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 18, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 2/18/22

We had 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain last night, and area streams are running off quickly. Today’s 10AM recon showed that our White County streams  were a bit high, but not muddy, and dropping quickly. The Hooch in town, Smith DH, and two higher Hooch tribs all had about 3 feet of visibility and ran ten degrees warmer than the 40 degree air, which felt even chillier with the wind.

Small streams are fishable now, while the bigger ones or any that got 2.5 inches of rain will take a day or two to drop to safer levels. Watch those USGS gauges! GA and SC DNR’s stocked their DH waters last week, but those naive fish got some heavy angling pressure and will smarten up quickly.  To hedge your bet, try a small natural dropper (hares ear, pheasant tail, WD40) behind your junk fly (squirmy or Y2K).

This week’s key word is “adaptation.” Anglers who adapt their flies and techniques to the situation at hand will score highest. Watch water temps, flows, and the aquatic habitat at your rod tip for clues on what to do.   And keep changing -adapting- as needed. Examples: 1) clearing water means smaller bugs than the big, bright or ugly ones thrown into YooHoo.   Pool depth dictates strike indicator height on your leader. Try an Airlock brand indi for quick adjustments as you pool-hop. Then add or subtract split shot as needed to drift your nymphs along the bottom.

On the lakes, adjust to the prey and predators in terms of depth, bait size, and retrieve speed. Find some warmer water where stained tributary inflows will now absorb the afternoon sunshine.

As the weather and water bounce around in the week ahead, adjust to them. And you’ll enjoy the success that our reporters did last week. Their stories follow on our extended fishing report at unicoioutfitters.com and on our Facebook page. Good luck, and don’t forget Wes’ hot fly list!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:

Dries: Griffiths Gnat, Parachute Adams, Stimulator.


Simi seal leech, squirminator, fire egg, duracell, diamond and root beer midges, bird of prey, pats rubberlegs.

Streamers & warm water:

Muddy buddy, bank robber sculpin, polar changer.

GA public waters:

Smith DH:

As expected, the fresh stockers attracted crowds and produced some high catch rates. Even this morning, there were already about 8 cars in the parking lot. Try fishing early or late to avoid those crowds, and use some patterns that those fish haven’t seen yet. Older stockers will still have a taste for midges.  Match your tippet to water clarity.

Toccoa DH:

RSquared (Rodney) checked in: “Steve W. & I hit the Toccoa DH Thursday before the heavy rains moved in. The water was a little fast even for experienced waders but the fish were willing if you could get your small black stonefly or  Y2K down to bottom of the stream. Predicted heavy rains tonight will increase flows to dangerous levels for the next several days!” Join their crew and get adopted!

Cohutta Chapter #242 Trout Unlimited

Chattooga DH:

Internet reports showed improved angler success with SC’s recent stocking, combined with some better streamflows. Hopefully the stockers will get scattered and improve catch rates over that entire DH section. Be careful wading in that big water for the next few days. If water temps push 50, try chucking a streamer on a sink tip, or poly leader looped to your floating line. 


Hooch Tailwater:

No recent reports. Heavy rains up here in the mountains often mean heavy releases from Buford Dam. For Tailwater news, watch Devin Lancaster’s weekly video reports on the Orvis-Alpharetta store’s Instagram page.



Dredger ran up to the Smokies right after posting last week’s report. What a difference some improved streamflow makes! The higher water and better flows had potbellied bows in a good mood.

He took a “lesson from Landon” (see last week’s report) and dredged the deep pools. He did try deeper runs and pockets with his Euro rig, with very limited success. But the biggest pools had the most cooperative fish, and he fondled about a dozen 7-9 inch wild bows and three small browns on his afternoon adventure. Biggest was a 13 inch bow that jumped about three feet in the air. It was likely a tourist from downstream waters.

Best bugs were pats rubberlegs, small hares ears, and WD40’s, in that order. The bugs were secondary to his technique: he added shot and an airlock indicator to his rig for longer drifts through the pools. He probably did more adjusting than casting to stay in the game: indi depth, number of shot, and fly selection. But the constant tinkering paid off. Half the pools were homers and half were strikeouts, so it paid to pool-hop.

Little black stones and BWO’s constantly buzzed the surface, but he saw no risers in the 44F water.  A gobbler’s coast just over the river and a big elk herd at his park exit  were nice ways to end the day.

Private Waters:

Private waters fished great last week. We hope you enjoyed Marcus’ midweek report and pics. And we have a few more fresh ones to share!

UO Helen shop manager Wes:

“I did a trip this week on The Bend with Alex. Overall we had a productive day. The best nymphs were CDC pheasant tails and midges. We also caught a few of the biggest fish of the day on streamers.”

UO guide Israel:

“The Bend continues to produce well for my clients. Root beer midges seem to be the hot ticket right now.”

UO company manager Jake:

I fished Rainbow Point on the Soque this week with repeat customers, Julia and Mark. We had a good day dredging small eggs, rootbeer & ruby midges, and little black stones. The water is still slightly up from recent rains compared to a few weeks ago, but still fairly clear. Lighter tippet and plenty of weight were the keys to getting strikes.”

Flat Water:

UO owner Jimmy: “Fishing for stripers on Lake Lanier continues to be frustrating if you're chasing them with a fly.  They're either too deep or difficult to find so try making lemonade out of lemons.  Remember the Boy Scout motto?  "Be Prepared".  Late yesterday afternoon we had about as much fun as you can have fishing.  No stripers but we did find schools of spotted bass running up and down a small cove off the main creek throwing shad in the air and, generally, wreaking havoc on bait balls.  And it was all happening near the surface.  Clousers and Cowen's Coyotes were deadly.  Look for water that is warmer than the main lake and try to fish early in the morning or late afternoon.  Oh yeah, and for maximum fun, have a 7 weight rod with an intermediate line in your boat.”

Athens Jay wet a line and said: “Bass fishing is picking up in Piedmont small impoundments. Fish are not hitting aggressively; you have to feed them on the bottom. I found several fish in about 3-4 feet of water. Detecting the strike was really tricky, it was Zen Fly Fishing. Weighted black streamers and Rubberlegs in blurple (black and purple) worked best. “

That’s the latest from our UO clan. The sun is out and the winds and streamflows are receding as I wrap this up at 1PM. Take advantage of a good-looking weekend ahead and wet a line. Watch those changing conditions in the coming days and adapt to them to make yourselves some great memories. Call, stop in, or ring us online if we can aid with your adaptions.  Good luck!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.

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