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 15, 2023

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 12/15/23

Last weekend’s heavy rains recharged our trout streams rather well. Most of that water has already run off, but the remnants have enhanced flows and fishing success. At least the high flows scattered the fish out better and encouraged some big brooders to move. Let’s hope we get another round of storms soon to restore those base flows. Right now the only rainy day in the forecast is Sunday.

Catching is slow in the mornings following cold nights, but has picked up when the sun hits the water around 11 or noon. Get into full winter mode and fish deep and slow in the afternoons.   Bottom bumping with nymphs and stripping small streamers have been most effective.

Lake stripers are scattered once again, but their size compensates for all the angler time spent tracking them down. See Henry’s update and take two rigged rods with you.

The latest trip reports and Wes’ hot fly list are in our weekly blog.  Note WRD’s 12/18 Hooch DH vol call.


Stop in either or both UO stores for hot flies and last-minute 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, prince nymph, pheasant tail, Ruby Midge, Frenchie, twisted mayfly, micro girdle bug.

Streamers & warm water:

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


Flows briefly improved after last weekend’s three inches of rain, but all of that water has now run off.  Creeks are skinny and cold after chilly nights (Spoilcane 42F at 8 this morning) and will fish better after the sun starts warming them around 11AM, so aim for afternoon trips with dry/dropper rigs.


Stocker Streams:

Rabunite Ken took advantage of the brief high flows that encouraged some big rainbows to move. He found some nice fish, including a trophy bow, in a popular NEGA stream. A slush egg was his secret weapon.

Delayed Harvest:

A drought is a great time for anglers to try bigger, deeper waters that they avoid at normal flows. Sample some rivers and reaches that you’ve bypassed in the past due to concerns for your wading safety. Look at USGS flows first and try some different destinations during the holidays.

Smith DH has run warmer (50F) than nearby headwaters due to the lake outflow. The DH fish are now experienced and very picky. Dry/dropper rigs are working if the stalk is stealthy, the dropper tippet is light (6 or 7X), and the sunken flies are small (#18-20).   Change flies often and show them nymph or wet patterns that they haven’t seen yet. Catching is better when the sun’s off the water and shadows fall. Keep your eyes out for the eagles, too.

Rabunites Rick and Nanette  hit Nan DH last Friday. She reports: “At our last spot Rick caught another big rainbow, about 17 inches! When it saw the net it took off downstream and he lost it trying to pull it back.  I finally caught a couple of brookies, including one on my trusty #14 stimulator. So I have my December dry fly fish!

A great birthday for Rick, topped off by a giant slice of coconut cake.”

Dredger and his MI guest, Ski, also hit Nan DH last Friday. Catching was slow in the 38-degree water. Dredged frenchies, princes, and pheasant tails drew strikes in soft pockets and deep, slow pools.

Once home, the duo checked Saturday’s radar forecast and saw a projected break in the rain around noon.  The next day, they drove up to Chattooga DH in the morning rain.  Indeed, the rain quit at 12:30, they hopped out of the truck, and their fishing was great over the next four foggy hours. Ski had success on a #16 prince/#18 pheasant tail combo with two small shot under an indicator, while Dredger swung up a bunch in the 40-degree water on a #10 stripped black bugger. A soaked Myrtle Beach duo said they had great morning success on their legs & eggs combo.

Two Rabunites took flyfishing rookie Sheila to Nan DH on Wednesday. The water was 36F at 11, so they ate lunch and waited til noon to hop in. Ken caught a bunch on Euronymphs and slush eggs in slow pockets. Sheila perfected her drag-free drift with a prince/ptail combo in a prime pool and was rewarded. Her 9 trout to hand, between truck warmup breaks, included a species slam and her first wild rainbow. We do believe she’s now hooked!”

UO buddy CDB: 

“Zonkers!!   This past week I was able to support PHWFF on private water and fish NC and GA DH streams before during and after the much needed rain. The common thread between all of them?  You guessed it - Zonker patterns. 

Some really pretty fish with my veteran friends at Project Healing Waters were accounted for by the Zonker pattern. A traditional mop pattern produced reasonably well also.

On DH waters the Zonker rocked, and once again, patterns such as size 16-20 Frenchie, Duracell, Hares Ear, Pheasant Tail, and Blowtorches also induced eats.  I mostly fished a double nymph set up. When using a larger, tungsten head nymph, I positioned the nymph as the bottom fly and used an unweighted Zonker as my top fly.  When switching to smaller nymphs in the size 20 range, I would reverse the order and used a bead-head Zonker. I got more strikes at the end of the drift when the Zonker was the bottom fly.

If you see fish that appear to be feeding, but they’re not taking your offerings, after about 10 drifts, make sure you switch up patterns. I’ve found in the low water, strikes often happen on the first dozen or so drifts or not at all, and sometimes after taking one or two fish out of a hole, switching up the pattern would produce another take.

A note on clear water and indicators - I don’t typically worry about my indicator. I have found here locally,as well as in heavily fished waters in the west, as long as you’re not slamming the indicator on the water, you can still catch plenty of fish. However, (and there is always a however, isn’t there?), fish can become oddly fussy. When you have exhausted your options, but you’re watching a nice fish that you would really like to shake hands with, switching the indicator is one of the easiest and fastest things you can do.  Try going to yarn poly indicators. Or, just take it off. I’m more likely to take the indicator off completely and either try high sticking it, or putting a wet fly on, and letting it swing through the hole with no indicator, watching the tip of my fly line for clues. Sometimes that does entice a strike when the fish formally had lockjaw.

Oh, what size and color Zonker? Tiny ones, size 10-14. And bronze was hands down the most productive color. Don’t forget to take a minute and enjoy the scenery. Tis the season…to do more fishing!”

Metro ATL anglers should note that GAWRD is using a counter bucket brigade for a Monday stocking:


UGA 5Rivers leader Van: “Conner and I went fishing in Brevard NC this past weekend and we’d like to send you some info for your report! The big fish were eating! It was about 40 degrees and raining most of the day, and we fished wooly buggers of all sizes almost all of the day. Conner switched up to fish a pink slush egg dropper setup and started killing it. He caught a large brown and hooked into a lot of big fish!”

Private Waters: 

Last weekend’s trips were washed out by high water, but we’re thankful for the boost in river flows. We’ve had a few trips this week once the flows subsided. Our guides checked in.

UO guide Joseph said: “Private water fishing was good yesterday (14th) with James and Anthony. We landed some nice fish on small natural jig style flies. Frenchys and Walt’s worms seemed to do the trick. The fish seemed to be sitting lower today so we used a nymph rig with a poly yarn indicator.”

UO manager Jake: “We had a great afternoon at Soque’s Rainbow Point property on Thursday! The water temps were still cold despite the high sun shining on it, but had bumped up a few degrees from the frigid morning temps, which made the bite consistent all afternoon. We caught fish on streamers and nymphs, but the key to success was getting the flies way deep in the column. Even with the streamers, the name of the game was to show a slow methodical retrieve near the bottom, which would reward with a bite nearly every time. The nymphs that produced varied, but the top producing patterns were a Pheasant Tail, Ruby Midge, Duracell, and Diamond Midge. Saturday’s forecast looks great before Sunday's rain, so get out there and enjoy some winter time fishing!”

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



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

Warmwater streams:

UO buddy Matt: “Went bass fishing again last weekend and had some great luck. Caught some very nice spots on the Oconee again. I was using a flash articulated minnow pattern fly and Ryan was using a Ned rig since he doesn’t have a fly rod. Water temps were COLD with it being in the low 50’s. All the fish we caught were low and slow. Key was slow twitching the retrieve. Bass are still biting good though!”


Hank: “Stripers on Lanier this week got a tad tougher. Fish are more scattered and the large schools we saw last week have split into smaller schools. Fish are still feeding off the surface but as lake water temps start to fall further we are seeing more schools of sub surface deeper fish in the 20-40' range. This means we are going to have opportunities to fish fast sinking lines more effectively along with our slow sink intermediates when they are on top. The good news is the size of our fish are "trophy" size for fly anglers. Nearly every fish we are catching in double digits with fish caught this past week up to 18lbs. Fly choices have not changed with somethin else and polar fiber minnows being your best bet as fish are gobbling up small threadfin shad in the 1-2" size range.”


UO staffer Joseph: “Fishing on Lanier has  been good over the past couple of days. Fish are grouped up pushing schools of small threadfins near the surface. Finding gulls doing the right thing(diving on bait being pushed by fish) has been crucial to success, but don’t shy away from schools of bait or fish with no birds in sight. All of my fish have been caught on intermediate line with small baitfish patterns tossed to stripers crashing bait. Another key to success has been getting to the fish quickly as they don’t always stay on top for long.”


UO’s south GA buddy Capt Bert: “Saltwater (GA Coast) – I fished the Brunswick area for just a couple of hours on Sunday evening and caught a bunch of trout and redfish. I started by pitching live shrimp on a Shrimp Hook and caught 7 small trout (all throwbacks) from a point. I switched to a small creek, and the redfish were biting. A 24 1/2-inch red started the melee by eating a 

rootbeer-chartreuse back Keitech rigged on a 1/16-oz. Zombie Eye Jighead. I then 

switched to live shrimp tail-hooked on an 1/8-oz. Shrimp Hook and caught 5 slot-sized 

reds in 8 casts. The next fish was a 24-incher that I tagged before moving spots. I caught 

a few more scattered trout and pulled into the ramp right before dark. It was a fun trip, 

and I ended up with 11 trout (1 keeper), 7 redfish (5 keepers), a black drum, and several 

pesky yellowtails. The yellowtails reminded me why I rarely fish live bait.”

Capt. Bert Deener makes a variety of both fresh and saltwater fishing lures. Check his lures out at Bert’s Jigs and Things on Facebook. 

That’s the latest regional news as we get ready for the holiday break. There are some great opportunities available if you dress warmly and time your trout trips to hit warming afternoon waters. For stripers, follow the birds and bait balls.  Stop in either UO shop for hot seasonal flies, supplies, and holiday gifts.  We’ll be glad to help you earn a few smiles, like Ski!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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