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 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.


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