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 28, 2023

UO Fishing Report 4/28/23

We have great news just in time for your weekend wanderings. The high flows from this week’s monsoon that dumped 2-3 inches of much-needed drain have already passed through all but the largest trout streams.

 My lunchtime recon today showed that the Hooch in Helen and its tribs were only slightly high and stained.  Those are perfect fishing conditions right now.  They’ll clear and drop a bit more  by tomorrow, so be ready to resume your stealthy stalks with dry/dropper rigs.

Big waters like the Toccoa are still ripping, so fishing them safely will require floating instead of wading. The Chattooga is already dropping to fishable levels for most experienced waders. Same goes for our favorite NC streams. Check those gages against your own smart phone notes on safe wading levels at your favorite sites. Pack your cahills, caddis, and flashlights for evening action as the sun drops.

Some stripers are still up the rivers, but those waters are  big and ripping right now. Give them a few days to drop and clear a bit before returning.

Ponds remain hot, while reservoirs are very good for bass and spotty for stripers. Bass are shallow spawning, while both predator species are chasing late-spawning shad and early-spawning bluebacks. Try a dawn excursion soon, while reservoir temps are still in the 60’s.

As always, our full report has Wes’ hot fly list and trip details from our shop staff, guides, and avid angling friends. Tune in to our UO blog regularly for our hottest intel.


Good luck this week. Cash in on April before it’s gone! Stop in either UO shop for the flies and advice to make you smile at your trip’s end.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: tan elk hair caddis, stimulator, #18 yellow sally, parachute adams (#16-18), parachute light cahill (#14, 16, 18).

Nymphs & Wets:

Micro Stonefly, gold pats rubberlegs, soft hackle partridge, hot head pheasant tail, uv greenie weenie, squirmy worm.

Streamers & warm water:

Amnesia bug popper (for bream) polar changer, low fat minnow, complex twist bugger, clouser minnow, sweet baby cray.


Headwaters are slightly high and stained, which are great fishing conditions. They’ll clear by tomorrow, however, so be ready to ditch your bright-beaded droppers and go back to dry fly drifting. Water temps are in the high 50’s. It will be a great weekend to prospect small streams with a cahill, caddis, or Adams. If midday surface action is show, try a short dropper to a pheasant tail soft hackle or hares ear nymph. Watch for inchworms, too, and don’t hesitate to tie on a green weenie. 

UO-Helen manager Wes: “Atticus and I got out for a short afternoon wild trout session in the rain this week, up in the national forest. The rain didn't allow for any productive dry fly fishing. However, we were able to land several colorful browns on small nymphs and streamers.”

We’ve had no reports this week, but the Smokies should remain a best bet. Its spring hatches usually run 7-10 days behind ours (due to cooler water), so the park remains in prime time.  Consult Byron’s daily park intel here, before heading north:


UO friend CDB:

“Inconsistent weather and swimming in Gore-Tex

Sun. Rain. Sun. Rain. Talk about manic weather! At least the water has cleared fairly quickly after each rain so fair.  Was on private waters over the weekend and the beginning of the week. The normal stable of nymph patterns produced trout, but the fish didn’t seem to be focusing on any one pattern. We would pick up one here on the Pat’s, rubber legs, another single on the squirmy worm, then one on a hare’s, ear, one on a zebra midge and so on.  However, once the sun came out, woolly bugger’s and sculpin’s were electric!  Especially woolly buggers.  A size 6 two-color, black and yellow woolly bugger with some green tinsel was a clear winner.   I’m still fishing my streamers fairly high in the water column. However, in the rising water and faster currents, don’t hesitate to put a second AB or BB in front of it.  You need enough weight so the fly is not floating in the top inch or skimming the surface. Across the current or slightly downstream works best. And once again, while you could occasionally pick up a fish on the dead drift, the fish wanted to see it move!  75% of the strikes came within the first two strips.  

Mid-week I got to hit some mountain streams in Georgia and western North Carolina that were rumored to have my favorite invasive species - Salmo Trutta.  Wednesday was beautiful day with the overcast skies and off-and-on light rain and drizzle.  The native azaleas and some little purple thing were blooming. 

Once I hit the water, a bronze woolly bugger with black tail proved to be the perfect Trout medicine. Again a size 6. I had steady action almost all day on that woolly bugger, putting close to 20 fish in the net, lots of visible chases, but short of the Appalachia slam.  

Late afternoon came and a significant hatch of very tiny blue wings started coming off. There were a few small risers, but most of the activity was beneath the surface and the streamer bite seemed to shut down. Dredger would be proud of me. I sadly, slowly removed my woolly bugger, switched out tippet, and tied on a small Hares Ear and a size 18 WD-40 and almost immediately began hooking up including a couple pretty little rainbows, completing the slam.

 I lost the WD-40 on a rock pile and switched to a size 20 or so RS2. It worked even better. 

A little after 5:00 I started a long walk back to the car, wet and shivering.  I stopped at a nice pool to rest about a half mile from the car, leaned on a big sycamore tree and watched the water.  I could still see a couple trout moving in the gathering gloom, and there was still a smattering of tiny blue wings and perhaps some midges on the surface. After a couple minutes a dark shadow that kind of looked like a tail briefly materialized below some rocks in a deep part of the pool. After watching for a number of long minutes, it turned out it was not only a tail - - it was a whole fish, and a significant one!   I was conflicted. Streamer, nymph? Fighting my instincts to put a woolly bugger back on, I cast the RS2. On the second drift, the tail shifted, and I lifted even though the indicator never moved. I was rewarded with a rocket out of the water and up down the pool. I put the beauty in the net, a quick handshake and photo and released the beastie. Just shy of the 20” mark on the net. On that note, I clipped off my nymphs and finished sloshing back to the car. I hope my streamer loving brethren can forgive me.  And yes, by the way, the Davey Knot will hold a good size fish. 

As for the swimming in Gore-Tex….This time I did remember to put it on in an attempt to stay dry in the rain. However, within the first hundred yards of fishing, I slid off of a rock, and did a face plant into the water, scooping up water and microscopic insects down the front of my waders like a floundering Columbia and Orvis-clad, humpback whale.  Waders can actually hold quite a bit of water.  And, the Gore-Tex helps keep it all in. Nice and moist against your skin.   For any of you whom I have ignominiously hauled out of the water by the back of your waders, you missed your chance. And I went in yet again about two hours later doing an ill-advised stream crossing.   Glad I always have plenty of towels in the vehicle!”

Delayed Harvest:

DH streams are fishing well, as expected. Just beware of this weekend’s big crowds at Smith DH. Fly anglers will be competing for parking space with frisbee-fetching canines and their fans.


Rabunite MikeA volunteered his Saturday afternoon to assist several Project Healing Waters -Alabama vets. They had a great time on the Chattooga DH. Mike said:” Outside of me breaking my favorite rod (slight tear in my eye), we have good river news, as our vets had a fun day on the Chattooga. Fish where caught and fun was had! We started the day nymphing (rubberlegs were hot) but quickly realized fish where hitting the top regularly. So a quick adjustment and off to dry flies. The elk hair caddis seemed to do the trick and we caught multiple fish on dries.”

Dredger snuck up for his reunion with Nan DH on Monday afternoon. He got up there around four and did his usual “be the eagle” routine, perching high above the water and watching closely.  He was greeted by a really nice bug buffet, with adult cahills and BWO’s coming off regularly. There was a healthy smattering of yellow sallies mixed in, along with a few march browns. One MB nymph emerged into the dun right on the streambank rock that he stood on.

He walked up past those riffles to a sweet pool that had always provided in the past. There he counted at least 6-8 different fish rising to an emerger he couldn’t ID.  He put on his trusty cahill/cahill emerger combo and did well there and in two other flat pools that were easily accessible to the tenderfoot wader.  

The bugs and fish departed while still light at 8, as the cold night settled in early. He ended with a big bunch of bows and a handful of browns. Half the bows were wild fish, with one stretching about 10 inches. Fish preferred the dropper by about 4:1, with the dry finally doing better after 7:30.

The trip was topped off by another NatGeo moment that rivaled his mama bear Uber incident. He stepped into his second pool around 6 and was greeted by the distant call of an  osprey, perched high atop a dead pine about 200 yards up the mountain, on the opposite bank. Cool, an osprey, he thought as he cast.

Then the osprey called again, much closer. He looked up to see that bird about 50 yards away, seemingly aimed at him. But it was fleeing- from the big bald eagle that was hot on its tail.  Both birds veered hard left, about two rod lengths in front of ole Dredge, to follow the river channel downstream. He was so  close that he saw the black pupil of the eagle’s golden eye as it passed.

Three rod lengths below him, the osprey suddenly dropped its baggage: an expired trout. The eagle immediately pounced on it at the water surface, then lifted up and slowly glided downriver with its plunder.  

The  roughly 8-second ordeal offered no time for Dredger to grab his phone camera, but it burned a lifetime memory into his mind. It was one fine evening of “risers and raptors” on the Nan!

Stocker Streams:

Hatchery-supported waters remain in their prime. They’re a best bet for introducing new folks to trout fishing. Whether it’s worm dunking with a spincast outfit, or woolly bugger stripping by a first time fly fisher, it’s the best time of the year on these streams. Aim for a weekday to dodge the weekend crowds. Sign up to receive your own copy of GAWRD’s weekly trout stocking list here:


Private Waters: 

They sprung back to life last week after some rain and cooler weather recharged those streams. UO Helen manager Wes: “The private waters have been giving up some big fish over the last week. The key is changing tactics based on conditions. During the warmer, sunny days last week soft hackles, shallow nymph rigs, and even dries produced fish. This week, in cooler off-color water during the rain, flies like girdle bugs, worms, and streamers fished deep were the key players.”

UO guide Caleb: “The Bend fished very well this week. A hopper dropper picked up a few fish but nymphing was still the most effective strategy. Black rubber leg stones and pheasant tail jigs were the preferred patterns. “

UO guide Como: “The hefty rainbows at Rainbow Point on the Soque really like root beer midge and my Cajun special on the end of my client’s tippet!”

UO manager Jake also said his clients had a banner day at Rainbow Point. Yellow stonefly nymphs were hot for them.

Rabunite buddy Nanette: “I represented Rabun TU and the GA Women Flyfishers at the Reeling in Serenity retreat at Hatch Camp last Sunday. It was a good day, giving women going through some really tough situations a chance to connect with the healing power of nature. It was great to lend a hand. For more info on the program, check it out here:



UO staffer Joseph: “Caught my first striper on foot last week. This fish came from the lower river but there aren’t many in Helen yet, either. Fish are still spread out and are very hit or miss. If you want to test your luck, then throw a bigger game changer (5in-8in) on a sinking or intermediate line with 20lb test tippet. I would also recommend a 7-9 weight rod as you have to pull hard when these fish are in the current.”


Athens Jay: “Ponds are hopping in the Piedmont.  Some nice bass and bream are in shallow water. Late afternoon topwater activity can make things fun. Just be stealthy to avoid spooking fish.”


HenryC: “Fishing on Lanier hasn't changed a whole lot, however there is a BUT in our report this week. Spotted bass are still somewhat shallow and more are being caught teasing them with a top water fly/lure every day. South lake tends to be better than north lake for this bite,  as the herring are beginning to spawn. Stripers, on the other hand, are still a now you see them now you don't fishery with the bite changing daily. More fish are starting to be found south, with lots of fish being caught along with white bass upriver. Mixed sizes for the stripers and we are seeing some surface schooling for the last licks stripers. Full moon is end of next week so the bite should get better and better daily.”


You have favorable skies til tomorrow nite. The first half of Sunday is soggy, but it’s clear sailing after that. Just match your bugs and technique to water conditions. Look down at your submerged toes for guidance. If you can’t see them, toss the bigger, ugly stuff like buggers, rubberlegs, and squirmies.  If it’s clear, break out the dries and droppers. And don’t forget those emergers!!!

That’s our post-monsoon intel to help steer you toward weekend success. April continues to be the hot fishing month that it always has been. Go get some topwater action soon before spring’s spawning bugs and baitfish complete their romantic rituals.  Look around, too, for those NatGeo moments to top off your memorable fishing trip. Call or come by either UO shop for the latest flies and advice to enhance your excursions. Be the eagle, or watch one yourselves!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Double Dries!

Double your Dark30 fun with double dries. It’s that time of the year when several orders of aquatic insects are hatching and then dancing at dark.  For example, I watched cahills, March browns, BWO’s, and yellow stones buzz past me in the Monday afternoon sun.  

If you haven’t already, try giving these fish a choice, especially at dark.  Run a first dry fly that’s larger and easy for you to spot.  Then change your dropper from the nymph or emerger to a second dry fly.  Pick the two most common bugs you’ve seen, or the ones disappearing in surface swirls.  

One of my favorite combos right now is a cahill first, followed by a small tan caddis trailer.  The caddis dropper can be easily twitched and skittered, too.  Match both hatches and let the fish decide on dinner.

Give the double-dry combo a try as soon as this rainy spell passes and the bugs come back out to play. Here’s a nice Orvis video on the setup.


Have fun this spring. Stop by either UO shop to stock up on our great imposters for the “hatch of the week.”  And may you even score a doubleheader on your double dry rig.  That will really test your tippet knots and netting skill!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Monday, April 24, 2023

A Great Trout and Bass Bug

Whether you tie or buy, make sure you have an ample supply of Pat’s Rubberlegs in your box year-round. I like them in brown, black, and variegated black/brown, while our guides have had lots of recent success on golden models.

You can tie them with or without a heavy tungsten bead and on regular or jig hooks. Just have some on the stream!  They’re deadly not only on trout, but are also a great dropper behind my river bass/bream popper during summer excursions. Those two species really like buggy and leggy patterns.

Here’s a great tying tutorial by national expert Charlie Craven that might help many of you tie this simple, yet frustrating pattern. (The legs always seem to get in the way.)


I tie these in similar fashion, with two exceptions. First, I tie in the chenille to the end of the hook just before I tie in the triple strand clump of leg material. Then I’ll wrap the chenille up to and thru the legs. Second, I don’t trim the chenille along the abdomen. I’d rather spend that extra time tying another bug and loading up my box.

Big thanks to www.midcurrent.com for the story link and to Charlie for the great instructional video. If you haven’t drowned a Pat’s yet in your favorite trout or bass river, give it a try. Like us, you’ll be hooked on that pattern, too.

Good luck plotting your next excursion. I might give it a go this evening. Stop in or call either UO store if we can help your own trip prep. We have plenty of Pat’s in our fly bins.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, April 21, 2023

UO Fishing Report 4/21/23


“Shadows spell success.”  Memorize that. With the high, hot sun and lack of rainfall, area streams were skinny and fished more like May than April last week. The best trout fishing has been early and especially late, while daytime trouters had to hunt for shade and/or deep water to find willing lunchers.

We’re supposed to get some rain overnight, but it doesn’t sound like enough to bump up flows and muddy the water. So keep your Saturday fishing plans, and pray for more rain soon to replenish our streamflows.

While daytimers  had some tough going, our veteran flyfishers cashed in on great Dark30 action. The cahill/caddis buffet remains strong. Just eat an early supper yourselves and get astream around 6PM. Toss dry/droppers til the real bugs come out to dance at 730, then match the hatch with one or two dries until you can no longer see them floating by. Turn on your headlamp and hike back to your truck with a smile.

Reservoir and river stripers are scattered but still around. The best bet for boaters is reservoir spotted bass as they spawn in the shallows this time of year. Ponds remain strong, too, for yak and canoe fans pursuing bass and bream.

As always, our full report has Wes’ hot fly list and the details from our shop staff, guides, and avid angling friends. Shoot, we have FOUR  reports from last nite!  Tune in here regularly to ensure your have the breaking intel to enhance your own catch rates.


Good luck this week. Cash in on April before it’s gone! Stop in either UO shop for the flies and advice to make you smile at your trip’s end.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: tan and gray elk hair caddis, stimulator, #18 yellow sally, parachute adams, parachute light cahill (#14,16, 18).

Nymphs & Wets:

Micro Stonefly, hot head pheasant tail, soft hackle partridge, sexy Walt’s, uv greenie weenie.

Streamers & warm water:

Jiggy fat minnow, Sparkle minnow, polar changer, finesse changer, jig micro bugger.


No recent reports to the shop, but they should be fishing great. Your biggest challenge will be spooky fish in skinny water, so worry more about your stalk than you fly pattern. A tan caddis, cahill, adams, or tiny chubby Chernobyl should bring you plenty of action. Limit false casts, too. Anything flying over their heads, except for small bugs, will sound the trout alarm. 

Smokies trouting is still on fire, according to our Vol buddy, Ian, at Rand R Flyfishing.


Consult Byron’s daily park intel here, too, before heading north:


Delayed Harvest:

UO friend Athens Alan: “Had a lot of fun on the Chattooga last night (20th). I got up there after work about 6:30 and fished until 8:30 (dark thirty). Perfect conditions: warm temp., gauge height was below 1.8, not a bit of wind, bugs were coming off, and fish were rising.

All but one fish caught on size 14-16 tan elk hair caddis. I ran into a couple of picky fish that didn’t want the caddis and caught one of them on a light Cahill after catching a natural in the air.

Fish seemed to prefer a dead drift; I only picked up one by skittering the caddis. Two nice rainbows that went 14” and one brown at 12-13” were best fish of the evening.”

After a lengthy stay on the DL, Dredger finally got back in the game last night and scored the Smith DH slam.  He got in the water around 6:30 and watched the pool residents nose up to and then refuse his dry. But several nice brookies fell for his trailing cahill emerger. 

The switch turned on as the real cahills finally came out to dance with dusk around 7:45. His double dry combo of cahill/caddis worked well in the low light, with several bows and a lone brown succumbing.  Two picky fish wouldn’t take the dead drift, but finally fell for the twitch. The last fish was fondled at 8:30. He broke off a real lunker at 8:31.  Brook, brown, or  bow? No, he thinks it was a poplar. The fly sacrifice was a fair payment for an enjoyable park Dark30.

Rabunite Nan(ette) just checked in with a Nan(tahala) DH report: “Brook trout on Nan DH last nite (20th) ate a size 14 Cahill on top. Dry fly action was nonexistent till about 4:45. Caught a (very) few on emergers before then. Rises not steady but got better as evening approached. I even got two beautiful, little wild rainbows to top off our trip.”

Stocker Streams:

Hatchery-supported waters remain in their prime. They’re a best bet for introducing new folks to trout fishing. Whether it’s worm dunking with a spincast outfit, or woolly bugger stripping by a first time fly fisher, it’s the best time of the year on these streams. Aim for a weekday if you can to dodge the weekend crowds.

New UO buddy Emaly: “I hit the Tallulah with my GA Women Flyfishers gang last weekend. 


Broke out my euro setup and put over 20 fish in the net. In the morning they went for a golden pats rubber legs, with a few on a pheasant tail.  Around 1:00 they were all on a white jigged streamer. 

Your prior report helped me narrow down my stream choices and the guys at your Helen shop recommended the gold pats rubber legs, so I have them to thank as well!”

Private Waters:

Educated fish, warm,sunny days, and low, clear water made it more challenging for our clients. But our guides worked hard to find the right bugs and position their clients for success.

UO buddy RonW: “The fellas and I fished Dukes last Saturday 3/15.  There was a Turkey hunt going on, so it was only 5 anglers on section 1.  The water was clear when we stepped in around 8am but by 10 am it was coming up and off-color. We tried all the usual tactics but couldn't summon up a big boy. Heck, we didn't even see one.  Nothing but a handful of small wild sprats for each of us, mostly on small natural flies. 

We bailed after the morning session and headed over to Unicoi's private water at "The Bend" where we booked the afternoon session.  We started off throwing streamers based on some timely Intel from our friend and  Unicoi guide, Ben.  I hooked into a donkey rainbow approximately 22"-24" within my first 10 casts. He came up for the streamer but ended up eating my #18 soft hackle. After several leaps and runs and nearly a 2 minute fight, he shook his head and spit the hook back at me.  Feeling defeated, I moved upstream another 30 yards and hooked and landed an 18" bow as a consolation prize.   We fished till about 5pm, all landing several fish in the 16-18" range.  It was another great day on the water with two great friends and some much needed hydrotherapy after a 5 week layoff!” 

UO guide Caleb: “We had a rainy Friday at the Bend last weekend, but the father/son trip turned out successfully. We caught several rainbows and a brook trout. Our most effective pattern was a golden stonefly ran underneath an indicator.  Saturday was dry and fished better for my Savannah duo.

This week I had the privilege of guiding this client at Soque Camp on his first-ever fly fishing trip.  Surprisingly, the fish were sluggish in the early morning but picked up as the sun began to hit the water. Most fish were caught pulling a streamer, with those strikes really thrilling us.”

UO guide Palmer: “We had a decent day last week at Nacoochee Bend with most of our rainbows falling for squirmies deep and chubby Chernobyls on top.” 


Our favorite Falcon, linebacker Nate Landman, wandered north of Lanier last nite (20th) and found a really nice river striper that inhaled his white game changer.  Thx to Hank the Yank for passing along this report.


Athens Jay: “Pond fishing in the Piedmont remains good. I’ve been on a hunt for big bass, and had luck throwing big streamers in shallow water using a floating line and fluorocarbon leader/tippet. If you want lots of action, this is definitely popper/dropper season. A Boogle Bug and a Pat’s Rubber Legs is an excellent combination. “

UO buddy RSquared:  “I've been combining turkey hunting with fly fishing. I'm having much better luck with the fishing. Using a foam gurgler with legs & dropping a size 12 flashback pheasant tail 2.5 feet under it has been very effective on bluegills in the farm pond where I hunt. Most are being caught on the dropper.

UO friend AthensMD:

“One Combo to Rule Them All:

On Sunday afternoon I hit the high water at my favorite local lake. Water was also stained and lots of debris was floating in coves. I had a leech-style fly tied with Arizona simi-seal and bead-chain eyes suspended under a big chubby Chernobyl and fished that combo for the next few hours. I pulled in multiple bass, crappie, bluegill, and shellcracker before calling it a day. One bass had a fresh calling card on its back from (probably) a heron encounter. Azaleas and other lake-side flowers were in full bloom as well.”


HenryC: “Lanier is still an up and down fishery when fishing for stripers on fly. One day they eat, the next day they're being stubborn. This is all based on weather, water temps, fronts and barometric pressure. On the other hand, the spotted bass bite is quite good. Fish are responding all over the lake and are shallow as well as chasing shad and herring on the surface. If you simply want to go out and catch fish, then this is a great time to hit the pond with a fly rod! “


UO staffer and fishing finatic Joseph:  “Lanier spotted bass fishing has been on fire this week. Spots can be found on main lake points, secondary points and in the backs of some coves. They are feeding on threadfin shad and blueback herring from 2-4 inches in length. Smaller game changers, clousers, and baitfish poppers are the flies of choice. Make sure to be vigilant as you might spot smaller schools of spots busting on top.  It’s an easy way to locate fish. Also pay attention to the local wildlife for an easy way to locate bait. There is lots of fun to be had on a 6 or 7 weight rod!”

That’s the latest set of flies and lies from the UO Liars Club. May they steer you toward success this week. Stop in or shop us online if we can help you enjoy April before it passes you by. Good luck! Got shadows???

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.