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, March 22, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 3/22/24

It’s been a broken record so far  this spring: Friday rain to complicate our Saturday trip plans.   What to do? Go high to headwaters or go low for lake bass and stripers.  Here’s my best guess for tomorrow, based on local weather forecasts as of 7pm. It looks like we’ll get an inch or more of rain overnight, which will blow out our larger trout streams and the bass rivers tomorrow. Smaller, high-elevation trout waters should be fishable however, especially after lunch.

Check the river gauges in the morning and call your local fly shops for updates. Sunday should be very good as trout stream flows subside.

Don’t forget a great banquet in Helen tomorrow night. It’s hard to beat BBQ, Bluegrass, and trout-talk. The GATU Dream Trip raffle winners will be announced, too.

Lanier is warming up and stripers are moving shallow and uplake toward tributary rivers. New UO contributor AJ has a great report for y’all.

Check out the hot intel from our guides and friends and Wes’ hot fly list here:


 (Link in bio)

Good luck as we all wake up tomorrow, check the rainfall totals, and head toward fishable waters.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Rage Cage Caddis, parachute Adams, Drymerger BWO, Griffith’s gnat, yellow stimulator or small micro Chubby Chernobyl as a headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Girdle bug, squirminator, jig cdc pheasant tail, holy grail, oil slick perdigon, soft hackle partridge.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) Squirrely bugger, sparkle yummy, muddy buddy, bank robber sculpin. (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, finesse changer, Cowen’s coyote, polar changer, crittermite, jiggy craw. 


They were low and clear today but will probably be a bit high in the morning. They should still be fishable from the bank or right next to it in the morning, and will be fine by lunchtime. Get your dry/dropper rigs ready.


UO buddy Spangler: “ I fished a small headwater stream first before checking for a walk-on spot at Dukes. I had no luck at the headwater stream but the views made it worth it..

I fished one of Dukes’ lower stretches I had never done before and found an interesting mix of water – deep slow pools, fast runs, shallow riffles, and lots of undercut banks with trees overhead. Water temps were low early due to the cold nights, especially the night before.  I did manage a small rainbow on an egg about 10 am but no other action until noon when water temps hit about 50. 

While I didn’t catch great numbers, and I confess, I caught more trees than fish, I was happy with the fact I was able to adapt my approach as I came to each different water type. In the past, I would have pigeonholed myself into just tight lining them all the same and just adjusting weight or fly. Instead, when I found a good looking shallow riffle or some slower water by the bank under a tree limb where I couldn’t keep rod high to tight line, I added some Loon Bio Strike putty onto the sighter, flip the just upstream and just floated the sighter though; when I found a deep, slow pool, I would add a heavy nymph (a sexy waltz did most of the work) and an indicator about 1.5 the water depth. Using that method, I did hook into a nice one about the length of my forearm as I got a good look at him once I got him up from the depths on my 2-weight, but trying to turn him toward my net, I must have got a bad angle and he came unbuttoned on me. When the wind picked up, I switched to a dry dropper, but unfortunately nothing on the dry. All methods caught fish. I did see some little black stone flies. Plenty of food to go around!

Ian at R and R Flyfishing gave us an early look at spring trouting in the Smokies:


Delayed Harvest: 

Smith DH will be fishable but crowded. The larger DH streams may be too high for safe wading til Sunday or early next week. Try double-nymph rigs under indicators during high, cold flows and dry/dropper combos when they drop and warm once again. Which bugs? Peruse “spring dries and droppers” in here:


UO buddy CDB: “Now that I’m back on this side of the Mississippi, I slipped out Thursday AM to see how one of the North Georgia DH streams looked. The water looked great and held plenty of fish but they were spread out. Most good runs or holes would quickly surrender a fish to a Frenchie or a perdigon with some orange on it. If a hole didn’t produce a quick result, switching to a small orange or peach egg would yield a fish. 

Remember, eggs have no fins or tails, they just bounce along the bottom propelled by the current. You can pick up fish with an egg drifting mid-column, especially if they are fresh fish. But you are going to do much better dragging that egg on the bottom rocks.  Get it deep. ”

UO friend Athens Jay: “Late Sunday afternoon I made a quick solo trip to Tooga DH for some much needed hydrotherapy. The water was clear but running strong. An approaching cold front made it windy with dropping temperatures. No rising fish, but with an airlock indicator I used a tan mop with a size 18 soft hackle pheasant tail off the back to bring several rainbows to hand, plus this jewel of a brook trout.”

UO buddy Nan: “Rabunites Dredger, Rick and Nan dodged smoke from controlled burns to fish in western NC on Thursday. Dredger continued to school Rick and Nan in fishing like the Rabunites they are now instead of the Florida saltwater flyrodders they used to be. Fishing short leaders and painting the pocket-water pools with dry-dropper combos enticed multiple rainbows and browns to the party. Most of the takes were were on a small soft-hackle hares ear below very small split-shot, but one ambitious brown took the large fluffy dry used as a strike indicator. The trio noticed some caddis flying and sporadic trout rises as the water warmed later in the day, so the days of dry fly nirvana are not far off. Their last stop netted two nice brook trout on a double-nymph rig in a deeper pool. The brookies took a black France fly nymph trailed behind a Walt's Worm.”

Stocked Waters:

I didn’t see a fresh list this week, so aim for the streams on last week’s list for a fresh trout supper. By this time next week, however, nearly all waters on WRD’s 2024 master stocking list should be stocked.


Private Waters: 

They’re fishing really well, thanks to stream temps rising into the 50’s!

UO-Helen manager Wes: “I had a fun trip with Alex and Doug on a warm afternoon this week. In the faster runs a streamer was the ticket. In the slower pools, soft hackles and squirmy worms produced the best.

UO guide Devin had a great morning today with his client, new trouter Jeff from Alabama. Jeff caught on quickly and landed a bunch of chunky Nacoochee Bend bows by drifting a black pats rubberlegs and stripping a black woolly bugger.

UO guide Joseph’s client duo also had a big time at The Bend this morning. Sparkle minnow streamers were the ticket early, under the clouds. The streamer bit shut down when the sun emerged and his anglers scored some extra fish by deep drifting small eggs and pheasant tails.

UO guide Caleb: “A busy weekend on the water brought in lots of trout. A warm weekend had the fish happy early chasing nymphs. Sz 12 stoneflies and small caddis larvae were the best choice. The cooler mornings early in the week had the fish sluggish to start the day. Streamers were the ticket to get the trout moving.”

Mentoring kudos!

Athens Jay said: “A group of female mentors that included members of Georgia Trout Unlimited and the Georgia Women Fly Fishers assembled yesterday to introduce some female UGA students to the world of fly fishing. The students are members of the UGA 5 Rivers Club. 

Trout Unlimited Costa 5 Rivers program is a nationwide network of conservation-minded college fly fishing clubs. These students had recently joined UGA 5 Rivers, but had not yet experienced the excitement of catching fish on a fly. 

Thanks to the gracious hospitality of Tammy Harris, owner of Rivers’ Edge on the Soque, that all changed. Perfect spring weather, ideal flow conditions, and experience mentors with a wealth of fishing knowledge made for a great day on the water. 

First time fly angler and UGA Warnell student Isabella:

“Yesterday was absolutely perfect, I couldn’t be more grateful for such an awesome group of people to learn from! It was not only a great intro for fly fishing but amazing for me to meet people like Sarah Baker, who work in the field I want to go into.”

Quote from first-timer Dani:

“I had a lot of fun and I'm very thankful for everyone's time and skills helping me learn. I look forward to fishing again sometime! “

Quote from mentor Sarah:

“It was such a wonderful day getting to know Isabella, and having the privilege to introduce her to my favorite pastime. I was very impressed with her stamina and perseverance. She was amazing!”

We are already busy planning our next outing. The goal of this program is to prepare female anglers to plan their own trips, and to share their passion for fly fishing and conservation with others in the process. For more information contact Carson Love, or visit our instagram: @5riversfishing_uga”


UO buddy Ron W: “Kurt, Moe and I made an impromptu trip to the Dam today 3/21 and had the whole stretch down to Bowmans Island to ourselves.  We had a  visit with the warden while gearing up. A quick license check, some friendly conversation and we were on our way. It was nice to see them out there keeping folks honest and protecting the resource! 

We stepped in the water about 4:10 pm and fished till 6:30. We all started with a dry dropper setup and it didn't take long to get into fish. I landed 4 on a #18 France Fly dropper in the first 15 minutes.  That ended up being the fly of the day! 

I gave Moe my last fly and he proceeded to catch about a half dozen along the stretch of wood 1/2 way down to the island.  We were smacking fish left and right till we called it a day. 

The risers were there until they weren't, typical of the dam.  Fish will start rising and then in comes the wind to put them down. I sight-fished to three feeding fish and hooked up on all three of them, unfortunately they all shook the #22 dry while fighting them.  I ended the day with 16 to hand, mostly browns with some chunky bows mixed in. All total, we caught north of 3 dozen fish.  Not too shabby for 2.5 hours of fishing. 

It was another great day on the water with my brothers for some much need hydrotherapy! “

Warm Rivers:

UO-Helen manager Wes: “I did a bass float with Brad and his son this week. The weather wasn't very kind to us but we were able to catch a decent amount of 12”-15” shoal bass by slowing down our retrieves.”


New UO contributor AJ: “I fished Thur, Fri, and Mon in the past week. Thur afternoon was a bust. Conditions should’ve been perfect, but the fish didn’t get the pre-frontal feed memo. Fri AM was pretty good right before the storms hit and really good for an hour after hiding out under a dock during the thunder storms. Mon was also really good,  with actively feeding striper and spots until the high winds killed my trolling motor batteries and made casting the fly rod a little too risky. Fish seem to be in most of the major creeks up lake and down, sometimes even in the smaller feeders of those creeks. Find the gulls and the fish won’t be too far off. But also look for splashing and/or nervous bait in those smaller tribs, the gulls may not clue you in to those fish. 1.5-3” threadfin seem to be on the menu still. Clouser Minnows, Somethin’ Elses, and small unweighted polar fiber minnows should work on those schooling fish. With water temps bumping 60*, striper are moving towards that pre-spawn pattern and really putting on the feed bag. There are some really nice fish being caught on the fly. Let’s get out there!”

-Alex Jaume

Lanier on the Fly


There’s a boatload of extra striper intel in today’s GAWRD fishing blog: 



Here’s an early heads-up on NC’s planned trout hatchery renovation.  I’m sure more info is forthcoming from the state wildlife agency. 


UO buddy RSquared: “GATU treasurer Cathy Valancius & I fished the Harpeth River and the West Fork of the Stones River on our way up to Nashville for the SE Rendezvous of Trout Unlimited. We landed a few trout in each stream. A jig head Rainbow Warrior & a Frenchie proved to be effective for me. These were both new streams for me. I'm always glad when I get a chance to use my Tennessee License!!!”

That the latest on a rainy Friday night in White County. Let’s see what those river gauges look like in the morning.


 Call us after 8am at 706-878-3083 if you’d like more advice on which direction to head. Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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