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.


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