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 23, 2021

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 12/23/21

Welcome to the UO holiday fishing report. While our region streams are still very low and clear, we have a warm week ahead to make our trips more enjoyable.  Even the overnight lows will be warm Pack a raincoat in case of a shower and bring your best low-water game up to the mountains.

Forecasted warm days may spawn a few extra hatches, so keep those BWO, midge, and little black stonefly dries at the ready.  If they’re too tiny to follow, try floating them behind a bigger bug that you can see.  My aging eyes can spot an elk hair caddis or Adams as my strike indicator.  I then drop a small tungsten nymph or soft hackle 3-4 feet off the back to start my day. If bugs fly or trout rise in the afternoon warmth , I’ll shorten the dropper to 2 feet and change to the matching, tiny dry.

Fresh DH stockers may still have an appetite for streamers, so try swinging and stripping buggers or leeches in these warm winter waters. Aim for cover, as it is very limiting right now in these droughty flows.

Headwaters should also fish well for you blueline fans on the warm days ahead.  While few fish  may rise to your dry, you should have luck on your nymph or soft hackle dropped 18 inches under it.

Private waters have continued to fish well, especially after the sun hits the water and warms it after an icy night.  Go with the flow. If it’s a deep, fast run, you can get away with thicker tippet and bigger bugs like a rubberleg stone. Skinny and slow water should lead you toward lighter tippet and small, natural nymphs and soft hackle wets.

Henry C reports that not much is new on Lanier. Watch the birds to find the bait, hope for some shallow shots, but be ready with a spinning rod and spoons to aim for deep bait balls, spots, and stripers.

Wes’ trio traveled north, got some follows, and put a muskie in their boat for a successful trip.

Check the long version of this report on FB or by clicking on “fishing reports” at unicoioutfitters.com, which will take you to our blog.  As always, Wes’ hot fly list will up your odds for success.

Keep our holiday hours in mind and have a great time yourselves with family and friends. We hope you have a chance to make some new fishing memories with them in the days ahead. Good luck and Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays  from our angling clan to yours.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: comparadun BWO, cream midge, stimulator (wild trout)

Nymphs: Micro egg, pink tag jig, lightning bug, Mighty May Sloan baetis, WD-40, pheasant tail soft hackle.

Streamers & warmwater:

Sparkle minnow, muddy buddy, hot cone bugger, clouser minnow, black leech.

Many of our regular reporters were preparing for the holidays and off the water last week. But we still have a few fresh reports to share.

GA public waters:

Web reports show Smith DH fishing okay for experienced folks. Light tippet, eggs, and tiny nymphs are producing. Find the holding water first! Hint #1: try Wes’ micro eggs. Hint #2:  Given the warmer water, you might try bushwhacking and untangling a few trout from the trees and debris jams. They’ll be less pressured than the residents of open pools.


Dredger hit the Chattooga DH yesterday (22nd) and had a slow day. The water was super-skinny and fish-holding spots were few and far between. He worked hard to land only a small handful of rainbows up to 13”, despite a great 50F water temperature at his noon start.

There were no hot flies. He picked off a few afternoon fish on drifted eggs and  a few more on a stripped black leech. A couple bonus fish hit a brown Pats rubberlegs after the shadows fell on the water at 4PM. Last fish came at 5.  It was still a very pretty place to take a beating.

Anglers should try another spot til Tooga’s flows pick up, or be ready to cover a lot of ground in search of holding water. A hike into the upper backcountry for some November copter-stockers might be a nice holiday adventure.

A river, and lots of helicopter-stocked trout, runs through it — South Carolina Natural Resources

Chattooga River Fish Stocking - Fall 2013 - YouTube

WMA streams:

These are still worth a try for solitude and a few wild fish or holdovers. See last week’s report for fishing tips. Hint: at a deep pool, add some shot to sink your dry/dropper rig.  Then remove the shot, false-cast to dry your dry, and continue your upstream wade.


Dredger traveled north last Sunday to catch a higher flow on Nan DH. The runoff resulted in better habitat and healthier fish appetites. The water was warmer (51F) than the air (46) upon his noon start. The afternoon sun warmed the air a bit more, but it was still cold with the breeze.

He stuck with Euro and did okay. Catch was all bows, with 2/3 stockers and 1/3 wilds.  That same ratio preferred his heavy, sexy Walts anchor fly to the tungsten bead, soft hackle pheasant tail dropper.

A bunch of tiny (#26?) BWO’s came off at mid-afternoon and a few small fish rose to them. With cold fingers, aging eyes, and not enough noses poking up, ole Dredge decided not to rerig for dries and still enjoyed his day bumping the bottom.

Private Waters:

They continue to fish really well!

UO-Helen manager Wes:

“UO private waters fished excellent this week with the warm temperatures and slight boost in water flow, thanks to a bit of rain over the weekend.

I had a fantastic trip where we were able to catch most of our fish on streamers like sparkle minnows. For the picky fish that didn’t want to hit the streamer, a red dart nymph produced well.”

UO buddy, finatic RonW:

“Thanks to some early Chrismas Elves:  My cousin and I fished Unicoi Outfitter's private section of the Hooch at Nacoochee Bend on 12/21 and it was a stellar day to say the least. My cousin has never fly fished and certainly had his reservations going into the day. I was equally as nervous being I was "playing guide" for the day.  All I could think about the last few days was I just want to get him tight on a fish. He's a heck of a bass fisherman so I figured he'd be a quick study....he certainly validated my suspicions! 

We had overcast skies and about 40 degrees air temp at our 9am start time. I opted for us to do a little Euro Nymphing... it's a highly effective method of fishing nymphs, not too hard to learn, very forgiving and you don't need to lay out nice, sexy loops...just lob it up there and get a good drift and you may just get bit.  We steped in the water and on about the 4th or 5th drift while showing him what to do, I was tight on nice fish who later broke off my dropper when he got downstream of me. 

Within 15 minutes or so my cousin was hooked up only to come unbuttoned. It was kind of slow after that. I caught a few more, nothing big but nothing for my cousin to hand just yet. We moved downstream a bit and on the 3rd cast he was hooked up. A nice 12" rainbow to hand and his first fish ever on a fly rod. It was great being there watching him get his first on the fly and equally as great being able to share that moment with him.  He proceeded to catch about 6 or so more out that run and pretty quickly too. Things slowed up so it was time to move again. 

We got in the truck and drove down the road to our next spot. The rain started coming down as a steady drizzle and that really fired up the fish for us. We caught several more fish each there, some up to 16",  before we decided to go back to our starting point hoping to tangle with a big boy and end the day.   We fished another hour and a half, each catching a handful more each and some niceuns' too. I finished the day showing my cousing how to fish a bugger. Caught another 1/2 dozen on that. I had one nice fish chase it 12' or more before he slammed it and I watched it all unfold right before me. Really love when it happens like that. It turned out to be my best fish of the day at around 20". 

Flies that worked: My Purple Ronco Fly, green CDC nymph, Hares Ear in green and natural,  pheasant tail and olive woolly bugger. 

Today was a really special day on the water for me and one I'll never forget! Thanks to the Elves that made this possible.  I have planted another seed that will inevitably plant more seeds itself down the road! Pass it on, pay it forward and keep the cycle going!  

Call Unicoi Outfitters and book a day for  yourself or someone you care about.  You won't regret it!!!”

UO owner Jimmy:

“There's a new hotshot young guide in town.  He helped Kathy land this nice rainbow. It’s our grandson, Crosby, and our trio had a great time together on the Bend, thanks to Wes’ intel and hot fly list.”

Flat Water:

See Henry’s update at the start of this report. Also watch Mack Farr’s reports for intel on striper whereabouts: lake locations and productive depths. Take both fly and spin outfits with you. And note Mack’s advice last week: “run and gun the lights.”



Wes: “ David, Jackson, and I were able to sneak away for a few days last week and go fish for musky. The conditions were great and we moved lots of fish. After many boatside close calls Jackson was able to get one to eat on the figure 8 and put one in the net for the team.”

There’s our gift to you: another stockingful of fresh intel to aid your own adventures. May your holiday season be full of blessings. We at UO are thankful and blessed to have all of you as friends and followers. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays  to our fellow fishers.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

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