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, December 29, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 12/29/23


Better late than never? Thanks for your patience while several of us worked overtime today to provide breaking intel for your holiday fishing weekend.

For trout, the good news is that our flood flows have receded and nearly all streams are fishable once again - for careful waders. The bad news is that cold weather may slow down the bite in some streams. Winter dredging techniques will bring you the highest scores.

On the lake front, the bait is still hanging deep, so the stripers are, too. Conventional tackle is still outproducing shallow fly techniques.

Watch the weather and water. If your schedule is flexible, aim for the sunny, warm afternoons for your best trouting action. If your fishing date is fixed, just have realistic expectations for the weather and water conditions you’ll encounter.  Call or visit either UO store for daily updates and best bets.

Check out our full report at our blog:


 (Link in bio)

We hope your new year is happy, healthy, and full of new fish stories!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, cream midge, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Ruby midge, little black stone, micro girdle bug, pheasant tail, Twister egg, Rainbow warrior, Walt’s worm.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, muddy buddy, (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, finesse changer.


They’ve now returned to low, clear flows.  See our Wednesday post and try some dry/droppers. Better yet, drop downstream to larger, warmer waters for higher success rates this winter.

UO buddy RSquared: “My former APES student, Sawyer Maddux & I, fished my favorite wild Brown Trout stream Saturday. It was a beautiful sunny day. The water was low & very clear which made the fishing a challenge. We started off with dry-dropper rigs but had no takers. Eventually, we switched to just dry flies & enjoyed a little success. The flavor of the day was a size 16 Royal Wulff.”

Rabunite “Flipper” followed right behind the weekend storm surge and had a great Wednesday at Dukes Creek, as reported in our Wednesday post. Hint: Smithgall  has the most open reservations on winter Wednesdays. Keep in mind if you can break away at midweek. Call the park at 705-878-3087 to hunt for an open angling slot.

Delayed Harvest:


The Rabunite (Rabuntu.org) trio of Flipper, Sissy, and Dredger “weathered” a tough, blustery afternoon on the Chattooga DH today. Flows finally receded to wadeable levels for experienced, careful waders.  But the cold, overcast weather had the flood survivors glued to the bottom. The trio managed just a handful of hookups, with only half of those rainbows coming to the net. Best bugs were eggs and pheasant tails behind plenty of split shot on a long leader. Dredger got abused by a trophy bow that inhaled his egg, jumped twice, ran across the river, and wrapped him around a boulder. It broke his flimsy tippet and his heart. 

An experienced SC dad/son duo also had similar, slow results.  Wait for some warmer, sunny weather for better catch rates here. Half of the DH stockers might be in Tugalo Lake by now, after last weekend’s flood. Cover some ground in the DH section  to find those flood survivors in their slow, deep refuges.

UO buddy RonW posted a now-outdated Tooga report on NGTO. The pre-flood story and pics are still a good read:



Smith DH anglers were having luck last weekend by dredging bigger nymphs and squirmies along the softer stream edges, outside the flood flows. As the flow recedes, return to your low water game of light tippets and small, dark nymphs. Smith will fish better in cold weather than other DH streams due to slightly warmer water from the lake outlet.


Dredger enjoyed a great afternoon yesterday as he broke in his new 10-foot, 3-weight Clearwater rod. Euro techniques brought to hand a big bunch of bows along with several brooks and browns. Half the bows were colorful wild fish, too! 

 Biggest to hand was a retired, hook-jawed brood bow, but best fish of the day was a 13-inch wild brown that jumped three times and gave him quite a tussle before coming to net.

Stockers liked the bigger bugs like sexy Walts and mops, while wild fish showed a strong preference for his #18 France fly dropper. Riffles were devoid of fish, which were bunched up in deeper, slower flood refuges after last weekend’s storm surge.

Private Waters: 

Most of our UO trips were canceled due to high water. We were finally able to get our clients back on the rivers by Thursday.  UO manager Jake weighed in this evening with a stellar fish tale:

“The Bend fished EXCELLENT today with the recent increased flows and the snow flurries flying around. First time fly anglers, Casey and Clayton picked it up quickly, and were off to a strong start. The father/son team landed well over two dozen fish during the afternoon, with four really large fish. All of our fish were caught nymphing, with plenty of shot to dredge the bottom. Hot flies were small eggs, Y2K bugs, Red Tags, and Rainbow Warriors.”


Hank took the week off for the holidays. 


In his place, UO buddy Landon offered a couple trip reports:

“We found a couple groups coming up  super early just off big point on the north end of the lake on Sunday morning with birds. Caught one/ lost one on a keitech in my kayak.

I drove around the whole lake Monday looking for fish/ birds and stayed in the car for 6 hours. Finally found some on the north end but they moved too quickly  to stay on them in the kayak. Managed a couple spots on a swim bait as a consolation prize.”

Most of the stripers have been deep. If you’d like to pursue them, check out WRD’s latest intel from its guide partners:



Our South GA buddy, Bert:

“Saltwater (GA Coast) – The winter warmup this week spurred some good bites. Jay 

Turner fished the Savannah area on Sunday for a short time from the bank and caught 

trout on almost every cast. He used the small, 3-inch Keitech and a light Zombie Eye 

Jighead. My daughter Ellie was visiting during the holidays, and we fished the Brunswick 

area on Saturday. We bounced around between small creeks at low tide and caught 58 

redfish (only kept 6). We picked up a quart of lively shrimp from Wat-a-melon Bait and 

Tackle, and the reds were chowing them threaded on a 3/16-oz. Redfish Wrecker Jighead 

and fished on the bottom. We just kept easing along and pitching until we found fish. Our 

biggest was 27 inches, and we caught a half-dozen oversized fish. 

David and Parker Lewis also caught a bunch of redfish by floating live shrimp and a few by bouncing a 

Trout Trick plastic on Saturday. They had 18 reds (3 oversized), and a couple sheepshead 

and black drum. I heard from another angler who also fished live shrimp on Christmas 

Day and he put it on the trout by fishing over shell mounds. Tommy Sweeney caught 20 

trout (16 keepers) and 10 sheepshead (all keepers) in the Brunswick area on Wednesday. 

Live shrimp was the ticket to their catch. Capt. Tim Cutting (fishthegeorgiacoast.com) 

said that the bite was consistent again this week. Fishing the Brunswick area, he caught 

20 to 25 redfish (including a few oversized fish) per trip from his good creeks. He also 

caught about 20 keeper trout per trip (mostly keepers). His best presentation was Assassin 

Sea Shad and Down South paddle-tails rigged on spring lock Zombie Eye Jigheads. He 

caught a few on live shrimp rigged on jigheads and under floats. Wat-a-melon Bait and 

Tackle in Brunswick is open Friday through Sunday from 6am to 4pm each week. They 

have plenty of lively shrimp and fiddler crabs and also have live worms and crickets for 

freshwater. They’re on Hwy 303 just north of Hwy 82. For the latest information, contact 

them at 912-223-1379.”

Capt. Bert Deener guides fishing trips in southeast Georgia and makes a variety of both 

fresh and saltwater fishing lures. Check his lures out at Bert’s Jigs and Things on 

Facebook. For a copy of his latest catalog, call or text him at 912-288-3022 or e-mail him 


That’s the latest between snow flurries, as several of us now thaw out from today’s frozen exploits.  Thank God for hot showers!  We hope our UO intel helps y’all to make one more great fishing memory for 2023 or to start off your new year with a bang. Don’t forget a wading belt, staff, and buddy and a dry change of clothes in the car. If you don’t believe me, just ask Flipper.

Stop in either UO shop on your way north to some chilly trout waters. At least there’s some heat and plenty of great fish stories in our stores while you wait for rising temps after lunch!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, December 22, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 12/22/23

Here’s a favorable holiday report for y’all. Low flows and warm weather will greet trouters this weekend. Toss in a bunch of fresh, na├»ve DH stockers and you have awesome ingredients for some pre-Christmas success. 

Check rain totals and resulting streamflows before you embark on your post-holiday trips next week. Indicator nymphing and small bugger stripping have been the best techniques this week. Take a few dries, too, in case the sun warms afternoon waters and encourages a few fish to look up. You may have to go early or late in the day to avoid holiday crowds on the most popular streams.

Lake stripers are scattered once again and have been hanging deep, often beyond the range of flyrodders.   Our own success plummeted last week, despite abundant bait in the creek arms.  Even the gulls and loons seemed to have a tough time. Hopefully those stripers will slide back up to shallower depths next week.  Their size still compensates for all the angler time spent tracking them down. Take two rigged rods (intermediate and quick sink lines) with you and follow the birds.

Our latest trip reports and Wes’ hot fly list are in our weekly blog.  Note WRD’s DH gifts.



Stop in either or both UO stores for hot flies and last-minute holiday gifts for friends and family. We have some altered holiday hours so our staffers can celebrate, too, so watch our  “sticky” on Instagram and Facebook later today for our two stores’ schedules. We hope everyone has a blessed holiday week!

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, cream midge, Griffith’s gnat.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Ruby midge, little black stone, micro girdle bug, pheasant tail, Twister egg, Rainbow warrior, Walt’s worm.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, muddy buddy, (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, finesse changer.


They remain low, clear, and cold. Spoilcane was skinny, clear, and 44F at 11 this morning. 

Bluelines north of the border are real cold and their catch is slowing down if you icy waters.  Ian just shared his Smokies update:


You still have a shot at GA blueline residents, since our lower elevation streams run warmer.  Stick with your summer stealth technique and toss a fluffy dry with a short dropper nymph during warm afternoons.  More fish will likely take the dropper, especially if that nymph bumps along the bottom.

Fish like a Rabunite and use a net first: the internet. Check the weather and water. Look at your weather app and aim for a warm afternoon. Use the USGS flow gauges to know the flows and water temps before you go.


UO buddy RSquared: “Fellow retired educator, Harold Hogan and I fished one of Southwestern North Carolina's fabled wild trout streams this past week. The fridgid weather had the trout hugging the bottom instead of looking up. We fished hard and were able to stick a few with a fly known as "Just Add Water" and a few variations of wet flies.”

Delayed Harvest:

GA and SC wildlife agencies spiced up these special reg waters just in time for your holiday break. It’s a great time to introduce new fly anglers to trout fishing. 

Hopefully Santa will bring you a stream thermometer, your winter strike indicator.   Just aim for warmer afternoons and toss junk food (squirmies, eggs, buggers) for fresh stockers and Wes’ recommended small, dark nymphs for fall holdovers. See our November 2020 column in The Angler magazine for more DH fishing tricks.



It ran 48F at 11 today, and the parking lot was already half-full with vacationing trouters. Given the pressure, y’all may have to resort to thin tippet and small nymphs sooner rather than later. Start with eggs and squirmies, but be ready to downsize if the bite is slow. Go early or late to avoid the park crowds and to take advantage of shadows on the stream. Watch for eagles after 5PM.

Rabunite Nan: “We had a blast on Wednesday. We lost track of fish we caught -maybe 30+? Only stayed two hours cuz I ran out of steam early.   I only used one fly at a time, mostly a nymph under an indicator with a small split shot, and I just did little sidearm casts upstream and never got tangled. I ended the trip with several trout on top that sipped my BWO dry fly.”


UO staffer Dredger: “ I hit Tooga DH for a few hours last Monday afternoon . Great weather; I beat the winds. (West winds usually not a big deal anyway, since the river runs south in a gorge).  Landed a bunch of bows and a couple browns. Fish were not picky.  Drifted nymphs (prince and pheasant tail dropper) under a medium football indicator and a small, stripped bugger both worked in the 42F water.

While some fish are scattered by the last high flow, a lot of trout are still podded up in flood refuges. Find one and you will likely find a bunch.Take a noob with you and be the hero during your time off.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays to y’all!”

Athens Jay: “Jamie and I headed up to float some DH water in NC. Very low water and very cold air temperatures made things challenging, 

but we managed to catch some nice trout of all three species. Jamie sacrificed quantity for quality and threw a big articulated tan/white streamer on a sinking line. He was rewarded with big fish of the day. I spent more time bobber fishing and had best luck with a combination of a tungsten bead Sexy Walt’s and a cream egg. The egg got a lot of eats.”

Private Waters: 

UO-Helen manager Wes:  “It's big fish season on private waters. While the flows remain low and the cool temps have the water gin-clear, with a little stealth and patience you can catch some great fish right now. Key tactics have been stealth, lighter line, and making sure you are down near the bottom. If you are running an indicator, then use yarn or a dry fly that will land softly. Don't be afraid to change up flies till you figure out what they are wanting on that day.  Eggs, small flashy nymphs, and small stonefly patterns produced well for me in the last week.”

UO guide Caleb: “I had the privilege of taking two brothers on a Gilligan Special last weekend at Nacoochee Bend. 
 Despite the cold weather, we were able to bring in several fish dredging a peach egg on the bottom,  with a midge a couple feet above it. This was the brothers first ever time on a fly rod, and they said they had a great experience and hope to return soon.”

UO staffer Grant:  I had a great time hosting my UNG 5Rivers crew last week at Nacoochee Bend.  We caught some nice fish using micro girdle bugs followed by a soft hackle. The low water made it a little tough, but we found success using light tippet and wool indicators that landed softly.”

To order a trip gift certificate for that perfect holiday treat, check them out here:


Small Lakes:

Marty from UGA took advantage of mild, stable weather conditions to take his girls out to a local pond. They had a successful day!


Hank: “Lanier is still fishing a tad slower than we would like to see. Water temps are dropping some but the fish are deeper than we'd expect. I've suggested canceling some trips this week as I'm not overly confident of the fishing just yet. Hopefully the upcoming full moon will get these fish back on the feed. We've caught a few good Alabama bass recently but most folks are obviously wanting to catch striped zebras. Happy holidays to all...”


GAWRD has more lake intel in its weekly blog, just posted an hour ago.  If you can get down to them, spots and stripers  are feeding well in the depths.



UO guide Como to some time off to return home and chase bull reds in the LA delta.  As usual, he and family members were quite successful.

There’s your latest intel from our bunch of UO  elves.  May you have a wonderful winter break and celebrate the reason for the season with family and friends. Stop in either UO shop for hot seasonal flies and last-minute holiday gifts.  We’ll be glad to help. 


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays y’all!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.