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 30, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -12/30/22


Happy New Fishing Season, as my late, great Rabunite fishing buddy would proclaim.  As we ring in the new year, it arrives via the Great Rebound. Our arctic  blast has been replaced this week by a warm slug and stream temperatures have bounced back nicely. Most local trout waters are exceeding that magic 40 degree mark for enhanced trout appetites.  Flows are a bit low and clear, but not at the drought levels of a month ago.

Lake stripers are still hit-and-miss, but the hits are homers and those double-digit fish compensate for our strikeouts.  Follow the birds and bait and the intel from our Lanier fans, Henry Cowen and our own UO young guns.

Get outside soon before winter weather returns and slows down the bite. Watch stream gauges and bring a raincoat. Hopefully tonight’s rain will be less than an inch and most streams will remain fishable through the weekend. Tuesday might bring a monsoon, so do your homework or call our shop before driving up. Just take advantage of this warm spell while you can!

Don’t miss our details in our full fishing report, linked at our home page. Wes’ hot fly list and our guide/avid angler reports from as recently as this morning will boost your chances of success. Good luck and go Dawgs!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets:

Jig girdle bug, peach egg, Split case BWO, Ruby midge, mighty May, flashback Baetis, RS2.

Streamers & warm water:

Simi seal leech, sparkle minnow, finesse changer, Clouser minnow. Cowen’s Somethin Else.


No reports, as most here in GA were cold and many in NC had more ice than open water.  The warm spell gives blueliners a bit of hope, though. Yesterday afternoon Spoilcane ran 47F and Smith DH was 44F (colder due to lake storage of icy water). A few we reports suggest that headwater trout have indeed thawed out a bit.

Ian at R and R Flyfishing

(https://randrflyfishing.com/) had some neat pics and vids of iced-over streams in the Smokies. They’ll still be tough due to cold water, but due-hards can find a few fish by bumping the bottom with nymphs in the afternoon.

Subtract a few degrees from this Luftee gauge and you’ll have an idea of park conditions. Honestly, you’ll do better at lower elevations during winter.


Byron’s Smokies daily intel here:


Note the streams are low and cold.

Delayed Harvest:

Make sure you bring a dry change of clothes in your vehicle. If you dunk, you sure want to get out of those drenched, icy clothes before hypothermia bites you.

The Hooch and Tooga gauges are great indices of river conditions in our area. Always check them out before your drive north.



UO Regular RonW:  “Kurt and I hit the Tooga on 12/29  and she was good to us. We had boots in the water shortly after 8am and fished till just after 4pm.  Kurt absolutely wore them out, netting somewhere around 40 fish. Every time I  looked over at him his line was tight and rod doubled over. His hot fly was a weighted egg with a smidge of flash mixed in. He lost an absolute Donkey in the deep stuff that broke him off right after he got him on the reel. He will be thinking about that fish for a while. 

I didn't have near the numbers day but still landed somewhere  around a dozen or so fish, all rainbows with 1 brown mixed in.  Flys that worked for me were an egg, BWO soft hackle, Olive Wooly Bugger and a conehead Muddler minnow.  

It was another great day on "The River.” As a matter of fact, I've never had a bad day on The River! 

I hike along the Smith DH trail almost daily and have seen good catches by the experienced anglers (example: Tuesday’s FB post ). The fat, colorful brookies have been a big hit. The Christmas stockers are still providing good action on a variety of flies, from eggs to buggers to wets to nymphs and even a few small dries.  They’re still naive. Just try something they haven’t seen and you should score. Soon, however, those fish will smarten up and you’ll need to resume your midge game on thin tippet. It was nice to run into DNR wardens Ann and Spencer yesterday as they patrolled the creek and ensured those fish stayed in there for y’all.


UO friend Landon:  “I collected a couple stray bows for dinner after my WMA hunting trip.   I just went downstream from a DH reach and found a few wash-downs. They ate a green pumpkin worm on a jig head. 


Web reports have the Hooch fishing well for both bows and browns.  The Hooch DH got resided before Christmas and should fish well when it isn’t high and muddy. Temps stay in the mid 50’s through the winter, thanks to Lanier’s massive storage.  Check with the local shops like Orvis-Atlanta, the Fish Hawk, and Alpharetta Outfitters for the best intel on the home waters. 

We haven’t heard much from Blue Ridge Tailwater, but local guide posts of nice fish suggest it’s fishing well. It also got a shot of stockers this month.  Check in with the Cohutta shop’s gang in Blue Ridge for good intel.

Private Waters:

UO guide Caleb: “Join me in celebrating my guest’s first fish on the fly! Nacoochee Bend in Helen fished very well during our Gilligan Special this morning. All fish were brought to the net on midges.”

UO Helen manager Wes: “I fished some private water with Stewart on Tuesday. The water was gin-clear and only 33-34 degrees, so the fish were hugging the bottom. The key to success was egg patterns and midges fished deep on 5X tippet under a yarn indicator.”

UO guide Israel’s clients had a real good trip to our Soque Camp property this morning. Iz said that a ruby midge was the hot pattern today.


HenryC: “Striper fishing is still hit or miss. Fishing patterns are changing and no one pattern is "the one". Fish are on top in the creeks and are also deep in the creeks. They are in some super shallow water at times, too. You've got to be versatile in order to catch fish right now.  Your options are to sit tight for hours waiting for the shallow pattern to take effect, or burn gas and look for deep fish or fish near the surface in the creeks. Not easy fishing to say the least BUT if you want to catch a trophy, now’s the time!  Fish are eating somethin' else flies and Clouser minnows the best. Water temps are at or below 50F, which is a good temperature for Lanier winter stripers.”


UO staffers Joseph and Grant : “Striper fishing was on fire today (26th).  We caught 5 total on conventional and fly tackle. Bait is still very abundant and burning gas is the best option for anglers. Another key is birds. Seagulls, herons and loons often will show you where the fish are. For flies, Cowen’s somethin else’s and clousers in smaller sizes fished on sinking lines are the best.

UO friend RSquared: “In our northern reservoirs and larger rivers, the White Bass and Crappie are holding and feeding in the creek mouths. A light fly rod with a white wooly bugger is hard to beat for these voracious feeders. The White Bass I have been catching are small but scrappy and, in my opinion, the Crappie are some of the best freshwater table-fare to be found in our local waters! Thank goodness it is warming up!!!! I will be chasing trout tomorrow!”

There’s more  great trout and reservoir intel in today’s WRD fishing blog:


We hope these latest fish fibs help y’all  ring in the new year with cheer. Wet a line while the weather is warm and you can feel your fingers and toes -  and trout takes!  Just get home in time for the big games.  We’re an SEC bunch at UO, so feel free to join us in rooting on my Vols tonite and Jimmy’s Dawgs tomorrow. May the new year bring you many new fish tales to add to your lifetime of memories!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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