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 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.


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