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 5, 2023

UO Fishing Report 5/5/23

This report is long and late (busy day at the fly shop today), so I’ll keep the intro short. Here are your bottom lines: 1) the evening hatches are hot!, 2) yellow is a prime dry color, 3) when in doubt during the day, strip a woolly bugger like CDB does, 4) if you’re stumped on risers, trout might be sipping super-tiny caddis, 5) lake bassin’ is good, 6) stripers are big but scattered in lakes and up rivers.

Our trout streams are low and clear. Water temps are perfect, and the few showers forecast shouldn’t hinder your action. Go late and stay late and enjoy that magic hour of rising trout at dark! We sure did.


Get all your intel at our blog, and get your hot flies from our Helen shop. Go soon!!!


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: tan elk hair caddis, micro chubby, goober sally, knobbler sally, 409 Yeager yellow, parachute light cahill  or sulphur (#14, 16, 18).

Nymphs & Wets:

Improved yallarhammer, micro girdle bug, trip saver, red neck, soft hackle partridge, slush egg.

Streamers & warm water:

Amnesia bug popper (for bream) polar changer, low fat minnow, complex twist bugger, clouser minnow, sweet baby cray.


They’re low and clear and the fish will eat if you don’t spook them. Bluelines don’t have big hatches, so fish usually aren’t picky, but they are wary. Try a high floating dry you believe in. You shouldn’t even need a dropper right now, unless a rain raises and stains your creek.  Our guides are really hooked on this 409 Yeager-yellow pattern. Its foam body keeps floating thru numerous fish fights. We were sold out, but just restocked, so grab them before they’re gone again.

If you hit a deep pool and wanna prospect for a headwater trophy, try a small streamer or rubberlegs. New UO buddy Mike showed me a pic of a 13 inch speck he caught on our Jig Mini Bugger pattern. Where? I don’t believe he said. But he bought more of those buggers!

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


Delayed Harvest:

New UO buddy ATL Sam: I learned how to tie parachute dries and went back to Smith DH. Caught a lot of fish-  all on elk hair caddis and parachutes. Here’s a few photos. Thanks for your tips!”

UO buddy Athens Alan: “Really nice evening on the border river last night. Gauge height was just below 1.8 and it was sunny and mild with a little breeze.

Bugs came out and really got the fish rising a little after 7:00, lasted until about 8:20.  Hot flies were the cahill and caddis with the cahill being the best producer probably 4 to 1 over the caddis. All fish landed were rainbows last night, many of them put on aerial shows.

Shared my spot with a true professional, although I’m not sure he was following strict catch and release DH rules. Can otters read the fishing regs?”

UO buddy RSquared: “ Thursday-Sunday,  eleven members of The Cohutta Chapter of Trout Unlimited fished one of Georgia's border rivers & its tributaries with good success. A combination of wild & stocked fish were willing to feed on dry flies & nymphs. I was also able to get a bonus fish (9" Bartram's Bass) which will qualify for the Ga. Bass Slam. We used yellow stimulaters & sulfurs on top. Pheasant Tails & Pat's Rubber Legs worked subsurface.”

UO’s Rabunite buddy Nanette:

“Fished early afternoon till 7 pm Wednesday on IDBIS stream in Western NC. A bonanza of browns and brookies on dries and dry-dropper combos, working the shallow tail-outs of deep pools down to the fast riffles. A #16 Cahill was the early ticket. Fish also fell for a small foam Chubby Chernobyl variation dead-drifted. The browns were slamming flies with gusto.

In late afternoon, a hatch of light cahills followed by yellow stoneflies had the trout so revved up several went airborne with reckless abandon.  However, nothing we threw their way during the hatch got even a whiff of interest. 

About 6 pm, their attitude improved, and we were able to once again entice them to eat with dry-dropper combos with a cahill imitation on top, and soft-hackle emergers trailed behind. The trout ignored the dry but gobbled the emergers. I caught several trout from 6-7 pm on this yellow sparkle thingy you recommended at Unicoi, trailed off a dry.  A great ending to a near-perfect day!”

CDB: “I’m driving back from a northwestern NC DH stream to get home in time for promised evening out and a play.  So I’ll miss the evening hatch. 

Absolutely tore them up today (5th) on thin mint and black woolly buggers. I think I made another streamer convert today. 

All big head, thin body typical of small mountain streams. Pretty though.   Caught a half dozen or so rainbows on RS2 as well. One of the guys caught 8 on black caddis dry flies.”

Dredger went up to Nan DH on Monday afternoon and netted a healthy dose of humility. While he landed a small handful of fish on cahill dries and droppers, the 50 or so refusals haunted him. He threw a bunch of patterns at them, to no avail. Tail tucked between legs, he drove home humbled.

He went back for a rematch on Thursday and did a little better by studying bugs and risers first for 30 minutes. The hatching cahills had a light yellow body. When he switched to a similarly colored dry, he did a bit better. Refusals still vastly outnumbered takes, but he couldn’t sift many bugs from the stream drift with his bug net. Finally at 7PM, the switch turned on: cahills and yellow sally stones buzzed the stream surface and the fish got gullible.   A nice batch of bows and browns ate his cahill/sally combo. At 8 the big bugs left and the fish returned to eating mystery bugs. As best he could see in the dying light, they keyed in on emerging and adult caddis- microscopic (size 20 or 22) and dark. Lacking such tiny caddis, he tossed and twitched a #20 brown parachute mayfly and fooled a few. Last fish came to hand at 8:30.  He may be tying tiny caddis dries this weekend!

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:


Today’s  list is really long!


There’s another trout tournament in downtown Helen tomorrow, so expect some company. You might have a nice chance at some leftover fish next week.

New UO buddy Dustin:

“Jeff, how’s it going? Hope you’re having a good Sunday. Just wanted to report in, I went to a popular stocked creek after the rain this morning and caught 7. Thanks for all the help.

I’ve had good luck with a pink steelhead dry egg when the fish are hitting the surface, usually early morning or late evening. Also pink squirmy tungsten worms with an indicator and a peach tungsten egg with an indicator. I’ve also been catching fish on a green and black nymph. The fish always seem to bite better in the early morning or late late evening. “


UO buddy Ron W:  “The trio hit B-Dam this morning (4/29)  from 9 till 1pm. Kurt and I fished a dry dropper all morning. We both got  splashes on the dry but no connections.  A small flashback pheasant tail and a BWO soft hackle dropper both did the trick for me.  I spotted a fish eating on top along a log and threw over to him but got a refusal. Threw it again and he ate the softie. Lucky for me it was a beautiful, colored up wild brown! My second brown of the day amongst a handful of feisty rainbows.

Kurt had about the same day as me, half a dozen or more fish and all on the dropper. I don't believe he said what the dropper was…


Moe absolutely wore them out on his double nymph euro rig.   A small gray nymph netted him a few dozen or more fish. Every time we looked downstream his rod was doubled over. 

It was another great day on the water with the fellas and getting some much needed hydrotherapy! “

Private Waters: 

UO Helen manager Wes:  “The private water fish were picky this week. A good drag free drift was a big key to fool fish into getting bites. 

With a clean drift we were able to catch some fish on girdle bugs, pheasant tails, Duracells, and chubby Chernobyl’s.”

A recent reply from one of our UO clients: “Out of all the fishing trips I have taken this one was the most special for me. Being able to fly fish with my father for Rainbow trout was an experience that goes beyond the fishing. It’s amazing how much this sport has impacted my life and created so many special memories. This was my first time catching a trout on fly and it was a really cool experience. We started off nymphing and catching a few and I saw a really big trout next to a rock that I could not get to bite. Our guide Wes told me they had been trying to catch that trout for the past few trips and it would not cooperate. We moved downstream and Wes showed me how to use a streamer. This definitely fit my style of fishing and I quickly caught a nice trout with this technique. On the way back upstream Wes suggested I try and get the big trout to eat the streamer. I stayed at it for 20 or so casts and finally got the big one to commit! Totally loved being out of my element and learning a new way to fish. Being able to learn something new and share this time with my father was something I do not take for granted. Thanks so much Wes and Unicoi Outfitters . Looking forward to seeing you guys again soon!”

UO guide Caleb: “I had the privilege of guiding a father/son duo on the Soque River this morning (5th). The clear water and high sun had the fish a bit spooky but we were able to trick a few using hot-head pheasant tails and peach eggs dragging the bottom of the river. “


UO regular Landon: “I took Danny Jackson from Oconee TU striper hunting tonight. He hooked 3 and landed 2. He’s been wanting to catch some for a while. He said “I didn’t know they pulled that hard” after the first one. I went myself and also had some luck. We caught  all fish on a gold over silver kreelex this week.

If you need some green fish fodder, shoal bass were slow in the afternoon with chilly and high water. I found a couple in pockets along bank by dragging (plastic) worms. “

Small Lakes:

UO buddy Gayland’s fish story:

“I was casting a Boogle bug #6 hook with a 2X leader on my 7 weight Winston fly rod Wednesday afternoon around 6 pm.   I was blind casting for bass when an explosion occurred under my bug!!!

I eventually managed to beach him with the assistance of a fishing buddy!”


HenryC: “Not much of a report... water temps dropped again this past week and the striped fish are scattered all over the lake. Still some good sized fish being caught BUT numbers are way down due to cold water temps. I suspect our fishing will begin to pick up in about another week as we need that 80 degree temps to warm the lake up some. Bass fishing is still okay with fish being shallow for flyrodders. Overall this past week was not very good but warmer water will change things up rather quickly. There are still stripers and white bass being caught upriver, so we just got to give the lake some time to get back to normal fishing. Hang in there...”


Our DNR friends have a ton of hot reservoir intel in this week’s blog:


Also from our DNR friends:

Great Outdoors Day on the Atlanta BeltLine: (Sat. May 6, 10 am – 1 pm): will feature interactive exhibitions from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, including live wildlife, archery, Gateway to Fishing casting lessons, and numerous other family-friendly activities highlighting outdoor activity and local wildlife. Between demonstrations, stop by booths for information on fun summer activities. Atlanta conservation organizations, such as Trees Atlanta, The Nature Conservancy, and Greening Youth Foundation, will also be in attendance to share the work local groups are doing to protect our air, water, land, and wildlife. Find out more at the Atlanta BeltLine website.

That’s the latest from our UO gang. Go late, stay late, and enjoy the last half of this spring’s awesome evening hatches. Stop in our shop for the hot fly patterns and get out there ASAP! 

Right, Landon?

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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