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, March 1, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 3/1/24


We delayed today’s report in order to count the raindrops and give you the most updated stream conditions possible for your weekend adventures.
  Here’s a status report as of 5PM today.

We had 1.5 to 2 inches of rain so far, or about double what was forecast. As a result, big streams are blown out and will take a day or more to subside to safe wading levels. Small streams are fishable, however, and will drop and clear by morning. DH streams have been redosed by DNR. 

Spots and stripers are stirring for lake fans, while their tributary rivers are starting to see early arrivals of some walleye and white bass.

Check out our full weekly report, including my evening stream videos,  and Wes’ hot fly list at our blog:


 (Link in bio)

Good luck picking some winning waters this weekend. It will only get better as next week warms a bit. Just don’t forget your raincoat.

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

NOTE: we just restocked our Helen shop with a huge helping of spring dries and droppers.

Dries:  Rage Cage Caddis, parachute Adams, Drymerger BWO, Griffith’s gnat, yellow stimulator or small micro Chubby Chernobyl as a headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Micro flexi girdle bug, Montana prince, frenchdipity, holy grail, depth charge caddis, mottled brown American nymph. 

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) Squirrely bugger, sparkle yummy, micro leech, bank robber sculpin.

(bass & stripers) clouser minnow, finesse changer, crittermite, jiggy craw.


Helen has netted  1.5 inches of rain so far and the precip is finally winding down.  Headwater creeks are running a bit high and just slightly dingy and will be fishable in the morning. Spoilcane was a bit high and slightly stained, 

Dukes was high and well stained,

 and Smith DH was high but clear, thanks to the lake.

Remember that these small streams shed rainfall quickly and are usually fishable less than a day after a hard rain. Try dry/droppers in high water and then a single dry as the flow drops and your stream thermometer registers at least 50F.


The Hooch had higher flows and more color. The river on the WMA was ripping pretty good and had moderate stain. It will be good streamer water for careful waders who stay near the bank tomorrow.  The Hooch in town was high and muddy. 

It will clear overnight but will still be high. We typically cut off our Nacoochee Bend client trips above 220 cfs for guided trips and 200 cfs for unguided trips, so that should give you some perspective.


Delayed Harvest: 

Local anglers reported tough fishing at Smith DH last week. It was low, clear, and 50F when I hiked its trail yesterday at 5PM.  We expect this slow fishing to change with warming water and a March restocking by WRD, so have your buggers and squirmies ready.

Note: this just in from GAWRD:


“Trout Stocking: The delayed harvest areas received fresh stockings this week and the higher flows will help spread these trout out. Be careful and where a lifejacket, as these higher flows can make for dangerous fishing conditions. Please note that the stocking of the Morgan Falls DH section has temporarily been suspended due to unfishable conditions related to large water release from Lake Lanier.”

We’ve had only one recent report from Chattooga DH, but that river should be fishing well when the water warms and flows recede to safe wading levels. Right now it’s likely blown out for the weekend, as the watershed got two inches of rain today.

Recall last week’s  report stating that SCDNR had redosed the river. I met Chris from ATL on the river some time ago. He sent me this report last Saturday: “My son out-fished me on the Chattooga today… thanks for your tips.”

We had mixed reports from our NC streams. Rabunites Rick and Nan said Fires DH was slow due to low, clear, cold water and spooky fish. In contrast, Nan DH fished well for us on nymphs and dries last week. It should only get better with warmer days boosting water temps. Don’t forget some March dries, too (Adams, Hendrickson, gray caddis, little black caddis).  If you’re carrying a new fly angler with you, then check the NC DH stocking schedule before you go. March is Refresh Month!


Private Waters: 

UO guide Caleb: “Last weekend at Soque Camp started off slow, with few fish to the net using nymphs. But a switch to streamers really got things rolling. While it wasn’t a high numbers day, the streamer bite brought in some large fish to make it a memorable day.”

UO friend CDB: “Monday afternoon weather was glorious and on private waters the fishing matched it as well.  Bronze jig streamers with some dark green in the body wrap worked well as did size 10 brown woolly buggers with black tail. If you preferred nymph drifting, a small orange or peach egg bouncing on the bottom was the ticket. 

Tuesday weather was perfect. The fish disagreed. Some fish were caught on wooly bugger patterns but the action was slow on everything else. It pays to switch up your techniques.

Public water Thursday AM, Frenchie and Walt’s worms with some orange worked well as did most anything with an orange bead head fished deep.”


Be on the lookout for little black caddis and the larger gray caddis. Tailwaters usually run a bit warmer than mountain streams right now and spring hatches happen earlier there.


UO buddy RonW finally got back in the game: “The trio hit the Dam last Sunday 2/25 and it didn't disappoint. We arrived around 9am only to realize that a release was going on until 10:10. The 3 of us made a rookie mistake by not calling and checking on the generation schedule.  Oh well, It gave us plenty of time to get geared up and caught up, as we've only fished one time since the new year. 

We walked the trail down to about the halfway point of Bowman's Island.  We got to our put-in spot right around 10:10, just in time to watch the water start to slowly recede.  We were able to get in a good 10 minutes later and start fishing. 

The guys started out with dry dropper rigs while I started with a double nymph rig. We got into fish relatively quickly, all on the nymphs. We worked our way upstream, fishing all of our favorite runs and picking up a fish here and there.  A #20 black France fly and #14 black stone fly caught most of my fish (about 8 browns and 2 rainbows) although I did land a few on a black bugger. 

Once we got above the Island, the wind died down and fish started rising everywhere around 2pm. The guys were both able to land a few on dries, unfortunately I was unsuccessful. It was a cool thing was seeing a brown in the 14-16" range rising and feeding.  He wanted nothing to do with my size 20 dry. 

 We landed a good 30 fish among the 3 of us, all browns with the exception of 4-5 bows, 1 of which Moe caught that had a golden belly just like a wild brown.  Unfortunately, that fish was extremely camera shy.

It was another fantastic day on the water with my brethren for some much needed hydrotherapy! I can't wait to get back out there! Time to tie up some #22-26 dries!”

Warm Rivers:

UO friend RSquared:  “The smaller male White Bass are starting to stack up in large numbers at the various tributaries along the Coosa River in NW Ga. The large females have not shown up yet. The Crappie are also on the move. White woolybuggers & white/chartreuse Clousers are bringing our fish to the net.”

Small Lakes:

UO buddy AthensMD:”Fishing opportunities have been few and far between lately, but I finally got out on local waters last weekend for a full afternoon of kayak fishing. The crappie are not yet fired up, but they are on the move. I had a great response to a size 10 jigged "euro" streamer in black suspended about 30" below a chubby Chernobyl. The takes were incredibly subtle, and I suspect the crappie were gently taking the jig from below. Largemouth bass and bluegill were much more aggressive. Also, I usually wind up hooking a number of golden shiners this time of year in this particular body of water: they feel like you've got a frozen fish filet on your 3wt. Looking forward to the crappie turning on over the next few weeks!”

UO friend Gayland: “I was fishing for largemouth bass last week at Rocky Mountain PFA and saw a school of shad trying to escape bass that were working the shad into a bait ball.  I cast a shad imitation lure with a spinning rod into the area and landed this pretty 6 pounder!   It would have been even more fun on a fly rod!”


UO owner Jimmy: “Jake and I were out on Lake Lanier yesterday, primarily to tweak my Garmin forward facing sonar unit. But, we did take some fishing rods along. Lots of bass activity all day with this 5 lb. Spotted Bass providing the icing on the cake.”

UO staffer Ben: “ Here's a 5lb Spotted Bass from Tuesday! Fishing was good on our mountain lake despite the wind and rain. Mid strolling and jerk bait techniques both worked well.  We have all you’ll need for your next bass or trout adventure here at UO’s Clarksville store.”

There’s some real good striper and walleye intel in today’s WRD weekly fishing report:


Also, read the annual reservoir fishing prospects from GAWRD here:



UO buddy Athens Jay: “Last weekend a couple of members of the Oconee River Chapter of TU 


accompanied the leadership team from the UGA 5Rivers Club to the Georgia Coast. We were treated to an extraordinary experience thanks to the family and friends of one of our members (Carson). This was the first salt water experience for some of our members , while others were old hands. Winds beat us up pretty badly Saturday, but things settled down on Sunday. Persistence paid off and we found a few specks and reds on the flats. 

More importantly, we spent time with amazing people who care deeply about preparing the next generation of fisheries conservationists.”

UO guide Devin said his gang had a great road trip to the White River in Arkansas, where they stripped streamers for resident browns.

That’s the latest on a cold, soggy Friday.  At least the weekend will warm up and dry up. Watch those USGS river gauges and pick your targets. 


That will be headwaters tomorrow and the rivers possibly Sunday or early next week. Don’t forget the mudlines in reservoirs, especially when a sunny day heats up stained waters and pulls shad into the shallows.  Predators will follow, looking for lunch. Stop in or call either UO shop if we can help direct you toward success.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, February 23, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 2/23/24

Our waters are looking very good for regional trouters.  Area streams received only one-half to three-quarters of an inch of rain last night and are in great shape for your weekend adventures. My morning circuit to White County streams showed them in prime condition for your pursuits as early as today!

These warmer days have boosted stream temperatures, too, making some afternoon dry fly action a real possibility.  In fact, we had some topwater action yesterday afternoon, which was a great hint of Spring!

Check out our full weekly report and Wes’ hot fly list at our blog:


 (Link in bio)

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  black elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, Griffith’s gnat, yellow stimulator or small micro Chubby Chernobyl as a headwater dry for your droppers. Start carrying some quill gordons and hendricksons, too.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Pheasant tail nymph, rainbow warrior, little black and brown stones, holy grail, sexy walts, Frenchie,  twister egg.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, sparkle minnow, micro leech, bank robber sculpin. (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, craw changer.


They’re clear and running well, while the Hooch in Helen has just a slight stain that will aid your catch rates.  The stain will probably be gone by this afternoon.  Water temps are great and will give y’all a shot at some dry fly action, too. At 8AM this morning Spoilcane ran 51F and Smith DH was 50F. It should be a great weekend in the mountains.  Here are some recent tales from our shop staff and friends.

UGA Five Rivers clubber “Coop:”

“I hiked in to a NEGA wild trout stream a couple weeks ago. It was a great day to fish, but the wild fish were hard to find. Ended up catching them on one of your rigs: 18inches of 5x to a wooly bugger, then a size 20 pheasant tail soft hackle dropped off the back.  I added a split shot a foot above the bugger to get my flies down to the fish. “

Rabunites Rick and Nan ventured to a wild trout stream in western North Carolina and found many hungry wild rainbows gobbling #16 BWO’s in the afternoon sun. The fish were stationed in the slower water adjacent to fast riffles and also near structure like fallen trees. 

UO buddy RSquared: “This past week has been very busy but I managed to break away one afternoon and fish a local NW Georgia stream. I had hoped for a mixed bag of trout and Coosa Redeyes. However, only the Rainbows were willing to come out and play in the chilly water. The clear shallow water was perfect for tan, size 14, never-sink caddis dry flies.”

Delayed Harvest: 

Smith DH fish have smartened  up after several weeks of heavy angling pressure. It’s taking smaller nymphs and eggs and better drifts to connect. Pull out the 6X tippet and try several fly changes until you dial in the hot bug of the day, likely something they haven’t seen yet.

Rabunites Flipper and Dredger hit the Chattooga DH last Monday.  They were hoping that the bright  afternoon sun would warm the waters and turn on the fish. Alas, the last couple of freezing nights had really dropped water temperatures. It was a cold 42F to start and only inched up two degrees thru a cloudy afternoon.  The fishing was slow with the duo ending up with 10 trout between them. Rubberleg stones and eggs dredged right along pool bottoms brought most fish to hand. Catch rates should pick up significantly with warmer days in our forecast.

Addendum: a little birdie just told me that a certain border river got refreshed this week.

The Rabunite trio of Nan, Rick, and Dredger hit Nan DH yesterday (22nd). The water was a clear, cold 44F at their 11AM start. Fish were cold and sluggish to start, but the action picked up as the sun warmed the water. Hot nymphs were a sexy Walt’s worm, France fly, soft hackle hares ear, and pheasant tail. Rick even nailed a doubleheader!

A few more adult bugs flew in the afternoon, so Dredger tried a double-dry combo. The action was a bit slow as expected as water temp crept up slowly to 48F, but he managed a good number of looks and a few fish to hand.  His parachute adams brought more strikes/refusals than the tiny black caddis dropper. An eagle siting ended a great day among good friends.

Private Waters: 

UO friend CDB: “I had friends in from Idaho, and fished DH, Dukes Creek and private water again this week.  The recipe for success was largely unchanged. Bronze or light brown leech patterns and woolly buggers worked great in the mornings, and lighter colored egg patterns lit them up in the afternoon.  Lighter yellow or peach color eggs worked best and smaller sizes were also better received. 

As with last week, being on the bottom paid dividends. If you are in a fishy looking hole, and you aren’t catching anything, stop and either adjust your depth, or add a little extra weight to keep that tippet a little bit straighter underwater., and your rod tip and indicator should be leading your flies. 

While the size of the fish might not match the south fork, they were pretty. And hard to deny the scenery here in North Georgia is gorgeous. Should be good weather, get out there and enjoy it!”

Small Lakes:

UO buddy Superchub:  “It’s a good time  to introduce the kids to panfish! The water temps are coming up nicely albeit a bit slower than last year.  The temperatures are hovering around 50° in my neighborhood pond and the bluegill and red eared sunfish are just starting to be active. This means that with another 5 or 10 degrees   it’s time to introduce the little ones to a fishing adventure!  The pan fish are very cooperative when you have a youngster that will lose interest in fishing quickly. These fish usually keep the action going! For the little ones a small spinning rod is perfect and for the slightly older it’s a great time to teach them basic fly fishing. One the great things about bream fishing is that you can fish off the dock or bank. No boat needed!

As far as bait, worms, crickets or bream power bait works great but if you don’t want to mess with that stuff then, for the, little ones, tie on a small jig or fly like a bream buster, girdle bug or big prince nymph under a small bobber. For your new young fly fisher use those same flies. A guaranteed fun outing either way! “


UO buddy Spangler: “I walked about a mile of shore line on the south end of Lanier this week. I had an hour to kill and fishing the tailwater was not an option due to generation, so I grabbed my 6 wt and sink tip and a handful of streamers and went at it. I focused on points near drop offs with timber and/or big rocks. I thought I was going to end with a skunk,  but hit one last location I noticed on my way back to the car.  This hungry fellow chased my Clouser up to the bank and grabbed it as I was about to recast! It’s a hard lake to hit from the banks but I was glad to know I was hitting the right spots even if bites were scarce.”

From GAWRD: “The state fish record for yellow perch is tied. Angler Emerson Mulhall of Cumming, GA reeled in a whopping 2 lb, 9 oz (16 inch) fish on Feb. 18 on Lake Burton, tying the current state record established in 2013, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD).

“I was confused when I hooked the fish because it didn’t fight like a bass, which is what I typically pursue, and then surprised when I saw the yellow coloring – but got really excited when we realized it was a huge perch,” said angler Emerson Mulhall. “I called my dad, who is the one who taught me to fish, and he encouraged me to get off the lake and go get it weighed on a certified scale. I like to say that there are no ‘bad’ days on the lake, but some days are better than others. This was definitely one of those days.”


UO staffer Atticus: “Our UO trio had a pretty good excursion Musky fishing. We had a bunch of follows and a couple of boatside eats doing a figure 8 on the fly. I landed my first Musky!”

That’s the latest intel from our neck of the woods. Watch those air temperatures, both the overnight lows and daily highs, and pick the warmest day possible before your excursions. You should have some very good trout action as water temps rise toward 50 degrees. Be on the lookout for some early season risers, too!  You just might ring in your spring dry fly action earlier than normal. Wouldn’t that be a sweet deal? 

Hopefully our intel will have you fired up for the weekend.  Stop in either UO shop in Helen or Clarkesville if we can help you out with bugs and breaking intel. Be sure to renew your fishing license, too (we were checked on both the Chattooga and Nan this week).  Good luck!

PS: don’t forget to grab a few Dream Trip tix for your shot at a Yellowstone fishing vacation next July!


Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.