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 6, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -1/6/23

It’s been a very good, warm week of fishing up here. The midweek monsoon shut down action for a brief time, but recharged our streams well. Small and medium streams have already returned to fishable levels, while bigger ones (Nan, Luftee, Toccoa) are gonna take more time to drain off. Trouting was great as water temps rose near 50F.  It will still be good as water temps slide down a bit to the mid 40’s. Eggs and small nymphs are still hot. Rains don’t return til Sunday evening.

Ponds and mid-GA rivers also woke up with the warm air and rain, while Lanier was pretty good, too. Stripers are still a “hunt and shoot” game, with as many misses as hits. But the hits are big fish!

We have a boatload of trip reports from our staff and our angling buddies, who took full advantage of  holiday vacations.  Don’t miss our details in our full fishing report, linked at our home page. Wes’ hot fly list and guide/avid angler reports from as recently as yesterday will boost your chances of success. We have a ton of pics, too. Good luck and, for one last time, go Dawgs!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets:

Jig girdle bug, pink egg, cream Mop, Split case BWO, WD-40, mighty May, flashback Baetis, Root beer midge.

Streamers & warm water:

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


They’ve got great flows and decent water temps - in the mid 40’s.  Most of the flood surge has passed from these smaller streams and they’re looking great. Yesterday (5th) afternoon Spoilcane was clear and 52F, while Smith DH was murky green and 49F.  It’s not as warm today as yesterday’s 60-degree afternoon, so be ready for water temps in the 40’s. Expect nearly all hits on your nymph droppers.

UO friend RSquared: “The rain stopped mid-morning on Wednesday. I loaded my fly rod and pointed my old Jeep north heading to one of my favorite Brook Trout streams. Even at that high elevation, the water was running high, fast, and had a little color.  The Girdle Bug & Pheasant Tail that has recently given me success produced nothing. I eventually tied on a small egg pattern and started catching a few fish. It was a great spur of the moment solo fishing trip and was my first for 2023.”

UO Regular RonW: “The Trio closed out 2022 in style today at Dukes (12/31).  We were met with a steady rain, which lasted all day, and which we welcomed with open arms.  We had boots in the water at 8am, stream temp was 44F.  I lost my whole rig on the first cast thanks to a familiar "Root Ball", known for hiding fish and gobbling up flies. I re-rigged and on my 2nd cast, landed a beauty of a 16" rainbow.  After snapping a quick pic, I got back on my feet only to realize my fly was hung up again. I made a slight upward lift with my rod trying to free them and then it happend. I heard a pop....my custom 10'6" 4wt Kurt built for me snapped in half. To say I was crushed would be an understatement! This rod has been very good to me all across the SE and in 3 different countries.  I wiped away the tears, I mean rain drops, and headed back to the truck to rig up my backup rod. No sense in crying over spilled milk or broken fly rods!

The rain picked up and so did the catching. We hammered em' all day long. Tons of  wild bows for all. I caught 7 in about 5 minutes in one little run while the guys watched. For a few minutes, I felt like I knew what I was doing.  I also had several nice fish to the net. A few 15/16"ers , an 18" and a couple right at 20" . 

Eggs, squirmes and girdlestones were all I needed.   We bailed around 2pm, just in time to get home for the 4pm kickoff.  Water temp was up to 46° when I left, thanks to the warm rain.

All in all, it was another fantastic day on the water with my brothers! 2022 was a great year and I can't think of a better way to close it out. Cheers to 2023! “

Ian and Charity at R and R Flyfishing took advantage of the warm spell and hit some thawing Smokies streams. They fooled some nice wild rainbows by dredging his favorite park nymph patterns. Check their Facebook feed at:


Check them out at Virginia’s Wine and Flyfishing Festival, too.


Subtract a few degrees from this Luftee gauge and you’ll have an idea of high, cold park conditions.


Byron’s Smokies daily intel here:


Notice that big streams still have high flows and likely are not wadeable for a few more days.

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.



More Tooga info:

Smith DH:

It’s been fished hard by winter vacationers, but veterans with a good game are still scoring well. That game is stealth, light line, and a good drift.  If the water is high and stained, you can get away with 5X tippet. Once it clears, drop to 6 or 7X and improve your stalk.

UO young gun Ben: “Smith Creek fished well the other day.  Simple egg patterns worked well, as did a small France fly dropper above it.  Putting the old European nymphing in to play worked for me. I was even treated to this brookie double, which was quite a tussle on 7X tippet.”

New UO friend KenK also had a good day up there on his Euro rig and sent me this pic of a colorful brookie. Match your tippet and flies to water conditions. Low,clear flows suggest you go light on tippet and tiny on nymphs.

Warmwater Streams:

Athens Jay took full advantage of the UGA winter break and gave us several great reports. Here’s one:  “ I know it’s supposed to be trout season, but for those of us in the Piedmont, 2-3 days of warm weather can make the local predators frisky. You should definitely have a good safety plan, because rivers have no forgiveness. Always check the USGS gage! 2022 ended with a warming trend and a big surprise. I thought I’d have to bump weighted streamers on the bottom in deep holes, but fish were willing to come up from depths and eat. Large streamers in lighter baitfish colors thrown on a floating line made fish look up. Strip once, then pause and be ready for a solid hook set and a formidable battle. “

Private Waters:

UO buddy Sylvia: “Our trio  had a great day Sunday at Nacoochee Bend.  We fished a dry dropper rig with bright colored midges  hung under chubby Chernobyls as strike indicators.  That worked!  We fished deep and came up with some nice rainbows.  They were all jumpers so it made for a fun day. 

Lesson learned for the day: trying to take a river side video of the nice fish you caught by yourself (because your fishing buddy moved to another hole) leads to a wet phone!”


Proud Dad Kevin T said that he and his son Will had a wonderful first time flyfishing at Nacoochee Bend last month. Their UO guide, Palmer, said that Will was “a machine!”


HenryC: “Striper fishing over the week leading up to and past New Year's was pretty consistent. Fish were caught on all 3 patterns: deep, on the surface, and on extremely shallow flats. You just had to be at the right place at the right time. We saw 3 fish this week caught on the fly that weighed 20, 20, and 29 pounds! While our numbers caught are okay (not great) the size is noteworthy. Lanier is producing quality fish this winter and these fish are being caught in both rivers as well as on the lake, all the way up to Clark's Bridge. We still have a couple of open guide trip dates left in January. March is arguably our best month and dates are now going quick.

This Minnesota husband and wife team had fly rod stripers on their bucket list and…

mission accomplished!”


UO owner Jimmy paid some dues under yesterday’s bluebird sky: “Well, I, along with at least four other boats I spoke with, got skunked on Lanier.”

UO staffer Ben: “ We striper fished Wednesday night, and they were abundant in the river just above Lanier.”

UO buddy Landon hit Lanier last Sunday and said: “Location is top-secret - along with the 20 other boats that were there!  Stripers were coming up good for an hour in late morning, too, right in front of XXX park.

My friend Pat and his buddy came on their boat, too, and fished a small, hard-body, sinking bait. They did well catching them on the fall. Burn some boat gas and watch for birds in the air and bait balls on the sonar.”

There’s more  great trout and reservoir intel in today’s WRD fishing blog. Check out the small lake and walleye news, too.



Athens Jay: “Pond fishing was good last week as bass and crappie moved into shallow, warming water.  Light-colored, weighted streamers tied on long, light fluorocarbon tippet to sink fast we’re the ticket.  Just cast towards bank, fish them slow, bumping the bottom, and be ready for the strike.”

Mentoring Kudos!

They go to Athens Jay this week. He reports: “Fans of Brantley Gilbert know that he is passionate about the outdoors.


This week I had the opportunity to introduce him to the sport of fly fishing for the first time.  He quickly got the hang of casting and moved on to catching in short order. I think it is safe to say he is hooked, because he immediately asked me to help him select a fly rod and reel of his own. Stay tuned for more reports from this new convert! “

That’s a boatload of intel to kick-start your 2023 fishing year. Grab a rod and go soon to take advantage of our continued moderate weather. THE GAME isn’t until Monday nite, so you have the entire weekend to score your own striper and trout TD’s. Give us a shout at either UO store for hot flies, supplies, and winning game plans. And, for the final time:


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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