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, December 2, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 12/2/21

This week’s report is a “broken record,” but with one very positive exception. Region trout streams are still skinny and clear due to lack of rainfall. They’re getting very thin and their residents remain super-skittish. They fear a bullseye on their backs and predators attacking them from above, so aim your bugs toward cover to find fish with more appetite than anxiety. “Cover” equals depth or shade.

Now here’s the exception: warmth!  These really mild days have boosted water temps and re-ignited the trout bite. When water temps bump 50 degrees, we know we’ll be in business!

Use the same technique we preached last month: stealth, light leaders, and tiny bugs. It’s basically your summer drought game.  Deep or shady honey holes will still allow you to drop bigger bugs into their depths, so remember a few legs, eggs, and buggers. (“Legs” = rubberleg stones.)

On the striper front, HenryC said Lanier’s still slow on top because it’s still warm on top. The good news is that it’s filling up with birds. The bad news is that the birds are frustrated, too. Henry said smaller lakes in our region are starting to fish well because they’re cooling off quicker. That gives us hope for Lanier, a big heat sink that’s slow to change, but should in the weeks ahead.

Check out Wes’ hot fly list and our very fresh angler/guide intel on our Facebook page and blog.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Comparadun BWO, Griffith's gnat.

Nymphs: ICU midge, mighty may baetis, Quasimodo pheasant tail, silver lightning bug, rainbow warrior, peach egg, Pats rubberlegs in prime pools.

Streamers & warmwater:

Clouser minnow, finesse changer, muddy buddy, conehead rubber bugger.


They are low and clear, but not too cold.   Smithgall and  Spoilcane both ran about 53F at 3PM today (2nd), so blueline fans will have a decent shot at some fish during the next several, warm days.

GA Public Waters:

Furry daughter #2 and I drove our county circuit yesterday. Smith DH was fishing well for seasoned vets with a skinny water game. That game was tiny stuff: pheasant tails and midges on 6X under a dry or a small, soft indicator. Less experienced folks with heavier gear were shut out.  Same went for Smithgall.

Web reports show the Chattooga fishing well. Hopefully the fish are starting to spread out a bit. Find the shade and depth for your best bets, and hit the upper and lower ends.

Droughts are when I always fished the Toccoa DH. Why? Because it’s finally wadeable! Very little of it is wadeable at normal and high flows, so give it a shot during this drought.  It’s still very big water, so take a wading staff, a belt, and a buddy. Hit the very upper and lower ends and sneak into the middle around the power line for your best wading opps.  Since it’s big water, try a big bug as your first fly on 5x and then a small, shiny one on a 6x dropper. Bump the bottom, so be ready with an extra shot or two to roll that leg or egg at fish-eye level.

More Toccoa intel is forthcoming in Jimmy Jacobs’ free mag:

“In our upcoming December edition, we take you to Georgia's Toccoa River for a look at the delayed-harvest trout action on the stream. In the Tennessee portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we hike into XYZ Creek for native brook trout fishing, while down in the Florida Keys it's a look at the history of angling around Long Key and what it's like today.”


NC waters:

They’re still fishing well after their November hatchery gifts. Just skip the skinny water and find some cover, then you’ll find the fish. Try Euro early and maybe some dry/dropper flinging in the afternoon warmth. It might be your last warm-day opportunity for a while.  

Same goes for the Smokies. Those fish are smarter, so go light on your tippet and deep & natural on your bugs. Use your thermometer and hit the lower elevations.


“I snuck away from my inlaws in Franklin and met up with friends Marcus and Channing on Saturday 11/27 to show them around the Nanty DH a little from about 9-1pm. Water temp was 42 when we started but that didn't seem to slow the fish down. I only caught 7 fish but the two of them managed quite a bit more than that. The highlight was when Marcus landed a colored-up rainbow that ate a midge. They were also  eating eggs,  but seemed to prefer the small naturals even more. Great day to share some time on the water with friends.”

RonW’s buddy, Kurt, joined our reporter gang this week:

“Fishing in WNC continues strong this week. A recent trip produced numerous fish over 16” and several above the magic 20” mark. The water was low and clear and fish were extra spooky,  requiring a quiet approach and delicate cast to connect. Small natural flies fooled some big fish with best fly being a #18 jig-style thread body nymph w/ 2.2mm tungsten head in a brown olive color. The toes were fully numb with water temps in the mid 30s to start the day,  so dress accordingly!”

Private Waters:

UO Helen manager Wes:

“The Bend continues to fish well. The key to success has been to make sure to fish your nymphs deep in the water column. Also, don’t be afraid to change up your fly patterns. The water is gin-clear and shallow and the fish are educated, so they can be a little picky. Opt for smaller nymphs and emergers instead of patterns like eggs and girdle bugs.”

UO Young Buck Joseph:

“I hosted a half-day trip on Saturday in the afternoon and the bite was pretty good. Most of our fish came on smaller nymphs or midges,  with the occasional fish on something bigger like a mop or a stonefly.”

Dredger walked the Bend this afternoon (2nd) and ran into UO client Shelton from Bama. He had a big grin as he reeled in for the day, and said he landed over twenty fish on his unguided trip, with several real (reel) drag-burners. Midges and rainbow warriors worked in skinny water, while heavy, beaded rubberlegs helped him to dredge fat bows from deeper pools. Thanks for the fresh intel, Shelton!

Flat Water:

We all patiently(?) await Lanier to cool off. The best news from HenryC is that the region’s smaller reservoirs now have cooler water and a hotter bite. Striper and hydrid fans might wish to try cold mountain lakes like Nottely and Chatuge.  Did you know that a Chatuge hybrid once held the world record?  Yep.   I had the chance to inspect that huge fish!

Watch local fishing guide reports for timely intel on those lakes. WRD biologists also provide annual reservoir fishing forecasts for anglers new to those waters:


UO teammate Joseph also hit a local lake this week and reported:

“I also went out for some toothy critters by stripping some streamers.  Pickerel like cold water and are a lot of fun on a fly rod.”

There’s your update from our little Bavarian town in the Georgia mountains. We sure hope you have the chance to wet a line on these warm days.  Come by our stores or stop in online if we can help with supplies or holiday gifts.  And…

We have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll have much more casting room on Saturday afternoon, too!

PS: go Dawgs!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

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