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, March 24, 2023

UO Fishing Report 3/24/23

As the locals say, “it’s fixin’ to break loose!”  The warmer weather has the flowers and the stream bugs blooming, and the rising water temperatures will have stream and lake fish ready to eat.  The action had picked up with the last few days of sunshine and should only get better. 

We do have some storms you’ll need to work around. Hopefully tomorrow morning’s front will blow through quickly. If it dumps a half-inch of rain or less, our streams should still be in decent shape. In fact, that small, turbid storm crest might provide the best fishing of the day, especially on smaller streams. If streams get muddy, they should clear quickly, so don’t give up on this weekend’s action. Just carry a raincoat and check stream gauges on your smart phone.

GAWRD posted a 2-page stocking list today, so grab the kids, some spincast outfits, and a jar of Powerbait and go catch some supper. If you’re a new flyrodder, twitch a small black woolly bugger in a pool full of stockers and get hooked on the sport.


Henry says lake bass are already shallow, and the stripers should soon follow. Many of them should start their river spawning migrations, also, so keep the Lanier headwaters in mind.

We have more pics and a ton of intel in our full report, here:


Folks who mine that data should do really well this week. Good luck. Stop in either UO store for more great advice and the supplies you’ll need to score big-time.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: elk hair caddis (#16 tan, #18 black or gray) parachute BWO, March Brown, dark Hendrickson, quill Gordon, parachute Adams (#14-18).

Nymphs & Wets:

Jiggy pats, sexy Walt’s, slush egg, hares ear nymph, twisted mayfly, Duracell, Frenchie, soft hackle pheasant tail.

Streamers & warm water:

Complex twist bugger, Jiggy fat minnow, hot cone bugger, polar changer, finesse changer, small black bugger for stockers.


They are clear, warming, and running at their normal spring flows. They will get some flow bumps from the coming storms, but always drop quickly after each front. Spoilcane ran a warm 60F today at 3PM. When they’re clear, try your favorite bushy dries.  If they’re colored, drop a silver beaded Frenchie a foot off the back of the dry and hi-stick the soft pockets and bank eddies.

The Smokies are stirring, too.  Check out Ian’s latest blog:


And Byron’s daily fishing report:


Warming water will “spawn” bug hatches and bring all those eager park trout to the surface. If rains boost flows and stain the waters, try dredging some tan mops or big (#12) sexy Walts worms in the flood refuges.

Delayed Harvest:

Smith DH ran 54F at 3pm today, as the lake is still full of last week’s cold water. DH fish have been picky in the clear flows. Shrink your bugs and tippet, and also try swinging some soft hackles way downstream below you, where the fish haven’t spooked yet.

Bigger DH waters like Nan and Tooga should fish well. Remember your gray and brown March bugs 


and some streamers to strip.  Just check stream gauges first and make sure the storm peaks aren’t too high.  Enjoy this great screen shot from the Tuck.


UO buddy Ryan: “ I scored a half dozen fish on a half-day Hooch tailwater session before the water releases came in.  Natural patterns like a hares ear jig, tightlined on 5x in deeper pockets, found some feeding rainbows.”

Private Waters:

UO guide Isreal: “My client did well at Rainbow Point on the Soque yesterday. Some smaller mayflies were coming off. There was the occasional rise but not much surface activity. Our best results were from stripping a streamer under the cloud cover.”

UO guide Caleb: “A cold day at Soque camp had the fish a bit lethargic, but we were able to bring in a couple of nice rainbows on soft hackles including Carson’s first ever trout on a fly rod!”

UO guide Devin said his clients had a very good day at Rainbow Pointby dredging “tiny and shiny nymphs” of his own personal concoctions..

I ran into Andrew from Athens while doing my stream recon this afternoon. He spent the morning cashing in his Black Friday gift certificate at Nacoochee Bend, and then finished his vacation day at Smith DH. He just shared this report:

 “ Hey Dredger! This is Andrew from Smith Creek. Was great running into you earlier! Here are some pics of that rainbow that I caught this morning. It was 23-24 inches long as is my personal best bow, to date. It took a tungsten nymph that Wes recommended to me when I checked in this morning.

I had a nice afternoon At Smith DH.  The pool fish were picky in the high sun and clear water.  I ended up catching two fish on the swing, so thank you for that tip!”


UO buddy Landon:  “A sunny Tuesday afternoon had some river bass chomping.  They were tight to cover against bankside structure in slowest water I could find.”


Athens Jay: “The time is now for big bass in rivers and lakes. Cold temperatures and windy conditions last weekend did not prevent fish from eating. I used a sink tip on a 7-weight rod to swim articulated shad-colored streamers in 3-4 feet of water in late afternoon. Gradually warming temperatures this week should really kick things off.”

UO buddy Athens MD: “On Sunday I received a text from a friend that said "cold and windy today, so I guess you're not fishing?" I replied with a nice crappie selfie while being blown all over tarnation in my kayak. Jigs and streamers were on the menu in the stained water, and bluegill and redbreast decided to join in, too. I managed some river crappie as well on small streamers one evening after work.”


HenryC:  “Fishing took a slight setback due to the cold weather north GA experienced over the past week. Water temps dropped 4-5 degrees and our zebra fish (stripers) have gone deeper. The good news is this is short-lived and the fish should bounce back by the time you read this report or shortly thereafter. On another note, the LMB and spotted bass are positively committed to the spring spawn and are active and starting feed shallow. It's a great time to just get out and let the fish that are feeding dictate what your catch will consist of. Slow sinking intermediates for shallow up in the dirt fishing and fast sinking for the fish that are schooling 20-30' deep. It's all good. This weekend is the Southern Striper Open fly tournament and our own Jimmy Harris and David Dockery will be competing to bring the trophy back to Helen GA. Vegas has put their odds as 6-1 to bring home the gold. Good luck fellas! All proceeds for this tourney sponsored by Alpharetta Outfitters will go to Project Healing Waters. We are taking out the vets to fly fish Friday morning before the tournament...”


That’s the latest from our gang. It hit 77 degrees up here today, so spring is here. Take full advantage of it and cash in on the two best months of fishing in our little corner of the world.  Stop in if we can lend a hand. Andrew was sure glad he came by!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Sweeping, Strip-setting, and Hooting!

What’s your weekend looking like? Ours is jam-packed.  We’ll be sweeping, strip-setting, and hooting!

First, Jake will lead a platoon of local volunteers to “sweep the Hooch” through Helen. Learn more about the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper’s annual river cleanup program, and consider getting involved in future sweeps.


Next, past champs Jimmy and David will work to bring home the trophy once again.

The Southern Striper Open, sponsored by our friends at Alpharetta Outfitters, benefits our fine vets via the Project Healing Waters program.

Learn more about the event and the vets here:


Last, we will celebrate the weekend by hootin’ and hollerin’ at the GA Foothills TU chapter’s annual banquet in Helen. Food, music, raffles, auctions, and a hundred-plus liars telling fish stories: what more could you want?  C’mon up to Helen on Saturday evening and join the party!


That’s where half our gang will be, while the other half staffs our shops and guides our clients. Where are y’all going?  Stop by either UO shop for some hot flies, breaking intel, and a little bit of fish story-swapping. It will be a hoot!  We hope to see you soon.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Help Catch the Bad Guys


Memorize that number!

Enjoy the  warmer days ahead, like my buddy Sarah will.  As spring finally arrives and state and federal hatchery stocking trucks roll, we’ll have more company on region waters.  While most of our fellow anglers will be kind, considerate, and compliant, some will not. Here’s a reminder of how to deal effectively with lawbreakers.

Add this phone number to your contacts list and use it:


That’s the GADNR 24-hour ranger hotline. The program details are here:



“If you see or learn of a violation, try to write down: a description of the violator; a description of their vehicle; the location of the violation; and the type of violation.”

Your info will be passed along to the appropriate game wardens near your incident, who will follow up.

All of us anglers can help conserve GA’s fish and wildlife resources. Our extra sets of eyes on the woods and waters are a huge help to county game wardens, who have a lot of ground to cover. Let’s do our part to protect our natural resources and report violations to DNR-Law Enforcement.

For more info on dealing with violators, feel free to revisit my past column in The Angler magazine. 


Good luck this spring! Got that number memorized yet?


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Count the Rises

Here’s a fun one while we all wait for the woods and water to thaw out. How many rises can you spot?

We hope the video warms your soul and gives you some optimism for the topwater action to come.  C’mon Spring!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, March 17, 2023

UO Fishing Report 3/17/23


Well, here’s to a soggy St Patty’s Day. At least the rain is recharging our rivers. I deliberately delayed today’s report so I could count raindrops and then direct you to fishable waters tomorrow.

The north GA/southwestern NC region has gotten about an inch of rain, so the majority of our rivers will be too high for safe wading tomorrow. The better bet is to head upstream to smaller waters, which will drop quickly. 

There are a few exceptions however, such as the upper Hooch, Tallulah, and Chattooga. We’ll just have to watch those stream gauges closely over the next 12-24 hours and ensure those flows don’t exceed our personal safe wading levels. When in doubt, stay out.



I always say that March has a split personality. Dr. Jekyll was around earlier, and that mild weather brought us some good, early, shallow action. Last week, however, Hyde showed up and stomped down our water temps, forcing most of us to return to winter dredging techniques for consistent action.  

Hyde’s supposed to exit by next Wednesday, so have some hope for spring dry fly action. We saw some early indicators this week, as described in our full report.

Flat water action is improving, according to our lake experts MD and Henry C. From crappie to bass to stripers, March action is on the upswing. It will only get better with the sun’s forthcoming warmth at midweek.

Check the flows before you go and aim for warmer afternoons when water temperatures will climb.  Headwaters, ponds, and lakes are safer bets right now, so plan accordingly. See our full report for more details.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: elk hair caddis (#16 tan, #18 black or gray) parachute BWO, March Brown, dark Hendrickson, parachute Adams (#14-18).

Nymphs & Wets:

Jiggy pats, ice pupa, twisted mayfly, Millers plus one, jigged pheasant tail, tungsten soft hackle hares ear, micro egg.

Streamers & warm water:

Complex twist bugger, UV polar jig, Finesse changer, polar changer. 


Headwater action slowed down slightly last week due to the cooler weather. The topwater action wasn’t as vigorous, but nymph droppers still produced for small stream fans. Blueline action will heat up with our midweek temperature rebound.

UO buddy RSquared: “I spent four days in Asheville attending TU’s annual Southeastern Rendezvous. Friday was a fishing day and my NC host & I made a day of it. We went up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and fished two of the many streams along that famous scenic highway. The water was clear & the wild trout were looking up. We both were using a tan Elk Hair Caddis. Size 16 worked better than size 14.”

Delayed Harvest:

UO buddy CDB: “Fished some NC DH waters last Friday. Copper hares ears and rust/brown rubber legs were very productive. Very early was the most productive fishing.  The water was still a little stained, but the fish were very willing. Once the cloud cover cleared up a little bit the fishing slowed down.  I scored another Appalachia slam, including this lovely brown trout!”

I did a river recon yesterday (16th). Chattooga DH was crystal clear and 48F around noon, and flows were seasonably normal.  Inexperienced anglers were picking off a few fish on squirmies and buggers.  I watched some occasional, splashy rises, but couldn’t see the bugs. I’d guess small caddis were emerging. It’s a good time to sift the drift with your paint strainer stretched over your landing net.  Try some small, natural nymph and soft hackle patterns. When it warms up next week, toss dry/droppers. From tiny caddis to bigger mayflies, make sure you have some gray in your dry box.

I then traveled further, across Wayah Bald, and studied Nantahala DH from my streamside perch. 

While naive stockers stayed deep, those smart little wild bows recognized early supper and  were cashing in. 

Water temp was 50F and three hatching bugs caught residents’ attention: abundant, tiny (#18-20) black caddis,

 a handful of #20 BWO’s, and an occasional #16 slate mayfly. Based on my pickled specimens, I’m calling that a Hendrickson dun.

Go deep for the stockers until they learn what natural bugs are. Try some eggs, bright beaded Euronymphs, mops, hares ears, and pheasant tails.  If it looks like food, they should swipe at it.

But wild fish fans will have good opps to match the hatches when they resume with next week’s warmth. From mayflies to caddis, throw gray dries above whatever nymph or soft hackle droppers you hang below them. 

Hunt before you fish: look for rises and search for bugs at the water’s edge and on streamside branches. Figure out the hatch and then match it,  just like the Orvis video showed you this week.  Ball caps and paint strainers should get workouts next week.

Hey, and when in doubt, just throw a #14-16 para-Adams and a tiny dark elk hair caddis trailer.  Hi-stick it slowly along the banks and in soft slicks behind boulders. If the water’s cold, then switch the back fly to a pheasant tail nymph or soft hackle, and even add a #6 shot six inches above it to fish deeper.


No recent reports to our shop. Plenty of fish tales on the web, however, as fresh spring stockers enhance catch  rates.

Private Waters:

UO manager Jake: “Despite the cold snap this week, both Nacoochee Bend  on the Hooch and Rainbow Point on the Soque fished well. With the increase in flows and the drop in water temps, the fish were hugging the bottom, and the key to success was bumping the bottom with your flies. No one pattern really stood out for me this week, with fish coming on Girdle Bugs, small eggs, soft hackles, midges, and Rainbow Warriors.  A good, deep drift was more important than our fly pattern.”

UO guide Ben had some happy clients on both rivers this week. Resident rainbows at our Soque Camp property took a liking to swung soft hackles, while Nacoochee Bend’s rainbows preferred drifted eggs, legs (Pat’s rubberlegs), and mops.

UO guide Caleb: “The Bend fished well this week despite the cold front. Small soft hackles and micro eggs brought rainbows to the bag. We’re starting to see some fish looking up, but nymphing was still the key to success.”

UO guide Israel:  “Soque River rainbows really liked the Pat’s rubberlegs that my clients tossed their way this week. Deep drifts on the chilly water brought the most strikes.”

UO guide Devin’s trio of Nacoochee Bend clients did well by deep drifting small and natural nymph patterns like hare’s ears and pheasant tails.


UO buddy Athens MD: “After spending a great weekend in Asheville, NC at the Trout Unlimited SE Regional Rendezvous, Athens Jay and I arrived back in Athens on Sunday afternoon and I decided to hit one of my favorite local lakes. My time window was short, and it was cold and spitting rain, but I managed a nice bass on a gray zonker and several big crappie on the very productive "black euro jig". Ospreys, pileated woodpeckers, paired mallards, and barred owls provided the background soundtrack, which was nice.”


HenryC:  “Lanier has awakened!  The Big 3, stripers, spots, and largemouths, have been eating nicely over the past week. Surface feeding is sporadic but still exists throughout the entire lake. More fish are moving down south while others are staging to go up river. Here's the best advice: JUST GO! Fish are eating somethin else flies better than anything, since they’re primarily on threadfin schools. Both intermediate and fast sink lines are a must as bait and predators move up and down the water column.”


GAWRD did some pros-speck-ting recently and shared their intel via today’s blog.  From trout to whites to walleye, the agency has a bit of everything for north GA fishing fans.


That’s the latest intel in this very late report. Hopefully our raindrop counts will help y’all decide which way to go tomorrow. When streams subside and when the icy air departs at midweek, north GA fishing should break loose. Spring is about to Break. Are you ready? Let us help. Stop in or give us a call at 706-878-3083 so we can enhance your own spring break-out!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.