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 26, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 4/26/24


Due to a dry week, our trout streams are clear and flowing at seasonal norms or slightly lower. Water temps are perfect, ranging from the high 50’s to the low 60’s. The spring bug buffet continues, with caddis and mayfly hatches in full swing, and some early arrivals of yellow Sally stones. It’s a mighty fine time to be a dry fly flinger. Go late and stay later. Got a headlamp?

Stocker streams are getting large doses, and many stockers are larger than past average sizes.  Big, wide stocked streams are great places for flyfishing beginners to practice and score early success. 

Ponds are hot, while reservoirs have been fickle for fly rodders. Bass are the better bet, but the lake surface temps are still cool enough to keep some stripers in the shallows. Again, large size is compensating for their smaller numbers. 

UO will be at Orvis-Atlanta on Saturday and Orvis-Alpharetta on Sunday in support of those stores’ fundraising efforts for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Stop in and say hi!

Cast farther, into our full report, to catch all the secrets of success by our guides and fanatic fishing friends. You’ll be glad you did. Just ask “Spangler.”


 (Link in bio)

Get out there soon, before May’s warm days start heating up our waters and make the fish finicky. Good luck!

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 Sally or small stimulator, or small micro Chubby Chernobyl as a headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Yellow soft hackle, gold ribbed hares ear, girdle bug, CDC pheasant tail, fast water prince, red squirmy worm and peach egg for stockers.

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.


Flows are slightly normal, they’re crystal clear, and temps are prime. Fish are looking up for hatching bugs. Clear water makes them spooky, however, so your stealth game is tied to your drift game in terms of importance. Sneak up and drift a small, buoyant chubby, stimmy, or caddis and you’ll score.




The UGA 5Rivers duo of Van and Conner: “We got into some big wild brookies high above Helen last weekend. They ate Chubbys, stimulators, pheasant tails, and hares ears.”  They asked us to plug their noble fundraising cause and we are obliging:


UO staffer Iz hit some local headwaters on Wednesday and said: “The Micro-bows were pretty darn feisty. The green weenie and a stimmy above it were getting it done.”

UO buddy RSquared: “I took a 4-day trip north of the Ga. Line somewhere in the Nantahala National Forest. I focused on high altitude, native Brook Trout. A Parachute Adams was my most effective dry fly. However, with the rain & high, fast streamflows, a jig-head Pheasant Tail produced most of my fish. It was time well spent!”

Delayed Harvest: 

It’s the GADH home stretch. Those release rules end on May 15, so don’t miss this spring’s chance to load up on dry fly eaters. And if the dry action is dead at midday, just dredge some small, buggy nymphs and soft hackles while you’re waiting for the shadows to fall and the adult insects to fly.

You have more chances at NCDH streams, since that state’s special regulations end in early June. Fish locally now and plan a few road trips north for late May.

UO buddy Spangler: “Thanks for the advice. Smith Creek DH was a good call.  The hour before dark starting about 730 was insane…they were jumping out of the water grabbing bugs. I shook hands with about 12 on a little cream colored elk hair caddis, but only brought 7 to the net. Was an awesome evening!”

UO buddy CDB: “I heard some of the NC DH waters don't have a lot of fish in them, so I went to check.  There are still plenty of fish there and some good ones.  Leave your eggs and mops at home.   By now these fish have been caught a couple times and have seen roughly 35 million eggs and mops drift by.  You can catch some fish on them, but it won't be nearly as productive as the flies I mentioned in my private waters report. And make sure you put some weight on there and get your offerings deep.  The best fish are deep or tucked up next to obstructions.  I am using a long dropper as well.  The matchstick on the bottom is sitting 18" or more below my top fly, which has typically been the halo point, the higa or a midge emerger type of fly.  With the crystal clear water right now, if you aren’t sure you got the right stuff and are not getting any takes, drop down the tippet size. “

Rabunites Bluejay and Dredger trekked to Nan DH last Monday afternoon. The catching was slow in the high midday sun, with more fish hitting the dropper than the dry. That all changed as the shadows began to fall at 5PM and the “switch turned on.”  It stayed on for the next two hours. A mix of real bugs brought fish to the surface. 

Best dry flies were a small tan caddis and a yellow Sally, fished in tandem. Once again, many more fish hit the upstream skitter than the downstream dead drift. Flatlanders call it “skating:”


That duo is headed out the door to Chattooga DH later today in search of more dark-30 action. They’re armed with caddis, cahills, sallies and headlamps.  Follow their lead this weekend.

UO buddy Lucky:  “A few of us with UGA 5Rivers were up in NC this past weekend. We fished two creeks as well as the Nantahala River DH section.  Flows weren’t too bad but the water was very stained, so swinging a black wooly bugger through pools and working up against the current paid off. With the warmer weather, some folks had good luck on tan caddis flies too. Warm weather fishing is here and we’re all ready to go back!”

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. Roll cast it downstream into fishy waters, stick your rod tip almost into the water, and retrieve that streamer back upstream with lotsa rod twitches between short strips.


Private Waters: 

They’ve fished very well this week for veteran anglers and rookies with UO guides.  Resident fish are experienced and now picky in the clear waters with a good supply of drifting insects. It’s been more of a hatch-matching game, with deep nymphs and streamers working better in the high sun.  Perfect drifts have been required for nymph tossers . When there’s shade on the water, some dry/dropper combos and swung wet flies have worked well. Make sure you have some yellow in both your dry and wet fly boxes and a good stealth game when stalking those pools.

UO guide Caleb: “Rainbow Point on the Soque fished very well yesterday morning using stonefly nymphs. We saw a few chases of my client’s streamer,  but a double nymph rig was the way to go. A drag-free drift almost always produced a look, with many resulting in an eat, too, by the river’s feisty rainbows.

UO buddy CDB: “Mostly private water this week, but some DH, but the tactics that worked have been largely consistent.  First, you need to be deep.  Streamers - zonkers, wooly buggers, matukas - have worked well.  Colors like my favorite Thin Mint are still working well, and I am starting to shift to contrasting colors now.  Black and Yellow Buggers are working well.  Olive and White or Brown and White have been good.   Put a BB or even an AB 4 to 6" in front of a bead head bugger.  You might lose some on the bottom, but you need to be deep.  My good friend Bob nailed this monster meat muncher using a size 4 Thin Mint, and did a masterful job battling the fish with his little 5 wt. One of the biggest rainbows I have ever netted.  Certainly didn't expect to see a fish of that size in there - you never know!

Nymphs are productive, especially quill bodies.  Halo Points and Higa's SOS black size 18s have been hot.  Matchsticks size 16 or even 14 make a good anchor fly if you are using a double. “


No recent reports. Thanks to heavy rainbow stockings and a lack of rain to muddy them, they should be fishing really well.


New UO buddy AJ: “I was only able to get out Sunday in the past week. Fished 9-3 and I was hoping to find some schooling stripers with the overcast and rain. No stripes to be had, but lots of good spotted bass, throwing topwater Zara Spooks and fishing Magic Swimmers on points and blow throughs. Water temps were low to mid 70s, so stripers should still be around for a few weeks until warmer water sends them deep for the summer.”


Athens Jay is still wearing out his pond bream. He reports: “Earth Day and the impending full moon compelled me to make a brief kayak trip this week. I fished prime time after work and had a very productive trip. Many large bluegill were found in shallow water, and many bass were lurking nearby. All were quite interested  in the brown Pat’s Rubber legs I offered (no bead, no bobber, just a slow erratic retrieve). I think a popper/dropper rig would have worked really well and hope to test that theory soon.”

ATL Road Trips:

UO will have a booth at both Orvis Events this weekend that will support Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s programs. Dredger will man the Saturday booth at Orvis-Atlanta, while Caleb will hold down our fort on Sunday at Orvis-Alpharetta. Stop by and chat with us in between the great seminars offered by Orvis guru Tom Rosenbauer.


Closing Kudos:

UO buddy and GATU state council prez RSquared: “This past weekend, GATU & the Cohutta Chapter of TU hosted the SouthEastern 5 Rivers Rendezvous in Western NC. We had over 50 students from eleven universities & one high school ( North Paulding High School) Every student caught trout, they networked & traded ideas, conducted a major clean up on local streams, had a great meal provided by GATU & Cohutta TU.  Despite the rain, they enjoyed nightly campfires and left the campground cleaner than they found it.  They are the enthusiastic future of fly fishing & cold-water conservation!!!”

Good luck this weekend. You still have a lot of opportunities to choose from, so go make memories before our hot Georgia summer arrives. 

Stop in either UO store (Helen, Clarkesville) for supplies and intel or visit either UO booth at the two Orvis stores this weekend for a few extra fish tales. Tight lines, y’all.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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