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 27, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -1/27/23


Right now it’s all about “winter windows.” Crummy weather and high water closed a lot of windows for our winter trouters last week. But gray skies and rain opened some windows for striper fans.  Right now area streams have good flows and rebounding water temps (47F yesterday). Find a sunny day and give them a go. Just have a good game to fool experienced trout. Hint: aim for flood refuges. Why? Three inches of rain displaces naive stockers!

Henry and his lake buddies are having striper and bass success deep. They hope for the opposite winter window, a cloudy day to encourage baitfish and predators to rise toward the surface.

Pick your critter and pick your window, then go cure your cabin fever. Our specific intel and Wes’ hot fly list are in on our full report, accessed via our home page. Folks who click more than once and dig deeper for these nuggets of wisdom catch more fish than one-clickers. Pics are entertaining, but intel is productive! Good luck this week. Don’t forget next weekend’s ATL flyfishing show. We’re in Booth 436.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, mighty may baetis, Violet midge, ruby midge, black copper John.

Streamers & warm water:

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


They’re running full, clear, and cool. Spoilcane and Smith DH were 47F at 5pm yesterday. The Hooch in Helen was clear with a healthy flow, so remember your wading staffs.  Small stream fans have a chance here in GA on small, dark, dredged nymphs. The better midwinter bet is hitting bigger, downstream, warmer waters that catch more sun.

The Smokies are still very high and icy, with many high-elevation streams struggling to hit 40 degrees.  Watch Byron’s Smokies daily intel here:


Delayed Harvest:

UO staffer Atticus said the action on local waters had been slow for many customers who shared their fish stories with him at the shop. Many said they were using junk flies, but had some success on rubberleg stones. 

This is the toughest time for trouting success in area DH streams. Cold, high water, experienced fish, and lower stocker numbers due to catch&release mortality and natural mortality decrease angler catch rates, especially for rookies who are still throwing junk flies and having a bit of drag in their drifts. 

Natural mortality, you wonder? Ever seen an otter?  Or their streamside toilet areas?  How about blue herons?  I watch 1 or 2 of them swoop into Smith DH daily during my late afternoon hikes as most anglers depart for supper.

Expected stocked fish loss due to floods and mortality is exactly why DH streams are redosed periodically by wildlife agencies. 


Here’s another reminder: fish for “seniors” and get down to them with a good drift. Revisit our DH column in here:


The one exception right now is Tooga DH, which SC redosed just two weeks ago. It’s still a bit high, so know your own safe wading level before hopping in.

Dedicated UO followers would have caught that hot SC intel in last week’s report.  The good news is that GA usually spices up DH streams the first of each month, so get those buggers, squirmies, and rookie anglers ready for February.

And March gets even better. Here’s some NC DH intel to help your spring trip planning:


One astute report reader was our new UO buddy CDB, who checked in:   “Spent the day chasing unicorns on the Chattooga DH. I have caught Brook trout in NH, VT, PA, WV, VA, TN, and NC. Heck I even caught a few when I lived in CO. After 4 years in Georgia - zippo. 

The action was all on streamers, a bead head grizzly olive wooly bugger w/ black tail received the most action. Takes were on the end of the swing or on the dangle. Keep that streamer in the water as long as possible. Working it down under a ledge or root ball from above got good results. Rod tip in water, drift down, dangle, a couple short quick strips, repeat. A few of the takes were jarring. An additional AB shot just above it to help keep it down increased the number of strikes. 

Once again, all rainbows. Not even a brown.  My GA brookie goose-egg streak continues….”

Ed note: our past UO column has some timely bugger tips to help you now:


UO staffer Grant: “ I took a weekend trip up to Fires Creek with my friends and Dad last weekend. I caught this nice brown fishing the top of a fast moving run. I caught him on a silver beaded france fly. Small flies in darker colors and Euro nymphing with 3.2mm-4.0mm beads seems to be the key to my success at Fires.”

Private Waters:

The crummy weather and high water limited our hosted trips last week. UO guide Israel said that a deep-drifted midge was the ticket for his Hooch customer.

UO friend CDB:  “I used the same (Chattooga) technique on the Etowah Saturday. I got about an hour and half on private water and hauled out a few beasts. That’s why I’m itching to get back on the Chattooga tomorrow and have at it again!”


HenryC: “Last weekend fishing on the pond was pretty darn good. You had to look hard to find the fish but when you found them, that same  "pattern" was found in other areas, too. Last week’s weather was either windy and/or rainy. I'm sure the lake has muddied up some, but I’m hopeful that we can get on the fish again shortly. Welcome to sodium free striper fishing in the winter!  The best news is that we inch a little closer to the great pre-spawn action in March!”


UO staffer Joseph: “Last Sunday I went out with Josh England and Keith Ohrstrom fishing for stripers on Lanier. We caught several fish and lost several more.  We even had a few doubles!  The fish were in huge schools and were only active for an hour or two. We mostly followed birds and even saw multiple fish come up top. Though there were some fish on top, we had the most success on fast sinking lines. We used small clousers fished with short strips with a pause here and there. Most fish we marked on sonar were in the 20-35 foot range with some exceptions.”

UO staffer Ben: “Lake Lanier bass fishing has been good. Both speed cranking and jig flipping have been effective techniques. Dropping down bait size definitely increases the chance of more bites.”

That’s the latest during the dead of winter up here. Compared to the Rockies, we’re still in a sauna! Just pick your preferred winter window and give it a go. And if you don’t want to open that window, stay warm and visit us at Booth 436 during next weekend’s ATL Fly Fishing Show!


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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