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, December 16, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -12/16/22

Welcome to winter in north Georgia.  We are finally experiencing seasonal weather, with daily highs in the 40’s, lows in the 30’s and 20’s, and more consistent rains and winds.  While Michigan steelheaders would consider this a heat wave, it’s more challenging to us southerners who’ve been acclimated to warmer weather.  Same for our fish.

It’s time to go low and slow for trout. Water temps still aren’t real cold, but you’ll find more  cooperative fish on the bottom than near the surface. Two Hooch tribs ran 48F at lunch today, while Smith DH was a warmer 52.  Anything in the mid-40’s and higher will be comfortable for trout to dine.

Flows, however, are a challenge after Wednesday’s 3 inches of rain. They’re great today for small and mid-sized streams on our WMA’s, as fish habitat has been restored. However, big watersheds like the Tooga, Nan,  Luftee, and Toccoa are still too high for wading. You’ll have to watch the USGS flow gauges and check your smart phone notes (on flows you recorded during past trips) to detect your own safe wading levels in the days ahead.

Stripers weren’t as consistent last week, but Henry is hopeful that declining lake temps will enhance the bite in the week ahead.

Check out Wes’ hot fly list and the equally hot intel from our guides and friends. It’s all on the long version of this report on our home page. Just click on “fishing report.” (Link in bio)

Stop by either UO shop for supplies and a holiday gift or two. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Gulper special, elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

Jig girdle bug, peach egg, squirmy worm, red tag jig, root beer midge, micro mayfly.

Streamers & warm water:

Simi seal leech, sparkle minnow, finesse changer, clouser minnow, Cowen’s Something Else for stripers.


Dukes noon flow:

UO friend RSquared: “Jeff W., Steve W. & I took our annual Cohutta TU ex-president trout fishing trip Tuesday. The weather and company were fantastic & the fishing wasn't bad either. The wild rainbows were eating Girdle Bugs & other dark stonefly imitations that were dredged through  the riffles. Surprisingly, The deeper pools did not produce for us on this stream.”

The Smokies are colder and will be slower due to low water temps. Aim for slower runs and pools and try rolling small nymphs on the bottom. Euronymphing can be real effective in the afternoon warmth on larger, lower elevation park streams. I like a sexy Walt’s/frenchie combo.

Byron’s Smokies daily intel here:


Delayed Harvest:

Smith DH angler catch rates have waned as recently stocked fish have smartened up. Good drifts with small egg, nymph, and midge patterns will be effective, especially if flows stay up from from consistent rains. The stream looked great in my noon recon today.

We had no recent reports on other streams, as most of our reporters were busy with holiday prep. Based on my years of experience, I’ll give you a few tips.  First, follow the sun and its warmth.  Second, hit the flood refuges, where high flows have washed down naive stockers. Third, make sure you get down to them. Lengthen your tippet and add more weight til you start bumping bottom.  Fourth, don’t worry about the wind. Just pick some streams in gorges and stream reaches that run perpendicular to wind direction. For example, big west winds don’t bother me when I’m down on the Chattooga as it runs south.

Last and most importantly, make sure you have a dry change of clothes in your vehicle. If you dunk, you sure want to get out of those drenched, icy clothes ASAP. It’s not August any more.

By the way, web reports suggest that Walhalla Hatchery is done with brook and brown spawning, as their large “retirees” are now showing up in some SC DH streams.

Tailwaters: No fresh reports to our shop. Web reports suggested that the Hooch Tailwater is clearing as Lanier nears its annual turnover. Both bows and browns are hitting favored nymph and midge patterns on light tippets in that clearing water from the dam.  Of course, heavy rains will muddy the tributaries and discolor the Tailwater.  Enjoy our buddy, Ryan’s vid:


Private Waters:

UO young gun Ben: “We had a really good day earlier this week at Soque Camp.  My client, Bruce, landed more than 30 fish, with most of them falling for a small egg pattern rolled along the bottom.”

UO guide Palmer had a fun father/son trip to Nacoochee Bend. They enjoyed their first flyfishing trip and caught numerous rainbows. Palmer said that the young son was a “flyfishing guru!”  More from Palmer: “ My last trip on Nacoochee Bend was excellent. All the rain had the fish happy and hungry. They were eating anything big and ugly: buggers, stones, and egg patterns.”


UO friend Landon: “I went paddling on Lanier earlier this week and hit some rocky points. Green trick worm on a jig produced a half dozen chunk bass in just an hour of fishing.”

UO staffer Joseph: “I caught this fat Lanier spot yesterday afternoon (15th) on a small swimbait. Lots of fish moving around in the evening and lots of bait congregating in big schools.

HenryC: “Lanier continues to fish okay BUT the consistency has waned since the day after the full moon. When they feel like eating, the fishing can be quite good. As the water temps drop, we will start targeting fish using sinking lines while waiting for the fish to dance and feed on the surface. I'm expecting to see fish running the banks shortly as our water temps drop into the low 50's. Next week’s weather forecast shows we should achieve those temps as an Arctic cold front hits north GA in 6-8 days. Striper fishing should become more consistent once we achieve those temps. However, anglers looking only to fish when they see busting stripers on the surface will miss out on some really productive fly fishing sub surface.

Do you want to know the secret to finding subsurface fish during the winter bite? Then you might wish to buy the book "Fly Fishing for Freshwater Striped Bass" in order to find out. If Unicoi Outfitters is out of stock, you can grab it on Amazon or at most north GA fly shops.  Good luck on the pond!”


More great reservoir intel in today’s WRD blog:


Also note agency plans for DH redosings by the first of the year.

That’s the latest intel from our chillier corner of the state. We hope y’all have some vacation time coming and can get outside. Just dress warmly, always carry a raincoat (for both rain and wind) and follow the sun. The fair-weather crowds are gone, but the fish are still around. Go get you an early holiday gift:  a great pic of a trophy trout or striper. Stop by either UO shop if we can help you fill some holiday wishes.


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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