “grabby” overhead branches. If fish are skittish, then you might have to downsize to 18 inches of 5X or 6X tippet to draw strikes.

See Wes’ Smokies report, below, for more headwater intel.

Stocker Streams

WRD trucks are still rolling daily, so watch that agency’s posted Friday reports (or sign up for them).

DH streams

This is your last Saturday for GA’s restrictive regs. On Sunday, you can take your kids and nightcrawlers and harvest those fish before they succumb to summer’s hot water (thus, the DH regs to optimize marginal trout waters).

Here’s one more hint: the big waters don’t get cleaned out immediately. Fly anglers can still have a week or two of decent trouting if those streams stay below 70 degrees.  (Add 2-3 degrees to Burrell’s Ford temps to guestimate Tooga DH temps)  Give them a shot if our nights stay cool thru May. Also, DH trout can’t read signs, so try above and below the DH zones, too, for wanderers.

As noted last week, NC’s DH regs are still on til early June (since the water’s colder up there).  They will still fish well. River residents are now a combo of sore-slipped and smart DH stockers and, oftentimes,  little wild bows. Forget your flashy Nov 1 flies and employ your hatch-matching, dead drifting, wild fish techniques for greatest luck. Grab that paint strainer, stick it over your net, and sift the drift for bugs. Turn over rocks, sort thru submerged leaf piles, and inspect spider webs. Try something yellow or an Adams on top and some small pheasant tails, hares ears, their soft hackle versions, and caddis emergers as your dropper. Read my intro on how to fish them. Boulder fields are prime right now, and flashlights are very handy.

Private Waters

They are still fishing real well, especially in the mornings. While flies are low, our nights have been thankfully cool.

UO guide Palmer:

“My clients have still done well.  More fish are looking up! We’ve had our best luck this week on chubbies, softhackles, and emergers.”

UO friend Cam:

“After representing GA on the TU-National’s Youth Leadership Council and mentoring kids for countless years at the GA Trout Camp, I was finally able to talk my dad into fly fishing with me!  Once at Nacoochee Bend, we both set our rods up and my rod quickly became “his” rod every time he got stuck. After a few hours, Dad had caught plenty of huge fish and I was skunked, but it was still worth it! 

I think I like guiding little kids better… they may not listen but they don’t talk back. It was a great day with my dear Dad!”

UO friend Marcus E posted a great web report on the duo’s trip to Nacoochee Bend. Their day was full of plump rainbows and topped off by a big Lanier migrant (striper) that tested his trout rod to its limit!

View the fish story and pics at the Fly Fishing North Ga Facebook group (Wednesday post).



UO Helen manager Wes: “I have been out of town camping for a few days,  off the grid in the Smokies. Jackson and I backpacked in and got on some natives. Lots of yellow sallies were flying around, so any yellow dry fly in a size #12-#16 was the ticket. We had a great time in the national park.”

Note: Daily fishing reports here:

Little River Outfitters - Fly Fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains

Warm Rivers:

UO owner Jimmy: “ The cool mornings haven't been any help toward getting river bass to feed on top but that doesn't mean the fishing is slow.  We all love that topwater bite but brute force and ignorance won't bring those fish to the surface before they're ready.  So, for now, you have to feed them where they are, and that's on the bottom.  Your fly or lure can't be moving too quickly through their domain so slow things down, practice patience, and reap some rewards.  As always, remember these are a very unique and special resource so we encourage you to handle them carefully and practice catch and release so we'll have a good supply for the future.”

UO buddy Landon:  “Go late and stay late. Kreelex has been my fly of choice. I think the river striper run is winding down but there are still a few hanging around.”

Ed Note: I included a pic of Damer’s striper, caught on a “Honda lure” to remind folks of the great intel in the weekly GAWRD reports. His catch was featured last Friday.  I’ve never used a better bait in my life!


Distant Rabunite DD:

“For your enjoyment.  My two oldest sons and I hit a middle GA river couple of weekends ago for some shoal bass action. Very trout like. 40+ fish day out of our raft. Doesn’t get a lot better than that!”

Flat Water:

RSquared: “ My son Matt & I went north of the state line for some topwater smallmouth action. The bite was slow but we managed to get a few in the boat. Love those Boogle-Bugs! Many of the Rivers & lakes of TN & NC hold decent populations of smallies and are worth a road trip. “

Hank the Yank:

He’s off the water this week. If he was on, he’d be telling us that the shallow water bass bite is still very good. Stripers are spotty, but if you find them at dawn, dusk, or at night under dock lights, you’ll have some great fights. UO young guns Grant and Joseph have confirmed this intel with more trips of their own.


So remember “yellow, broken water, Dark30 flashlights, and Boogle Bugs.”  Stop by either UO store or give us a call if we can help. Now go have a lucky day.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.