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, March 17, 2023

UO Fishing Report 3/17/23


Well, here’s to a soggy St Patty’s Day. At least the rain is recharging our rivers. I deliberately delayed today’s report so I could count raindrops and then direct you to fishable waters tomorrow.

The north GA/southwestern NC region has gotten about an inch of rain, so the majority of our rivers will be too high for safe wading tomorrow. The better bet is to head upstream to smaller waters, which will drop quickly. 

There are a few exceptions however, such as the upper Hooch, Tallulah, and Chattooga. We’ll just have to watch those stream gauges closely over the next 12-24 hours and ensure those flows don’t exceed our personal safe wading levels. When in doubt, stay out.



I always say that March has a split personality. Dr. Jekyll was around earlier, and that mild weather brought us some good, early, shallow action. Last week, however, Hyde showed up and stomped down our water temps, forcing most of us to return to winter dredging techniques for consistent action.  

Hyde’s supposed to exit by next Wednesday, so have some hope for spring dry fly action. We saw some early indicators this week, as described in our full report.

Flat water action is improving, according to our lake experts MD and Henry C. From crappie to bass to stripers, March action is on the upswing. It will only get better with the sun’s forthcoming warmth at midweek.

Check the flows before you go and aim for warmer afternoons when water temperatures will climb.  Headwaters, ponds, and lakes are safer bets right now, so plan accordingly. See our full report for more details.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: elk hair caddis (#16 tan, #18 black or gray) parachute BWO, March Brown, dark Hendrickson, parachute Adams (#14-18).

Nymphs & Wets:

Jiggy pats, ice pupa, twisted mayfly, Millers plus one, jigged pheasant tail, tungsten soft hackle hares ear, micro egg.

Streamers & warm water:

Complex twist bugger, UV polar jig, Finesse changer, polar changer. 


Headwater action slowed down slightly last week due to the cooler weather. The topwater action wasn’t as vigorous, but nymph droppers still produced for small stream fans. Blueline action will heat up with our midweek temperature rebound.

UO buddy RSquared: “I spent four days in Asheville attending TU’s annual Southeastern Rendezvous. Friday was a fishing day and my NC host & I made a day of it. We went up on the Blue Ridge Parkway and fished two of the many streams along that famous scenic highway. The water was clear & the wild trout were looking up. We both were using a tan Elk Hair Caddis. Size 16 worked better than size 14.”

Delayed Harvest:

UO buddy CDB: “Fished some NC DH waters last Friday. Copper hares ears and rust/brown rubber legs were very productive. Very early was the most productive fishing.  The water was still a little stained, but the fish were very willing. Once the cloud cover cleared up a little bit the fishing slowed down.  I scored another Appalachia slam, including this lovely brown trout!”

I did a river recon yesterday (16th). Chattooga DH was crystal clear and 48F around noon, and flows were seasonably normal.  Inexperienced anglers were picking off a few fish on squirmies and buggers.  I watched some occasional, splashy rises, but couldn’t see the bugs. I’d guess small caddis were emerging. It’s a good time to sift the drift with your paint strainer stretched over your landing net.  Try some small, natural nymph and soft hackle patterns. When it warms up next week, toss dry/droppers. From tiny caddis to bigger mayflies, make sure you have some gray in your dry box.

I then traveled further, across Wayah Bald, and studied Nantahala DH from my streamside perch. 

While naive stockers stayed deep, those smart little wild bows recognized early supper and  were cashing in. 

Water temp was 50F and three hatching bugs caught residents’ attention: abundant, tiny (#18-20) black caddis,

 a handful of #20 BWO’s, and an occasional #16 slate mayfly. Based on my pickled specimens, I’m calling that a Hendrickson dun.

Go deep for the stockers until they learn what natural bugs are. Try some eggs, bright beaded Euronymphs, mops, hares ears, and pheasant tails.  If it looks like food, they should swipe at it.

But wild fish fans will have good opps to match the hatches when they resume with next week’s warmth. From mayflies to caddis, throw gray dries above whatever nymph or soft hackle droppers you hang below them. 

Hunt before you fish: look for rises and search for bugs at the water’s edge and on streamside branches. Figure out the hatch and then match it,  just like the Orvis video showed you this week.  Ball caps and paint strainers should get workouts next week.

Hey, and when in doubt, just throw a #14-16 para-Adams and a tiny dark elk hair caddis trailer.  Hi-stick it slowly along the banks and in soft slicks behind boulders. If the water’s cold, then switch the back fly to a pheasant tail nymph or soft hackle, and even add a #6 shot six inches above it to fish deeper.


No recent reports to our shop. Plenty of fish tales on the web, however, as fresh spring stockers enhance catch  rates.

Private Waters:

UO manager Jake: “Despite the cold snap this week, both Nacoochee Bend  on the Hooch and Rainbow Point on the Soque fished well. With the increase in flows and the drop in water temps, the fish were hugging the bottom, and the key to success was bumping the bottom with your flies. No one pattern really stood out for me this week, with fish coming on Girdle Bugs, small eggs, soft hackles, midges, and Rainbow Warriors.  A good, deep drift was more important than our fly pattern.”

UO guide Ben had some happy clients on both rivers this week. Resident rainbows at our Soque Camp property took a liking to swung soft hackles, while Nacoochee Bend’s rainbows preferred drifted eggs, legs (Pat’s rubberlegs), and mops.

UO guide Caleb: “The Bend fished well this week despite the cold front. Small soft hackles and micro eggs brought rainbows to the bag. We’re starting to see some fish looking up, but nymphing was still the key to success.”

UO guide Israel:  “Soque River rainbows really liked the Pat’s rubberlegs that my clients tossed their way this week. Deep drifts on the chilly water brought the most strikes.”

UO guide Devin’s trio of Nacoochee Bend clients did well by deep drifting small and natural nymph patterns like hare’s ears and pheasant tails.


UO buddy Athens MD: “After spending a great weekend in Asheville, NC at the Trout Unlimited SE Regional Rendezvous, Athens Jay and I arrived back in Athens on Sunday afternoon and I decided to hit one of my favorite local lakes. My time window was short, and it was cold and spitting rain, but I managed a nice bass on a gray zonker and several big crappie on the very productive "black euro jig". Ospreys, pileated woodpeckers, paired mallards, and barred owls provided the background soundtrack, which was nice.”


HenryC:  “Lanier has awakened!  The Big 3, stripers, spots, and largemouths, have been eating nicely over the past week. Surface feeding is sporadic but still exists throughout the entire lake. More fish are moving down south while others are staging to go up river. Here's the best advice: JUST GO! Fish are eating somethin else flies better than anything, since they’re primarily on threadfin schools. Both intermediate and fast sink lines are a must as bait and predators move up and down the water column.”


GAWRD did some pros-speck-ting recently and shared their intel via today’s blog.  From trout to whites to walleye, the agency has a bit of everything for north GA fishing fans.


That’s the latest intel in this very late report. Hopefully our raindrop counts will help y’all decide which way to go tomorrow. When streams subside and when the icy air departs at midweek, north GA fishing should break loose. Spring is about to Break. Are you ready? Let us help. Stop in or give us a call at 706-878-3083 so we can enhance your own spring break-out!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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