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, February 16, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 2/16/24

It’s looking real good on our regional trout stream front!  Flood flows have receded on all but the largest streams, restoring our wading opportunities. Warm days have pushed afternoon water temps into the upper 40’s and sometimes above that magic 50-degree mark for great trout action. 

A few bugs have started hatching and tempting trout and anglers toward some afternoon surface action. While Saturday will be blustery, the following days will warm once again. Be ready with dry/droppers after lunch if you see some surface sippers. Wes’ bug list and our stream intel in the full report will aid your fly choices.

Lake water temps lag behind stream temperatures, so the shallow water action for bass and stripers is still a bit slow. Several more weeks of warm afternoons and sunshine on stained shallows will warm them and draw in the shad. Predators will soon follow. Have your 8-weights, fresh leaders, game-changers, and Cowen’s Somethin’ Else flies ready for action. We’re hitting Lanier this afternoon to search for a few shallow fish.

Get outside soon and have fun during this warm spell while it lasts.  We never know what early March will hold, weather-wise.  Look for buzzing bugs and poking trout noses in slow pockets on sunny afternoons.  Check out our full weekly report and Wes’ hot fly list at our blog:


Good luck this week. Stop in either UO shop for your fly resupply and timely updates on stream conditions.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  black elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, Griffith’s gnat, yellow stimulator or small micro Chubby Chernobyl as a headwater dry for your droppers. Start carrying some quill gordons and hendricksons, too.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Black copper John, rainbow warrior, little black and brown stones, holy grail, sexy walts, Frenchie,  twister egg.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, sparkle minnow, micro leech, bank robber sculpin. (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, craw changer.


They’re in great shape and are warming up quickly in response to 60-degree days. Spoilcane had a healthy flow and hit 52 degrees when I checked it at 3pm yesterday. Stick with dry/dropper combos and have greater hope for some surface eats on warm afternoons that push water temps over 50F..

UO buddy RSquared:  “My former student, Nathan Phillips, and I recently fished one of my favorite wild streams in Georgia. On that particular day, the water was running high and fast from recent rains. We were using a lot of weight to get our flies down near the bottom. The fishing, scenery, and companionship were great but the catching was slow and challenging in the high, chilly water.”

Jake’s duo hit Dukes at Smithgall on a cold Wednesday morning. The stream was high, clear, and cold and the catching was slow. They landed a small handful of bows on nymphs and small eggs.

The Smith Brothers of UGA Five Rivers fame hiked “high above Helen” yesterday (15th) to remote national forest waters. Their efforts were rewarded with a species slam of wild fish, including several on top. The warming water had fish looking up in the afternoon. Van said: “Stimulators, hares ears, and parachute Adams were working great. We had almost a 40 fish day. We caught brown, rainbow and brookies!!”

Delayed Harvest: 


Dredger fished with a Rabunite “net” first thing Wednesday morning. The internet chart showed the USGS gauged flow on the upper Nantahala River, which gave him hope to wade the Nan DH as it finally receded from flood stage.

He got up there around noon and found the stream a bit high, but still wadeable.

 The water was a chilly 44F to start, and some #18 gray caddis adults scurried along streamside boulders. He had hope.

He rigged his 10 ft Euro outfit with 5X tippet down to some bigger, heavier nymphs. And only landed two bows in 90 minutes. So he switched to 6x and smaller, darker bugs with black beads (Walts and frenchie) and that was the ticket for mid-afternoon. 

As the sun started to fall, he switched to a beaded pats anchor fly and France fly dropper and they were effective, too, in any slow pockets, runs, and pool edges. A few fish rose to hatching caddis, but not enough to get him changing to a dry fly. A few mayflies fluttered in the distance, but they were too far way for an ID (probably early quill gordons or hendricksons).

He ended the day with all bows: half stocked and half wild. A bald eagle flyover topped off a mighty fine day astream.  Tip: know the flows before you go, and carry some dries and hope with you.


Dredger hiked the trail yesterday afternoon. Water temp was 50F at 3pm. Mike from ATL Fly Fishing Club said it was slow in the morning on small midge droppers behind his dry, but he did better after lunch on rubberleg stones and eggs under his buoyant dry.  Dredger enjoyed a second straight day of eagle sightings, as the Smith resident stayed perched over his favorite pool for more than an hour. Tip: try some small rubberleg stones first before going to smaller stuff like rainbow warriors and hares ears. Try some lighter 6x tippet, too, as the water clears and fish have been “educated” by successful anglers.

Chattooga DH:

If I didn’t have a Lanier invite today, I’d be tossing nymphs and buggers in the Toog this afternoon. It’s a best bet for the week ahead, since little rain is expected.

Private Waters: 

Streamflows on our private waters have fallen and warmed up after our 2/12 deluge. They are in fine fishing form!  Nymphs and streamers are still your best bets, but warmer days ahead might encourage a few fish to look up on sunny afternoons, too.

Jake’s two guests had a really good day last Saturday at Rainbow Point on the Soque. They caught a bunch of feisty rainbows up to 18 inches on deep dredged bugs including the Duracell, rainbow warrior, and small eggs.

UO guide Israel has a good Soque trip this week with his client, Tofer. Iz said the chunky rainbows were inhaling deep-drifted nymphs and they weren’t picky. A variety of patterns brought fish to the net.

UO client Jonathan had a great Saturday morning at Nacoochee Bend. He landed a bunch of chunky Hooch rainbows on dredged nymphs and eggs, a stripped streamer, and even a few on top on a small chubby Chernobyl.

Gold Rush (Dahlonega) TU’s social director, “Banker” Hickman, carried a handful of member to Nacochee Bend yesterday. 


They had a good time with the rainbows, which hit better as the day warmed up. A couple guys were perfecting their streamer skills. Banker said his hot fly was a jig microstreamer with a heavy 4mm tungsten bead. Fish hit on both the downstream jig and the strip back upstream. Join their chapter and join in on their fun.


No recent reports.

Small Lakes:

No reports this week.


No recent reports from our Lanier flyrodding buddies. Jimmy, Hank, and I are heading out this afternoon. If we have any luck, I’ll update this blog tonite.in the meantime, there’s some good intel in today’s WRD weekly fishing blog:



Enjoy this UGA Five Rivers video of the gang’s January trek to NC.  Here’s to good friends and PB&J!



Kudos to the GA state council of TU!  RSquared shared the good news:  “This week I attended the annual meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. I accepted the "Conservationist of the Year" award on behalf of the Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited. For years, the Ga. Council of TU, along with the 12 chapters from across the state, have worked tirelessly to improve the habitat of wild and native salmonids all across North Georgia. Pictured are Jay Shelton, Education Chair for GATU and myself, Rodney Tumlin, Chairman for GATU.”

Strong hints of spring are everywhere. While we may indeed backtrack with some late-season snow and ice, we are having our first good taste of spring trouting action. Football season is over, so get out there soon and cast your flies. Between the sun, the fish, the friends, and maybe even a bald eagle, you’ll have a fine time in the great outdoors. Bundle up for Saturday, but dress lightly for subsequent days. And be on the lookout for risers!  Good luck. Stop in either UO shop for flies, supplies, and breaking intel.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Monday, February 12, 2024

Wood is Good!

How about a cool fish story and movie for your rainy Monday?

If you’re a trout or a trout angler, then you know that “wood is good!” And fallen trees indeed create “a beautiful mess” for resident specks, browns, and bows.

Here’s a nice article and wonderful six-minute video describing large woody debris loading in Tennessee headwater brook trout streams. 


Similar projects have been ongoing for years in Georgia via cooperative efforts among the US Forest Service, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division, and Georgia Trout Unlimited volunteers. We appreciate those wood-loading efforts and hope they continue in the future.

Want to learn more about wood loading in trout streams? Want to be a part of those efforts? Then join a local Trout Unlimited chapter. You can find the list of Georgia chapters here:


Wood is good! That’s the bottom line for our headwater trout streams. Timberrrr!!!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, February 9, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 2/9/24

Milder air temperatures, fresh Delayed Harvest stockers, and a drier week gave us some great trouting conditions. The mild weather should continue through Saturday, while Sunday’s rains will probably dump a couple of of rain on our mountains. Take a raincoat for the brief weekend showers and take advantage of moderate water temperatures and a very good trout bite. That bite should resume next week, once the flood surges pass.

Stripers are still scattered and most remain deep. Capt Mack Farr’s report gives good intel to direct flyrodders toward their best hopes for February hookups.

Check out our full weekly report and Wes’ hot fly list at our blog:


 (Link in bio)

Good luck this week. Stop in either UO shop for fly resupply and timely updates on stream conditions.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  black elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, Griffith’s gnat, yellow stimulator or small micro Chubby Chernobyl as a headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Slush egg, micro girdle bug (black), micro may fly, oops nymph, brown pats rubberlegs, red tag jig, zebra midge.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, sparkle minnow, micro leech, bank robber sculpin. (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, finesse changer.


Water flow and temperature are very good. Stay with the dry/dropper rigs and expect most strikes on the dropper nymphs. If the afternoon sun warms the water up near fifty degrees, watch for dry fly eats, too.

UO friend Spangler reported: “ I had some luck on another brookie stream I that crossed off my exploration list. Water temps hovered around 48, but around 3pm I did get a reading right at 50.  Sure enough, I landed a few on little orange and yellow Stimulator once the temp reached 50. Biggest thing I learned from this outing was: Tenkara is awesome!  I have a little 8’ rod I picked up on a whim. I stashed on my belt to try during this trip. I set it up similar to a euro rig, with a small sighter and jigging small buggers through deep pools as I came across them. Most of my fish came by that method.”

Public Water Streams: 
Flows are very good and water temps are in the mid to upper 40’s on most sunny afternoons.  Give them a shot, especially the public sections adjacent to special regulation or trophy trout operations. Fish can’t read signs and you might happen upon some hefty migrants as  a) the bows spawn and b) floods displace a few obese fish that don’t get out of the way.

UO buddy CDB had a busy week and shared his fishing tales:
“I often say that the presentation is way more important than the fly. But sometimes … color can really make a difference.  

I was able to be on private water, Dukes Creek, DH Water, and a small public stream this past week. Presentation definitely helped and getting it down on the bottom was important. However, the color -  bronze - was the deal on all water I spent time on this week! Brown or black worked OK when using small woolly buggers, but bronze was a clear winner whether it was a woolly bugger, a rubber legs, a leach or a Matuka. Bronze Frenchies worked as well. Olive…not so much.  

The difference between a nice day and catching fish right now is often one more sinker. Get it down there on the bottom and keep the line as straight as possible. if you are worried about busting off a rig n the bottom, tie a short (6-8”) dropper off the eye of your bottom hook using 6X or 7X tippet. Tie two overhand knots in the end of your short dropper and pinch your split shot on there just above the knot. if it gets stuck, you’ll only break off the sinker instead of your fly.   You should feel it ticking the bottom as it moves downstream.

Even though water levels are a little higher than normal right now, many of the waterways are quite clear. This can make for spooky fish, especially with some of the fish moving up into shallow flats and riffles.   A trick that sometimes works is to get upstream of them and cast a small, woolly bugger across the stream and let it swing down to them.  Keep a low profile while you’re doing this, as you are upstream where they could potentially see you. This method yielded these small stream beauties. Classic small stream, body shape - big heads and long slender bodies.  

Good luck and bounce that bottom!”

Delayed Harvest: 
UGA Five Rivers clubber “Lucky”:  Here are a couple of fish I caught this week at Smith Creek DH. Thanks for your tip!  I threw that black woolly bugger downstream, toward the opposite bank of a run, let it swing into the current, then I would combine twitches with very small strips, mostly letting the current create the movement. After a hookup, I’d work down the edge of a bank to net the fish.

When I reached a pool, I would cast at a downstream angle then make 7-8 short strips, then let the bugger drift for a moment, then strip again. I caught a couple this way too.”

Rabunites Rick and Nan hit two DH streams this week. Nan reports:

“The Smith DH bite was a bit slow on Tuesday, after what we heard was a terrific Monday of fishing. We still landed a dozen on tan mop flies and brown Pat’s rubberlegs. Hooked several more that popped off. Seems like the new stocker honeymoon period is quickly  coming to an end, although a few fish were still eating junk flies and ignored nymphs. 

Nantahala DH was very slow yesterday. Used double nymph set-ups under an indicator. Caught a few right off on small Rainbow Warriors and a pink beadhead Sexy Betty. Then nada until Rick finally enticed one to a pheasant tail. 

There were a few fish rising in late afternoon and I saw blue-winged olives flying. I tied a #16 BWO on but no trout checked it out. I should have left the floatant off as another angler told us he had luck with an emerger  BWO drifted in the film just below the surface.”

Rabunite “Flipper”: Caught six at Smith Creek Wednesday. They were picky after the heavy weekend fishing pressure.  I just kept changing flies when they refused the one at hand. Caught fish on a white woolly bugger , pheasant tail, brain , and zebra midge.

The key seemed to be showing them a pattern they had not yet seen.”

Private Waters: 

They’re in great shape right now, with excellent streamflows and afternoon water temps in the mid-40’s.  Pick one of these “winter window” days soon and have a blast nymphing them.

UO company manager Jake:

“Fishing was great for my guests at Nacoochee Bend this week! We have had a warming trend this week, which has really improved the fishing lately.  All of our damaged was done dredging nymphs on the bottom, and the key was two BB shot to get in the zone since our streams are once again flowing well. Best flies for us were a Pat’s Rubberlegs, oops, small Pheasant Tails, and a Ruby Midge.”

UO client Joe from Dahlonega and his fishing buddy had a great Sunday morning at Nacoochee Bend. Eggs and small rubberleg stones brought a bunch of hefty rainbows to their net. Joe said he also lost a really nice fish, over 20 inches, that escaped just before the net attempt.

UO guide Caleb: “Soque Camp fished lights-out for my client yesterday!  Gary brought lots of big fish to the net. All were caught on an egg pattern or brown midge.”

UO guide Joseph:

“I had a great trip with Jeff last Monday at The Bend.  We caught several fish on egg patterns and several more on a size 16 oops nymph. The fish definitely seemed to be glued to the bottom but nevertheless were eating good!”

UO buddy Ryan: 

“I was invited to hit a section of private water for my first time ever last week. I was thrilled to catch my largest trout to date.  People think private water equals easy fish but it quickly became clear that natural-colored flies were going to be the only way to fool them! Small, dark nymphs and a jigged mini-leech were my best bets.  Luckily my 5x tippet and knots held because my rod was doubled over.”


UGA Five Rivers clubber Jon shared a Hooch Tailwater report:

“I had some success at Buford Dam last Friday on an olive midge dropper and olive perdigon as my anchor fly! Twelve wild browns and a couple stocker bows came to my net.”

Small Lakes:

No reports this week.


No recent reports from our Lanier flyrodding buddies. Capt Mack Farr says the fish remain scattered. Check out his top-notch intel in today’s WRD fishing blog:



A sincere thanks to all of our friends, new and old, who stopped by our UO booth at the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show last weekend.  Even our favorite Falcon stopped by, as did Penn State Professor George DanielJimmy, Jake, Wes and the rest of our crew enjoyed catching up with y’all. Here’s a few more shots from the show.

Good luck this week. Take a raincoat and take advantage of the great stream conditions this weekend. Get most of your favorite trout bugs near the bottom and you’ll score. Keep a few prime dries in your pocket, too, for those warm winter afternoon hatches. Stop in either UO shop to resupply your favorite patterns. Tight lines y’all!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.