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 26, 2023

UO Fishing Report 5/26/23

Welcome to our holiday fishing report. Area trout waters are low, clear, and a bit cooler than we’d normally expect at this time of year, thanks to a week of cooler weather that has extended our spring trout season. These moderate air temps should continue into next week.

Trout are hungry but spooky. They’ve also been picky in the low water, with nearly all of our spring bug hatches now history. Dry/ dropper rigs have been good.  Start with yellow or black on top and a small dark nymph, fur ant, or soft hackle below it. You might need to drop down a tippet size and even fish a midge.  

Tailwaters are rockin’. Ponds are still a great bet, and bass rivers are clear, thanks to the lack of rainfall. Reservoir stripers are transitioning to summer mode, so they’re out of reach in reservoirs but starting to provide targets in the tributary rivers. Check out Wes’ hot fly list and our awesome angler intel in the full report on the blog.

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), para ant.

Nymphs & Wets:

Improved yallarhammer, plain pheasant tail no bead, Montana prince, soft hackle partridge, green weenie, hard body ant.

Streamers & warm water:

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


They’re low and clear and cool enough for a great trout bite. Stealth will be more important than fly pattern. If not spooked, residents should eagerly rise to a dry. You shouldn’t need to add a dropper unless you want to dredge the occasional deep pool. Try a small, buoyant dry that you believe in to start. We like the smallest yellow or tan chubbies, 409 Yeagers, and tan caddis as our blueline search engines.

The Smokies are still fishing well, but are also lower than normal and will hold spooky fish. Toss yellow- stimmies and sallies - and aim for the shade.  Daily intel here:


RSquared checked in: “I spent four days north of the border camping & fishing between Franklin & Hayesville NC this past week. We caught numerous wild browns, rainbows, & native brookies. Dries, dry-droppers & nymphing all produced fish. Tan & yellow caddis dries worked well for me. I used Tellico Nymph's & pheasant tails as droppers in sizes 16-20 with very good success!” 

Delayed Harvest:

The Georgia special regs are over, but those streams still hold some fish and are no longer crowded. Give them a try for some remaining evening risers. 

Dredger double-dipped this week at Unicoi Park. First he hit the lake (see below) and then he went below the dam at dark.  Stream trout were real picky, but he hooked a small handful and landed three, one of each flavor to give him a species slam. Bugs were scarce and no single fly pattern turned them on. A stimmy, Sally, and tiny tan caddis got looks and a few eats. If you go, try a midge on a 6x trailer behind your first fly.  Only one other angler (spin fisher) was astream, and he said he landed and released about seven on a small white spinner. 

It’s the last hurrah for NC’s DH streams, as they’ll revert to general regs ( and a brief, special kids opp) on June 2.  

A trio of Rabunites hit the Nan last Monday and had a big time on top. The water was slightly stained from recent rains and the fish looked up right from their 4PM start. They got more refusals than takes, but still landed plenty of stockers and a few wild bows on sallies, small caddis, cahill emergers, and even a big para-cahill at dark.  Fish fast through the pockets during the day, then camp out at a prime pool at dark and try to match the hatch in front of you. Yellow was still good on Monday, and we’re going back tonite.

Rabunites Nan and Rick went back across the border to another NC DH stream and reported:  “We just got home from IDBIS Creek. They were looking up but very picky. Rises and hatches were sporadic and not strong. Rick outdid me today with 4 to the net (3 browns) and I got 3 (2 browns). The browns were the eager eaters.  They ate yellow sallies, yeagers, one tiny stimulator-type bug, and a couple on emergers. 

I forgot to say the best part of our day was running into Harold Hogan again. He is a TU member that lives close to the creek. First time we met him he invited us for a drink, because he saw our TU license plate. Today he gave us several flies and then headed way upstream to fish for wild trout. Such a nice man.  I could not believe he was was wearing shorts to fish. I wet waded but that water was colder than the Nan and my toes were numb all day.”

Stocker Streams:

GAWRD typically doses all streams heavily for the holiday crowds.   Expect a long list when it comes out this afternoon.  See the weekly trout stocking list here:


Stockers are great targets for new fly anglers. Grab one of those Redington Wrangler outfits at our shop, then cast downstream and twitch and strip a small black or olive bugger through some prime pools and runs. Or cast upstream and practice your drag free drift with an egg, squirmy, or prince nymph under a light-landing indicator.


UO friend RonW: “Kurt and I decided to keep the streak going and fished B-Dam again today 5/20 for the 4th weekend in a row.  We both started off with dry dropper, me with a small #18 Coachman and #18 Pheasant tail dropper. I only landed one on the dry but netted nearly a dozen on the CDC PT dropper.  Surface action started happening after lunch right on queu. We both ended the day with a double dry rig casting to risers. Both a #16 Adams irresistible and a number #18 Griffiths gnat was all I needed to net another 1/2 dozen fish on top, including a few wild brownies and a colored up rainbow trout with a golden belly. 

It was another fantastic day on the water for some much needed hydrotherapy to recharge the batteries! “

Young UO buddy Ryan: “Hit the Hooch TW this past Sunday despite the rains the night prior and was met with some muddy water on the lower tailwater - luckily 5 nice rainbows were still willing to bite natural nymphs on 5x ! Wading was hairy in a less-familiar area so we hit a spot with fewer sketchy holes and beat it up until I was satisfied the fishing wasn't going to improve. A few other anglers were seen catching fish on fly and bait but the action was definitely diminished with the water conditions.  Saw a few caddis hatching but they didn't receive much attention with the stained water!”

New UO friend Spangler: “Howdy Dredger! A little intel on the Buford Dam tailwater.  Had a meeting cancel this morning so had a couple hours to enjoy some hydrotherapy on a rainy weekday morning. I hit a top secret spot (which secret is relative on the Hooch…) that was gifted to me in hopes of getting a brown to complete the trout slam. 3 of my first 5 casts next to some down timber paid off! Even got a bonus rainbow stocker. Hour 2 things fizzled out so took to exploring this “new” water. Tight lining a #18 perdigon in a zebra midge style pattern did the trick.”

Private Waters: 

They’re winding down for the season as river temps rise. We’ve been thankful for the cooler weather, but expect to fish them for only a few more weeks, in the mornings, until we give them the summer off. Book a morning trip soon if you want one last shot at our private waters.

UO guide Israel: Bill and I had a really good day this week at Soque Camp. The big bows came up to inhale chubby Chernobyls!”

Warmwater Streams:

Rivers are clear and ready to float, at least until the next summer storm muddies them up.  Resident bass should be a good bet, along with the spawning run of gar and a few early summer vacationers from the reservoirs - stripers. Try some large streamers to start, then toss a few surface poppers and bugs in the shade or shadows of dusk for any bass that will look up. Got game changers? We do at UO-Helen, if you need some.

Small Lakes:

Dredger saw “sandy pie plates” in the shallows during his Unicoi Lake hike. He returned the next afternoon with his 7/3 blueline rod and a handful of bream bugs, and landed a small bunch of surface sippers: redbreast, bluegill, and tiny largemouth bass. The black/yellow DP popper outfished his white, homemade foam spider.  As the sun set, he took his 3-weight rod below the dam for a few Dark30 trout. 

UO young gun Caleb road-tripped to MS last week to visit family. His trio wore out the big pond bream on Amnesia bugs in various colors. Need some? We’ve got plenty in Helen.


No recent reports. Hank’s been off the water this week. Watch the GAWRD Friday fishing report for the best intel, and beware the holiday boating crowds and wakes. Fish early before they churn up the water.



UO buddy CDB:

“We will just need to be adaptable“, my lifelong outdoor friend said. Easy for him to say, he lives out there.  I just returned from my semi-annual pilgrimage back west.  There were only a handful of waters fishable due to the runoff and our normal haunts weren’t on that list. So we were stuck fishing a tailwater infested with invasive species. And wow was it infested!  

So I started dragging streamers at first light of the first morning accompanied by an endless serenade of gobbles from the big Merriam Tom across the river. And had a satisfying level of success on 12-16” browns; however, I could not get the attention of any of the big boys.  I could spot them in the relatively clear waters, but I could get no reaction from them. An olive zoo cougar around a size 6 was most productive fly in the morning, and then in the bright sunshiny afternoon a Rolex worked pretty well. Relatively small about a size 8.  

By the second day, everything was ignoring the streamers completely. So I had to adapt again. I could see fish, and really nice fish. And I could see they were actively feeding.  I dusted off my airlock, bobber, er…. strike indicator, and tied on some little stuff.  Like size 20.  And bam!  For the rest of the week, we caught a lot of really gorgeous trout. Plenty in the 18-20 inch range and a few ranging all the way up to 24 1/4 inches.  I did mostly use the same spot and stalk techniques to set up my drift. Tiny tailwater patterns, size 20 and 22, were super productive. As were size, 20 green lanterns, and size 20 Rojo midges.  Those things really work.  My typical RS2 and WD40, not so much. How did I figure it out?  Well, my friends are many of the “locals”, including some of the guides. And that was where I got the tiny Tailwater tip from.  The locals always have good inside information. They are still straightening me out, and getting me to adapt. They are working on a wading staff for me now. I went swimming no less than three different times!

And what did our spouses say after a great week like that?  “All looks like the same fish to me...”

Can’t wait to get back out there. I may not be able to wait until September…”

UO buddy AthensMD:

“We've been way down south near the FL/AL line this week and the fishing has been slow but steady with an eclectic mix of species. My very first cast into the Gulf with a surf rig baited with local frozen shrimp resulted in a pretty Atlantic sharpnose shark that drew a crowd of parents and kids. After many undersized fish, my son Henry scored a 21.5" spotted sea trout on a live shrimp under a "popping" cork late one night on the intracoastal waterway (one of our favorites). Numerous perfect casts with a Clouser on my 8-weight to a cruising redfish on a sandy point were ignored. Gulf Kingfish ("whiting") have provided filets for the freezer. We've also pulled in ladyfish, blue runners, small flounders, mangrove snapper, dang ol' hardhead catfish, and small Florida pompano. The ospreys flew by with their catches all week to show us how it's done.”

There’s a heaping helping of holiday intel to help y’all out. We hope you have a chance to wet a line and make some fine memories with family and friends. 

Speaking of memories, may we all give pause and honor our fallen heroes on Monday. Our freedom to fish is due, in large part, to their ultimate sacrifices. May God bless this great nation and look after the families of all American servicemen and women who gave their lives for our freedom. Have a good weekend, everyone. Stop in if we can help you out. We have bigger nets if you need one. 😉

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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