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, February 3, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report -2/3/23

We have a fairly nice week ahead as north GA dries out a bit. Today it’s sunny, chilly, and breezy in Helen, while we have a  midweek warmup for anyone who can flex their off days. Headwater stream temps were 46-48F when I checked at midmorning today, so that’s good news.  Streamflows in small and midsized creeks have already dropped to fishable levels after yesterday’s inch of rain. Don’t let the wind scare you off.  Remember that most stream sections are in gorges and protected from the wind by trees and mountainside. 

Larger watersheds like the Toccoa and Luftee are still high and ripping, however, so check the USGS flow gauges before you go.  Have you started your own smart phone notes page yet to document flow vs your wading ability on each trip? That personal intel will sure help your future trip planning.

There’s some hot DH intel in our full report, so DH fans oughta dig deeper to unearth some good nuggets.

Lanier stripers have been hit or miss again, but the hits have been for extra bases!  Landon hit a homer with a 20-pound plus fish from his yak. Henry’s overview and Landon’s fish tale are in our full report.

It’s shaping up to be a fun-filled weekend, from the fly fishing show to stream and lake opportunities. Take advantage of them while you can.   Check out our full report and Wes’ hot fly list via our home page or at 


Good luck in the days ahead.  Don’t forget this weekend’s ATL flyfishing show.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets:

Chartreuse egg, mighty may baetis, Violet midge, WD-40, RS2

Streamers & warm water:

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


They’re clear and cool, with good flows. Spoilcane and Dukes were 46-47 degrees today at 10AM.  Expect more hits on your nymph dropper than your dry indicator. If it warns above 50F, however, have hope for a few fish on top.

UO guide Caleb: “I went small stream fishing for myself. Numbers were a bit low in the bitter cold but managed to bring a few wild rainbows into the hand using midges and small baetis patterns. “

Smokies streams have been a bit warmer than in past weeks, but consistent rains and snow still have most of them high and ripping. You’ll do better at lower elevations and latitudes. Watch the Luftee gauge as a good index of east side conditions, and watch Byron’s Smokies daily intel here:


Delayed Harvest:

Most should fish well. I saw a real good strike indicator at the Smith DH vehicle bridge this morning: lots of wagging tails. A tenkara angler said they’re hitting anything thrown at them. It’s a good time to take that new fly angler on a trip.

Be careful at Ami and Toccoa DH, since their flows are high. Check the gauges before you go. In fact, the Toccoa might only be fishable by raft or boat until/if flows drop in late spring.  It’s not a wader-friendly stream during winter rains.

Chattooga DH is dropping and should be fishable for most folks who can wade well. The mid-January stockers will start smartening up soon, so if your buggers are ignored, try an egg/nymph combo.

Athens Alan broke his own ice:

“Here is my first fish of 2023. It came on Sunday from the Chattooga.  I finally got up there for a couple of hours before the rain and brought several to hand on bead-head pheasant tail with rubber legs. Had a NICE rainbow on that broke me off in fast water. Lots of water, clear and moving. Only saw one other angler up there, with no ice to chop through!”

Be on the lookout for WRD’s February refreshening of our DH streams. Tune in to the agency’s Friday trout stocking updates on its trout web page.  Based on my Smith recon this morning, y’all might read some good news from WRD later today.

(Update: indeed, some great WRD news was posted in their afternoon report:


Private Waters:

UO manager Jake: “Scott, Brad, Collin, and I fished Rainbow Point on the Soque earlier in the week prior to a front moving through. The fishing was great, and Collin landed a really nice brown trout right out of the gate. The water was slightly stained from previous rains, and was just a touch higher, which allowed us to fish some bigger nymphs than I have been the past few weeks. We caught fish on big stones, small eggs, and various flashy attractor nymphs in size 14-16. “

As we reported earlier, the awesome vets from Project Healing Waters-Atlanta had a fun Saturday at Nacoochee Bend. Thanks to some timely tips from their awesome volunteer guides, everyone landed one or more solid rainbows. Best bugs were dredged eggs, squirmies, and small nymphs. The action picked up with the afternoon sunshine, and a few fish even started chasing streamers. A good time was had by all.


HenryC: “.Stripers are still hit or miss... I personally missed them on Wednesday but slammed them on Thursday. Every day is different and you simply have to "go to know".  Fish are in their usual winter places and still eating small 2" threadfin shad. Somethin' else flies are positively your best bet. You'll need to carry both a fast sink and slow sink to cover your bases.  Striper sizes are starting to mix between 3yr old fish and 8yr old fish.”


Henry nailed it. Here are two hits and two misses to validate his report. 

Lanier local Academy Jack has been following bait and predators into the backs of creeks. When he has found those fish schools, he’s had good luck on live medium shiners, fished on circle hooks so the stripers could be released.

Landon went birdwatching last week.  He rode around the lake and pulled out binoculars at each ramp he visited. He finally spotted some diving gulls at one uplake ramp and unleashed his yak from the back of the pickup truck. He paddled out, saw a few scattered, breaking fish, and started tossing a Keitech swimbait on his spinning rod. And it buckled over as this 20-pound plus striper towed his boat. He finally wrestled it in just long enough for a quick pic. Congrats Landon!

UO staffer Joseph: “I’ve been out on Lanier the last two days and it hasn’t been the best. On Monday conditions looked good and there were birds diving here and there but it seemed the fish were more spread out and not as eager to show themselves. Israel and I went out Tuesday and again had no luck. Conditions were not in our favor with higher winds and sunny conditions. Most of the birds were sitting on the water and all of the bait we marked had no fish on it. We finally marked a group of 5-6 fish but they were moving too fast for us to make a solid presentation.”


Athens Jay: “Steadily rising daily temperatures this time of year make pond fish hungry. Watch for a string of warmer days and give your favorite pond a try. I’ve been using a very “wood friendly” fly design. I can drag this streamer over all sorts of submerged structure.”


UO friend Bert from Waycross had a great recent trip to the Okee Swamp. He trolled spinners and landed a new personal best bowfin of 11lb, 7oz, with the next one weighing 9 1/2 lb.  He hopes to chase them with his fly rod this spring, when the water warms.


There’s your post-storm report. The skies are clearing, streamflows are dropping, and some naive fish might be taking up residence in our DH streams. Your biggest dilemma is whether to come up here and fish or go to the Gwinnett show and talk about it. Plan well and do both! Good luck. Holler if we can help y’all further. Pry out some hot intel from our guys working show Booth #436!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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