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 1, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 12/1/23


We have good, bad, better, and best news this week. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: it’s cold and raining and most of the weekend might be a washout for many of you. Now for the good news: it’s raining! Hopefully our streamflows will recharge, at least temporarily. The better news is that DH streams got redosed by the wildlife agencies before the holiday and are fishing well for stealthy anglers using light lines.  And look, some breaking Hooch news:

Henry C reports better news on the Lanier striper front, with birds leading folks to breaking fish and some big stripers.  It’s better for coastal fans, too, with bonus redfish reports. And the best news is that you can wait out these storm fronts while tuning into THE game tomorrow afternoon.

We have a long, detailed report today to capture two weeks’s worth of tales.  Folks who click on that blog link will net our hot UO info and catch more fish. Good luck this week! Stop in either or both UO stores for your own resupply and for holiday gifts for friends and family.



Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

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

Nymphs & Wets: 

WD-40, Twister egg, Edwards stonefly (black), root beer midge, CJ controller, pheasant tail nymph.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) sparkle minnow, rubber bugger, black woolly bugger. And for bass & stripers: clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, finesse changer.


They’re still real low and clear this morning, but we’re hoping that this weekend’s rain will boost flows. Water temps have rebounded after this past week’s icy plunge. 


At 9AM today Spoilcane was 46F and Smith DH, 52F.  Watch river gauges for current flows and temps before you leave the house.  And here’s some more good news: the Chattooga at Burrell’s Ford gauge had its temp monitor restored, thanks to SCDNR and the USFS!


Ian at R&R just posted a Smokies fishing summary. We’re glad he dodged that fire!


UO buddy RonW finally got back on the water: “My nephew and I threw 35+lbs of gear/food on our backs and hiked deep into the wilderness last weekend (11/17) on a trout-packing adventure in search of some southern Appalachian Brook Trout. We found them in great numbers despite the skinny water. 

On day 1 we camped streamside at around 3600' in elevation. We were worn out from the 5.5 mile uphill hike as we only stopped once for a quick lunch at a waterfall and to catch a few of them "Speckled" fish.  Once camp was set up, we made dinner, hung out for a few, made some hot chocolate and then hit our hammock tents about 8:30pm, nearly sleeping till 7am.  We had our morning coffee and streamside oatmeal and then geared up for the day. We fished a little under a mile upstream from camp to the base of a large sliding waterfall, smashing "specks" all the way up. 

After that we booked it back to camp to pack up and hit the trail heading back down the mountain approximately 1.5 miles to our next spot. The sun was going down quickly and we certainly didn't want to be hiking or setting up camp in the dark. We debated this move, which turned out to be a great decision as we knocked out the toughest part of the hike out, making Sunday's exit an approximate 4 mile cake walk which was all downhill. 

Saturday evening into Sunday am got pretty cold. I'm guessing it got down to the low 30's. My newly acquired down under and top quilts from Hammock Gear kept us nice and toasty. I believe I may have been miserable without them.

 We got a late start on Sunday morning and didn't get out of the hammocks till about 8:00am. Being all bundled up and nice and toasty with the sound of the stream next to me didn't make it any easier getting up. We had some coffee and then scarfed down some oatmeal with dehydrated strawberries & bananas, honey and some peanut butter. We  were now fueled up and warm with the sun peaking out over the ridge. We put our waders on and walked downstream about 10 minutes and then bushwhacked our way down into the creek.  We fished back upstream past our camp for a good bit before calling it quits around 2pm. Once back to camp, we packed up, said our goodbyes and hit the trail around 3pm towards the truck. We stopped in town for a feast of Mexican food and then made the 2+ hr drive back to Woodstock. 

We fished dry/dropper rigs almost exclusively, with the exception of me fooling a few rising fish I found at the base of a waterfall on day 2, on a solo #20 BWO. Most of the fish came on the dropper, which didn't seem to matter...Hares Ears, PT's, Sexy Walt's, France Fly and even a greenie weenie fooled fish. I also caught them on top with a Goddard Caddis, Irresistible Adams, Mayfly and BWO. 

It was a fantastic weekend deep into the forest with one of my favorite humans on this earth!  Our bodies may be sore but our hearts are content. We both agreed this will be a tradition for us moving forward. Nothing like a whole weekend of some Hydrotherapy! “

Delayed Harvest:

All regional DH waters have fished well for folks matching their techniques to water conditions. For the most part, that meant stealth, longer casts, light tippets, and smaller flies to entice drought trout in skinny water.

Nan DH was great for me on Euro rigs in 48-degree pocket water (6X, #16 Frenchie, #18 black France fly) and good for my friends: Rick  fishing Indi rigs in pools (egg and pheasant tail) and Nan fishing a Adams dry/pheasant tail dropper rig in runs and pool tails. An eagle sighting was a bonus.

Rabunites Rick and Nan fished Smith DH just before the holiday. Trout were very moody in the slow, skinny water before the midweek’s rain. They rejected nymphs fished on a dropper under a dry.  Small dry flies (size 16 orange stimulators and elk hair caddis) were the ticket, fished on 6X tippet. They raised more than they hooked, with the fish offering only lazy sips instead of decisive strikes.”

Smith DH fished well this week for my young buddy, Kyle, once we got him rigged right. I’d say eight fish from his first pool was successful, wouldn’t you? We posted that recipe for his success earlier:


I’ll repeat it here for the non-Facebookers among y’all:

“His recipe for success was a small (#18), dark, unweighted nymph dropped on 6X tippet under the softest landing indicator we had: a fluffy dry fly or yarn. Some pools required a tiny split shot (#6 or 8 dinsmore) to get down to fish-eye level, while slower, shallow pools did not.

Takes were very subtle, with half of the fish just inhaling the fly without moving the indi. Make sure you wear your polarized sunglasses and watch the fish under your indi.  If you see them move a bit where you think your bug is drifting by them, set the hook. Hooksets are free, so use them often.”

UGA Five Rivers rookie Andrew stopped in our Helen shop prior to the holiday, grabbed hot bugs and intel, and went to Smith. It was his friend’s first flyfishing trip and the buddy landed two trout! Attaboy, Andrew, on your mentoring efforts!

Dredger watched the forecast and decided to hit Chattooga DH yesterday (30th). It was a finger-burning 36F when he stuck his thermometer in while fording the river at 10:30.

Action started slow when he walked in and started casting at 11, but picked up as the sun broke through. He found a good pod in a long pool and camped out. They ignored his trusty peach egg, but liked the #18 pheasant tail dropper. He subbed a small prince for the egg and was soon in business on both bugs, landing a big handful of bows and three browns. 

He stopped for lunch and was soon greeted by a bug swarm and a school of risers. 

He wolfed down his sammich and changed rigs to a dry/dropper setup. And caught one stray bow in the next futile 90 minutes on his #18 para Adams. Alas, it was a hatch of those dreaded, microscopic cream midges. He vowed to find some #28 hooks, tie some specks, and demand a future rematch.

To mend his bruised ego, he swung a pheasant tail soft hackle and stripped a small black bugger to net another bunch of bows as the water finally rise to a balmy 38F. He caught enough to quit early (2:30), hike out,  and treat himself to Mama G’s lasagna on the “thawing-out” ride home.

UO buddy RSquared was busy before the holiday: “Recently, the North Paulding 5 Rivers, UGA 5 Rivers, & GT 5 Rivers clubs combined forces and stocked the Amicalola River with trout using 5-gallon buckets & then fished for the fresh DH salmonids. Several students caught their first trout & their first fish on a fly rod. We finished the day with a late lunch at a nearby Mexican Restaurant. Volunteers from Trout Unlimited: Cohutta Chapter #242 served as guides & mentors. “


UO buddy, Birthday Boy Skilz: “If you need some Hooch content I just dropped a video from a trip several days before thanksgiving ! Water was stained and the weather was overcast but I managed 10 to the net and missed a number of very quick striking wild browns! My Euronymphing rod’s setup of 6x tippet and a double nymph rig with sz 14 buggy tungsten nymphs did the trick!”


Private Waters: 

UO guide Israel: Flavor of the week was a root beer midge.  Overall the fishing at Nacoochee Bend was pretty tough. Gotta work hard for 2-3 bites with this low water. Stealth is still the number one concern.  Fishing should get much better with increased flows from these rains.”

UO guide Caleb: “Rainbow Point on the Soque fished very well in some much needed rain last week. The stained water had the fish riled up and eager to eat. Effective patterns were peach eggs and small black stonefly nymphs.”

UO guide Ben: It’s been cold and windy, but don’t let that deter you from getting out there. Fish still have to eat.  Don’t be surprised if it’s your best day of fishing yet.  We’ve had some great guided trips to our creek to the north. My hot cold-weather flies have been:

1. Stonefly nymphs: Pats rubber legs, girdle bug.

2. Size 20 Midge larvae.

3. Egg patterns

UO friend CDB had finally rested his shotgun and picked up his fly rod again:  “It’s good to be back home after a few weeks in the chilly upper Midwest to enjoy the warm Georgia sunshine! I found myself supporting a new PHWFF participant on a pleasant 28 degree morning.  

On private waters a variety of the standards such as Walt’s Worm, Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, and small pink eggs induced eats.  A drag-free drift is more critical than ever, with the flows so low and slow that the fish have a long time to look at your offering.  Most of the takes came within the first 10 drifts. 

All of North Georgia’s waters are very low and very clear right now. You can spot fish easily, but they can also see you, so muted colors and subtle movements are much more important during these low, clear water periods. 

Use the ability to see the fish to your advantage. Take a minute or two to watch their activity. If the fish are actively moving back-and-forth, or doing a rotation, working upstream, falling back, and then going upstream again, you are far more likely to provoke a take, than you will by working a fish lying nearly motionless. 

It appears that there is some relief on the way this weekend. Hopefully the rains will start to refill the watershed and flow will return to normal levels. Good luck, stay stealthy and drag free!”

(Ed note: seethe DFD recipe on page ATL-4 in here:https://issuu.com/coastalanglermagazine/docs/atl_eea2f79da019b5)

To book a UO trip or order a trip gift certificate, check them out here:



and give us a call at 706-878-3083.


Hank: “Striper fishing on Lanier has finally settled into the winter-like pattern. Fish are all over the lake and gulls and loons will help you find the fish. Fish are eating small somethin' else flies on intermediate lines.  Small polar fiber minnows are also working. The shad are averaging 1-2" in length. 

You must fish 16# tippet at a minimum as the striped zebras are bigger this year, with lots of double digit sized fish being caught (or lost). Quite a few fish are taking us well into our backing!

 I have a couple open dates in Dec due to cancellations as well as a few open dates left in January. They will likely go quickly with the bite taking hold... See you on the pond.”



It’s redfish time on the coast! 

Athens Jay’s buddy, Jamie, shared the report: “Low tide in the low country. Redfish enjoyed the the calm, sunny day as much as we did! Although fish were gorging themselves on shrimp as the tide fell, crab imitations tight to the bottom were the ticket on the gradual incoming tide.”

HenryC’s buddy, Connor, also contributed video evidence of an epic day on 20-pound redfish off Hilton Head.

The next generation:

Athens Jay was busy hosting his young pups for another UGA Five Rivers Club tying night. Check out this crowd!

That’s the latest intel as we kick off December.  Stop in either UO store this month and grab some gifts for fishy friends, family members, or even yourselves. You’ll be glad you did.  Speaking of kickoffs, we must wrap up this week’s report with an appropriate conclusion:


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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