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 17, 2023

UO Fishing Report 2/17/23

This week’s theme is “Saturday’s Plan B.”  Last night’s 2.5 inches of rain have our region’s streams rocking and rolling. While most flows have already peaked, they’re still very high and will knock out your river trouting opportunities, at least for tomorrow. You’ll have to watch those river gauges carefully to see when flows drop back to your safe wading level.

It’s clear, real windy and cold here today. Air temps are dropping into the 40’s. Water temps are still pretty good, with Spoilcane and Dukes at 53F and Smith DH at 52F at 10AM. Those tribs are high and discolored, but will drop and clear quickly due to small, forested watersheds. We have videos on our full report. They’ll fish well today with bigger, brighter bugs and should be in good shape for the weekend. Therefore, high tribs are your first option for Plan B.

Other potential B’s are trout lakes and reservoirs.  See GAWRD’s trout stocking list last Friday and give those small lakes a try.

Reservoirs are also good, as bass and stripers chase shad under gulls.  Binoculars and sonar will be your two best strike indicators. We have some nice Lanier reports for you.

If you wanna stay high and dry, remember the Rabun Rendezvous and its great prize lists.

The Rabun Rendezvous - The Rabun Chapter of Trout Unlimited : The Rabun Chapter of Trout Unlimited

Looking ahead, next week will warm. Have your March gray and brown bugs ready.  Caddis are already popping on the Toccoa TW and we might see some hatches and “early risers” on bigger, warming trout streams.

See our full report via our home page (link in bio) and come by either UO store for your early spring supplies. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: parachute BWO, Griffith’s gnat, black elk hair caddis.

Nymphs & Wets:

Peach egg, squirmy worm, mighty may baetis, Violet midge, WD-40, Girdle bug.

Streamers & warm water:

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


They’re high, muddy, and ripping, but fall and clear quickly. Most are fishable today for bank walkers and careful waders. Smith had a cloudy, green tint from the lake discharge, but was very fishable. Just use your toes as turbidity meters and match your offerings to water clarity. The clearer the water, the smaller and more naturally colored your nymphs. Go pickpocketing the pockets via the hi-stick methods we described in Tuesday’s post.

UO guide Caleb enjoyed an off day:

“Small stream season is warming up!  I got out and did some personal fishing on a local stream. Drifting a small pheasant tail underneath a micro chubby was the key to success.”

Lucky Smithgall anglers might have  some higher flows and a slight bit of color still left in Dukes tomorrow (today had the best color)

 Big boys could still be on the hunt for high calories, so toss squirmies and rubberleg stones.  This week I ran into Caleb Bagley and his 8-year old son, Rhett on Smith DH.  Caleb shared a pic of a trophy brown that Rhett wrestled in from Dukes last December. I thought you would enjoy it and use that reminder of big fish that come out to play in high, dirty water. Keep that option in mind as river flows drop to fishable levels.

The Smokies are in similar shape: blown out.  Watch the gauges and Byron’s daily advice on when you should reunite.


Delayed Harvest:

Most were still fishing well before last night’s storm, thanks to the early February stockings. A young Smith DH angler picked the pockets last Saturday and said he was north of 30 fish. The upper half of Smith has more fish and has fished better, but the lower half offers solitude in the gorge. Hopefully this high water will push a few more fish down, too. Last week eggs, squirmies, mops, and tungsten nymphs produced well. Again, it was more about a good stalk and drift than the fly pattern.

I’ll repeat this from last week: 

To beat the Smith crowds, try it early or late. If you’re first to the pool and it has shade on it, your odds are good.  If you stay late and outlast most weekend warriors, those shadows will make fish more comfortable to feed again. And if you stay real late, you might discover the midge-sippers during the last hour of daylight.

It was nice to see DNRLE wardens Ann and TR patrolling the creek this week. I always enjoy chatting with them and thanking them for keeping the trout in Smith and Dukes.

Bigger DH waters are blown out right now, but you should get ready for some good fishing when they drop. 

The high flows should scatter out the stockers, and increasing water temps should get more bugs stirring. Have dry and wet versions of the following ready: quill Gordon’s, gray caddis, blue quills, and maybe some stray Hendricksons and March browns. 

North Georgia and Southwestern North Carolina Hatch Chart

Slick folks will remember my previous flow advice and might try some trophy hunting on the down side of the flow curve. 


Have some squirmies, hefty rubberlegs, and even some articulated streamers ready for heaving. Then toss your dry/droppers as streams eventually clear and bugs hatch.

Private Waters:

They fished fairly well for the few clients we’ve had. When the water approaches 50 degrees, you know you’ll be in business. Call the shop if you’d like to book a last minute trip and take advantage of next week’s warm days.


Bass action was actually slow last week for the few folks who gave it a shot.


UO buddy Landon said he’s been chasing stripers in his yak. Sometimes he’s too late to the scene and sometimes he hooks up. Last week motorboater Alex took pity upon the poor, slow yakker and invited Landon into his vessel. And they had a big time chasing stripers under the gulls!

HenryC: “Striped bass fishing on Lanier continues to impress for the month of February. Normally the waters are cold and the fish get lethargic but thanks to global warming our fishing isn't slowing down too much. I suspect we will see an earlier than normal pre-spawn and the fish actually might start heading up the rivers a week or two earlier than normal. 

Keep your eye on the surface water temps and when it hits 56/57 degrees you can start looking up river. We are also seeing more white bass in the mix this season which we can thank our GA DNR for that fishery. Best flies are still the somethin else in about a 1 1/2-2" size. Sinking lines are a must in case you do not see surface feeding fish. Our numbers are clearly down but our size is clearly up. If Landon is catching double digit fish, that tells you something (grin). On a final note for fly anglers, stay clear of picking up hitchhikers in kayaks on Lanier carrying conventional equipment. You could end up with a permanent fishing partner!”


UO guide Israel:

“Perch were biting well on the GA Power chain of lakes. They seemed to like small crappie jigs. My family seems to like them fried.”

UO buddy Avid Jack (formerly known as Academy Jack):

“Yellow Perch are biting at Yahoola Creek Reservoir. Caught 25 on Tuesday by trolling small Crank-baits. They make great fish tacos.”

GAWRD has fired up its boat generators and is on the hunt for spring walleye. Watch their river reports and other hot intel (including trout) in their weekly blog: 


Remember that several small lakes were stocked with trout last week, so give Vogel, Black Rock, or Nancytown a try while your favorite rivers recede.


Trout Board Revival:

Fans of the North GA Trout Online message board will be excited to know that is has been overhauled and restored. It’s much easier to post fishing reports and attach photos once again. Give it a try soon.  


Version 1 of the old board is still around, with two decades of historic trouting info that benefits all newcomers to fly rodding for trout.

Know the flow before you go. Use streamflows to your advantage and have a big time afield. After tomorrow’s chilly start, it might just be an early kickoff to spring’s hot action. Are you ready? We can help, so stop in and load up on fresh intel, flies, and supplies.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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