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, 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.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

A True Dream Trip!

Don’t miss your chance at a real dream flyfishing trip to the Yellowstone region!!!  For just a $10 raffle ticket, you and a friend have a shot at five days of fishing, including a Madison River float trip, next July. A dozen great runnerup prizes are at stake, too.

Check out all contest details and buy your raffle tickets at the Georgia Trout Unlimited website, here:


Raffle proceeds fund GATU’s annual, weeklong Trout Camp for teenagers each June. Campers have a big time learning to fly fish, fly tie, and working on conservation projects with GADNR and the US Forest Service. Unicoi Outfitters is a proud supporter of Trout Camp.


Everyone’s a winner in this Dream Trip raffle, so grab your tix now!

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report - 2/16/24

It’s looking real good on our regional trout stream front!  Flood flows have receded on all but the largest streams, restoring our wading opportunities. Warm days have pushed afternoon water temps into the upper 40’s and sometimes above that magic 50-degree mark for great trout action. 

A few bugs have started hatching and tempting trout and anglers toward some afternoon surface action. While Saturday will be blustery, the following days will warm once again. Be ready with dry/droppers after lunch if you see some surface sippers. Wes’ bug list and our stream intel in the full report will aid your fly choices.

Lake water temps lag behind stream temperatures, so the shallow water action for bass and stripers is still a bit slow. Several more weeks of warm afternoons and sunshine on stained shallows will warm them and draw in the shad. Predators will soon follow. Have your 8-weights, fresh leaders, game-changers, and Cowen’s Somethin’ Else flies ready for action. We’re hitting Lanier this afternoon to search for a few shallow fish.

Get outside soon and have fun during this warm spell while it lasts.  We never know what early March will hold, weather-wise.  Look for buzzing bugs and poking trout noses in slow pockets on sunny afternoons.  Check out our full weekly report and Wes’ hot fly list at our blog:


Good luck this week. Stop in either UO shop for your fly resupply and timely updates on stream conditions.

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: 

Black copper John, 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 in great shape and are warming up quickly in response to 60-degree days. Spoilcane had a healthy flow and hit 52 degrees when I checked it at 3pm yesterday. Stick with dry/dropper combos and have greater hope for some surface eats on warm afternoons that push water temps over 50F..

UO buddy RSquared:  “My former student, Nathan Phillips, and I recently fished one of my favorite wild streams in Georgia. On that particular day, the water was running high and fast from recent rains. We were using a lot of weight to get our flies down near the bottom. The fishing, scenery, and companionship were great but the catching was slow and challenging in the high, chilly water.”

Jake’s duo hit Dukes at Smithgall on a cold Wednesday morning. The stream was high, clear, and cold and the catching was slow. They landed a small handful of bows on nymphs and small eggs.

The Smith Brothers of UGA Five Rivers fame hiked “high above Helen” yesterday (15th) to remote national forest waters. Their efforts were rewarded with a species slam of wild fish, including several on top. The warming water had fish looking up in the afternoon. Van said: “Stimulators, hares ears, and parachute Adams were working great. We had almost a 40 fish day. We caught brown, rainbow and brookies!!”

Delayed Harvest: 


Dredger fished with a Rabunite “net” first thing Wednesday morning. The internet chart showed the USGS gauged flow on the upper Nantahala River, which gave him hope to wade the Nan DH as it finally receded from flood stage.

He got up there around noon and found the stream a bit high, but still wadeable.

 The water was a chilly 44F to start, and some #18 gray caddis adults scurried along streamside boulders. He had hope.

He rigged his 10 ft Euro outfit with 5X tippet down to some bigger, heavier nymphs. And only landed two bows in 90 minutes. So he switched to 6x and smaller, darker bugs with black beads (Walts and frenchie) and that was the ticket for mid-afternoon. 

As the sun started to fall, he switched to a beaded pats anchor fly and France fly dropper and they were effective, too, in any slow pockets, runs, and pool edges. A few fish rose to hatching caddis, but not enough to get him changing to a dry fly. A few mayflies fluttered in the distance, but they were too far way for an ID (probably early quill gordons or hendricksons).

He ended the day with all bows: half stocked and half wild. A bald eagle flyover topped off a mighty fine day astream.  Tip: know the flows before you go, and carry some dries and hope with you.


Dredger hiked the trail yesterday afternoon. Water temp was 50F at 3pm. Mike from ATL Fly Fishing Club said it was slow in the morning on small midge droppers behind his dry, but he did better after lunch on rubberleg stones and eggs under his buoyant dry.  Dredger enjoyed a second straight day of eagle sightings, as the Smith resident stayed perched over his favorite pool for more than an hour. Tip: try some small rubberleg stones first before going to smaller stuff like rainbow warriors and hares ears. Try some lighter 6x tippet, too, as the water clears and fish have been “educated” by successful anglers.

Chattooga DH:

If I didn’t have a Lanier invite today, I’d be tossing nymphs and buggers in the Toog this afternoon. It’s a best bet for the week ahead, since little rain is expected.

Private Waters: 

Streamflows on our private waters have fallen and warmed up after our 2/12 deluge. They are in fine fishing form!  Nymphs and streamers are still your best bets, but warmer days ahead might encourage a few fish to look up on sunny afternoons, too.

Jake’s two guests had a really good day last Saturday at Rainbow Point on the Soque. They caught a bunch of feisty rainbows up to 18 inches on deep dredged bugs including the Duracell, rainbow warrior, and small eggs.

UO guide Israel has a good Soque trip this week with his client, Tofer. Iz said the chunky rainbows were inhaling deep-drifted nymphs and they weren’t picky. A variety of patterns brought fish to the net.

UO client Jonathan had a great Saturday morning at Nacoochee Bend. He landed a bunch of chunky Hooch rainbows on dredged nymphs and eggs, a stripped streamer, and even a few on top on a small chubby Chernobyl.

Gold Rush (Dahlonega) TU’s social director, “Banker” Hickman, carried a handful of member to Nacochee Bend yesterday. 


They had a good time with the rainbows, which hit better as the day warmed up. A couple guys were perfecting their streamer skills. Banker said his hot fly was a jig microstreamer with a heavy 4mm tungsten bead. Fish hit on both the downstream jig and the strip back upstream. Join their chapter and join in on their fun.


No recent reports.

Small Lakes:

No reports this week.


No recent reports from our Lanier flyrodding buddies. Jimmy, Hank, and I are heading out this afternoon. If we have any luck, I’ll update this blog tonite.in the meantime, there’s some good intel in today’s WRD weekly fishing blog:



Enjoy this UGA Five Rivers video of the gang’s January trek to NC.  Here’s to good friends and PB&J!



Kudos to the GA state council of TU!  RSquared shared the good news:  “This week I attended the annual meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. I accepted the "Conservationist of the Year" award on behalf of the Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited. For years, the Ga. Council of TU, along with the 12 chapters from across the state, have worked tirelessly to improve the habitat of wild and native salmonids all across North Georgia. Pictured are Jay Shelton, Education Chair for GATU and myself, Rodney Tumlin, Chairman for GATU.”

Strong hints of spring are everywhere. While we may indeed backtrack with some late-season snow and ice, we are having our first good taste of spring trouting action. Football season is over, so get out there soon and cast your flies. Between the sun, the fish, the friends, and maybe even a bald eagle, you’ll have a fine time in the great outdoors. Bundle up for Saturday, but dress lightly for subsequent days. And be on the lookout for risers!  Good luck. Stop in either UO shop for flies, supplies, and breaking intel.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.