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, April 12, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 4/12/24


Welcome to Caddis and Cahill Time!  Trout waters are warming and the bug buffets have started.  Don’t leave home without your box of prime dry fly patterns and a bottle of High-n-Dry dessicant.   

There’s only a slight bit of temporary bad news to temper our Saturday enthusiasm. Region watersheds received from 1.5 to 3 inches of rain over the last two days, so large rivers are still high. They will hopefully return to safe wading levels by Sunday or early next week. The good news is that small and medium streams have already dropped to safe wading levels and should be prime by tomorrow. Catchable trout fans should again see a long stocking list from GAWRD later today.

On the lake front, bass are heading into the shallows, while stripers remain scattered. Lakes and ponds are approaching their prime time as their shallows warm and bass start bedding.  Striper catches are down, but average size is still compensating for numbers. If you’re lucky enough to locate some stripers, be ready to battle fish weighing in the teens.

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


 (Link in bio)

It’s warming slowly this afternoon and the wind is howling!  I’d pass on tenkara and Euro techniques today. But, by golly, the weekend is sure looking sweet. Check river gauges, consult your past notes on safe wading levels, and be ready to match the hatches with your double-dry rigs.  Stop in either UO shop to stock up. Good luck during our April prime time!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Rage Cage Caddis, tan elk hair caddis, parachute light cahill, Drymerger March Brown, parachute Adams, BWO, stimulator, or small micro Chubby Chernobyl as a headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

American nymph molted brown, soft hackle partridge, holy grail, girdle bug, pink tag jig. Prince nymph, peach egg, and brown pats rubberlegs for stockers.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) Squirrely bugger, sparkle yummy, bank robber sculpin, and small olive woolly buggers for stockers. (bass & stripers) Cowens somethin’ else, gray/white clouser minnow, finesse changer, polar changer, crittermite, jiggy craw.


Our streams are looking great and temperatures are prime: in the mid-50’s. Both Spoilcane

 and Smith DH were just a bit high this morning, but already clear.  

Grab your short blueline rod and toss your favorite buoyant dry this weekend. It’s hard to beat a tan caddis, cahill, or small tan chubby for Blueline prospecting.


Be careful in the Smokies. Those mountains got a lot of rain and are running high. Hopefully their headwaters will also be fishable this weekend.



Delayed Harvest: 

It’s on!  Warmer water, a dose of fresh stockers, and abundant bugs make DH streams a best bet this week. Try dry/droppers to start, but be ready to switch to double dry rigs as soon as you spot some buzzing bugs or rising trout. We had our best luck on tan caddis and cahill combos. Fly sizes were chosen to match the hatching bugs. Carry those two patterns in sizes 14 to 18 to be ready for each daily hatch.

Shelfish and Dredger hit Nan DH last Sunday afternoon. Shel hit a few on a dry/dropper rig while Dredger drove and scouted. He found fellow Rabunite Bluejay in a sunny, shallow, downstream stretch. BlueJay had a big time on dries and scored several species slams. Dredger returned to Shelfish with that intel and put him in shallower water, where he scored high on a double dry rig. More fish ate his small tan elk hair caddis dropper than the larger lead fly, a para Adams that was easier to see. (See UO’s Monday post)

Dredger awoke Wednesday and checked the weather and water intel. It looked favorable, so he hit Chattooga DH at lunchtime.  He started with a stimmy dry and several nymph droppers in the misty rain and fog, landing a few on the prince dropper.  But he had a bunch of refusals on the stimmy dry. He spent the next hour trying to dial in the right dry patterns til he got it right: a #16 tan elk hair caddis with a #18 cahill dropper. Cahills, caddis, and tiny (#20) yellow stones hatched sparsely through the day, with more popping later as the rain quit and bringing up some risers. He found eager fish in nearly all the soft spots, but it took a twitch/skitter technique to bring them up. That technique beat his dead drift by at least 5 to 1. An equal mix of bows and browns made it one fine afternoon of trout on top. He caught enough to leave hungry fish at 6 and find supper himself.

UO friend CDB covered a lot of water: “Been a heck of a week.  I’ve managed to get out every day day this week. I capped it off by making the long drive to a nice DH water in the rain. After two hours of happily singing Marshall Tucker and Eagles tunes on the drive up, I popped open the hatch of the car and quickly realized there was a vacant spot where my waders and my wading boots typically sit. Because they were still hanging in the garage drying.  I looked down at my beat-up pair of sketchers loafers I was wearing, almost no tread on the bottom, one or two holes, and part of the left sole starting to peel away.  Look like wet-wading shoes to me!  On a positive note, I did remember my raincoat to keep me dry this time. So I had that going for me.  

It was absolutely worth it!  It doesn’t get much better than this past week with the southeast for trout fishing.  

Across both the NC and GA DH waters a common theme emerged. Black Higa’s SOS size 18 were hot for rainbows. Size 14 olive body perdigon style flies with bronze or black heads and orange collars similar to hot spots and firestarters were the best flies for Brook trout.  Size 18 Halo Point jigs were magic for most everything as well.  Olive and bronze leeches performed nicely, but a rig with a big perdigon as an anchor and the SOS or Halo point as the fly was a top producer; especially in the deeper or slower runs. Dropping to 5.5x tippet as well made a difference. Takes were pretty subtle. Set on the winks or any type of movement. It is possible to pick up a fish here and there on a small egg, or a mop fly, but most of these fish have graduated from that stage as Dredger has said before, and they’re becoming a good bit more picky.  

My favorite wild area fished well. Anything with a quill body, like the Halo Point, as well as bronze leeches and wooly buggers. Run them up under the ledges and slide the up under those overhanging sycamore roots. There can be surprisingly good fish in those dark holes. 

Private waters fished solid in the rain. Olive leech patterns were particularly effective. By mid-afternoon red squirmy’s as well as chartreuse squirmy’s were very hot. Stonefly pattern worked reasonably well. Have to go dry my socks and shoes and rest up for next week….”

Stocked Waters:

Stocker fishing should be excellent, again.  Grab some bait, lures, or flashy flies and consult today’s WRD list before heading up here:


Private Waters: 

Our private waters fished really well when they weren’t blown out by stormflows. While our weekends are booked, we still have some good weekdays to choose from. Check your April calendars, pick a few date options, and call the Helen shop for a nice-half day trout fix.

UO guide Caleb: “The Soque took a while to figure out last Saturday with clear skies and even clearer water. Large articulated streamers moved some big fish but small nymphs were the way to go. A hot-headed pheasant tail with a CDC collar ended up in lots of trout mouths!”

UO guide Israel: “The trout were hammering dry flies all Monday morning. A Corn Fed Yellow Sally was the winner of the day.”

UO buddy Nanette: “We took a Rabun Co private waters trip afternoon.  Misting and chilly but water still pretty clear and not too high for us.  Rick caught a 21” rainbow on a yellow stimulator (dry-dropper setup). What a beautiful fish!  We both caught several smaller rainbows, and I even caught a tiny wild one on an Adams. But Rick’s fish was definitely the prize.  I bought the trip as a Xmas gift for Rick and he certainly enjoyed his present!”


RonW: “I made a solo trip over to the Dam yesterday 4/7 and it didn't disappoint.  The water release was scheduled to end at 12:10, I stepped in the water at 12:18, right as it was still going down. 

Surprisingly, I had just about had the whole place to myself. I started off with a dry dropper setup as usual, with a size 22 parachute midge dry up top and a size 20 black France fly off the bend on 3.5' of 6.5x.  It was slow for the first few hours. I only landed 6 fish on mixed droppers that all seemed to be only good for a fish or two. (France fly, Walt's worm, red tag, rainbow warrior and hares ear) 

Fish were rising everywhere around me, some even coming out of the water like mullet. They just didn't want anything to do with my dry. After a half a dozen  changes on my dropper, I found the hot fly. I worked my way down past the wood and then back up, landing another 14-16 fish on that 1 fly. I ended up breaking off my whole rig so I tied on a size 24 parachute midge with the same dropper that just wacked them, and proceeded to catch 6 on top. 1/2 of them were just blind rises, the other 3 were targeted. One fish was rising every 15 seconds in the same exact spot. He probably wishes that I couldn't count.

I bailed right before 5pm, slimed up and grinning from ear to ear. Nothing like a little hydrotherapy to cure what ails ya!”

UO buddy Spangler:  “Had a few hours to fish so opted to try my luck a couple miles below Buford Dam. The wind was absolutely relentless and nullified my attempts to euro nymph or dry-drop. After a couple hours of having the wind blow my fly and line clear out of the water (not exaggerating) I swallowed my pride and hooked on an indicator up onto my sighter. It paid off quick, I hooked into this chunky 17” rainbow. Was the only fish of the day but it made the grind worth it! He ate a little zebra midge style perdigon through a slow run between some subsurface boulders.”

UO guide Ben joined forces with Orvis-Atlanta’s Devin Lancaster (our UO part-time guide) to host a successful instream Euronymphing clinic for Devin’s guests last Saturday.

Warm Rivers:

GAWRD has some fresh intel today:



AJ: “Had a trip Sunday afternoon. Lots of sun and lots of boats,  so we didn't find much in the way of schooling fish. But we did manage one striper blind casting clay banks and points. Fished Tuesday in the rain (thankful for quality gore-tex!) and had good groups of striper feeding on top nearly everywhere I checked. The only problem was they were usually only up a few seconds at a time. Once I gave up trying to use the trolling motor to get them, I ended up getting a few to eat a Clouser Minnow. Ended the day with 3 striper, 2 spotted bass, and nice white bass. 2 of the 3 striper were double digit fish, largest being 14lbs. Still quite a few gulls mid-lake, but thin out further north. I saw water temps between 61* and 64*. Clay banks and points are holding fish. Use your electronics to check, make a few casts, and then move on to the next. Reach out if you want to go! “

-Alex Jaume

Lanier on the Fly


UO guide Joseph: “Went out on the lake Sunday morning.  Caught one small striper and lost another at the boat. I was using both intermediate  and sinking lines with 3in clousers fishing points. I also saw a school of bass busting on small bait. If you aren’t getting bit on a particular fly then try changing the size / profile to “match the hatch” of the baitfish at hand.”

Small Lakes:

Athens Jay: “Trout, bass snd bluegill have all liked my girdle bug this spring.”

Athens MD: “A bum shoulder (thankfully NOT my casting arm) has kept me from lifting my kayak on top of my vehicle the past couple weeks, so I've been relegated to the banks on local lakes around Athens. Bass are moving shallow, and gray to light-gray feather gamechangers have been a hit on sink tip lines. I've even had a couple ferocious bluegill try to eat these 3.5 inch flies! Can't wait to get the kayak back in the water. “



RSquared: “On Monday my son Matt & I took his bass boat north of the state line to the Tennessee River in search of smallmouth bass. We were unable to locate any of the elusive, native smallmouths but we did boat some invasive Alabama/Spotted bass. We also landed white bass and Matt even managed to catch a large 15+ pound catfish on a plastic worm. We also had a great view of Monday's solar eclipse.”

Get out there as soon as the wind dies and the flows drop. You’ll sure be glad you did!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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