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 3, 2023

UO Fishing Report 3/3/23

7PM update:

The storm front blew through northeast GA  from 4-6 PM today. While only a half to three-quarters of an inch of rain fell, it was a brief, intense slug and (unlike a soft, steady rain) it moved some soil. As a result, the Hooch  in town and nearly all of  its headwaters in the forest (pic) were high and muddy today at 6PM. 

Thanks to the lake, Smith DH was only slightly stained.  It will host a crowd tomorrow.

Here’s a 6PM Hooch video from Nora Mill Dam:

Other regional streams are running high and likely muddy, based on USGS gauges.


My thoughts on your weekend trout prospects are:

1) headwaters should drop and clear enough overnight to be fishable. Smith DH already is. Try dry dropper combos in soft spots and be ready for action! Lucky Dukes reservation holders and walk-ons might enjoy a garden hackle hatch. Some stain is good! Bring a big net and a buddy with a camera.

2) medium streams like the Hooch in Helen should drop and clear fairly quickly, and be fishable by Sunday or Monday at the latest. Watch the USGS gauges and compare the CFS readings to your own notes on your safe wading flows.

3) bigger watersheds may take a few more days to drop. 


4) Good weekend Plan B’s are headwaters, small trout lakes, and lake bass and stripers. We hope this update helps.

How good are we at UO? We’re so good that we’ll give you a partial report now and fill in its intro and conclusion tonite after the front passes.  So stop back in here after supper to read our storm assessment and accurately aim your vehicle to fishable waters tomorrow.

How good is that? Enjoy the past week’s fish tales right now in our partial report. Stay tuned for storm assessment, as long as I don’t get flattened.

Stop in either UO store for your March supplies. Make sure you gear up for both the high/cold and low/warm stream conditions in the “Jekyll and Hyde”  weeks ahead. Good luck!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries: Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, Humpy. 

Nymphs & Wets:

Squirmy Worm, Soft Hackle Partridge or Pheasant Tail, Micro Girdle Bug, Lightning Bug, Red Tag Jig, Diamond Midge.

Streamers & Warm Water:

Sparkle Minnow, Muddy Buddy, Polar Changer, Finesse Changer.


UO guide Palmer enjoyed his off day: “ I took the pup fishing with me on Tuesday. I found several wild fish eager to take a big #12 dry:  Caddis/Stimmy/Chubby in various colors. The wary ones took the small nymph dropped off the dry.”

UO friend RSquared: “I camped & fished for four days this week on one of our storied mountain WMA's.  Off & on rain & drizzle did not seem to hurt the fishing. The wild fish were looking up & I had my best success with tandem Blue Wing Olives in sizes 18 & 20. Hold-over stocked fish liked the Pheasant Tail.”

UO buddy Splatek: “Lil homey and I put in about 3 miles of scouting for next hunting season. I wet a line a few times and caught two rainbows on a high-elevation wild stream. A gold bead nymph was the ticket.

UO young gun Ben: “Our duo hit a high Hooch trib last week. The water was a bit high, but clear, so the fish were spooky. A good stalk, light tippet, and a #16 tan, hi-vis, clueless caddis dry was the trick. We caught a bunch of spunky, 6-10 inch, wild rainbows. We saw a few early caddis and cahills hatching, too.”

Delayed Harvest:

Got Squirmies and Buggers? It’s re-dosing time! Sneak a peek at GA’s brand-new stocking report and NC’s 2023 DH schedule.  You’ll be glad you did.




Note, however, that most of our favorite NC/Smokies streams were blown out by yesterday’s rains and this evening’s storm just delayed their drop.  The good news is that bugs are hatching up there, too, so take your road trips as soon as those streams recede.

A warm March day is a fine time to turn on a newbie to the sport you love. Set your own fly rod aside for an hour, give them a quick lesson, and get them on a fish or two. And you’ve just invested in a carpooling buddy for the rest of your life.

UO friend Habersham MB: “Here are a few pics from Smith on Saturday after the recent stocking.  Fish liked legs and eggs, with most on the egg.  I also got a few on a prince below an egg. I was just one brown short of a trout slam.

I also got a real nice private waters bow from the prior week. It was a great end of February for me.”

UO friend Andres:

“This is Andres. I’m the guy you showed how to twitch the Woolly Bugger at Smith Creek. Well, I have to say that method worked wonderfully and I hooked 2 within a few minutes of you leaving. Ended up catching my first brook trout ever on the woolly bugger. 

(Editor’s gift to y’all:  http://blog.angler.management/2021/03/untangling-trout.html)

Earlier that day around noon I landed a rainbow on a Pheasant Tail. It was a good day on Smith.

The previous day was a good day of fishing as well. The Toccoa River had a hatch going on and I landed my first fish on a dry fly. It was a small brown but it still counted!

I do love trout but my first love is stripers.  It was a pretty slow day on Lanier yesterday but I did land my personal best on a sinking line. “

Jake guided a long-time client on Smith DH and he had a banner half-day trip, with 20 rainbows and brooks to 16 inches brought to hand. They short-line nymphed thru pools and riffles, with small eggs, soft hackles, and Diamond Midges being the hot patterns.

UO buddy CDB: “Having gotten wet enough for today, I can now send you something a little more substantial this week.  It’s springtime, things are looking up and the streak is over!

Fished 2 different DH waters and some wild and scenic water this week. The water is warming up and there is a lot of activity in and on the water.  The trout are active and moving - which means they are looking up and you should adjust your tactics accordingly. Your sweet spot is going to be about 12-18 inches above the bottom in runs less than 4’ deep. In pools and runs deeper than that, figure the feeding zone is going to be about 2-4’ deep.  Buggy patterns were strong all week. Size 16 Flashback Hares Ear and 18 Rainbow Warriors were good on the sunnier days, similar sized Pheasant Tails and darker Copper Johns worked on the overcast and rainy days. Squirmy Worms in pink and red continue to produce consistently especially during it after rains. Size 10-12 Rubber Legs worked very well all week. Patterns with contrasting body and legs performed best. 

Streamers were great all week and clearly showed how active the fish have become. “Dangling” wasn’t nearly as effective as stripping the streamer - the fish are moving aggressively and want to see movement and want to chase. One of the things that makes streamer fishing such fun is you have a front-row seat to see the chase in the strike on many of the retrieves. We had a number of fish we could see travel a couple yards to grab the streamers. One very nice brown put in a show complete with a wake, big boil, and splash on the surface while menacing a large sculpin pattern. Keep an eye on your streamer, not the end of your fly line, and remember to keep that rod tip down!  Be ready to strip when the streamer hits the water - sometimes the fish hits the streamer immediately or on the first strip. 

Wednesday was the best day of the week, which brings me to the topic of “the streak”.  I’ve lived in Georgia for 5 years now and you may recall I’ve yet to put a Brook Trout in the net in the state of Georgia. I think a couple people have started a GoFundMe so they could stop hearing me talking about it. 30 minutes into the day I already had a couple browns and rainbows in the net using mostly Woolly Bugger and Bow Bugger patterns. Literally every color except yellow resulted in hookups. Olive and Thin Mint were top producers. By 2:00 PM, after a steady day of catching both species, it was starting to look like my “0 for Georgia” streak would stay intact.  I switched to a large tan articulated fathead sculpin and on the second strip the pretty char inhaled it. Streak over!  I’m still 0 for Rhode Island…but that streak won’t be ending anytime time soon. 

I hit some private waters the previous week and landed this really pretty bow.

A final note. If you aren’t using sinking line, you need to put some weight on non-beadhead patterns. Especially deer hair. It’s very buoyant. You don’t need to be on the bottom but you do want to be at least a foot or more under the surface.”

UO guide Devin: “My friend Nate from Cherry Street Brewing Company and I went to smith creek one afternoon this week. We did  well on #18-20 Parachute Adams, Black Stoneflies, and Purple Perdigons.”


UO Buddy “Skilz”: “We hit the river last Saturday with some overcast conditions and high, stained water.  We walked out to an immediate hatch of caddis and plenty of visible surface action as well.  Fish were picky, but a few fell for a Hares Ear pattern swinging mid-level in the water column to get the attention of those surface feeders.  My 5.5x tippet and #14 Hares Ear fooled a few. Im now tying some caddis emergers to take advantage of any more March caddis days that might be had!”

Private Waters:

UO guide Caleb: “We had a great trip to Rainbow Point on the Soque last weekend. The water was high and a little stained, which spread the fish out quite a bit. We had some success on a Squirmito but most fish were caught pulling small streamers.”

Jake’s Nacoochee Bend clients, Chandler and Landon, caught a nice batch of rainbows by dredging small eggs, Diamond Midges, and Rainbow Warriors in the higher water.


Athens Jay: “All area waters, flowing and still, are warming rapidly. Bass are on the move and looking for a meal. Don’t be afraid to go big with your streamer selection. Large articulated streamers, either weighted or cast on a sink tip line, are working really well. Cast and strip once, pause… repeat. Eats have been extremely aggressive. “


UO buddy Athens MD: “Here in the Athens area things are heating up and bass and crappie are moving shallow and getting active. I've had luck in local lakes that have threadfin shad by throwing mottled gray feather Gamechangers on sinking lines to obvious schools of shad and to actively feeding bass. Crappie are very close to shore in spots and it pays to risk it and cast under branches to reach surprisingly big ones in shallow water. I've had great luck with black "euro-jig" style streamers with marabou tails dropped off big Chubby Chernobyls (with a few overzealous crappie hitting the Chubby). Brown and burnt orange Rubber-Legged Dragons with bead chain eyes are working well, too. I predict the crappie will truly be on fire in the coming week.”

UO informant RonW finally got back on the water: “I fished Lake Arrowhead with my cousin last weekend. We managed to catch half a dozen or more each despite the crappy weather that followed us all over the lake.  White and chartreuse spinnerbaits ruled the weekend. I even churned up a 5.5# largemouth. It was great to get out on the water after such a long sabbatical from fishing.”


W2 fans, spring has sprung. We’re not talking taxes; we’re talking walleyes and whites! Don’t miss GAWRD’s timely, “shocking”

intel that just came out today:


UO regular reporter Landon: “I did some nighttime jigging on bridge pilings with a buddy in his Jonboat a couple nights ago. The crappie were slow on numbers but good on size!”

HenryC: "Fishing is still a hit or miss prospect as we wait for the striped bass pre-spawn to begin and they eventually head upriver for their annual spawn. Good fishing can be had if you can predict what part of the day the fish will feed. If you can do that, then we will rename you "Merlin". Stay out all day and you will find the fish feeding at some point. 

The bass however are starting to come shallow, so opportunities exist to catch fish on the fly on Lanier. It's just not a slam dunk just yet. I suspect over the next week, with a little settling weather and the full moon approaching, fishing will get a little more consistent. Fish are scattered all over the lake but there are big groups out there to be found. Again, striper size on Lanier is outstanding.”


Yellowstone Dream Trip

Don’t forget your raffle tix. Time is running out. Show some luv to my Rabun 522 chapter and credit us for your splurge. Thank me later, after you win something awesome.



Go hit the headwaters, bass ponds, and striper lakes tomorrow. Watch the stream gauges and get back on those bigger trout waters as soon as they drop to your safe wading levels in the days to come.  Strip some streamers in the stain, then be ready for good dry/dropper action as they clear. Use your submerged toes to gauge visibility  and to determine what to throw.  Good luck. Call our Helen shop for daily updates. And don’t forget those squirmy worms.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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