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 2, 2024

Unicoi Outfitters Fishing Report 2/2/24

Welcome to your weekend conundrum!  If you need some time outdoors, area streams are finally in great shape. But the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show is in town, too.  What will you do? Take some advice from the late, great Yankee philosopher Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  Spend a day outdoors and a day indoors. We’ll help you with the intel for both.


Trouting is improving with warmer days, dropping flows, and some fresh hatchery scoops of Delayed Harvest stockers. Small lakes are stirring while Lanier is still more misses than hits. But when the hits happen, they’re going for extra bases, as stripers are pulling boga grips into the teens.

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



We’re delivering this report early because most of our crew will be at the Atlanta Show. Stop by booth #436, swap fish stories, and take advantage of the great deals from Scientific Anglers that Wes posted yesterday to our IG and FB pages.

Whether you head astream, to the show, or to both, have fun this weekend !

Wes’ Hot Fly List:  

Dries:  Gray Elk hair caddis, parachute Adams, BWO, small micro Chubby Chernobyl as headwater dry for your droppers.

Nymphs & Wets: 

Micro flexi girdle bug (black), brown pats rubberlegs, squirminator, duracell jig, tan mop, sexy Walts worm, frenchie.

Streamers & warm water:

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


Flows are great and water temps have risen in response to warmer days. Spoilcane ran 50 degrees when I checked it Wednesday evening. Try a dry/long dropper rig to a weighted nymph.  The dry will just be a strike indicator.

UO buddy RSquared: “This past week I was able to slip away and fish one of my favorite high elevation trout streams for some wild, native, Southern Appalachian Brook Trout. The pristine stream was running high, cold and fast, but it was clear. Using a combination of various size stoneflies and pheasant tails, tied in a tandem rig and fished without an indicator, proved to be effective for me. I was also blessed to find a large, fresh Lions Mane mushroom! The "Atlanta Fly Fishing Show" is this weekend. (Friday-Sunday) Stop by the "Georgia Council of Trout Unlimited" booth and say hello and buy some dream trip raffle tickets for a week in Yellowstone to support Georgia Trout Camp! Hope to see you there!”

Our TN friend Ian gave us his February Smokies prospects:


Public Water Streams: 

Flows are good and water temps are rising. Give them a shot, especially the public sections adjacent to special regulation or trophy trot operations. Fish can’t read signs and you might happen upon some hefty migrants.

GA Tech 5Rivers Club prez Will checked in: “Thanks for your quick advice. Dukes at Smithgall was a bit stained and almost perfect last Saturday morning. Two of my GT buddies and I found some fish in the morning window ahead of the hardest rain. We ended up putting a few fish in the net, including a couple in the 16-18” range as well as a feisty 21” rainbow that took me for quite a ride. After trying to jump out of the water into a pod of overhanging branches, the fish bolted towards multiple different fallen trees in the area, tried to cut me off on a rock, then made a fast run downstream into the heaviest whitewater it could find and held its ground for a solid minute before giving in. Fish were caught on squirmies, eggs, pat’s, and one lone fish on a kreelex. When the hard rain came in, we called it a day and dried out before making the drive back to the city.”

Delayed Harvest: 

Several Georgia streams have evidently been redosed. Those naive stockers are gullible to many fly patterns and techniques. 

Dredger walked the Smith DH trail Wednesday and spotted fresh fish in the 48-degree water. Foothills TUer Lamar and his sidekick were doubling up in a prime pool. When asked about their hot flies and they said “anything tossed at them.”  

Start with a small rubberleg stone or a small stripped wooly bugger. Fish will smarten up quickly, so be ready with Plan B, small natural nymph patterns.

Dredger ran up to the Chattooga DH yesterday (2/1) and had a good feeling after seeing a “strike indicator” 😎 on his hike in the gated road.

Flows were still a bit high (2.2 on the Clayton gauge), but the river ran clear and a promising 42F at his noon start, with a later warmup to 44F.  He saw his first decent batch of little black winter  stones coming off, but the fish were too fresh to recognize natural food.

Euro, indi, and bugger-stripping techniques all worked. Half the cooperators were bows, half browns, and a lone brookie gave him the slam. His best bugs were a brown pats rubberlegs and a #10 black woolly bugger. He left with fish still hitting at 5:15 PM. Longer hours of sunshine are here once again!

Dredger’s tip: fish the soft seams on either side of the main flow. Cast first to where you’d normally step into each pool, as recent floods have pushed fish into those slower spots. Bring a wading staff, a wading belt, and a wading buddy.

Some bonus wildlife encounters topped off his day, as a deer crashed across the pool behind him and an armadillo paid him no attention on his ride home along Warwoman Road.

UGA 5 Rivers clubber Matt:

“Hey Dredger! Had a great time at the Rabun Rendezvous. Good food and good people!

Went up to Boone and the water temps were so cold there was ice on the shallow banks! Had to deal with some frozen eyelets too. Fishing is as you would expect with deep, slow drifts with a more natural look to the flies. We found brown pats rubber legs and either a midge or frenchie worked the best. Keeping our hands warm was the hardest thing to do that day!

Also went fishing on the Chattahoochee below the dam and did decently well with a pats down to a midge. Later evening saw some surface murmurs but nothing to warrant tying on a dry fly or soft hackle.”

Private Waters:  Our UO trips were washed out again by high water last week. Most fish in these reaches haven’t seen any flies for two weeks, so they should be prime targets for our next guests. Cash in that UO Black Friday gift certificate soon and go have a banner day!

Small Lakes:

UO buddy Athens Jay: “Bass are moving into shallower water now and they are hungry. After work I fished a Piedmont pond for the last 45 minutes before dark and had lots of action. Slowly bouncing a weighted, articulated fly off the bottom in water from 2-4 feet deep worked best. But I also got a couple of bites swimming a large articulated shad-colored fly with a faster retrieve.”


Stripers are few and far between for fly flingers, but size compensates for numbers. Jimmy and Dredger took advantage of last Friday’s dry PM window and hit upper Lanier. They searched for warmer water and found a few coves in the mid-50s, thanks to dirty water catching the sunshine. They worked a few flocks of diving gulls and Jimmy connected with a pot-belled 10.5 lb striper that inhaled Henry C’s somethin’ else streamer. 


Most of us will be at the Atlanta Fly Fishing Show, which runs Friday through Sunday. Stop by and share some lies with our UO gang at booth #436.

Good luck this week with your enhanced menu. Double-dip if you can, with a day on the water and a day at the show. Grab some fresh intel and put it to good use soon.

Unicoi Outfitters: Friendly. Local. Experts.


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