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 5, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 1/5/24

Happy new fishing year!  It has crept in slowly, due to icy water temps and low stream flows.   Area headwaters are skinny and cold, and the scarce Delayed Harvest flood survivors have been slow to eat during chilly mornings. They’ve been fairly cooperative after lunch on sunny days that are also more accommodating to anglers. 

Private waters have fished well, especially on sunny afternoons. Folks with good winter techniques are still scoring fairly well, while anglers using their fair weather methods of spring are zeroing.

We need more rain and welcome the wet forecasts for Saturday and Tuesday.  Y’all may wish to skip those days. Remember to check overnight temperatures, too, if you come up the next day.  Black ice and shaded, curvy mountain roads aren’t a good mix for your vehicles.

Stripers are sulking down deep, along with Shad and bluebacks.  Live bait techniques can go deeper than our fly rigs right now and put you on some January fish.

Check out our full report at our blog:


 (Link in bio)

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

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

Nymphs & Wets: 

Sexy Walts, micro girdle bug, tan mop, Y2K, WD-40, micro mayfly, zebra midge, hares ear special, split case BWO, little black stone, pheasant tail.

Streamers & warm water:

(Trout) wooly bugger, muddy buddy, (bass & stripers) clouser minnow, Cowen’s somethin else, finesse changer.


They’re low, clear, and cold, usually hovering around 40 degrees.  Hit them during sunny afternoons or, better yet, aim for larger, warmer streams at lower elevations that catch more sun. 

Dredger ran up to Cherokee last weekend and hit his favorite park stream after lunch. It was a beautiful, sunny day. His stream was low, clear, and a chilly 40F, however.  Fishing was slow, as he landed only four small bows in four hours on either a sexy Walts or a copper beaded Frenchie. His Euro rig just wasn’t getting deep enough in the slow, clear pools where fish were likely stacked up. It was still a nice day, full of elk on the drive out.

UO buddy RSquared: “I spent New Year's Eve fishing with my former student Cameron Furr in one of my favorite Georgia wild trout streams. Like most of my recent trips, the water was low, clear & cold. The bite was slow, but we managed to net a few small Rainbows. I started by dredging a tandem rig with a Pat's Rubber Leg followed by various jig flies. The bows preferred the Pat's. I was also able to entice a very small rainbow with a Parachute Adams. It was my last fish of 2023! I'm ready for my first fish of 2024.”

Public Water Streams:

Although trout pops are lower in this stocking off-season, there are no crowds. Try a warm afternoon on one of the larger stocked streams like the Hooch, Tallulah, Chattooga, Cooper, and Rock. Cover a lot of water and aim for summer holdovers or even the small but abundant wild rainbows in many of them. And it’s nearly prime time for rainbow romance. Trophies from private waters will migrate from January to early March, in search of clean spawning gravels.  Pick some public lands adjacent to private waters and go trophy hunting.

Two regular clients just came back to the shop for a second time to restock on hot bugs. They’re having good luck in the Hooch right in town. The fish are likely flood wash-downs from Smith DH  or swim-ups from our Nacoochee Bend population. Several fish inspected their eggs, but most ate their tungsten hare’s ear special. 

Our new friend, Tyler of the UGA 5Rivers Club: “My uncle Ryan, cousin Michael, and I  floated on a drift boat on December 27th. It was a beautiful December morning. Got on the water around 8:30. It was overcast for about an hour and then the sun came out and things warmed up a bit. Michael and I were fly fishing and Ryan was using a spinning rod with a rainbow rooster tail. We tried some streamers with no success and then switched to a three fly rig, with a chubby Chernobyl indicator, a rubber leg stone below it, and a San Juan worm at the end. We’d float along and anchor when we’d get into some action. We caught mostly brown, but the biggest of our 20-fish day was a healthy rainbow.”

Delayed Harvest:

They are really low and clear once again. Now they’re even colder. You should return to your stealthy, low-flow game to avoid spooking fish. Use rigs that will drift your bugs past their noses, near the bottom. On shallow areas, that means dry/dropper rigs with unweighted or lightly weighted droppers. In long, deep, slow pools, use long indicator rigs with just enough weight to get near the bottom. Faster stream reaches might allow for Euro techniques with those quick-sinking tungsten bugs.


A trio of Rabunites hit Smith DH yesterday afternoon (4th). The water was very low and clear again, running 44F. They had to work hard to land a dozen fish among them. There was no pattern to the hot fly patterns, as fish were caught on small rubberleg stones, mops, sexy Walts, and unweighted egg droppers. Most of the fish were browns, along with a few stray bows. The key was covering ground and hunting for the scattered flood survivors. Then a stealthy stalk and cast were required. If the fish weren’t spooked, they’d eat in the afternoon sun’s warmth. 

The trio had to change weights (shot or fly type) often to match the water depth and current speed to enable a natural drift.  The drift was more important than the fly pattern.   Nan caught her first Euro-style trout on Dredger’s borrowed outfit. She also enjoyed some competition from above, as a bald eagle had already staked out her pool at dusk.

Private Waters: 

UO guide Israel said his guests had a great Tuesday trip to Nacoochee Bend. Most rainbows succumbed to a variety of nymph patterns, with the good ole fashioned hare’s ear being the best one. Biggest fish of the day, however, smashed a streamer.

Our UO crew hosted a dozen high schoolers from ATL today.  Our six guides put them on some fish at Nacoochee Bend. The action was slow until the river warmed up a bit. Small nymphs, eggs, and soft hackles brought fish to the net of those students who practiced the good drifts taught by their guides.

Trouter wannabe Forrest Jr, age 13, came up from FL for a mini-vacation with his parents. He was determined to catch his first mountain trout- on a fly rod. After paying some dues at Smith DH, with no fish to hand, he stopped in our shop at lunchtime today.

Armed with some good intel, hot flies (micro girdle bug, tan mop) and a volunteer shop staffer, he hit The Bend after the ATL students had departed. He absorbed his “guide’s” advice and was a true natural, from the roll cast to the water load to the drag-free drift.

And the hookset, too. He was rewarded with his first trout!!!

And second, and even a third during a brief, chilly instream stint. A brown and two bows, with one pushing 16-17 inches, made his day.  We may now have a new trouter among our ranks.  Welcome to the addiction, Forrest!


In response to cold water, most of the stripers and baitfish have gone deep, which is typical of midwinter.   UO guide Como dropped live bait down deep to coax some Lanier stripers this week.  

If you’d like to pursue them, check out WRD’s latest intel:


Our South GA buddy, Bert:

“Saltwater (GA Coast):

The cold wind this week kept most folks off the water. Jay Turner checked one of his bank fishing spots near Savannah and the trout were still there. He bounced plastics for the fish that he caught and released. Capt. Tim Cutting (fishthegeorgiacoast.com) said that he fished a few days this week and it was all about trout. They had a pair of limits Monday, a limit Wednesday, and one and a half limits Thursday. They used a lot of DOA 3-inch shrimp and Slayer 3.5-inch Sinister Shads rigged on Zombie Eye Jigheads built with a spring keeper. All of the fish were caught by dragging the jigs along bottom in 8 to 15 feet of water in the cold water. 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 


There’s your first UO fishing report of the new year.    If we get some recharging rains and if you can pick a sunny afternoon, winter trouting can be a lot of fun. Dress warmly, fish deep, and enjoy the lack of crowds. Stop in either UO shop on your way north to some chilly trout waters. We’ll make sure you have the right rigs and hot fly patterns for your January success. Just ask Forrest!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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