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, May 17, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 5/17/24

This rainy weekend is actually very good news for trout fans. The clouds should keep the sun off the water and reduce afternoon water temperatures.  Cloudy weather and some stain in cooler water should lead to a much better trout bite throughout the day. Just bring raincoats for the showers and a quick exit plan if thunder is heard.  Carry some squirmies and rubberleg stones to take advantage  of the muddy water bite. There should still be some dark-30 action for the latest hatches of the season and those dusk risers. Have your cahills, caddis, and yellow sallies ready. And maybe a coffinfly, too.

River bass action is starting to heat up. You just have to catch the clearing waters in between muddy stormflows.

Pond and lake action remains very good for bream and bass, and carp if you can home in on cicada mania. Shallow water stripers are waning as reservoir surfaces warm, so focus on spots and largemouths.

All the intel is in our full weekly report, here as always:


(Link in bio)

Good luck this drizzly weekend. Use it to your advantage with our UO intel. Come by either store for some more!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: chubby Chernobyl, yellow simulator, 409 Yager yellow, parachute Adams, light cahill, or black ant, deckers yellow sally, green drake.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Yellow soft hackle, gold ribbed hares ear, pheasant tail nymph and soft hackle, greenie weenie,  and red squirmy worm and brown pats rubberlegs for stained water and 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.

Headwaters: They were running clear and cool at midday today. Spoilcane was 61F and Smith was 60F above the lake and 65F in the DH section below it.  They might muddy up for a short bit after a brief, intense shower this weekend, but they always drop and clear quickly. Dry fly action should continue to be great.  Go get some resident wild trout before hot afternoons boost water temps into the upper 60’s and slow down the bite. High floating parachutes and chubbies should draw plenty of strikes.

Delayed Harvest: 

The GA DH season has ended, but those fish can’t read signs. Find some DH leftovers in the larger streams by covering a lot of water above, in, and below the DH reaches.  Outwalk the harvest crowd and find some of the last evening hatches of the season.

The better bet is a road trip. The NC Delayed Harvest season extends thru May and those streams received their last dose of DH stockers earlier this month.


Recall our post earlier this week about extending your DH season:

See page ATL-1:


Tis the season for helicopters, too. On larger trout rivers with some silty pools, BOLO the biggest bugs of spring. If you’re lucky enough, you might hit the magic week of green drakes during the day and their coffinfly spinners at dark. Rabunites call trout rises to these big mayflies “commode flushes.” Real dedicated trouters take month-long spring road trips and follow the green drake hatch up the Appalachian spine, all the way to PA.  Where? You’ve gotta earn this one with your own homework.

Stocked Waters:

Area stream conditions are still good and the WRD and USFWS trucks are still running hard.

Stockers are suckers for drifted eggs, squirmies and rubberleg stones and small streamers twitched often while slowly stripped back upstream. Put your rod tip just a few inches off the water surface during the retrieve and you’ll hook more streamer eaters.


UO buddy RSquared: “Long time TU leader Harold Hogan & I, along with his son & grandson, fished one of NW GA’s trout streams where we caught not only trout, but also several species of sunfish. However, the Coosa Redeye's could not be enticed to bite any of our various fly patterns.”

Private Waters: 

Mornings are better than sunny, warm afternoons, when water temps are creeping into the mid-60’s and slowing down the bite. Bigger nymphs have worked well when the water is stained after a rain, while the small stuff (pheasant tails, hares ears) on lighter tippet has been the ticket on low, clear water. We’ve had some risers, too. Israel said yesterday’s unguided guests at Nacoochee Bend had some good luck on yellow stimulators.

UO guide Caleb: Soque camp fished lights out yesterday! The high, cooler, stained water had the trout in an opportunistic mood. While we saw a few fish come up to the surface, all were caught on nymphs, specifically a red squirmy worm.”

UO buddy CDB:   “I fished private waters this week. Green mops did well. Interestingly, even with the worms starting to fall from the trees, a green squirmy did not do very well. Tan and white squirmy, however did produce some fish. 

WD-40 and black zebra midges did well on those fish feeding subsurface. Higa’s SOS continue to be a top producer. 

Have a fish in a difficult lie with multiple conflicting currents?  Tie on a small leech or Zonker jig with some extra weight and jig it up and down 6-8” through the seams. A fluttering leech is hard for a hungry fish to pass up!  Black leeches and zonkers are still producing well, and in the rain on Tuesday was a top producer.”

Warm Rivers:

REMINDER: GAWRD virtual public meeting on bass regulation changes Tuesday, 7pm:


UO company manager Jake: “Despite the rain, Tuesday’s staff fishing day was great for Jimmy, Israel, Wes, and me.  The team managed to tangle with a mixed bag of river bass, with a few being very nice fish, and there were even some redbreast caught on poppers before the rain set in. The bass were caught on a variety of both moving baits and bottom bouncing baits as the bite seemed to shift with the weather throughout the day. All in all, the four team members had a great day on the water, and although the numbers weren’t off the charts, the size of fish caught really made up for it. “

UO buddy Athens Jay:

“Floated a Piedmont river for bass last weekend and found some fish, despite higher flows from the recent rain. Top fly was a black articulated jig fly tied with a slotted tungsten football bead. “


UO-Helen manager Wes: “Cicada mania continued along this week. We’ve done well on the east side of the state and had a great couple of days catching lots of carp on cicada patterns. The hatches here are starting to wind down, however.  There are only a couple of weeks to take advantage of this unique opportunity. Scout apps like “Cicada Safari” and get out and explore to find fish keyed in on the bugs. As the Georgia emergence winds down, catch up to the hatch by driving north of our border.”

UO buddy AJ: “I fished Friday and Monday mornings in the past week. Friday we did see some striper schooling, but they were up and down so fast that we couldn't get on them in time. Bass fishing seemed a little slower than it had been as well, but we did get a nice 4.25 lb'er on topwater. Monday AM looked great out, but the fish didn't get the topwater memo. No striper schools found, but we picked up a few spotted bass and two small stripers blind casting clay banks. Water temp was down a few degrees from Friday and we had to fish subsurface and really slow our presentations down.  I did see quite a bit of bait on bridge pilings though and picked up a pair of nice spots throwing jig head paddle tails to them. Definitely worth checking the bridges and marina walls early. Probably about time to start focusing on humps, especially ones with brush piles on them. Schools of stripers can still be had on the fly, but now it seems like it's mostly a fish finder and sinking line game.”

UO buddy “Coach”:  “The  post-spawn action has been awesome. My son Rhett caught this nice bucketmouth Friday afternoon in about 10 feet of water. Crappie have been schooling and chasing bait and some other predators are hanging out with them.”


Grab the kids and take advantage of tomorrow morning’s Family Fishing Event at Buck Shoals Park:


Athens Jay: “A quick evening trip to the pond this week with my 3-weight. Brown Pat’s Rubberlegs is still the top producer. Be ready for the upcoming full moon, it should be great!”


UO buddy Gayland: “Hi, UO folks!

I am at the Bozeman airport waiting for my flight back to Atlanta.  I have had a very enjoyable 9 day fly fishing trip!  No huge fish, but many rainbows 18 to 21” on the Missouri River and one pretty 21.5” brown.

I fished root beer midges that I tie and a few other flies under an indicator.   I was able to use a dry dropper on DePuy’s Spring Creek when Baetis began to appear.

I hope to see you soon!”

Road Trip Kudos:

UO buddy Athens Jay said week 1 of his three week May-mester class entitled, “Georgia Fishes Field Course” was a soggy hit for his 15 UGA undergrads. They sampled Piedmont streams this week and will head north to our mountains next week.

Trout Habitat Touchdown! 

Thanks and congrats to our friends, the Rabunites (rabuntu.org) for their Thursday stream habitat improvements. Join their clan and take art in their fun and work.


Win Two New Helios Rods!

Stop in our Helen store, cast a new Helios, and enter the free raffle:



That’s the latest here as we await the weekend rains. Run toward the muddy water for trout and away from it for river bass. And run toward the deafening buzzing of cicadas in the trees along reservoir edges.   Good luck this weekend. Bring a raincoat and a quick evac plan in case of lightning. Good luck and be safe!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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