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.


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