Updated: May 24
Many of Georgia's trout streams lack the large aquatic insect hatches that are occur in many of the other rivers, streams, and lakes that trout inhabit across the country. This can leave newer fly anglers puzzled on what flies to throw throughout the year. The good news is the lack of the hatches actually makes the trout of North Georgia more opportunistic than most other trout. There is no need to worry over the size, color, and profile of your fly as you might in other regions of the country when gathering your fly fishing gear. Its performance and presentation on the water are much more critical. This makes Georgia a great place for beginning fly anglers to learn the craft. For more background on trout diets our articles on What Trout Eat will help you better understand the thought process behind choosing certain flies at certain times.
Dry Fly Fishing North Georgia
All anglers love to see a trout rise to the surface to eat there fly. There is little that is more poetic than a slow dry fly eat. In Georgia it is only necessary to have a few patterns in your box to make it through the year.
First is a hopper pattern. These big bugs are great from late spring through fall on stocked and trophy water trout. They can easily suspend a medium to large nymph below them while probing new stretches of water. The size 10 or larger flies offer a great meal to gluttonous fish.
My favorite dry fly pattern for North Georgia is the stimulator. This bug appeals to all trout as a big caddis or stonefly. This fly works from April though December, when the dry fly bite dissipates. I use sizes 10-14 depending on the how heavy the current is and the size of trout I am looking for. The appeal of the stimulator to an angler lies in its construction. The amount of buoyant materials and larger surface area from additional hackle allow the stimulator to ride higher for longer in heavy current. These flies make fishing Georgia's headwater streams much easier. Other flies that will be as effective as the stimulator, and have similar construction/function would be coachmans, irresistables, and humpys.
Smaller dries are good to use on tags below your larger flies. You can get follow up bites from trout that may be too finicky or picky to rise for you big flies. This especially holds true when fishing calm/slower waters, as well as very small waters when targeting brook trout or other small rainbows. Small caddis patterns (elk hair caddis or peacock caddis) along with small mayfly patterns (adams or comparaduns) work great in size 16-20 when trailing these bigger flies. This bite also lasts from April through December on the wild trout streams, but don't be surprised if the occasional stocker finds these flies appealing as well. On the Toccoa tailwaters several smaller hatches do occur and you can find sulphurs, blue wing olives, and small caddis hatches at certain times of the year. This hatch does require you to have patterns that more closely resemble the insects coming of the water, but if you don't find yourself on the Lower Toccoa River often, then there is no need to have these patterns around.
The last choice for a dry fly bite occurs on the tailwater sections of the Chattahoochee River and Toccoa River. This is the midge bite. Dreaded by some anglers as the long casts with light tippet and tiny flies aren't always appealing. Especial for those with poor vision that struggle with tiny knots or seeing their flies on the water. However, this bite can be quite productive during the winter months when little else is occurring on the surface. Trout on the tailwaters will eat these bugs year round but on warmer or overcast winter days the bite is at its best. These midge patterns can be emergers or high floating flies. The Matt's Midge, Tiny Adams, Mole Midge, and Griffith's Gnat are common patterns that are equally effective in sizes smaller that 20. Using anything bigger than size twenty will likely leave you skunked while the smaller you go will get you more bites but less hookups. I would recommend using as big of a fly (size 20-22) as possible and adjust lower until you find a happy balance between fish biting and fish landing.
Nymph Patterns for Fly Fishing in North Georgia
Nymph's are certainly the most commonly used flies in North Georgia. The tried and true nymphs will always perform well with the correct presentation. The key to landing more fish on nymphs is proper weighting. Too heavy and you grab bottom, too light and you never get to the fish. I like to have flies in heavy and light or weightless variations. This will cover you whether you are fishing deep or shallow water and in varying current speeds. Nymphs will catch fish year round but are certainly staples in the winter when trout are lethargic and don't want to look up. They work on both stocked and wild trout, especially once they've been pressured.
Mayfly imitations are the most commonly used nymphs here in North Georgia. Hare's ears nymphs, prince nymphs, and pheasant tails from size 12-18 will get the job done majority of the time. Remember to downsize your flies as the seasons progress and the fish become more pressured . This will lead to many more bites.
Caddis nymphs are less commonly used but can be equally productive. Caddis pupa imitations and the Walt's worm are go to flies that see a lot of attention from the fish. Though trout will eat these patterns year round, I find them to be more productive in the shoulder months (mid fall and mid spring).
Stonefly imitations can look similar to many of the mayfly nymphs. But i would be doing a disservice by not mentioning the Pat's Rubber Legs or Girdle Bug. These patterns are must haves from late fall to spring. They are big bugs that get trout worked up and are quite enticing to trophy trout.
Last but not least is once again the midge. The always popular zebra midge, rootbeer midge, and RS2 are always good patterns to have in the box. Again I stay size 20 or smaller with these patterns. These flies will catch fish everywhere in Georgia and on all water types, especially when fish are skittish and tight lipped. They really shine in the coldest parts of winter and on the tailwaters. Light tippet and patience when fighting fish is a must when throwing these flies. They can be quite frustrating but will turn around many unproductive days on the water.
Flashy flies are always noteworthy and can fall into a group of there own. These flies can catch a trout's eye, especially in the winter when trout may shy away from bigger flies. The rainbow warrior, a bright blow torch, or flashback pheasant tail will always grab the trout's attention.
Junk Fly Patterns for Fly Fishing North Georgia
Fly fishing purists despise the flies in this group. But I tell my customers if you would like to out fish those purists, junk flies are a must have. These flies include; squirmy worms (san juan worms), mop jigs, and egg patterns like the Y2K. Worms worm extremely well throughout the year on both wild and stocked fish. Weighting of these flies is important to make sure you can get effective drifts in both deep and shallow water. Egg patterns can also be fished year round for stockers, but tend to fish better from late October through the spring. Wild fish especially are looking for them at this time, but are relatively uninterested in then throughout the rest of the year. The mop may be the most productive of the three. While it will always be puzzling to anglers what trout think the mop might be, it is unquestionable on whether or not wild or stocked fish will eat it.
Our article on The Best Flies for Trout Fishing will help you better understand the materials and construction that goes into each fly and why/when is the best time to select a specific fly in a given scenario. In our Fly Fishing Lessons page, we share our stories from our adventures around the globe on fly fishing lessons we learned the hard way. Hopefully these tips will help you load your fly box and be perfectly equipped to catch some trout on your next visit to North Georgia. Be sure to reach out to Georgia Wild Trout if you are looking to make a fly fishing trip soon.