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, January 26, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 1/26/24

Welcome to a warm, soggy, and spongy northeast Georgia. Yesterday’s 3.5-4 inches of rain had our streams rocking. We could have roll-cast off the shop porch yesterday afternoon!

Headwater flows have already dropped to fishable levels today for careful waders, while rivers are still flooded  out. 

Another inch or two of rain is expected late tomorrow, so your weekend trouting window is very narrow. The good news is that a) fall’s droughty watersheds are recharging nicely and b) some nice weather is due next week.

Your better bet is flat water. Try some small lakes and big reservoirs. While we have no recent reports, bass and crappie should move into the muddy, warmer shallows.  For more  good lake intel, check out Capt Mack Farr’s weekly fishing report. We did and are going today.

Tie some flies, watch some football, and stock up now at your favorite fly shops for your spring trips. I know of a couple in Helen and Clarkesville. And if you can’t make it north this weekend, we’re coming south next weekend. Stop in at booth #436 next Friday, Saturday, or Sunday at the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show in Duluth.

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


 (Link in bio)

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Gray Elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, cream midge, Griffith’s gnat, small micro Chubby Chernobyl as headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Twister egg, RS2, micro flexi girdle bug (black), brown pats rubberlegs, squirminator (during high water), duracell jig, frenchie.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, sparkle minnow, uv polar jig. (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, finesse changer.


They were ripping yesterday, but have already dropped this morning to fishable flows for careful waders. Spoilcane ran a nice, warm 49F at 9AM due to a mild night, and had cleared significantly. 

On headwaters, try a dry/long dropper combo down to a #16 tungsten beaded nymph and hi-stick the soft water. Or follow Rodney’s lead, below.  Dukes should fish well tomorrow for reservation holders and lucky “walk-ons” with good raincoats. Match fly size and shade to water clarity.

UO buddy RSquared braved the elements last week:

“It was spitting snow, the wind was howling, the guides on my fly rod were constantly freezing up, the air temp never rose above the mid 20’s, and I had a blast catching wild rainbows somewhere in North Georgia this past Friday. 

Subsurface tandem-rigged nymphs proved to be very successful. For my lead fly, I used a "Pats Rubber Leg." (Girdle Bug) I dropped various nymphs behind it with some success but most of the fish I caught, came from the PRL. Six of the stream-born rainbows I landed were over 8 inches, with the longest being 11". I did not use a strike indicator and all of the takes were very subtle. Managing your slack line and paying close attention to any unusual movement in the leader is essential when the water temperature is low. "Stocked fish are great, big fish are better, but wild fish are the best!!!!"

UO friend Spangler marked a personal milestone: 

“Hey Dredger, I had hoped to send you this in time to have for last week’s report but didn’t get a chance to. Some Friday recon for headwater streams: very cold. Warmest water temp I got was 39. BUT…I finally got my brook trout I’ve been chasing. Actually 2. They were both in a relatively deep plunge pool and the first one (who was camera shy and released himself) actually hit a dry (orange stimulator) but was hooked on the dropper, clearly not very well. This one (the bigger of the 2) hit a micro bugger just jigging it through the hole. There was some nice snow flurries coming down too once I got above 3k feet, I was really digging it! I found this spot the old fashion way too: looking over top maps and boots on the ground. Definitely a proud moment in my fly fishing journey!”

Public Water Streams:  The bigger watersheds are blown out and unsafe for wading. Go farther uphill on the national forest and WMA’s to find wadeable flows and maybe a few stockers or wilds with better appetites due to this warm spell.

Delayed Harvest: 

It’s the normal slim winter pickings in most regional DH streams. High flows, cold water, and few fall stocking survivors typically decrease our catch rates this season.  Right now most DH streams are roaring from the storm runoff and will roar again after Saturday’s rains. 

Next week looks good, though. Flows will recede and we welcome February, which may bring some Georgia DH stockings near the first of the month. Note that Ami already got redosed last week.  Keep an eye out for any WRD stocking news later today.  Also note that NC’s DH stockings usually don’t resume until March. Well lookie here, the new year’s schedule has been posted!

Your trouting key remains “flood refuges.”  Find the slow, deep stuff, fish it low and slow, and you can still have some great days afield this winter. Legs, eggs, and pheasant tail droppers in big pools and Euro rigs in pocket water are UO’s favored winter recipes.

Smith DH roared yesterday.

It had dropped a bit and cleared when I revisited it at 9 today. Water temp 46F.  Skip the riffles and fish the deep, slow spots in hopes of discovering a flood survivor or two. While your catch may be slim, it will still get you out of the house and you might even spot an eagle at dusk.

Nan DH:

Dredger saw online indications of a potential winter window last Tuesday morning and decided on a road trip.  Warm weather had de-iced the shaded mountain roads, and the radar loop projected some dry afternoon hours.  Stream gauges showed that some favored waters had dropped to wadeable flows. He hedged his bet, though, by picking a stream right next to a road, in case the rainfall didn’t heed the forecast.

He rode up to the Nan DH and, to his surprise, found much more whitewater than flat water. There were more whitewater yakkers plotting their runs than anglers donning waders (2).  But there was still an opportunity to fish from the bank or right next to it. A stream temp of 42F gave him hope.

He rigged up his 10ft/3wt Clearwater rod with a long tippet down to a heavy (4mm) Walts worm, with a copper Frenchie dropper.  Hitting the soft pockets along the bank and behind boulders and ledges within reach, he found fish. Wild fish. 

Enough to make him very happy for two hours before he netted his first stocker. He ended the day with a bunch of pretty wild bows, two wild browns with a dandy, jumping 11-incher, and six stocker browns and bows.  

Most of the wild fish ate the frenchie dropper, while the stockers like the bigger, brighter anchor (Walts, tan mop) 

He uncapped a hefty, retired brood rainbow at his feet.  Despite that loss, it was a great 4-hour afternoon, topped by an eagle siting as he quit at 5.  He was glad he followed the “winter window” data to success.

When he got home, he dug deeper on the web and found the source of the whitewater: the Nan Lake spillway!


If you’re hunting a nice, affordable Euro rod, give that Clearwater a look.


Private Waters: 

Between cold weather and floods, our guides and clients were sidelined last week. Those untouched fish should be fine targets next week, when rivers recede. Stay in touch with our guys at the shop for prospects. You might decide to sneak up for an unguided afternoon at Nacoochee Bend. And maybe have a blast like Athens Jay did a couple weeks ago!

Small Lakes:

No reports.


No reports from our hibernating flyrodders as they wait for warmer water to bring Shad and stripers with reach. Watch Capt Mack Farr’s weekly reports for some great midwinter intel. Jimmy just read it and we’re going on a Lanier “trip of hope” this afternoon. Hey, a boat ride beats sitting at home.

Midwinter Rendezvous:

We’re short on reports because it’s been too dang cold, and Dillard House was a much better weekend deal. Thanks to all 174 folks who attended last Saturday’s banquet that helped Rabun TU raise ten grand for their 2024 good deeds. Congrats to Sawyer Maddux on his Outstanding TU Youth award appropriately entitled, the Young of the Year. Sawyer gives us great hope for the future of our sport and aquatic conservation.


That’s your skimpy helping of fish tales this week. Just have hope for next week, whether you venture outside or choose some indoor adventures at the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show.  Don’t forget to stop by and share some lies with us:

Booth #436.


Good luck this week as we make it through the midwinter blues together.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, January 19, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 1/19/24

Here’s our advice: hibernate this weekend and then work around the warm rains next week. Today’s Arctic blast will make fishing tough tomorrow. Streams are clear and flowing well, but they are ice-cold and fish are slow to bite at those extreme water temps.

Go talk trouting with 200 new and old friends at a very cozy Rabun TU banquet tomorrow night at Dillard House.  You’ll get a virtual fishing fix while staying warm, dry, and very well fed.

Next week match your flies to water conditions. High, off-color water dictates bigger/brighter bugs like rubberleg stones, buggers, worms, and eggs. Low and/or clear flows should have you downsizing tippet and flies, with natural stuff like pheasant tails, hares ears, and little black stones matching the drift.

Lakes remain real cold and slow, with none of our contacts braving the elements last week. It seems like shallow-running stripers and their pursuers are both hibernating.

Capt Mack has an update in today’s GAWRD weekly fishing report.

Check out UO’s full report at our blog:


 (Link in bio)

Stay warm and dry. Let conditions improve before your burn your gas and expose your fingers and toes to Old Man Winter’s wrath. 

Wes’ Warm Fly List:  

(It’s gonna be too darn cold this weekend for anything to be “hot”)

Dries:  Gray Elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, cream midge, Griffith’s gnat, small micro Chubby Chernobyl as headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Ruby midge, WD-40, Sexy walts, Twister egg, Montana Prince, micro flexi girdle bug. 

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, sparkle minnow, uv polar jig. (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, finesse changer.


They’re clear, flowing well, but icy cold. Wait til next week’s warming trend to give them a try.

UO buddy RSquared:

“Sunday I was able to slip away & fish one of my favorite tributaries to one of my favorite wild trout streams in North Georgia. I was blessed to catch several wild Rainbows and one native Brookie.  Ice crystals were protruding from the frozen ground. I did not bother trying on a dry fly. All fish were caught subsurface.”

Public Water Streams:

It’s a good time for rainbow romance and flood wash-downs. Trophy bows from private waters will migrate from January to early March, in search of clean spawning gravels upstream and in tributaries.  Obese fish will also get displaced downstream by high flows. Pick some public lands adjacent to private waters and go trophy hunting.

Also note a few fresh midwinter gifts from WRD!


Rabunite Ken K:

“I hit my favorite local stocker stream this week. Fish were hitting something very small but I couldn’t get them to hit anything on the surface. So I sunk a Griffith gnat and had success. . I had another very nice fish on, but it made a big run and kicked the fly. I’ll be back soon for a rematch.”

UGA Five Rivers clubber Dan:

“I caught a bunch of brookies and browns on the public stretch of a northeast GA River last Monday. The fly that produced the most were bead head pheasant tail nymphs, size 14. The fish were tending to stay along the banks.”

UO friend CB:

My fishy son and I explored the public section of a NEGA stocker stream. We got a few wild fish and also  found some “pets” that ventured from their home. Best bugs were a 16/18 Waltz worm, peach eggs, and #18 black hares ear. Rhett (my son) caught the brown on a bugger.”

UO buddy CDB: “Spent some time this week. exploring the upper Chattooga on a 22° morning. The weather was tough even before I found the new leaks on my waders. 

Fishing was steady, mostly browns, but some rainbows. Most of the small fish were picked up on size 16 to 20 rainbow warriors, Walt’s worms, or Frenchies.  The larger fish seem to prefer a slightly larger morsel - small wooly buggers and micro streamer jigs. Black, olive and bronze all worked about equally effectively.  

Had the place to myself in the morning, but was joined by the armadillo in the afternoon.  Fishing stayed steady until the clouds rolled in, then it slowed down. 

Earlier in the week I was on private water. Presentation seemed more important than the fly.   Leeches, rubber legs and squirmy worms and midges were all good patterns.  Don’t overlook a  small hare’s ear or WD-40.  The fish are eating bugs down there, and the small, natural looking pattern might be just the thing to fool one of those picky chunks when the water is clear.”

Delayed Harvest: 

Some Rabunites fished Smith DH twice last week, when the weather allowed. Fishing was fun, but catching was really sparse, with a high hook of 3 fish among the quartet. There are very few fish left in the creek after the last two floods washed most of them down to Helen or Lanier.  Luck was had with a few chunky browns that liked brown pats rubberlegs and tan mops. Nan’s fishing buddy, the bald eagle, joined her again Thursday at dusk in her favorite pool. 

Cover a lot of ground and find the slow, deep flood refuges for flood survivors. Better yet, stay home or pick another stream until the WRD trout truck makes another monthly deposit.

UGA Five Rivers clubber Tyler:

“Our duo hit Chattooga DH last weekend for the first time.   I got skunked. Water was clear but deep and fast. My buddy Paul got into some fish in one slow moving, deep pool but l, other than that, we didn’t have any luck. Olive wooly buggers were the ticket, using some weights to get them down deeper. There were surprisingly quite a few folks there (one group of guys walked directly up on us and proceeded to fish the hole we were in two separate times). 

UGA Five Rivers prez Van checked in: “ Here’s a fishing report for last Saturday on the East Fork of the French Broad in NC. We fished indicators all day, and Brown Pats Rubber Legs were working really well with any type of buggy nymph following behind.”

Private Waters: 

High schoolers William and Kyle braved the cold weather last Sunday morning and had a big time on a Gilligan Special trip at Nacoochee Bend. UO guide Como perfected their deep nymph drift and got them on some really nice rainbows.

UO Helen Manager Wes: 

“Israel and I took UO client Scott and his crew on a private water trip earlier this week. The Soque’s temps and our fingers and toes were cold but the fishing was well worth it. We caught a ton of fish and some large ones as well. The key was all about getting deep. Once you were down to the level the fish were feeding at it was game on. Hot patterns were small weighted eggs, midges, black stoneflies, and small leeches. 

Don't let the cold keep you off the water till spring. This season is arguably the best time to fish on our private waters.”

Small Lakes:

No reports. We are considering stocking tip-ups in our UO stores.


No reports from our hibernating flyrodders as they wait for warmer water to bring Shad and stripers with reach. Watch Capt Mack Farr’s weekly reports for some great midwinter intel. It’s in todays WRD blog:



Athens Jamie left cold Georgia, and heading down south for work and had a little time for fish from shore. He found a few tarpon cruising and got one to eat. I think we’re all a bit jealous of him. Tough job, but someone has to do it. 

That’s your frigid fishing report for this week. At least we have warmer weather on the way. Then we’ll just have to watch the river gauges to find fishable waters. In the meantime, join us tomorrow night in Dillard for an overdose of BBQ, Bluegrass, and blatant fish fibs. That’s a might fine Plan B for the weekend!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.