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 31, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 5/31/24

Welcome to summer and the more limited fishing opportunities that this season gives us. We’ll give you realistic reports and keep pointing y’all toward your best chances of success.

Right now our brief cool spell, complete with downright chilly nights, has rejuvenated the trout bite. Try to go tomorrow morning if you can, since the heat and humidity are just around the corner.

We also celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week. It’s a great time to introduce a friend or family member to fishing. Per GAWRD:

Free Fishing Days: Georgia offers two FREE fishing days (Sat., June 1 and Sat., June 8, 2024) during this special week. On these days, Georgia residents do not need a fishing license, trout license or Lands Pass to fish.”

River bass action is picking up when the rivers aren’t muddy after storms. The cicada bite is over unless you head north quickly to TN.

Check out our detailed intel in our full report here:


(Link in bio)

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: chubby Chernobyl, yellow stimulator, 409 Yager yellow, parachute Adams, light cahill, para black ant, deckers yellow sally.

Pics: headwater bugs today.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Yellow soft hackle, gold ribbed hares ear, pheasant tail nymph and soft hackle, Drowned ant, tungsten micro rubberleg stone,  green weenie, mop fly. 

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) Squirrely bugger, sparkle yummy, bank robber sculpin, and mini shimmer buggers for stockers. (bass & stripers) polar changer, stealth jig, wiggle minnow, craw changer, dungeon.

(Panfish) amnesia bug, bluegill spider, donkey kong hopper.

(Carp) Gorgan craw, squirmy hybrid. 


Local headwaters are running crystal clear, slightly low, and cool right now due to the chilly overnight temperatures. At 10 AM today Spoilcane was 60F and Smith was 58 above  Unicoi Lake and 66 below it.  Morning action should continue to be good on dries and maybe short droppers when the spooky wild fish are refusing the dries. Try downsizing your dry and tippet a bit if the fish are finicky. Hopefully that will save you from having to fish subsurface.

UO buddy Coop hit some headwaters last weekend and said:  “ There were yellow caddis (I think) hatching like crazy at dusk.   I took a friend and he caught his first trout on the fly. We tossed a yellow caddis with an emerger dropper, swung the rig, and crushed the fish.”

UO buddy Spangler: “Hi Dredger, a little intel for the fishing report which includes a proud papa moment:   Jason and I hit a high elevation stream above Helen this morning; he told me recently he wants to complete the GA trout slam so he can get a sticker like mine.  Just needed a Brookie and as you can see I think he found a specimen! Stream ran low clear and cold (I didn’t bother to check the temp since he kept telling me his feet were freezing, that’s a good sign!). We shook hands with close to double digits but only landed 3 between us; the foliage canopy made swinging them to the net a little harder so there were some tree-based quick releases this morning. I caught all mine on a little yellow stimulator and he caught his on a mini Trout Magnet jig.”

Delayed Harvest: 

The NC Delayed Harvest season ends tonite and the harvest season kicks in tomorrow morning.


There will still be a decent number of fish left in those DH streams for another week or two, so don’t abandon them yet.

Three Rabunites and their photographer did a DH last call on Nantahala  last night and had a great time. Nan, Rick, and Bluejay met riverside at 3PM and enjoyed an early supper of fried chicken, tater salad, baked beans and brownies in the shade, while they waited for the shadows to fall. They were entertained by the streamside mating dances of some tiny mayfly swarms.

Around 4PM they couldn’t wait any longer to wet a line, so they tossed dry/long dropper combos in a shady pool. On one of his first casts, Bluejay hit a homer with a 17-inch brown that ate his copper john dropper.  Nan followed that with two brookies and a little wild bow that ate her dropper nymphs.

The gang moved upstream as dusk started to settle in around 6. Some yellow and lime sallies and small cahills began to dance above the stream. There weren’t enough landing on the water and getting eaten, but there were enough to have fish looking up. 

Each of the trio scored a handful of trout on their double dry combos of a yellow stimulator lead fly and smaller yellow sally dropper.  Most were stocker brookies and browns, with a few small wild rainbows tossed in.  Refusals outnumbered takes by 4:1, but all the surface action was fun. About three trout were caught on the upstream skitter for every one that succumbed to the downstream dead drift.  A perfect farewell evening on the Nan was topped off with a black bear sighting on the late-nite drive home over the mountain, just above Helen.

Stocked Waters:

Bob took his grandson trout fishing this morning and they had a lot of fun on lower Smith Creek. They learned that small hooks, light line, and natural baits can convince picky stockers to strike in the warming waters of June.  Several nice browns came to the net. A few hit on their powerbait doughballs, but more fell for freshly captured red wigglers scraped from moist, streambank leaf packs.

They learned about the internet gold mine of Georgia trouting intel and said they were going to upgrade their trout fishing gear. I believe they are hooked!


Rabunite trouting addict Nan phoned in a report from this morning’s trip. She got up early and met some of her GA Women Flyfishers on the Tallulah this morning.  She stuck with dries and caught plenty of stocked browns and little wild rainbows on yellow stimmies, yellow sallies, and light cahills. Buddy Nita did her usual deepwater dredging and scored big with rubberleg stones and green weenies.

Rabunite “Bluejay” said: “My son Matt from the ATL metro area enjoyed the holiday weekend here in the mountains. Fishing at a local stream with a micro chubby, he landed about 20 trout, including  two doubles!”

Private Waters: 

Our private waters season is quickly winding down due to increasing stream temperatures.  The recent cold nights have briefly recharged the lethargic fish and given our clients some really nice mornings.  If water temps hold out a bit longer, this is a great time for our Gilligan Special trips, where new fly fishers learn how to trout fish via a 3-hour instream “tour” with our UO guide. The key is starting and ending early in the day, when stream temperatures are lowest.


UO manager Jake guided several Gilligan trips this week at Nacoochee Bend on the Hooch and said his guests had a big time with the smaller, eager trout in the river. They caught fish on dry/dropper combos of a micro chubby Chernobyl dry and either a duracell nymph or tungsten micro stonefly as the dropper.

UO guide Caleb:” I got rained out of my trip on Monday but did guide the Orvis 301 class last Saturday. While we did experience a rain delay, fishing was excellent in between storms. The participants did excellent and we landed a ton of fish on dry dropper rigs.   Most fish were caught on the dropper, which was a mix between a yellow soft hackle and a large hares ear.

Caleb also phoned in at lunch today and said that today’s 3 clients at Rainbow Point on the Soque had a great morning on dry/dropper combos. Some fish ate the small chubby Chernobyl dries while more ate the submerged droppers of either a perdigon nymph, squirminator, or tiny tungsten beaded rubberleg stone.

Warm Rivers:

UO-Helen shop manager Wes: “I love late spring and summer fishing in our area due to the variety of angling opportunities available. Caleb and I got out one evening for a few hours to sightfish for Longnose Gar. Big native 40”+ fish in clear water that jump! What’s not to love about that? 

There are plenty of options and species to target this time of year. Don't overlook the unique opportunities close to home.”

UO buddy Landon invites y’all down to Sweetwater Creek next weekend for a spotted bass roundup to save the native shoalies. Details here:


UO buddies Sam and Seth went south of Atlanta and got spoiled on some late spring shoalies. No details beyond the pics were provided by the two secretive river bassers.


UO-Helen manager Wes: “Jimmy, Atticus, and I fished over the holiday weekend and caught the tail end of the 13-year periodical Cicada madness here in Georgia. The lake was eerily quiet compared to the preceding weeks,  as most of the bugs had died. However, we were still able to find a few cruising fish looking for the last remaining bugs on the water. 

For anglers still looking to take advantage of the amazing cicada fishing, head north to Tennessee and scout apps like Cicada Safari to to find water with fish keyed in on cicadas. There will probably be another week of cicada action up there. “

That’s the latest from our wide radius around Helen, GA. Take advantage of the cold night and cold water while we still have it. After that, it’s high mountain hikes for trout or pond and river floats for bass. Do your last trout river trips ASAP and then break out your 6-8 weight bass rods and your tiny blueline trout outfits for the summer action to come.  Don’t miss our daily intel on Instagram and Facebook. Better yet, stop in either UO shop and pick our brains for more tips. It’s easy pickins. Good luck and don’t forget the two free days this week for your angler-wannabe’s!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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