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 24, 2023

UO Fishing Report 2/24/23

Wake up!  This week’s theme is “Wakeup Call.”  The warm weather has awakened a lot of fish and even a few trout stream bugs.   Area streams are clear, with normal seasonal flows and water temps unseasonably warm- in the fifties.  


That’s prime for trout! Some of the early spring bug hatches are also getting a head start. It may still be too early for heavy hatches, but you might find a few fish that are now willing to “look up,” especially in the headwaters. Dry/dropper combos with a couple of Wes’ hot fly patterns will be great search rigs.

Lake fish are stirring, too. Stripers are still a run-and-gun game, but bass are getting more active in the warming water. Again, size is compensating for numbers. Match the hatch with your streamers. It seems like a small threadfin game right now. Let the diving birds and flashing sonar screens guide you to the predators.

While March may still turn wintery on us, this weekend will be a great time to wet a line. Just take a light raincoat to fend off a possible shower or two. So “wake up” yourselves from your winter naps and get outside while April pays us a brief visit.  

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: elk hair caddis, parachute Adams.  Add some quill gordons, blue quills, and hendricksons to your box for the weeks to come.

Nymphs & Wets:

Chartreuse egg, pink egg, red tag jig, lightning bug, CJ controller, CDC pheasant tail, hares ear nymph and soft hackle, brown girdle bug.

Streamers & warm water:

sparkle minnow, muddy buddy, finesse changer, Clouser minnow. Cowen’s Somethin Else.


They’re prime!   Start with an elk hair caddis or parachute adams and see if they’ll rise. If they’re sluggish or if you reach a deep pool, add a small pheasant tail dropper and watch your dry as your strike indicator.  A tungsten beaded fly will get the dropper down. We have some pretty ones in our shop bins. For unweighted nymphs, add a #8 or 6 tin shot four inches above your bug.

Foothillsbilly Bob:

“Pine Squirrel leech was the ticket today. Size 8. The bigger one took a size 18 egg. Dukes flows were up, but decent and clear. Fish were on the edges in feeding lanes off of drop offs into winter pools. Nothing really in the shallows right now. 6x mandatory. I didn’t get to Smithgall until 1:30, so I only had 3 hours. 5 fish to hand. 1 small one, a couple 14” and these two bigger ones.”

The Smokies are also in great shape, with a few bugs popping. Byron provides a dose of optimism in todays LRO report.


UO buddy Ryan:

“MadFishinSkillz and crew headed north to the waters near Bryson City for a fantastic overnight camping trip filled with wild trout.  Despite the high water from recent rains nearly blowing out nearby delayed harvest sections, luckily there were a few smaller streams which cleared up nicely to give up some really pretty wild fish! Euro-style hares ears size 14-18 fooled a good bit of fish thrown on 5.5x tippet.”

Delayed Harvest:

They should fish well for anglers with the right bugs and a good drift. 

Some streams got a lot of pressure last week and recent stockers have already smartened up. If action is slow on your buggers and squirmies, be ready to change to lighter tippet (5 and 6X), smaller nymphs and midges, and smaller, softer strike indicators like yarn, bushy dries, or the smallest Airlock Indi’s.  It often takes stockers several weeks to recognize adult flies as food, so DH dry fly action may still be a bit slow. Your droppers will get more attention.

All DH waters except the Toccoa look inviting.  The Toccoa drains a big watershed, so its flows may still be too high for safe wading.  Consider floating it.


New Rabunite KenK:”Nice to see fresh trout in Smith Creek.  I brought a friend, Jack, and we landed about 20. The infamous mop was the hot bug.”

UGA 5Rivers dude Connor:

“Hey, we ended up going to XXX on unnamed border river last Saturday and it went better than expected. We ended up catching 4 today and a majority of them were wild. We were fishing something like a caddis down to a stone fly nymph!”

Hatch Chart:

It’s time to start paying attention to these. Save and use this one to help you stock your spring boxes and match the hatches at hand.



UO buddy Ryan checked in with a Hooch report: “MadFishinSkillz and new fishing friend Mati hit the Hooch Tailwater this past Saturday for a day of euronymphing! The water was very clear, and the temps warmed to the mid 50’s around lunch, which was right about the time that the fish were biting well.  Mati had never euronymphed, but quickly caught on after MFS brought 2 browns to the net with a few demo casts in the first pocket.  Tight-line rookie Mati proceeded to net 4 nice browns, with MFS finishing with half a dozen, all mostly landed on a size 18 hares ear pattern in a light tan shade, tossed on 5.5x tippet.”

UO’s Casting for Recovery buddy Kitty: “My son and I had a blast helping GAWRD stock the Hooch DH at Paces Mill!”

Private Waters:

They’ve fished real well this week!

UO Helen manager Wes: “our private waters fished well this week with the warm weather. Small afternoon hatches made swinging unweighted soft hackles successful. Girdle bugs, pheasant tails, and streamers were good options as well.”

UO guide Como put his clients on some real nice Soque River fish.  Most were dredged up with either a rubberlegged stone or some of his hot midge patterns.

UO buddy Megan:  “Hi! Hope this comes through in case you need any pics! Took a friend who needed some hydrotherapy to Nacoochee Bend.  It was her first time fishing with anything other than a kids’ rod/reel in the late 70s. She hooked into plenty of nice fish, and we landed 8 in half a day on the water. It was exactly what we both needed!  Rainbow warriors, zebra midges, and squirmies were popular menu items. 

I went and fished Dukes solo. The duck butt fly that my hubs tied up before the weekend fished low/slow was super attractive to those good lookin’ rainbows.  Had some dry fly action to round out the day before the rains began!”


HenryC: The spring pre-spawn is definitely on. Fish are feeding both early and late. You just have to ride to find them. No one part of the lake is any better than the other as fish are both north and south. Warmer weather has shifted the bite. It feels like March for the past 8-10 days and water temps are already pushing 53-55 all over the lake. Even the bass are waking up, making for a nice mixed bag on the fly. You'll need both slow sinking intermediate line as well as a fast-sink line, too. We are starting to see stripers of all sizes mixed in the catch now. Fish from 10" up to 32" are now being caught.”


UO owner Jimmy got out on Lanier Wednesday afternoon.   He had high hopes as he soon spotted some diving gulls. Alas, as he crept up to the flock with his trolling motor, the fish and birds took off. He had no more luck finding action, and chalked it up as a nice boat ride. We all win some and lose some. But you can’t win if you don’t play.

Yakkin’ Landon couldn’t catch up to the stripers this week, but got some nice consolation bass: “ Had to drag a shaky head in dirty water to get my line stretched this morning.”

And at UO, we don’t embellish the bite. We’ll tell you when it’s hot and when it’s not. Despite our historic moniker of The Liars Club, we’re gonna give you accurate intel. Even when we’re humbled ourselves. Let’s why they call it “fishing.”

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, which is refreshed every Friday afternoon:


Remember that several small lakes were stocked with trout earlier this month, so give Vogel, Black Rock, or Nancytown a try if you don’t wanna wade. I’ll bet a fresh stocking report will be posted today:


There’s your wake-up call. Load your fishing stuff and raincoat tonight, check the USGS gauges, and make a plan. Get out that door early tomorrow and make some fine memories on the water. Stop in either shop on your way to destination X.

PS: don’t forget to net a few Dream Trip tix, too. When trouting dies here next summer, you just might headed to Trout Nirvana:


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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