Updated: May 24
Learning knew tactics as an angler is crucial to evolving your skill set and learning how to better read situations that arise on the water. These skills will allow you to become more proficient when exploring new waters and lead to less unproductive days on any trout stream. Dry fly fishing on the Chattahoochee River Tailwater below Lake Lanier is certainly not the most efficient way to catch trout but is incredibly exciting and will challenge you to improve your casting, approach, and presentation on the water. The wild brown trout of the Chattahoochee can be very skittish and selective which demands a higher level of execution on the part of the angler. Smaller flies, long leaders, and accurate casts are the best ways to find success. We will discuss how to set up you gear, where to look for rising trout on the river, and how to approach these trout.
Chattahoochee River Dry Fly Fishing Gear
Starting with rod and reel, the standard 9ft 5wt will perform just fine here. A good quality fly line is a must here. We will be making long casts, so a high performing and high floating line is critical to achieve the best presentation. I like the high end lines by AirFlo, the Orvis Pro, or Rio Gold. From the fly line we will have a 9' or even 12’ 5X tapered leader. We can then tie a couple extra feet of 5X and 6X to the end which will lead to our first fly. From the bend of the hook on our lead fly we can tie some additional 6X or 7X tippet to our smallest fly.
Chattahoochee River Fly Patterns
The two groups of flies we will use for rising trout are standard dry flies and emerger patterns. Though these brown trout are eating midges 99% of the time, we will through some caddis or stone fly patterns that will allow us to keep a better visual on our flies, especially in low light or windy conditions. These larger patterns will also receive some attention from rainbow trout and browns that are set up along larger chunk rock shelves and boulders.
Lead Flies for Fly Fishing the Chattahoochee River
I prefer the larger caddis patterns for keeping a better visual on my flies. X-Caddis, Elk Hair Caddis in the size 16-20 range, and even size 14 Stimulators will help you achieve these goals. I don’t like to go any larger than a size 14 as the long leader makes the bulkier flies much more difficult to turn over and nearly impossible with any type of breeze or wind pushing downstream.
Midge Emergers for the Chattahoochee River
These flies will all be size 20 or smaller. Going any larger will greatly diminish the number of bites you receive. These flies will all sit differently on the water, which can be very important to know when selecting which fly might work best in each situation. My first choice is a variation of an adams dry fly in size 20 and 24. The difference in this fly and a standard adams pattern is I replace the tail fibers with Coq de Leon which allows the rear of the fly to better break the surface tension of the water. I will then cut the lower half of the dry fly hackles from the bottom of the fly. This allows the fly to sit lower on the water than a standard adams pattern. This emerger pattern will sit higher on the water than the other emergers we will discuss. It works best when trout are rising more vigorously. The next patterns will sit about half in and half out of the water. I will use a standard CDC emerger with no tail fibers on the rear of the fly. I will also replace CDC with some sparse antron on several flies for a bit of a different look. Both of these patterns will be in the size 20 to 24 range as well. I utilize these flies once my adams variations have been rejected or haven’t produced. If these patterns don’t produce as well I go smaller once again to a thread midge from size 24 to 30. These flies simply have the smallest amount of thread base to cover the hook with a counter ribbing of either a different color thread, a light wire, or Krystal Flash. When the trout are only slightly dimpling the surface on their rises is when these patterns work best. Lastly, I will throw a size 24 zebra midge pattern. With a light cast, these flies will also stay on top of or barely below the surface. I throw these after I’ve missed several bites on the other patterns and the same trout continues to rise but wont touch the other flies again. I believe the shine from the brass or glass bead does something to help the trout better commit. Or maybe its just luck/coincidence.
Where to find rising trout on the Chattahoochee River Tailwater
The first mistake anglers can make while looking for trout on a dry fly is to hop in the river and start fishing the first spot they come across. Rather than getting in and starting to fish, scan the river for any rises or surface activity. Look for shallower (knee to waist deep) areas of flat water with a modest, walking paced current. Avoid faster water as trout in the stretches of the Hooch are less likely to be eating near the surface and pose additional problems for achieving an effective drift. Simply doing a bit of walking will help you find more productive runs and unmolested trout that are more likely to rise to your fly. These shallow, flat runs can be more difficult to find on certain areas of the Hooch. They are more prevalent in the stretches above the fish hatchery as well as along the Hwy 20 and Settles Bridge access points. Use the trails that run along the elevated banks in these areas to locate feeding trout. To assure easier success in finding rising trout, time your visits to periods of the day that see larger midge hatches. Early and mid-morning along with late evening are the most productive times. The first hour or two following the residing water after the dam has finished generating are also productive times for midges to hatch. You don’t necessarily have to find runs that are several hundred yards long. Though these stretches may be more productive, runs of 50ft or less can hold trout. Hatches will come and go throughout the day and occur at different times on different stretches of water. If you notice the number of rises beginning to decrease, you can simply wait for more activity to pick up again or start looking for new water with more activity.
Approaching Rising Brown Trout on the Chattahoochee River
Approaching these rising trout should be done with as much stealth as possible. These brown trout are very in tune with their surroundings and will spook with even the slighting pulse of a wave or wake that is sent their way. An approach from downstream is critical in order to hide your presence by keeping any water you have pushed dampened by the oncoming current, along with staying out of the trout’s line of sight. I like to position myself about 40’-50’ away from the rising fish. Occasionally you may be able to get closer if the water conditions permit. I do recommend erroring on the side of caution when it comes to distance.
I hope these tips are a good starting point in learning a new method to target trout on the water. You will find that this method can improve your understanding of trout behavior, and in turn, help with your other methods of fly fishing. It took many years for me to truly understand, how, when, and where to fish emerger patterns, and the Chattahoochee offers Georgia’s best fly fishing opportunity to learn these skills. Emerging insects are a larger part of trout diets throughout the U.S. So rather than traveling and learning the hard lessons on the road. You can improve your skills and understanding close to home. Please reach out to us with any questions on North Georgia fly fishing you may have.