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 13, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -1/13/23

Welcome to “Veterans Weekend.”  This blustery weather is good for only those dedicated flyfishing vets among us. Today it’s cloudy, windy, and cold, with air temps flirting with 40 degrees and some spitting sleet. There’s a chance for more icy precip tonite.  Tomorrow will be just as inhospitable, but Sunday moderates just a bit. It’s a good weekend for flyfishing rookies to stay home, watch videos, tie flies, and wait for better weather instead of freezing and getting skunked.

The good news is that our streams are in great shape. We only had an inch of rain last night and much of it has already run off. My lunchtime recon showed the Hooch and its tribs clear and cool, but not icy-cold. The Hooch and Spoilcane were 48F while Smith DH was 46F. Bottom-bumping small nymphs, eggs, and midges on light tippet should pay off for vets who can detect subtle strikes in the clear, cold water.

Lake stripers and spots still rock along. HenryC and Jake have great updates for us. The size of Lanier’s stripers is keeping all lake fans in that game.

Have you marked your calendars for the Atlanta Flyfishing Show on Feb 3-5?  Don’t forget. We’d love to see you there.

Catch our hot intel in our full fishing report, linked at our home page. Wes’ hot fly list and angler reports will help you dial in the mid-winter action.  Good luck. Dress warmly!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, Oops, diamond midge, Walt's worm, WD-40, Mop fly.

Streamers & warm water:

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


Our GA streams have great flows and decent water temps - in the mid 40’s.  Try a dry/long dropper to scrape the pool bottoms with those dropper nymphs.  Just watch out for joggers tomorrow!

The Smokies, in contrast, are blown out and icy cold. A bunch of snow is also closing high-elevation roads up there. Stay south for better trouting opps.  Byron’s Smokies daily intel here:


UO Regular RSquared: “ Steve & I went trout fishing Monday in my favorite Brown Trout location.  The weather & fishing were great, however, the catching was nonexistent! We tried multiple flies but nothing we used enticed a strike, much less a fish.  We made it home in plenty of time to watch Georgia win its second National Championship in a row!!! Go Dawgs!”

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.



DH fish are now sore-lipped and sluggish from the colder water. That means they are pickier and light-hitting. Rookie catch rates are plummeting, while vets are still having decent days during these winter challenges.

Fish won’t move very far for a meal. It’s time to paint the pools and other flood refuges with short casts and deep, drag-free drifts. Try eggs, legs, small nymphs, and tiny midges. Put 2-3 casts into a spot, move a few feet, and repeat. Paint that pool like you’d paint a wall at home. Hookset often- any time your indicator or sighter hesitates.  Jimmy and I have a name for winter nymphing to subtle strikers: Zen fishing. If we think a strike may occur on the drift, we’ll set the hook at our projected right moment. Try it and see how many more fish you stumble into.

Smith DH is in great shape. Residents are pickier, so try Bottom-rolling some eggs, Euronymphs, and midges on 6X or 7X tippet. 

 It worked for a trio led by Martin, an old streamside acquaintance. We caught up a bit and exchanged hot tips. I clued him in on current trout action and he reciprocated with some FL flats intel. I can’t wait to head south and put it to use! Where? Well, I don’t believe I said.

Chattooga DH is at 2.2 and dropping. Try the legs and eggs combo in the pools and Euronymphing in pool heads and runs. Wes has the fly patterns nailed down for you. A tiny pheasant tail dropper is a good bet, too, as resident fish now start recognizing those BWO nymphs in the drift.

More wading flow intel here:



UO buddy RonW:  “Kurt and I fished the Dam today (1/7) in hopes of tangling with our first fish of the new year. We had boots in the water just after 9am, water temp was reading 44F.

I started off with a conehead muddler on my 6wt with an  intermediate sinking line. 1st cast of the day I hooked up with a colored-up brown who came "unbuttoned'  after a short fight. Soon after that I lost that fly, which is the downside to fishing a sinking line in close proximity to wood and rocks.  After several fly changes and lost flies, I  finally hooked up with a feisty snit rainbow on my Rubberlegged Ostrich Herl Bugger. Kurt started hooking up left and right on his euro rig on a mixture of flies (hares ear, egg and squirmy).

 I dug into my pack for my spare spool, off came the streamer line and on went the floater with a euro leader. Shortly after I  made the change, I hooked up and netted some buttah on a weighted peach egg. We fished our way back up to our exit point, each picking up a few more fish before we bailed at 1pm. 

It was another fantastic day on the water, albeit a costly one for me as I lost about 10 streamers, including a few game changers. It's a good thing I tie all my own!”

UO buddy Ryan (MFS):

“MadFishinSkillz and friend Pedro hit the Hooch tailwater last Sunday despite the dreary overcast skies and rain forecasted.  Pedro, on only his second trip ever learning to tight line nymph, landed a beauty of a wild brown and narrowly missed another while swinging his flies at the end of a drift.  Despite the crystal clear water, 5x and a size 14 hares ear jig were enough to fool that one.  We had to bust out the rain jackets after about 2 hours of fishing to make sure we didn’t allow a little bit of soaked clothing to send us home early.  MFS was able to flop a fish stick off the line following a brief fight and then landed another small brown, which snaked out through a hole in the net before photo evidence was taken.  It was clear the bite was off with the cold storm front incoming and potential pressure change, so that was about it for a 10am-2pm fishing session. 

On the way out we spotted a box tortoise that was clearly struggling to get up the erosion receded banks, and it was clear he’d rather be among the forest leaf litter considering he was pointed that way.  He got a lift about 30 yards into the forest as we did our good deed for the day.”

Private Waters:

UO manager Jake: “Ryan and I hit Rainbow Point on the Soque yesterday morning prior to the big front. The water was up and had a small amount of color due to recent rains. We spent all morning nymph fishing with various flies, but the big difference-maker in generating bites was getting down to the fish. This time of year, I find that the amount of split shot is way more important than the bugs you choose. If I am not hitting the bottom every few drifts, I don't feel as if I am fishing effectively. When the water temps are cold, the feeding window of the fish decreases drastically, and if you don't get your offerings down to the fish, they are probably not going to play the game. The top-producing flies for us yesterday were small yellow eggs, diamond midges, and ruby midges. These three flies have been my top producing flies over the past few weeks, and I expect them to be the front runners until we get into a warmer season.”

Athens Jay’s buddy, Charlie, pinch hit for Jay this week: “ Got in a morning fishing on private waters. The flows were still high and the water off colored with the the rains over the past few weeks. 

Fishing was solid using streamers bouncing the bottom with an occasional sharp twitch. Weighted olive and black wooly buggers worked well along with a grey ghost!  They needed to be deep, if you weren’t leaving an occasional fly on the bottom - add weight! 

Surprisingly, egg patterns were largely ignored - the fish were looking for something bigger. An extra long mop pattern with black and purple dubbing worked well also. 

It was fun fishing the grey ghost - a favorite pattern of one of my mentors. It just goes to show those classic flies still work. 

With all the run off, I would expect wooly buggers, mops and squirmy worms to fish well next week also. ”


UO manager Jake: “Jimmy and I spent Saturday morning on Lanier chasing stripers. We found some birds and fish working right off the bat, and we were able to land a nice 8 lb fish out of the school. 

After the sun climbed higher in the sky, we kept cruising and looking, but the surface activity had died off. We ended up pulling into a ditch just off the main river channel, and spent the next hour our two chasing spotted bass. We ended up catching 4 nice size spotted bass (and missed a few more) on a jigging spoon to finish out the morning.”

HenryC: “Lake Lanier continues to produce some nice striped bass fishing. There are also some some really nice white bass being caught on fly too. 

While there is still some surface feeding fish showing up, the best pattern is the large schools of subsurface fish you can locate and catch using a sinking fly line. Your electronics are going to help you locate these fish and once they are found, catching them isn't that hard. Somethin' else flies and small Clousers are your best bet. This pattern should continue for another few weeks if we don't get a big freeze. Water temps are slightly above normal for this time of year. Fish can be found all over the lake (north/south) and in both rivers.”


There’s more  great winter trouting tips and reservoir intel in today’s WRD fishing blog. Check out the Lanier fish attractor sites.


Mentoring kudos:

They go to Jake and several of his UO sidekicks for their instream lessons to a fun bunch of high schoolers last week. Those kids are our next generation of angler-conservationists!

So, if you’re new to the flyfishing game, go celebrate your beloved Dawgs second straight trophy during some weekend parties or parades. But if you’re a fly-flinging-finatic like us, dress warmly, follow the sun, and pull out your low-and-slow game. Enjoy a few frosty fish in the clean, cold air of your crowdless mountains. You’ll be glad you did, and you’ll sleep darn well that night. Good luck and congrats to the Dawgs and all of their fans.  Call 706-878-3083 or come by our Helen store for some warmth and a handful of hot Wes flies.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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