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, August 18, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report 8/18/23

This week’s report is about “windows.” Your fishing windows are created by rainfall and air temps.  We’ve had little rain in the last week and none is projected for the week ahead, which shows some brutally hot days just around the corner. So here are your best fishing windows.  First, y’all have a very brief headwater wild trout window tomorrow morning, then it will close quickly with subsequent hot nights and warming waters.  


In contrast, low, clear water will provide a long, wide window for river bass and bream trips.  And the lack of rain should ensure trout tailwater flows remain clear (and cold with winter-stored waters), so Hooch and Blue Ridge fishing should remain good. Just note Hooch low DO above Highway 20.

The flat water window is also pretty good. Pond and lake fish won’t be as spunky as they were in spring due to warmer water, but they’ll still eat, especially in the shade and the shadows of dawn and dusk. 

I just got back from taking stream temps, and several of us fished as recently as yesterday. In fact, Jake and HenryC are on the water now.  Check out all of this recent and breaking intel in UO’s full report at 


Good luck this week. Try to get out tonite or tomorrow morning before the next big heat wave crushes us again. Stop in or call either UO shop (Helen, Clarkesville) for the latest intel and supplies for your August adventures.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  


Parachute ant, foam beetle, olive stimulator, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

Drowned ant, prince nymph, soft hackle partridge, plus one.

Streamers & warm water:

Double barrel popper, sweet baby cray, low fat minnow, jerk changer, polar changer, bluegill spider.


It’s all about water temps and “cover” on our bluelines. First, the water’s gotta be cold enough for trout survival. My two Hooch tribs were 65 and 67F at 11 today, showing that yesterday’s cooler weather gave us a morning window today. I’d expect the same tomorrow morning for high, south slope streams. Otherwise, go to north slopes or on to NC.

Second, it’s about cover, which is seriously lacking at these low flows.  If you can find cover in the form of deep pools, wave-topped runs, and deeper riffles with overhanging vegetation, you’ll find wild fish hangouts. They’ve vacated 80% of the stream area to bunch up in these drought addresses with lower predation potential. They’re praying for rain harder than we are.

Casting isn’t easy here, but results are rewarding once you sneak your bug into those coverts. Be patient with tangles and try nothing lighter than 5X to fetch more flies back from rhodo limbs. That recipe worked for our duo yesterday:

Dredger and Athens Jay took advantage of this cool spell and hit a blueline yesterday. Plenty of little wild rainbows rose, and half ate the dry fly. They were a bit skittish toward the bigger stimmy, but were suckers for the slightly smaller #16 tan caddis when it rode high after dessicant shakes.

UO buddy RSquared: “Sunday, I took one of my former high school students to a small, remote, high elevation stream that had 63 degree water. We were blessed to catch several Southern Appalachian Brook Trout on dry flies.  I had my best success with a tan “Never-sink Caddis in size 14.”

UO guide Caleb: “Wild trout fishing was good yesterday morning. Effective patterns were a ruby midge and a small pheasant tail. They key was getting on the water early. As we approached midday, the fishing declined a bit due to water temps.”

NC’s higher mountains and more abundant rainfall make their higher trout streams a better bet. Just check local fishing reports and appro USGS flow gauges before you go. Rabunite buddy Nanette said she and hubby managed just one nice brown on a hopper in a NC stream that was high and muddy from a recent rain.  Remember  your best daily park strike indicator, Byron’s daily reports. And a daily Smokies parking pass.


Stocker Streams:

Higher, cooler waters are still fishing well. Smith ran 67 when I checked it today and  harvesters were having a big time at a honey hole. New UO buddy DJ said he landed four nice browns on his spinning rod yesterday afternoon on a stocked stream near Helen.

Stay current with WRD’s Friday  stocker reports here: 



They’re still fishing well, based on web reports I’ve seen and the hot intel in today’s WRD fishing report.


UO friend JS also checked in: “Howdy Dredger. Hope you’re staying cool! If you’d like some intel on the Lanier Tailwater for the weekly report I’ve got a small contribution you’re welcome to use: 

Fished about 4 hours below Buford Dam early this week and though the bite was slow, I was able to put double digits in the net and hook up with a few bonus fish that just didn’t want to get in the net (and the angler may have let them have too much slack). Water is murky thanks to reservoir stratification  and low Tailwater DO. Due to that last fact, I found most fish bunched up close to riffles in shoals where the water gets churned up. The browns liked the usual, an 18 zebra midge-style perdigon.  A couple browns and the stocker rainbows liked a generic #14 jig nymph I made out of black ice dubbing and purple thread, coated in UV resin as a rib.”

Private Waters:  No reports. Larger streams are shut down for the summer to give their trophy trout a break. 

Warmwater Streams: 

It’s a great time to hit them. Low, clear water will bunch up the predators as they try to avoid being eaten themselves. I’m heading to a bass river as soon as I get today’s report posted.

Practice  good stealth and drift those poppers and stealth bombers along with no pops. An occasional twitch is all that’s needed. More on summer bassin’ tips in my June and Sept ‘21 columns in here:


If the topwater bass bite under the shady limbs is slow, add a dropper of a black bugger, mohair leech, or Pat’s rubberlegs.  And if the bass are moody, downsize to a bream popper or rubber spider and enjoy those colorful, resident redbreasts!

UO Helen manager Wes: “I got out on a stream in Savannah watershed one evening recently to target Bartram’s bass. The fish were fired up. In 2 hours I probably caught 20 bass, all on a stealth bomber. “

RSquared politely declined our blueline invite yesterday. Instead, he added a 6th bass species to his 2023 GA Bass Slam application yesterday. He said he’ll add a Chatt Bass trip report to next week’s UO blog.

UO guide Como and his partner managed to fool a couple of Hooch stripers in Helen this week.

UO manager Jake is on the water now. I’ll update this report when he checks in later today.

8/19 update, courtesy of Henry C: 

“Fishing this week had a twist to it... while Lanier is still catching some topwater spots,  the stripers are on rare occasion making a quick showing. Nothing to count on as we are still 6 weeks away from the start of the season. However, the shoal bass were making a good showing this week on the moon. I had an invite to float a secret river yesterday with Unicoi's Jake Darling and Jimmy Harris. Fish were caught, filleted and eaten sashimi on the river! Nah, all fish released...”

Small Lakes: No reports. Try them at low light, especially when the water is a bit cooler at dawn. A lot of fish will pack under overhanging tree limbs for ant and beetle snacks.


UO Helen manager Wes:

“Jackson and I got out over the weekend and decided to do some Georgia style flats fishing for carp. Plenty of fish were spotted and spooked. However, we were able to stalk and catch a few.

The fish we caught fell victim to my personal favorite Carp pattern,  “the hybrid worm”.

Hank the Yank’s report is in the river section this week.



UO guide Israel (who previously guided in CO for 7 yrs) took a break to visit some of his old CO fishing buddies and take in a concert at Red Rocks. He said it was a great break from our GA weather. If y’all ever need a few tips on Rockies fishing, Iz is your man!

UO shop escapee Joseph keeps rubbing salt into our hot, humid GA wounds. Here’s his latest Alaska installment: “Bead fishing for wild bows is in full swing! Lake creek has been very productive with fish ranging across all sizes. We have had many 30-fish days lately. As long as you get a good drift in some good holding water you are sure to get a bite. It’s getting better as each day passes! “

That’s the news from northeast Georgia. We’re thankful for the brief dose of cool days and look forward to more next month. In the meantime, chase some stockers, hit the trout tailwaters, try some bluelines on mornings after 60-degree nights, and have a lot of fun with skinny-river bass, bream, and carp.  Stop in or call us at either UO store for the most timely tips you could ever have. Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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