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 19, 2023

UO Fishing Report 5/19/23

I’m sorry that today’s report is a bit late, as our Helen shop was hopping today. 

But hey, better late than never, right?

Here’s your theme for this week: watch the weather!

 It’s dictating our trout action right now.  Warm, sunny days slow down the trout bite, while cool and cloudy days (and cooler river temps) heat up the action. Summer storms might  briefly blow out a few rivers, but higher, dirty water that isn’t super-muddy will turn fish on. Check the forecast and the river gauges and plan your attacks accordingly.  The forecasted cool nights should improve our fishing this week.  When in doubt, just call our Helen shop for advice.

Stripers are slowing on reservoirs, but bass are enjoying the warming surface waters. Gar are starting their upriver spawning runs, while river bass are finicky. Wes’ hot fly list and our guide/angler intel follow.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

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

Nymphs & Wets:

Improved yallarhammer, squirmy worm, soft hackle hares ear, Duracell, ice pupa, black ant, green weenie.

Streamers & warm water:

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


Headwaters are low and clear and still cool enough for some excellent wild trout action throughout the day. Try your favorite fluffy dries and enjoy these creeks while flows and temps are still good. Be ready with a poncho and a beaded pheasant tail dropper if a sudden shower boosts streamflow and turbidity.

The Smokies are still fishing well. Daily intel here:


Delayed Harvest:

GA’s DH regs are over and those streams now revert to general regulations. If water temps are decent, they’ll still fly-fish well for another week or two until most fish are legally harvested. Try early mornings for cool temps and late evenings for the remaining, spotty insect hatches.

NC’s DH streams should still fish really well until those special regs end in early June. Consider a road trip soon and toss some yellow stimmies, tan caddis, and yellow-tinted cahills at dusk.

Athens Jay and Dredger had a great last hurrah on Chattooga DH on Saturday nite. They both threw a double-dry combo of a #14 yellow stimulator and a #16 tan elk hair caddis as the trailer.  Each landed a nice bunch of bows and a few chunky browns. Jay also found a bonus Bartrams bass that inhaled his caddis.  Adult bugs were sparse again, as most hatches have now passed, but those fish were still looking up for an evening meal. Last fish was landed at 8:45 and the duo happily hiked out in the dark. Their ride home was topped off by a bruin siting, as the hefty black bear sauntered along the Warwoman Road shoulder in their headlights. 

Athens Alan closed out his GA DH season on the Toccoa. He said: “ I fished from 5:30 to 7:00 and had 10 to hand. Water was off color, a few bugs around but no real “hatch”. Only rises I saw were shiners (caught two of them also). Most on a small caddis but a nice bow took a yellow sally. Didn’t see anyone else on the river.”

Stocker Streams:

Stocked waters are still fishing well. Buggers, eggs, and squirmies are still scoring for local fly anglers.

Sign up to receive your own copy of GAWRD’s weekly trout stocking list here:



UO friend RonW: “Kurt and I hit B-Dam again on 5/13 for a few hours of hydrotherapy after another long and hectic work week for the both of us.  We arrived to a full parking lot in the lower pool parking.  We geared up and had "boots in the water" by 10:30, working our way downstream from the boat ramp, which is not our normal get in spot. 

We both started with a dry/dropper setup.  My rig was a #16 Adams and a #18 pheasant tail with a cdc collar dropped off the bend on about 4.5' of 5x.  It didn't take long to prove this a good combo.  I had my 1st rainbow on the dropper within the first dozen casts. A few minutes later, a rainbow came up and smashed my Adams on the dangle.  We continued working downstream towards the island in search of that Metro Buttah we came for.

I slung my rig into one of my normal runs, get a nice drag-free drift and boom, my dry goes under.  I set the hook and fish on! This fish just felt just a little bit different.  It was pulling more than an average rainbow. I contained my excitement and got it on the reel....could it be big brown? It made a few nice little runs and then dug down deep.  I'd gain a little, it would take a little . It finally showed itself by way of a nice 3' leap out of the water. It was a rainbow and not a massive one either. After a good 1.5-2 minute fight, it was in the net.  It was only about 15" but one of the best fighting rainbows I've ever caught on the hooch. This fish "identifies" as a Steelhead! 

I finally found some browns and caught two nearly on back to back casts. They both succumbed to the PT.  I had about 15 fish on this fly before the wire broke loose and fly started coming apart.  I put on a smaller Adams parachute and went dry only for a little while. I only had two splashes with no connections so back on went the dropper.  I landed another five or six rainbows before calling it a day around 3pm.  I ended up with 20+ fish to hand and easily lost about 10 more. Kurt had a great day as well landing well over a dozen, including a few Browns on the dry. 

It was another fantastic day to spend a few hours on the water with a great friend! We really are lucky to have such a great fishery flowing right thru the city!”

Private Waters: 

UO Helen manager Wes:  “Our private waters are heating up in the afternoons and the trout fishing slows way down at that time. The morning sessions have still been productive, especially after we’ve gotten a shower to boost flows and add a little color to the water.  Dredged stonefly  patterns and soft hackles have worked well in clear water, while worm patterns have been hot in dirty water.  A few fish have also hit dry flies on cloudy days, so dry/dropper combos have been effective when the clouds are out.”

The UGA Five Rivers flyfishing club leaders were treated to a special trip for their club leadership efforts and enjoyed a Nacoochee Bend free day.  5R club member Nathan: “I had most of my luck on a size 14 pink egg. I also hooked one on a soft hackle hares ear, which I think was what most of the others caught theirs on. 

I helped fellow member Sara-Ashley catch her first trout on the fly.   She caught hers on a mop fly that I found in a tree.  I switched between nymphing under an indicator in deep holes and using a dry/dropper in shallow runs.”

5R club Prez Connor Smith:  “During the trip to Nacoochee Bend, Hares Ears were really doing the trick. I usually fished a dry/dropper down to hares ear, and a few rose on the dry. Also, I had some luck with fishing streamers. The fish were usually down extremely deep, so other club members fished with indicators as well. “

UO guide Caleb: “Last Friday I had the pleasure of helping a client land his first ever fish! The fishing at Nacoochee Bend was very productive and we landed several fish on a chubby Chernobyl dry fly.”

Warmwater Streams:

UO’s semiannual staff fishing day was a big hit, as usual. Our folks filled several rafts and shoved off for their spring Hooch float.  They enjoyed a buffet of spots and shoalies, redbreast and bluegill, and even a bunch of gar. Ben won big fish and high hook honors with a handful of big shoalies.

Small Lakes: No recent reports, as I corrupted our regular pond reporter with a Chattooga invitation.


UO buddy Landon: “Largemouth  and Spots are both post-spawn on Lanier. I was only able to get bit with a shaky head worm fishrd slowly.  I couldn’t  buy a bite on any moving bait.”

HenryC: “Striper fishing is still a now you see them, now you don't. Fish are being seen and barely caught on the fly, but it's about putting in 3-4hrs to maybe catch a fish or two. Cloudy days are better than sunny days. 

Spotted bass, on the other hand, are starting to look up and eat poppers off the surface. We aren't where we'd like to be just yet but we are getting very close. Humps, points, blow thru's/saddles and sea walls are holding some fish. Sunny days are better then cloudy days and the fishing should light up over the next couple of weeks. As for carp on the fly, stay tuned!”



UO friend Gayland: “The Missouri River is fishing well.   I fished three days on the Missouri above Helena.  I used two nymphs on a drop shot rig and it was very effective.   I fished on Armstrong Spring Creek in Livingston yesterday.   The strong north wind, rain showers, and temperatures that never got above 52 made fishing and catching difficult until after lunch.

A small parachute  adams with a #18 or 20 pheasant tail was the ticket after lunch.   Thin 6X

tippet was mandatory and I still lost a good rainbow that turned quickly and broke me off.   I had 7 takes and two to the net.   All rainbows and one cut bow.   It was a great week of Montana fly fishing! “

There’s your Friday helping of UO intel. Use it to your advantage in the days ahead. Feel free to share your own pics and fibs with us. Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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