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 12, 2023

UO Fishing Report 5/12/23

Welcome to Spring Home Stretch on north GA’s larger freestone trout streams. It’s been a great spring of hatch-matching on regional rivers, but it’s winding down now. Get out there soon and take advantage of some remnant caddis, mayfly, and stonefly adult bugs and the trout that retain memories of those April groceries. Throw tan and yellow at dark.


Small streams will still fish well, as will the higher elevation Smokies streams for all of you headwater fans. Region trout tailwaters will fish well, too, as spring floods die down and reservoir releases become more predictable.

Pond fish remain on fire, river residents still include some striped spring vacationers from Lanier, and reservoir spots and largemouths are still good.  There’s a lot to choose from. Don’t miss our spot-on intel in our full report at the blog. Stop in a UO shop for your late season hatch-matchers. Here we go:

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: tan elk hair caddis (#16, 18), micro chubby, goober sally, knobbler sally, 409 Yeager yellow, parachute light cahill (16, 18).

Nymphs & Wets:

Improved yallarhammer, Jiggy pats rubber leg, green weenie, soft hackle hares ear, SH yellow, holy grail, Edwards yellow sally.

Streamers & warm water:

Amnesia bug popper (for bream), double barrel bass bug, hybrid changer, jerk changer, sparkle minnow.


They are low and clear and cool and prime for dry fly chuckers. This morning Spoilcane ran 59F and Smith DH was 62. One angler at Smith equaled the angler total I saw before lunch today. Grab your short rod, short leader, and buoyant dry fly and hit these headwaters before they dry up with summer rain shortfalls.

The Smokies are still fishing great, too. Daily intel here:


UO-Helen manager Wes: “Fellow UO staffer Atticus and I did a couple days of backpacking and fishing up in the Smokies. The long hike was worth the effort! There were plenty of yellow sallies and mayflies flying around each day. We caught probably upwards of 150 fish in a few days of fishing. Overall we had a great time in the backcountry.”

Delayed Harvest:

It’s the last call for GA DH streams, as harvest is allowed on May 15.  You still have several weeks left in the NC DH program, where those higher elevation streams run colder for a longer period each spring. And the NC streams got redosed earlier this month. Our GA streams are still fishing well, so give them a shot in the next week or so and save a NC road trip for the next few weeks.

After a long time away, the Unicoi Guru and Dredger finally had their reunion this week on The River, as Rabunites call it. You may have seen our posted video this week.

They left homes at midafternoon, carpooled up, and hiked way in. They strung up their rods around 6PM and admired their surroundings. 

Guru tied on a #14 cahill and dropped a 16 tan caddis off the back. Dredger started with 5X tippet and a 14 yellow stimulator, trailed by the same caddis. Shadows started to fall and a few rises were spotted. They started casting around 630.

At first, it was four refusals for every eat.  But that ratio inverted as the sun sank lower and the shadows grew. Each angler landed a nice handful of chunky rainbows and a pair of browns, and found that the caddis outfished the lead fly by 3 or 4 to one.  Dredger’s best fish, a 13-inch brown, and several of the bigger bows crushed the larger stimmy.

The water was low, gin-clear, and a comfortable 66F for wet-wading. While increasing water (air) temps show why our DH streams have a season end, the water was clearly still cool enough for good trout appetites.  While very few real adult bugs were spotted that night, those trout had good memories and were expecting an evening snack. It was fun watching them rise for each refusal or inhalation, and then turn toward cover in a flash of red cheek and stripe.

The duo hiked out in the dark, via headlamps. A cold drink and a few Motrins for aging legs topped off a perfect Dark30 evening on the Rabunites’ River of Memories.

New UO buddy Spangler: “Wanted to say “thanks” for your “Dark30” tips! Managed to land my first and second brook at Smith’s last night after the sun had said goodbye. I had been using a 16 elk hair caddis but i couldn’t keep those pesky creek chubs away from it so i went to a black and purple chubby Chernobyl (i think it was size 14) and they took it aggressively!

I had the entire DH to myself too which has NEVER happened. My car was the only one in the lot so I stayed till I couldn’t see any more.

PS…the lake was beautiful as always and yielded a few bass hanging in the shadows. I walked the west shore a bit before i hit the stream. One fellow said he caught an 11lb-er this week!”

Our UO e-mailbox received this very nice FB message from recent customer DS: “I wanted to thank you for your great information. I stopped in on a Sunday in late April and was looking for advice in regards to fishing the Helen Georgia area. I was successful in catching over 20 trout in Smith creek and the Chattahoochee River, with the biggest being a rainbow over 20”. 

Great Fly shop.”

Stocker Streams:

Hatchery-supported waters remain in their prime. Water temps are still cool enough for a good trout bite, while air temps are warm enough for wet-wading (intentional and unintentional).  They remain 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:


It’s shorter than last week’s list, but still names plenty of streams that were spiced up.

New UO buddy Jacob: “Hey Dredger! I wanted to follow up and say thanks again for the pointers. My brother and I hit up XXX creek (editor’s edit) in late April and I was able to put him on his first trout! I thought I would provide you some intel from my observations:

There were a ton of yellow mayflies hanging around and skirting the water toward the afternoon, although I didn’t see any top water action. Checking under rocks revealed small mayfly nymphs. I didn’t have any on me to throw, but I’d say this would’ve been a good match: http://www.ngatu692.com/Flies/LightCahillNymph.jpg

I also grabbed a copy of Jimmy Jacob’s book and plan on investigating another watershed soon.”


UO buddy Ron W:  “Kurt and I fished B-Dam again today (5/6) and we were not  disappointed. We had boots in the water shortly after 8:30. We both started with a dry dropper setup.  No splashes for me but Kurt did manage a nice Wild Brown early on.  I landed a few feisty rainbows on a Flash Back PT dropper to start.   It went dry for a little while until I tied on a Frenchie, then I started wearing them out. I caught a good 8 rainbows in one run 

 Kurt was putting on a clinic, he probably was  catching 2 to my 1.  His rod was doubled over every time I looked at him. 

We started working our way back upstream shortly after lunch, looking for risers.  I fooled another 4 SNIT rainbows that  ate my #18 Adams. 

The highlight for me was another gorgeous wild metro buttah'  brown. The only brown for me today but it was a beauty.  Gotta love them Hooch Browns!  

It was another great day on the water....nothing like a little hydrotherapy to cap off the week!”

Private Waters: 

UO Helen manager Wes:  “Our private waters fished really well, thanks to some showers that boosted flows and colored up the water slightly.  This home stretch on our larger streams is a great time for newer folks to fish, given the warm weather.”

UO manager Jake: “Rainbow Point on the Soque fished really well this morning (11th) with the cloudy pre-frontal conditions rolling in. The water still had a slight stain to it from the rain a few days ago, but the fish were very happy. Ron and John tied into about 20 fish, and brought around a dozen to hand. Hot flies were small eggs, black stones, yellow soft hackles, and diamond midges.”

UO guide Caleb: “Nacoochee Bend fished well this week. We are seeing some nice fish brought to the net. A dry-dropper rig was very effective using chubbies and soft hackles.  A double nymph rig with a pats rubberlegs over a peach egg fished deep was also a productive method.”

UO friend and fellow finatic CDB: “I worked with veterans all week, so my update is for private waters. Water was slightly stained again and blue skies early in the week. 

Some small patterns worked and the trout leaned toward olive bodies. Once again,  the fish were zoned in on size 6 and 8 black woolly buggers with bright yellow hackle.  My favorite thin mint bugger got zero interest until the shadows started to get long in the evening.   Remember, when you strip in those streamers, keep that tip down in the water and the line good and tight.  

Today was a different story. Skies were overcast and the water was still surprisingly stained, and pink and red squirmy worms were on fire!” 

Warmwater Streams:

As everyone saw in yesterday’s posted video, UO young expert Joseph found a nice Lanier striper on an extended spring break up the Hooch. Our guys really like the swimming action of Chocklett’s game changers. Splurge and buy two the next time you’re in our shops. You’ll  be very glad you did when you hunt your own river monsters this summer.

UO buddy RSquared:  “I have been fishing some of Georgia's North Western streams which are part of the Coosa River Basin. The Coosa & its tributaries have some of the greatest freshwater aquatic biodiversity in North America. In addition to Rainbow trout, the Redeye Bass & Red-breasted Sunfish are very active and willing to hit trout flies It is always fun to catch multiple species. I will be at Unicoi State Park tomorrow (12th) to help with the "Fly Fishing with Mom" event.”

Small Lakes:

Athens Jay is winding down his school year, but snuck out for a quick trip. He reports: “Only had time for one brief late-afternoon solo paddleboard trip to a local pond this week. As the sun started sinking, the wind calmed and I was able to site-fish for sunfish in the shallows. If you enjoy light rod “popper/dropper” action, now is the time for it! A beadhead Pat’s Rubberlegs under a Boogle Bug was extremely effective. Bass cruising the shallows in search of food were eager for the popper. Bluegill and Shellcracker wouldn’t eat on top, but charged after the Rubberlegs. My paddleboard and I got drug around quite a bit by ferocious bream!”


HenryC: “Lanier report:  Very little has changed from last week to this week except that the lake’s surface water temps are rising. Striper fishing is pretty good on dock lights at night and the fish are sporadically schooling on the surface during the daytime. You just have to be lucky to find them when they decide to dance on the surface. Bass fishing is still better than striper fishing. You'll see bass occasionally chasing herring on the surface. That's clearly a better choice for fly anglers. If it's gonna happen we should see the change after this weekend with the new moon coming up. 

For me, I decided to take a mini break and both service my Honda and take a drive to the panhandle. Got to fish with Capt Jason Stacy (Shallow Water Expeditions)


out of PCB and we decided to site fish the beach for whatever showed up. Saw lots of small Spanish, lady fish of all sizes, bluefish, blue runners, redfish (both bulls and 6+ lb fish), jacks and tarpon along with sharks and rays. A spectacular day on the water with a top notch guide fishing the white sand beaches in gin clear water...”


Our DNR friends have a lot of reservoir intel and some bonus trout fodder in this week’s blog:


There’s your “spring home stretch” intel to help you tomorrow or next week, unless Mom wants a fishing trip on Her Day. Good luck everyone. Stop by either UO store for some hot flies as we enjoy one last scoop of evening hatch action on GA’s bigger freestone streams.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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