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 22, 2022

Unicoi Outfitters Holiday Fishing Report -12/22/22

Let’s call this Christmas report “frozen fingers, toes, ramps and roads.” The great Arctic Blast is headed our way tonite and will give us a taste of Manitoba winter. With Helen highs below freezing, and lows as low as six (yes, 6!) degrees for a few days, we suggest you hibernate for the holiday with family and friends. And if those air temps alone don’t impress (depress?) you, then add in the strong winds and calculate your wind chill factors.  My rods are staying in the garage while I stay in the house!

Any water that’s left on curvy mountain roads and steep boat ramps will ice up tonite and not thaw for several days. Don’t be a black ice victim: paying insurance deductibles will deduct cash from your fishing budget!

So consider hanging up those fishing rods until we get a bit of a break next Monday or Tuesday. Come out of your den around 11AM, dress like an Eskimo, and cast a few hours while the sun is high.

While our two Hooch tribs (Smith DH, Spoilcane) ran a comfortable 48F this afternoon, those water temps will dive along with the air temps. Be ready to dredge trout streams “low and slow” next week with some egg and nymph patterns. 

Lake stripers and spots should still be a good bet, since big reservoirs take a lot longer to cool down than streams and rivers. Note that we’ve been resupplied  with Hank’s deadly Something Else streamers, so grab a few of these threadfin imposters before we sell out again.

We have some great reports from our guides and angling buddies fortunate enough to wet a line before this icy blast. Check out our full report by clicking “fishing reports” on our home page.

We will be closed from 1PM Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. Hopefully we’ll see you on the other side of this Big Chill.  Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season, everyone.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Hot flies:

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets:

Jig girdle bug, peach egg, Walt's worm, root beer midge, micro mayfly flashback baetis, RS2.

Streamers & warm water:

Simi seal leech, sparkle minnow, finesse changer, Clouser minnow. Cowen’s Somethin Else (we are restocked!)


No recent reports. They were running clear and at normal flow today (22nd). Water temp was 48F at 1PM, but the cold air will drop temps and slow down the fish. Dredge some small nymphs. Better yet, aim for bigger, warmer downstream waters.

The Smokies are even colder and catching will be slower than action on our lower elevation streams. I honestly avoid the park in the winter and aim for our lower elevation, south-facing streams. A few extra degrees of water temp makes all the difference in the winter.

If you insist on the park, then 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, park streams. Don’t forget a thermometer and pray that you see the mercury creep above the 40-degree mark. Subtract a few degrees from this Luftee gauge and you’ll have an idea of park conditions.


Byron’s Smokies daily intel and safety warning here:


Delayed Harvest:

If you saw yesterday’s post, then you know WRD redosed our GA DH streams for the holidays. Try some small, twitched buggers or some drifted egg and squirmy patterns for the fresh fish. Small nymphs, midges, and soft hackles bounced along the bottom on thin tippet are fooling the more experienced DH fish.

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.



Athens Jay had a good day yesterday on the Tooga DH, despite the chilly weather (mid-40’s).  He said a dredged legs & eggs combo was the ticket, with most fish preferring his home-cooked eggstacy egg.


Splatek and his trout-vac son, Spence, had a banner day yesterday (21st) on Smith DH. Dad said: “we tried everything from eggs to mops to worms. Nothing. 

Midges and small nymphs -nothing.  We finally went with large warm water flies, jigs, and copper woolly buggers fished actively and they did the trick. But my biggest tip: don’t go into waste-deep water with only hip waders.”

I ran into Trout Raider this afternoon on Smith. He was having a banner day on a dry/dropper rig. The majority of his 20+ fish were brookies. Most hit his perdigon dropper on 6X tippet, but a few came up to inhale his small chubby dry.


Trout Raider said he did well yesterday on the Hooch Tailwater. He showed me a phone pic of a fat, buttery, 17-inch brown that was a handful on his one-weight rod. 

Lanier turnover should be nearly complete, if it isn’t already, so bring back your clear-water game for the Hooch. Small black stones and midges match the resident stream bugs in the upper Tailwater and are always good bets. Toss some meat for the big boys and girls, who get girth by eating their little brothers and fresh “dumplings” off the Buford Hatchery truck.

Private Waters:

UO young gun Ben: “This week my client, Mr. Don, picked up Euronymphing quickly and caught a lot of fish, mostly on weighted egg patterns and small natural flies. The Soque Camp reach continues to fish well, especially with December’s improved flows.”

UO guide Caleb: “Soque camp continues to produce quality fish. We pulled copper sparkle minnows and drifted double nymph rigs for most of the morning on last week’s trip. Eggs and zebra midges were the best patterns.”


UO friend Landon: “In between Christmas shopping trips, I wet a line for an hour in Lanier and caught a couple LMB’s by dragging a shaky head across the bottom.”

UO staffer Joseph: “Fishing on the pond was exceptional earlier this week. Low winds and cloudy skies made for some awesome blitzing action from stripers. The only problem was the high abundance and of bait compared to predators In other words it’s been very easy to find lots of bait but there’s not always fish with them. 

All I fished was a clouser due to the smaller shad sizes. Henry’s somethin else would also have worked great.  Lanier temps are dropping into the low 50s, so moving the fly with short, quick strips, with a pause here and there, worked the best for me.  I mostly fished a sinking line all day, but when fish are busting an intermediate line is best. It’s smart to carry two rigged rods.”

UO owner Jimmy just got off the water and sent this report: “Very spotty to locate feeding fish. Bait is thick so stripers have plenty of options. Anglers who found feeding fish did pretty well. They’re feeding on small threadfin shad that can be matched really well with Cowen’s Something Else. This 12.5 pounder helped warm me back up this afternoon.”

More great trout and reservoir intel in WRD’s holiday fishing blog:


Enjoy your holidays with family and friends. Let our north GA  roads, ramps, and fish thaw out a bit after this brutal weekend, then come up next week when conditions for fish and their pursuers improve.  We have sure appreciated your business and friendship through the year. Thank you for those gifts to our entire UO staff.  We’ll see you as soon as it’s safe to re-emerge, with renewed hope for a few “last fish of the year” that will come to net.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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