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 19, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 4/19/24

Prime Time continues up here! Last nite’s rain was minor and our trout streams will be clear for your Saturday adventures.  Sunday will be a different story with the storms rolling in, so you’ll have to wait til early next week for your next rematch after Saturday.

On trout waters, pick your time and match your technique to it. Drift some nymphs or soft hackles before lunch. If you’re a dry fly fan, match the midday midges or prospect broken waters with a tan caddis.  But if you really want to score on top, then go late, stay late, and take full advantage of the evening hatches that are in full swing. I did last night!

Pond bass and bream are prime, while lake stripers are starting their downriver trips after their early April spawning runs. You can still catch some fish upriver, but most will soon be back in flat waters, keying in on the shad and herring spawns in the dawn shallows.

Don’t miss this month! It’s been great and should continue for several more weeks.  Folks who dive deeper into this note will find our specific recipes for success here:


 (Link in bio)

Take a look and you’ll know why my shoulder aches after last night’s epic trip, and why some of y’all should should book a half-day getaway ASAP with Iz, Wes, and Caleb. Take a break and cash in on this hot April action. We sure are!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

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

Nymphs & Wets: 

Gold ribbed hares ear, pheasant tail nymph and soft hackle wet, holy grail, soft hackle partridge, biot epoxy stone, squirminator for the Sunday rain, fast water prince.

Streamers & warm water:

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


They have seasonal flows and only a slight stain that will clear in a couple hours. Spoilcane ran 60 degrees at 11AM today. Toss your favorite tan or yellow dry fly and have fun with all those little wild residents while flows are still good and temps are perfect.



Last Sunday afternoon I watched a true small-stream craftsman at work. Despite the high sun and clear water, DNR’s John “Deadly” Damer picked apart his favorite headwater stream. He drifted his tan X-caddis right next to submerged logs and deep under rhododendron branches to coax a nice handful of wild browns to hand.

UO buddy RonW: “I went up to the Burnsville, NC area for a men's weekend at my friend Rob's Mtn house, which sits at 4000'  in elevation and has a rather gorgeous creek running right thru it.  We did the same thing 2 years ago around the same time but I didn't catch, let alone even see a single fish then which has had me wondering ever since. The water is too clear, too big and too high up not to have fish in it, specifically Specs.  

We pulled up about 1:30pm after the 4+ hr drive from home.  We are in T shirts and it's about 62°.  The temperature dropped 15° in 10 minutes and then dropped even more, which had me reaching for a down jacket.

With me being the only angler in the bunch, you know where my mind was at. I rigged up my rod, tied on a #12 black stone fly with a #18 Frenchie and walked the 100' down to the creek to find a perch as I'm fishing waderless.  It immediately started snowing, which has always been magical to me. Fishing in the snow in a high elevation MTN creek is as good as it gets for me.

 I'm working one of the bigger plunge pools on his property from the top of a big boulder, staying out of site as much as possible.  After about 5-6 minutes of dredging this run my line goes tight.  There were a good 10 seconds where I couldn't see it as it was trying to bulldog me under the boulder I was standing on. I get him out and into the current and finally get a glimpse, of what is definitely the largest wild brookie I've ever had on the line. My heart is beating out of my chest as I'm yelling for my buddy to bring me my net. He gets it to me after a long minute and I hooked and land  my largest wild brookie to date, I'm guessing it was 10.5" - 11".  

It started sleeting and then turned to a light rain which was my cue to head back to the cabin.   Day 1 = PB brookie in less than 10 minutes.

Day 2: Sat morning I woke, had my coffee and went down to the creek. I hook and land my 2nd largest brookie to date on my 3rd cast on a red tag dropper.

Day 3: Sunday am I woke up, had my coffee and then ran down to the creek of course. On my 1st cast I land another chunky brookie on the black stone.  I went back up to the cabin to finish my coffee and start packing and cleaning up.  I got another 30 minutes of fishing in a little later on with no luck so I decided I had fished all I needed to. 

To sum it up this epic weekend....3 days and 3 fish in less than an hour total fishing. 2 of them being my PB and my 2nd PB, both out of the same hole.  An epic high elevation hike, great food, great company and some much needed hydrotherapy in one of the most special creeks I've ever had the pleasure to fish.”

Delayed Harvest: 

These streams continue to fish well for anglers with a good game and hatch-matching skills.  Stocked fish are now experienced and a lot smarter, requiring our better techniques, whether dead-drifting or skittering.

Smith DH was low and clear and made the fishing tough for rookies. One veteran angler had good luck on an olive cone head bugger that he showed me. Try a dry/short dropper combo on 6x tippet and aim for the shade during the day and the shadows after 7pm. Come late and stay til slap-dark for the best action.

UO friend Nan:  “ On Monday I only cast SHORT on the Nan DH and remembered to hi-stick the slow pockets. Caught a lot of fish!

Ken was the hot hand, with superior wading abilities over me and Rick. I think we all got an Appalachian slam. I got 13 fish to hand, Rick six and Ken probably got 20, including a brookie on an Adams tied by Rick. Mostly on nymphs (pheasant tail) with a few on dries. We fished exclusively dry-droppers. Not many insects about (saw a few yellow sallies). Dry fly frenzy never happened. Fun day though, gorgeous weather.  We didn’t leave till 7:30 pm.”

We had a fun Wednesday morning on a Chattooga DH guided trip donated to the Rabun TU Rendezvous by our chapter member, Zac. 
 Water still a little high for me (waded to thigh deep) but bottom was good and I felt stable. Lots of fish caught on nymphs, since adult bugs and risers were scarce that early in the day.  An equal number were missed, too.  I got to cast long a bit, which made this Everglades flyfishing veteran very happy.

Lots of different fishing techniques this week. My brain is full of great memories and my back and shoulders are sore! PS: don’t forget your bug repellent!”

Dredger had an epic evening yesterday (18th) on Chattooga DH. He arrived at 4PM to clear, moderate flow and 62-degree water temperature. Tiny caddis adults and swarms of midges buzzed about in the hot sun. Dredger tied on something he could see, a #16 tan caddis, and started prospecting “cover.”  

He found some willing risers by dead drifting the broken water of riffles and by skittering his dry in the runs and shallow pool heads, especially in the shade. The action was steady for the next 3.5 hours and only got better as the shadows grew.

Some #16 cahills started emerging at 730 and sparked more risers. He stayed with his caddis, since it still worked well. At 8PM the cahills got thicker and the fish got pickier, so he switched to a tan sparkle dun. That was the ticket.  Best fish of the day was a 14-inch bow that inhaled the dun at 8:15. Last fish was fondled at 8:35, when Mother Nature finally turned her switch off and the river went to sleep. An equal mix of bows and browns made it another memorable day of dry fly flinging. Go soon, while the bug buffet is in full swing. Don’t forget the hot intel on page ATL-1 here:


Stocked Waters:

Stocker fans should have another long list of choices later today. If you’re brand new to flyfishing, pick a large, stocked stream and toss a small, black or olive woolly bugger to score early success in your new sport.


Private Waters: 

UO-Helen manager Wes: “Private waters fished pretty good on Monday and Tuesday. Lots of bugs came out due to the warmer water and air temps. Soft hackles, pheasant tails, and chubby Chernobyls were the best producers.”

UO manager Jake’s clients had a good trip to Rainbow Point on the Soque. His hot bugs were drifted girdle bugs and yellow soft hackles.

Iz told me this morning that his clients had some great days this week at Soque Camp. His secret to success was dead drifting soft hackle wets. Bugs were hatching (mainly midges), but nobody came up to play in the higher, discolored flow. The deeper drifts did much better.

UO guide Caleb: “I had a very productive day at Soque Camp earlier in the week. The streamer bite has turned off while the dry fly bite is turning on!  A yellow micro chubby produced some strikes. Dredging, of course, brought in the most fish. Natural stonefly patterns and lightly weighted, yellow nymphs were my go-tos. Sulphurs are moving!””


No recent reports. Thanks to heavy rainbow stockings, should be fishing well around the rains that discolor them.

Warm Rivers:

No recent reports. Watch today’s WRD blog for any breaking news:



Our reservoir stripers  typically run up the rivers during the first half of April on spawning attempts. They’re successful on the Coosa, but not in our other, shorter rivers where the eggs settle into the sediment.  You can still find sone stragglers up there, but the majority of fish will now head downstream for more abundant groceries in the lakes. Find them in the shallows early and late, and especially at dawn when the shad and herring spawns kick off soon. Find more hot lake intel in the WRD weekly reports.


Athens Jay is still wearing out his pond bream. He said the recent secret weapon has been an unweighted pats rubberlegs dropper under his popper. That slow-sinking bug has been irresistible.



Ray Van Hassel from afar landed this beautiful 23 pound Dorado on the Upper Parana River in Argentina.

There’s your mid-April update. As expected, it’s been quite a month so far. Get out there soon and cash in on the remaining weeks of this awesome spring action. Just carry the right dries and streamers to match the bug and shad hatches and you, too, can earn a sore shoulder. Take plenty of pics!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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