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 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, naïve 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.


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