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.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 7/4/24

Our rainless heat wave continues, so not much is new this week. Your best  bets remain high headwater trout (both stocked and wild), pond bream and bass, river bass, and a plane ticket to Bozeman.    Local trout action has been good by tossing summer hatch-matchers (ants and stimmies) during cool mornings.   Bass have been better subsurface, but there’s hope for an improved topwater bite as our waters continue to drop and warm.  Travelers are scoring big on western trout, where spring hatches are just starting to kick into gear.  Check out the detailed fishing intel and more pics in our full report here:


(Link in bio)

Fish early and in the shade for your best success.  Stop in either UO shop (Helen, Clarkesville) for some stimmies, ants, and those coveted Boogle Bug poppers.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: small yellow stimulator, tan elk hair caddis, parachute black ant, tiny  tan chubby Chernobyl, parachute Adams.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Drowned ant, green weenie, zebra midge, pheasant tail nymph and soft hackle.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) Squirrely bugger, sparkle minnow, and mini shimmer buggers for stockers. (bass & stripers) polar changer, wiggle minnow, craw changer, boogle bug popper, Kent’s stealth bomber.

(Panfish) Boogle amnesia bug, small chubby Chernobyl, bluegill spider, dry and wet ants

(Carp) Gorgan craw, squirmy hybrid. 


They’re clear, skinny and warm on south slopes, but cool enough for a good morning bite at really high elevations in GA and NC and on GA’s shaded north slopes. Did you see yesterday’s UO Facebook post?  Got ants???


Athens Jay: “Trip 3: Made an early morning trip to a small Georgia stream where I had great luck fishing 6X tippet, a #16 yellow Stimulator, and a black fur ant dropper. Caught equal numbers of fish on the dry and dropper. Both stocker browns and wild rainbows came to hand.”

Stocked Waters:

They are still fishing well for both bait and fly anglers who get up early and beat the midday heat. We’ve heard lots of reports of browns being caught, so try some bushy dry flies, sunken ants, and live nightcrawlers before using the Powerbait and salmon eggs.

Watch for Friday’s long holiday list here:


Update: And it’s here, Friday at 3pm:


I’ll repeat last week’s advice for this week’s holiday crowd.  The winter water stored in Lanier and Blue Ridge will make those two tailwaters best bets for Georgia trout. Stocked rainbows will hit bright egg and squirmy patterns and some stripped woolly buggers. The Hooch’s wild browns are partial to tiny black midges and stonefly nymphs. Holdover bows and browns on the Toccoa can be convinced with dry/dropper rigs and maybe a big, articulated streamer if you’re trophy hunting.

Private Waters: 

Just about all waters managed by GA’s private operators are shut down for the summer to protect their heat-stressed trout.

Warm Rivers:

Area rivers are clear from the lack of rainfall and warming up with these hot days.   You just have to watch the USGS river gauges carefully and ensure that a local storm hasn’t muddied your destination water.  

UO manager Jake said river bass action is heating up, mainly on conventional gear and stripped streamers. His guests this week caught a nice mix of spots and shoalies this week.  The topwater bite is still a bit slow, but should take off soon.

Athens Jay: “ Trip 4: Flows are right for wading in Piedmont rivers. I fished after work from 6:00-8:00 and had good luck throwing a black articulated streamer tied from rabbit fur and marabou. I tie it using a jig hook and a slotted tungsten football bead.”

UO buddy Neil and a friend aimed for Chattahoochee Bass yesterday on their bass slam quest. They found a few in the upper Hooch on small poppers and black woolly buggers.

UO buddy MG: “Recently went fishing on the Chestatee and Amicalola creek  and thought I’d shoot over a report. With the recent lack of rain in our forecasts I was doubtful on how successful my fishing trip would be for river stripers, but I was pleasantly surprised with how it went. I did not end up catching my dream striper but was blessed with a small shoalie and hybrid. Adam and I were throwing white clousers in the deep runs and pools. The clouds gave us some cover and the water had a slight stain to it from the light rain, making it perfect conditions for some streamer chuckin! In the middle half of the day we ended abandoning the stripers and heading for colder waters in hopes of redeyes. Again the high sun and clear waters made it difficult to sneak up on the fish. Did end up getting some bites but no fish were brought in. We were throwing around a pats rubber legs and a small black leech pattern. Did end up connecting on a shadow bass which debatably is just as cool of a catch to me! To me not much can top summer days on the water river bass fishin.”

Stripers are still camped out at Nacoochee Bend for the summer, but have been nearly impossible to fool with a fly.   We need a good rain and dirty water for guests to  score, so watch the weather forecast before coming up.  Feel free to call our Helen shop (706-878-3083) if you want to book an opportunity to wade out and catch one on the fly.


Small lakes are still fishing really well.  Paddle pond perimeters at dusk and throw popper/dropper combos toward the bank, under the shady tree limbs.

UO buddy Athens Jay:

“Trip 1: Piedmont pond fishing is good, especially late afternoon until dark. Popper/dropper was best, with most fish still taking the brown Pat’s Rubberlegs. Along with the Pat’s I used a white Boogle bug most of the evening, then switched to the Stealth Bomber to experience some fierce topwater attacks.”


No recent reports, except for a couple of locals who’ve had good luck live-baiting Lake Chatuge hybrids down in the thermocline.  Most of the lake predators have retreated to their deep coolwater refuges for the summer.


NC’s cooler waters have been very kind to our GA commuters who traveled north this week.

Rabunite Nanette:

“A little summertime high-elevation trouting among Rabun TU buddies Dredger, Rick and Nan. One of the best parts of being a member of a local TU chapter is finding fishing friends who are willing to get up early (really early) to beat the heat. We found cooler water in the morning on Nan DH and scored on chunky stocker browns and spunky little wild rainbows.

Psst! Word of the day for fellow trouters: Ants! Tie ‘em and fish ‘em dry and wet with a good, short, hi-sticking technique. They worked better than our yellow stimmy dries, which brought many more refusals than takes.”

Athens Jay: “Trip 2: With excellent intel from Unicoi Outfitters staff, I ventured into the Great Smoky Mountains for the first time in years to search for wild trout. As advised, I tied up some #16 parachute black ants and #16 black fur ants to fish as a dropper behind it. This combination proved to be extremely effective and I caught equal numbers on each. Had some awesome elk encounters as an added bonus.”

Out west is hitting its “spring hatches” prime time. We had two reports yesterday from our GA friends, who have hit the jackpot on Madison River salmonflies.


Message from the Feds:

Happy Fourth of July from the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest! 

We look forward to celebrating Independence Day with our many visitors at recreation sites across the Forest. We hope you'll join us for a hike or picnic to celebrate our nation's birthday! Be sure to have a backup plan and be prepared for crowds at popular recreation sites. 

Remember, fireworks are illegal on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Only YOU can prevent wildfires!”

That’s the latest intel to help y’all kick off your July fishing exploits. Have a happy and safe 4th, everyone. Come see us at either UO shop during your long holiday weekend. Got some ants and Boogle Bugs?

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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