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, January 28, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 1/28/22


“Low and clear equals long and light.”  Remember that slogan and you’ll have more success on our thin regional streams. Right now longer, thinner (6,7X) tippet and tiny natural bugs will bring more looks than bright and bulky ones. The stream drift currently holds midges, BWO’s, and a few little black stones, so match those hatches. Try a dry/dropper combo in slow pools and runs during warm afternoons. A #18 Adams, stonefly, or gray caddis can float a tiny WD40 below it, even with a tiny tin shot crimped on your 2-foot tippet.

As for the lakes, Henry C said daytime stripers are still spotty, spots are abundant on long points, and he’s the guest fly tyer on Monday’s (31st) Orvis Facebook live session with Tom Rosenbauer. Landon added that stripers are making nighttime guest appearances under the lights.

Y’all might wanna sideline tomorrow and let this North Pole front pass. Then, if not addicted to the NFL, warmth, and your recliner, get back into the fishing game when afternoon highs return to the high 40’s or better, starting on Sunday.  Air temps near 50F will push PM waters back up to the mid-40’s and give you a shot at some scores. And remember that tailwaters run a bit warmer thru winter.

Grab more flyfishing pregame intel on our Facebook page or at the Fishing Report tab on our UO home page. Good luck. We are at halftime of our winter game. So far, so good on our scores!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Griffith’s Gnat, parachute Adams, little black stonefly 

Nymphs: WD40, black copper John, three dollar dip, RS2, mini leech purple, twisted mayfly.

Streamers & warm water:

Sparkle minnow, micro changer, bank robber sculpin.

GA public waters:


My noon circuit today had Spoilcane running 44F and Smith DH at 46. Hooch and Tooga temps are on their USGS gauge sites.

RSquared checked in:

“Michael and I fished my favorite little wild brown trout stream mid-week. ( I can do that now that I am retired from public education!) The water was cold and gin-clear. We could not even spook a fish from their lair under rocks and logs. However, just before dark we able to stick a couple. Michael got one on a bead-head hares ear. My only fish was deceived with a Frenchie tied on a jig hook with a tungsten bead. I also managed to break the mid-section of my beloved 3wt Butter Stick. It was a tough day!!! Rodney”

Smith DH:

Dredger hit it on Monday afternoon and did “fair” in low, clear, 42F water.  His small handful of bows liked the WD40 dropper the best. A few little black stonefly adults buzzed by in the sunshine (did you enjoy this week’s video quiz?), but no fish rose to them.  Only one fish hit his bright walts worm in a fast pocket. When the sun set at 5, he switched to dry/dropper and was thrilled with one fish that rose to his parachute Adams. 

Tip for DH stockers: slide up to a nice pool and camp out there.  Let the fish get used to you while you scout them out with your polarized glasses. Watch for telltale tale wags. Then move slowly and start drifting small stuff past their noses.


UO friend Mo: “We fished Dukes yesterday on a cold, sunny day. The temps were in the 30s all day. The stream was gin clear and cooold, and had fish glued to the bottom, barely showing signs of life. 

We spotted some large fins in several runs and sight-fished them with small natural stuff and egg patterns. After fooling a few nice rainbows, Kurt hooks into a hefty fish and nets it after an epic battle, and on 7x tippet. 

A big, healthy brown. Def a special treat since we haven’t seen many in the stream for a long while, esp this size. Several more nice fish came to hand throughout the day but we really had to work for them. 

They didn’t move much, we had to be on the bottom and hitting them on the nose with our presentations. Full winter mode dredging tactics.


Dredger went north yesterday (27th) and discovered that he brought the wrong recreational equipment. He shoulda brought a whitewater yak instead of a fly rod!  Nan DH was deep green, DEEP, and topped with standing white waves. He had evidently discovered the “bypass flows” that Marcus reported earlier.

Lacking a death wish, he employed plan B and settled in the Smokies.  The stream was low and clear and a cold 42F.  He was happy with four 8-inch bows in three hours, along with two herds of elk and two sets of big gobblers. The day was definitely not a complete washout. The WD 40 dropper did better than the frenchie and Walts anchor bugs in the skinny water. Trip highlight was the two elk yearlings frolicking during their evening “recess” with Mom at the NPS Cherokee visitors center’s  field.


He vowed to check the Duke Power intel and report back on Nan flow plans.

Private Waters:

Wes’ Bob-Dylan trip! 

“I had a Nacochee Bend trip this week and had a great day with Bob and Dylan. The water is starting to get low again so make sure you have a clean drift to up your success rate. Most fish were fooled on small nymphs near the bottom. Black midges and hares ear’s worked best. We were able to catch a couple fish eating emergers just under the surface in the afternoon on soft hackles.”

Middle GA:

Athens Jay emerged from holiday retirement:

“It probably sounds crazy to be planning a float trip for bass on a Piedmont river while watching January snow fall. But after a months-long dry spell, I couldn’t say no to an invitation from a trusted friend. It was a cold start but the sun finally came out and we even got to do some wading around the shoals. Some fish were quite aggressive. Big dark streamers fished on a sink tip line worked best. I had best results casting upstream and dead-drifting. But my companion caught fish activity stripping big articulated streamers. Be careful, flows are a little high and water is murky. Falling in over your waders makes for a chilly afternoon (yeah, I did). But putting your hands on spunky wild shoalies does warm the soul.  Finally, I broke the ice, literally.“

Flat Water:

Henry said the stripers are still deep during the day. He’s had a few scattered shots at shallow fish early and late, but it’s been inconsistent. The better bite is spots in 5-15 feet of water on Cowen’s Coyotes tossed on long points.  Take an intermediate and a full sink outfit and look for the bait balls on your screen and the birds in the sky.

He’ll be tying his mullet fly on Orvis Facebook live at 3PM Monday. Details here:

Henry Cowen - On Monday January 31st at 3pm I was invited to join... | Facebook


Landon (aka Nanook)  finally checked back in:

“Andrea said “You need to go fishing” Who am I to argue?! Typical dock light report. Bigger average size but fewer fish on lights compared to the last time we tried in November. Somethin’ else flies on intermediate lines were the ticket.”

Capt Mack should have a new Lanier report posted soon. Last Friday’s report was spot-on.


Reminder: don’t miss your chance at nearly a week of fishing the West  Yellowstone region, including a Madison River float trip. And there are 14 great runnerup prizes. Details on GATU’s annual Dream Trip raffle are here:

Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited

Good luck, folks. Dress warmly, dodge the frozen mornings, and employ your summer stealth games on warm winter afternoons. Call or come by the shop for your pre-game supplies and scouting reports.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

PS: good luck to our old Dawg Stafford!

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Pop Quiz

 UO pop quiz time:

1. What is it?

2. Do you have a few in you box for any warm winter afternoons you encounter?

There might even be a few opportunities when it warms next week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Your Dream Trip?

Hey folks, don’t miss out on the GATU Dream Trip raffle for five days of fishing the West Yellowstone region. Please consider the opportunity yourself and also share this note with your friends.

Tix are $10 each plus a small processing fee and can be purchased online here:


The winner and a friend receive five days of fishing in the West Yellowstone region with our friends, Georgians John and Laine McGarity. 

They spend each summer in their beautiful cabin outside town and John fishes nearly every day. Our angling quartet spends a week with them nearly every year.

Additionally, there are 14 nice runner-up prizes (fishing trips, fly rod, reel, stocked fly boxes, gift cards) so you have plenty of chances to win. The full list is on the raffle web page.

Thanks for considering. If you decide to purchase some tix, consider crediting your favorite GA TU chapter during that online process.  If you’d like a different number of tickets than the menu offering, scroll down to the last option and enter your desired number.

Raffle proceeds fund the GATU kids fishing camp and TU’s conservation efforts here in north GA.  Unicoi Outfitters is a proud supporter of GATU Trout Camp.


Thanks a bunch. Good luck fishing for a Dream Trip!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Winter Trout Wrangling

GADNR trout biologist Sarah Baker grew up in Idaho and is a mighty fine trouter herself. In case you missed her great compilation of winter trout fishing tips last week, here they are again. Special thanks to Domenick at troutbitten.com and Katie at fishuntamed.com for the original content. Scroll way down that January 14 GAWRD fishing report to find those links.


Good luck with your winter trips!

Friday, January 21, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 1/21/22

Nora Mill Dam photo credit: “Sautee”

Come, join us on our sleigh ride into the “dead of winter.” The next six weeks can be as slow and inhospitable for GA trout fishing fans as the dog days of summer are. But there is hope for the dedicated few who venture forth on these chilly days. Read on and learn of the two keys to winter trouting success.

Before going forward, we want to be honest: this is a real tough time for rookie soloists. The combo of 1) cold weather, 2) icy water, and 3) sluggish fish can really turn off new flyfishers. They will enjoy this sport much more if they wait for spring or, better yet, take our following advice.

The two keys to winter success are 1) follow the sun and 2) go with a pro.  First, follow the sun’s warmth and fish during middays, when you can feel your fingers and toes. Watch the USGS stream gauges for those midday water temp spikes, when fish will be most active.

Second, go with a pro. Buddy-up to a veteran angler with winter experience.  They can be friends from your Facebook group or Trout Unlimited chapter (aka “free fishing guides”). Or you can cash in that holiday gift certificate and take a trip with a professional flyfishing guide. At this time of year, their knowledge and experience are priceless and will save you from going fishless. That intel will carry over to the rest of your flyfishing career, too.

For this week, think small, low, and slow. Use small, natural bugs on light tippet, get them deep, and drift them slowly through pools and runs to find some subtle strikes. Hooksets are free, so use them on any twitch or hesitation of your sighter or indicator.

The system works, as you can see in our extended version of this report at unicoioutfitters.com. 

Good luck. Dress warmly, wait out the morning black ice, buddy-up with a vet, and enjoy a great cure for cabin fever.

We’d like to welcome a few more friends to our short list of UO angling addicts. Our friends gang’s reports and pics really add to our guide intel and give all of you the details you need for weekend success. Thank you, newcomers Rodney and Marcus!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Parachute Adams, cream midge.

Nymphs: black copper John, Zebra midge, WD-40, sparkle soft hackle, hare & copper, peach egg.

Streamers & warm water:

Sparkle minnow, clouser minnow, micro changer.

GA public waters:


We welcome RodneyT to our reporter team. Rodney just Retired, so we’re relabeling his handle as “RSquared.”  ATL westsiders take note.! You can find him and his fellow angling addicts at the Cohutta TU chapter. 


He reports:

“Low, clear, cold water in our National Forest is causing the wild trout to hug the bottom. Pheasant Tails, Frenchie’s, & Prince Nymph’s tied on jig hooks w/ tungsten beads & dragged along the bottom without an indicator have been working on wild rainbows & Brookies this past week.  It’s not hot action, but we’re catching enough to keep us focused.”


RonW: “Dukes served us up a nice slice of humble pie today (1/9)!Apparently they don't eat San Juans or squirmys in the rain anymore.Let me rephrase....they won't eat my San Juan. Made 20+ drifts at the road hole and nothing....Moe steps in and gets connected on the 1st cast with the San Juan. Creek was starting to color up when we left around 2. 

Don't know if you've been there in a while but there must have been a microburst that came through. There are large hemlocks and other tress  everywhere that are snapped in half, some a few feet off the ground and some  20 ft off the ground. Looks a tornado came thru there, so be careful. Hopefully some of those trees will drop into the creek and make some fine, new trout habitat.”

Smith DH:

See the Marcus report, below.

Dredger got his chores done in time Wednesday (19th) to spend the last three hours of daylight at Smith DH, running a chilly 42 F at 3PM. It was still over forty, so he had some hope along the melting snow banks.  

Alas, he had nary a strike on the first half of his trip. Frenchie, squirmy, egg, Walts- nuthin’ on his first dozen bugs thrown!

Til he found what they wanted: a #18 hares ear on 6x tippet, dropped closely off the back of his heavier anchor fly. The handful of fat, lively bows saved the trip and helped him to save face.

Near dusk he ran into an old friend, Dennis, the Smith Creek Sage.  Ole Lefty said he’s been having luck this month on the tiny stuff: size 20-24 gray and black midge larvae and pupae. He said he even caught some on midge dries during sunny afternoons. He had over a dozen to hand that afternoon. You can take his intel to the bank!

Chattooga DH:

Sautee took a return trip with a new buddy late last week. He said the fishing was nice, but the catching was fairly slow. He caught a few rainbows again on his brown squirmy, hares ear soft hackle combo. Highlight of the day was his spinfishing buddy Scott’s 22-inch, Kyle-jawed rainbow that nailed his rooster tail.


UO friend Marcus: “Channing and I drove up to WNC in the hopes of getting snowed in. We fished the Nanty DH Saturday only to learn they are "bypassing" as the kayakers said. We managed to double up on brookies and swing a few rainbows to the net in the raging flow.

Sunday we stayed near the cabin and waited for the rain to turn to snow. We fished the creek behind the cabin, and hopped in the truck to hit some different public accesses to that same creek. We found some beautiful wild rainbows, with some of the larger ones pushing 14". Snow came in hard Sunday evening, thus giving us our snow day! 

We played hooky Monday and took our time getting back home. We still had the itch, so we hit Smith DH. Fishing was tough, as the snowy banks had the fish spooked something proper. But we still landed a few.

We had a blast in the snow and rain, catching some great fish, all while staying safe. Couldn't be more thankful! Cheers from Marcus and Chan!”

Private Waters:

UO Helen manager Wes:

“The bend fished well this week after the snowstorm. The key right now with the cool water temperatures is depth. Ensure you have enough weight to get down near the bottom. Eggs, small stoneflies, and midges have been the best producers.”

Awesome UO Guides Stefan and Como:  “We teamed up on a multi-client trip this week. It was cold, but the fish were eating! Hot flies varied but junk patterns, midges, small bwo’s, and Euro jig streamers  worked best.  Client Rick got a really nice rainbow to top the day. Our party probably landed about 40 fish.”

UO company manager Jake is at The Bend right now (2pm Friday) guiding a client. He had a few seconds to text me a pic of a whopper rainbow they just landed.  Enjoy.

Flat Water:

This just in from HenryC:

“There may be a little better fishing in the PM and especially at last light on Lanier. Other than that, bass can be caught on points using sinking lines and small coyotes. They're not in 2' of water but you can see them chasing bait some in 5-10' of water.”


Capt Mack should have a new Lanier report posted soon. Whether you’re tossing flies, bait, or lures, this Lanier veteran’s intel on prey/predator whereabouts is always solid:


Good luck, folks. Dress warmly, enjoy a big breakfast while the black ice thaws, and meet your expert winter fishing guide astream as the sun shines. We’re still a lot warmer than Wyoming, right?  Follow the sun, go with a pro, and send us your pics!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Good Podcasts

Podcasts are entertaining and educational. They often help us to “weather” the slow days between fishing trips or to pass the time during our commutes.  What are some of your favorite podcasts?

Two of mine are:

1. The Orvis flyfishing podcast with Tom Rosenbauer. I’ve picked up a lot of tips through his Q&A session, called the Fly Box, at the beginning of each show.


2. Ask About Flyfishing with Roger Maves. This long-running series has hosted a diversity of angling experts offering great advice. 


I’m also trying a new one.  Check out the launch of a podcast series at Troutbitten, here:


What podcasts have y’all enjoyed?  Hopefully our list can help the entire UO audience to “weather” some cold and icy days between our winter fishing trips.

C’mon, chime in here:




Sunday, January 16, 2022



How’s it looking at your place?  

Here in Cleveland, it looks like my blueline rig will simply substitute as a snow gauge.  It’s gonna be a tying day rather than a tossing day, with more snowflakes on the way.

Y’all stay safe. Stock up those fly boxes for your breakout trips in the days to come. May the power stay on for everyone, since we need warm fingers to tie our tiny winter flies!

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 1/13/22

This week we should “work around the weather.”  Avoid the pending snow/ice storm, be careful on the roads, and go deep and slow on these streams with your popular winter patterns. Unless you spot some risers!  Carry some little black winter stoneflies, blue wing olives, and midges in case you’re lucky enough to toss some dries. Bring a handwarmer to aid the tie-on of tiny bugs.

Public waters rated fair to good last week, while our private waters still fished really well as stormflows receded. Dress in your winter garb, wade slowly and carefully, and make sure you carry a dry change of clothes in case of a misstep. Crowds are down, so enjoy much more water to yourselves.

Wes’ hot fly list and our reports and tips follow on our long version. Catch it on Facebook or by clicking “fishing reports” at unicoioutfitters.com.

Stay safe this week, given the expected storm that might start on Saturday night. Check both road and stream conditions before you come up.  There are some real curvy, shady routes to our favorite waters that may retain some ice longer or surprise you with a downed tree, so be careful on your drives for a couple days after the storm.  

Good luck.  Wes’ hot fly list and our reports and tips are in our long version of this report. Catch it on Facebook or by clicking “fishing reports” at unicoioutfitters.com.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Griffith’s gnat, little black stonefly (or small gray elk hair caddis), comparadun BWO.

Nymphs: squirmy worm, pheasant tail, copper John (black), hares ear nymph and soft hackle, WD-40, rainbow warrior.

Streamers & warm water:

Bank robber sculpin, kreelex, micro changer, polar changer.

GA public waters:


RonW’s friend, Marcus had a great weekend and shared his stories. Here’s the first:

“Saturday (8th)- backcountry wild fish in sight for Channing and me.  Nice brisk morning hike in, then got a small fire going. It was cold, clear, plenty of sun with some residual snow in the shadows. We both got the job done with small #18-20 frenchies and heavy egg patterns. The fish were very spread out, only catching one or two out of the larger holes. All and all a great day in the NGA countryside!”

Smith DH:

John from ATL recently emailed our shop with a 12/30 fishing report. He had a great day on rainbows once he switched over to a Pat’s rubberlegs, and was thankful for that helpful intel in the UO fishing report. Thanks for your trip report, John!

Chattooga DH:

Sautee’s duo gave it a shot yesterday afternoon (1/12).   A departing angler said his morning was cold and slow, but still fun. He had landed just two rainbows on eggs. The duo hiked in with a glimmer of hope.

The water was an icy 39F upon their 1PM river entry.   Flows were good, the river was clear, and the afternoon fishing rated fair.  A lot of fish were hunkered down and refused many patterns. Sautee found a few honey holes and did well there, scoring a handful of bows and browns and brown and pink squirmies.  Accomplice lost one bow on an egg, caught one on a Frenchie, and finally fooled one more fish on top. He had picked a fight with a few sporadic risers that were gulping the occasional black winter stonefly that drifted by.

Despite the slow catch, they had the whole river to themselves and enjoyed their treatment for cabin fever.  That dose should hold them through this weekend’s storm. 

Private Waters:

Our private waters still fished really well for guided folks and our experienced, unguided guests. Here are the Day 2 results from Marcus: “Sunday- Channing and I got right back at it with a full day unguided reservation at the Unicoi Outfitters property. Water was up but nothing we couldn't handle, rain was in the forecast so it was time to get cracking. Channing started catching fish instantly at the "stadium" hole, and I wasn't far behind. We found early success on #16-12 buggy nymphs, eggs, and squirmys. Every hole below Nora Dam is holding large fish in great numbers. They kept us busy all morning long, with average fish ranging from 16-20" about 2-3lbs.  Some of the larger fish pushed 20"+ and  6lbs. 

As the rain persisted, so did we! Nearing lunch the nymph bite was slowing and rain picked up, so we chucked on some euro style jig streamers. That was the play of the day! We hooked so many studs that our arms got tired. 

We needed a break from the rain, and the army of fish. So we walked across the street to the village pizza joint for a hot meal and a dry-out on the heated patio. 

After lunch the onslaught of absolute footballs continued. We felt like we hooked every fish in the river. An absolute slay day! 

Streamers pictured are my custom ties, Channing loved the "blonde bomber". I found my luck on my sculp/craw pattern.

Cheers From Marcus and Channing “

Two unguided clients also had productive Bend trips. Jarrett from ATL found success on 1/7 by drifting squirmies and dark nymph droppers - deep. Jeff from ATL had a slow start on a cold 1/10, but a hot ending as the water warmed in the afternoon and the bows cooperated. His best bug was a small pheasant tail.

For more info on Nacoochee Bend reservations for guided and unguided trips, check out:


Or just call Wes or Israel at our shop.

Flat Water:

This just in from HenryC:

“Lanier is finally looking much more promising.  Surface temp is 52F, the birds are flying, and the fish getting higher in the water column. That's what I need to see!  Check out the pic of my Humminbird screen.”


Good luck, folks. Stay safe and don’t let the black ice catch you before you catch some icy winter trout. Call or come by either UO store for intel, supplies, or a thaw-out.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.