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 20, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -1/20/23

It’s clear and cool up here today, with air temps in the 50’s and water temps just a few degrees cooler.  Streamflows are good, as the week’s inch of rain has already run off from all but the biggest streams like Toccoa DH.  Legs, eggs, nymphs, and especially midges are producing well. We have a nice Saturday ahead before Sunday’s washout, so take advantage of it.

Stripers remain scattered, but hefty size is still compensating for scarcity. Henry clues us in again.

We also inch closer to the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show on Feb 3-5. Be sure to mark your calendars. We’ll have a nice batch of flyfishing clearance items on hand for early attendees. Please come by our UO booth!


Read all of our timely intel in the full fishing report, linked at our home page.  Wes’ hot fly list is refreshed weekly, based on what has just worked for our guides and angling buddies.  Good luck as you work around the rain and the NFL playoff games.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, Mighty may baetis, purple midge, ruby midge, RS2, squirmy worm.

Streamers & warm water:

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


They’re running full, clear, and cool. All 3 of the Hooch tribs (Spoilcane, Dukes, Smith DH) that I checked at noon today ran 48F. If you’re a blueliner, small Euronymphs, beaded pheasant tails and hare’s ears, and zebra midges should work well under a fluffy dry or small yarn indicator.

The Smokies are still very high and icy.  Watch Byron’s Smokies daily intel here:


UO buddy Landon: “We hit the reservation last week, fishing the “catch and keep” section of Raven Fork.  Fishing was good in late am/ early afternoon with the sun.  Pretty much everything we threw worked. Once the clouds hit and it started cooling off, the bite died down and was nonexistent by 4 pm. Flies that worked for me: cream egg, rubber legs, and a #18 pheasant tail. I saw some winter stones and a couple black caddis fluttering in the sun, but no noses poking through the surface to sip them.”

Delayed Harvest:

New UO reporter CDB:

“While Athens Jay was busy torturing bass and using the handle of his fly rod as a chew toy, I scooted up Smith DH in a light drizzle to try to catch a few trout. By the time I hit Helen, the drizzle and mist had stopped and blue sky was peaking through. 

Most of the standards that work for our DH stocked trout netted nothing. Squirmy worms, eggs, and stingers came up empty. With bright sun and clear water, I dropped to 6x tippet. With the smaller tippet, yellow eggs at least would get a look from the fish - and a rejection. I started cycling through the “buggier” nymphs in my box. Finally, what we decided was a small brown tung-head stone with a yellow collar started picking up a few little rainbows.  

In the afternoon, the cooler water colliding with the very warm air created a pale layer of fog in the water under the Rhododendrons. One could say “ghostly”.  So I decided to match the hatch - that’s right, my Grey Ghost.  First cast, resulted in a nice little brown! Now, I started thinking, surely I should stay until I catch a Brook Trout, right?  

As a note, fishing the grey ghost streamer on a dead drift or swing downstream resulted in one or two takes. Casting upstream to the head of the hole, however, and stripping downstream with rapid little strips was like throwing candy at them. They loved it. 

A couple pools later and a fair number of fish later, I checked the time and realized I was going to miss my 5 o’clock stated time by an hour and half. I put my waders in high gear and got back to the car. Have you tried jogging in waders?  I recommend it. Excellent aerobic workout and the extra fabric helps you sweat out those impurities without saunas, essential oils or fancy baths. So despite no rain this time, I arrive at the car once again in wet clothing (but dry feet). 

As for the Brook Trout.  Well, I’m still zero for life on Brookies  in Georgia. Rainbows galore. Some good browns. No Brook trout. I am assuming the Rainbows go with my sunny disposition!  So, no slam. But you know what Meatloaf said - “Two out of three ain’t bad”.”

UO buddy KenK: “Remember to use two different flies when Euronymphing.  There’s nothing better than a double on the line. I had 6 this past season!”

Most DH streams except the Toccoa have already dropped enough for some wading opportunities.  You’ll need a boat or float tube there.  Take a lesson from the Rabunites and fish with a “net” first.  Use the internet to check flows, water temps, and stocking histories before you go and you’ll have more successful trips, especially through our rainy winter season!  

Hint: fish the flood refuges, where naive stockers have washed into after recent flood events.


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UO friend Splatek: “I took my eagle claw rod on a hike along the Hooch below Buford Dam. I put on two small, dark flies and sank em with a drag-free drift. I caught three fish in just a half-hour of fishing.”

Private Waters:

UO Helen manager Wes: “I did a private water trip on Monday over on the Soque. It fished well. Getting flies deep paid off. Pheasant tails with no beads, midges, and egg patterns were the key players.”

UO guide Caleb: “Midges, midges, midges! I guided the Soque at Rainbow Point and Soque Camp last weekend. We spent both days nymphing the very bottom of the river. All fish were caught on midges and egg patterns.”


Athens Jay:

“In winter you should be on the lookout for periods of 3-4 days when daytime temperatures climb steadily and end up in the 60’s. I had the opportunity to fish for 1.5 hours at the end of one of these warming spells. I fished a big weighted streamer on a floating line and long fluorocarbon leader. I had several eats from fish located 10-30 feet offshore in 4-6 feet of water.”


HenryC: “Striper fishing is still “OK" on Lake Lanier. The fish are scattered, with some big schools being found deep and catchable with sinking lines. There's also fish running the banks shallow and also surfacing some on top. The problem is that it happens less frequently.  While the birds are extremely helpful in finding the fish, you may spend hours on the lake looking for 2 or 3 shots to get your hookups. The good news is the size of the fish is tremendous this year! If you see a DNR boat out you ought to thank them for their efforts in giving us this quality fishery. We continue to put "teen size" fish in the net most trips, but the overall numbers of fish seen and caught are down over the glory days of years past. When it happens it's still very exciting but patience is what is called for while you're waiting for the bite to fire up. “


Aim for the warmer days if possible and, flows permitting, you should have a good week ahead.  Tomorrow looks great, so pack your vehicle tonite and enjoy a great day in nature.  Call 706-878-3083 or come by our Helen store for more great intel and current hot bugs.

And don’t forget your shot at nearly a week of West Yellowstone fishing for a lucky $10 raffle ticket!


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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