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 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.


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