Updated: May 24
Atlanta offers several unique opportunities for fly fishing throughout the year. While trout are the most popular target species for fly anglers. Striped bass, carp, and a few species of black bass (spotted, largemouth, and shoal) can be found in the rivers and creeks in the northern parts of metro Atlanta. Most of these fish are found in the Chattahoochee and several of its tributaries. Timing can be important in deciding which species you would like to target as the different species come and go throughout the year.
Trout Fishing in Atlanta
Beginning at the most southern end of trout waters in Atlanta, the Delayed Harvest section of the Chattahoochee River begins around Cochran Shoals, to the confluence of Sope Creek. This section of “The Hooch” is stocked from November to May and is managed as a catch and release fishery for trout during those months. After the end of the delayed harvest season, the trout in the river get cleaned out quickly by resident anglers and migrating striped bass moving up from West Point Lake. During the trout season, the early fall trout fishing can be very consistent in this section but will become difficult in December as Lake Lanier begins its turnover. As Lanier begins to turn over, the Chattahoochee River will become very dingy, cloudy, or even muddy depending where you are on the river. While this lower section of the river is often dirty, it becomes much worse and dangerous to wade for 3-4 weeks during the turnover. After the process is complete, the river will be its clearest of the year from January until the spring rains begin, and the water will remain dirtier until the end of the season. This window is when you can find the best Atlanta fly fishing opportunities.
Trout Fishing Metro Atlanta
Moving northward, trout will begin to be stocked once again just above Bull Sluice and the Morgan Falls dam, around the Roswell Road Bridge. Trout upstream of here will live in the river year-round. The lower portions of the river (downstream from McGinnis Ferry Rd) are more susceptible to being blown out by rains and take much longer to clear up. The Suwanee creek confluence seems to be the main contributor to the dirtier water, so if you’re making a trip to the river during a wetter time of year, time is best spent above the McGinnis Ferry Bridge.
For anglers looking to cover larger amounts of water when wading, access can be limited on the upper stretches. The best access will be from Settles Bridge to about a half mile upstream and the section of river from Hwy 20 bridge upstream to Buford Dam. For less walking and still good wading opportunities, the stretch just below the dam on Lanier to Bowman Island has many access points and wadable water.
Chattahoochee River Fishing Tips
The food opportunities for trout are slim in the Chattahoochee Tailwater but still exists as one of Georgia's best trout fisheries. Most of the trout’s diet will consist of very small midges and smaller baitfish. Stocker rainbows are very willing to bite any flashy flies or junk patterns that may float by. The brown trout tend to gravitate towards more natural flies and presentations. If keeping trout for dinner, most anglers on the river appreciate those who release brown trout as they are 100% wild in the Chattahoochee River. The Rainbow trout, however, are perfect for a meal as they are stocked by the thousands and little to no natural reproduction occurs among them. The last tip is to take your time while wading. The large chunk rock and exposed bedrock are very slick year-round and can get worse at certain times of the year. Also be sure to check generation schedules on the river. During winter and spring, the schedule is often VERY inconvenient but becomes very consistent during Summer and Fall providing an excellent opportunity to go trout fishing in Atlanta.
Trout Streams North of Atlanta
With barely more than an hour drive North of Atlanta you can reach the first small water trout streams in North Georgia. When trout fishing Atlanta just gets too darn hot, especially for the waders required to fish the Hooch, North Georgia has some excellent summer opportunities. The upper Cartecay watershed between Jasper and Ellijay has both stocked and wild rainbow trout populations. To the east, between Ellijay and Dahlonega, the Upper tributaries of the Etowah River and Chestatee River are also stocked with Rainbow trout. And even further to the east you can reach Helen and the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River where both rainbow and brown trout can be found in the lower trout waters.
Fly Fishing for Carp in Atlanta
An acquired taste for certain fly anglers, but Georgia does have several productive carp fisheries in the Atlanta area. The more easily accessible water is located around Bull Sluice Lake above Morgan Falls Dam in Roswell. Some sort of watercraft is beneficial for searching flats for carp rummaging along the bottom. If searching on foot, plan to do a good bit of walking to spot fish along the trails that line Bull Sluice, as well as the creeks, flats, and channels that run the Roswell River walk. In the Metro Atlanta area, you can find carp on the Chattahoochee River. Search the confluences of the larger creeks and you will find fish roaming in circles around the mouths during summer. The input of food and warmer water pulls these larger trout in every year. Suwanee Creek, the outlet from Berkeley Lake, Crooked Creek, Ball Mill Creek, and Big Creek all have populations of carp but for shore bound anglers, the Bull Sluice lake fishing is the best bet.
Fly Fishing for Striped Bass in Atlanta
Anglers can find Striper in Atlanta from mid Spring into Summer. Striper migrating up from West Point Lake will be feeding heavily once they reach the Atlanta area. They will feed on mostly gizzard shad along their migration but once they reach the Delayed Harvest section above the 285 bridge, they can begin eating the more nutritious trout that remain in the river. On their migration, these striper will rest in deeper and shaded holes in the river. This typically occur below bends or creek mouths. Though striper are typically opportunistic, they will be less active in these deeper areas. When active they will cruise into shallow shoals where they can ambush or corral their meals. This is the type of water where wading anglers should begin their search. Streamer patterns that can grab their attention in these faster shoals will produce more fish. Low light hours or overcast days often position these fish in shallow water.
Lake Lanier Striped Bass Fly Fishing
Striper on Lanier can be targeted in the fly from October through early June. These fish are very nomadic and a boat is nearly essential for putting yourself in the right position to hang one on the fly. Out Winter Striper Fishing Guide, and Spring Striper fishing guide can pint you in the right direction if you're looking to take up the challenge. For even more information, check out Henry Cowen’s book on Freshwater Striper Fishing for more history, tips, and insight.
Fly Fishing for Bass in Atlanta
Besides the many ponds and small reservoirs in Atlanta, bass can be found on the fly in similar places as the carp in the riverine systems. In the Chattahoochee from 285 to the Lake Lanier Dam, you can find bass in nearly EVERY creek mouth and just downstream of their confluences. Above Morgan Falls, spotted bass are the most common followed by largemouth. Below Morgan Falls you can find these two species with the added bonus of some excellent shoal bass. Baitfish or crawfish imitations work great, although the bass switch between very lethargic to extremely aggressive. Once you find and area that holds a population of bass, visiting during dam generation or higher off-color water, tends to put these fish in an aggressive mood.
Fly Fishing for Bass in North Georgia
Further north, in the smaller streams above Lake Lanier you can find more bass fishing. From spring through fall bass fishing these smaller waters can be excellent. The Hooch above Lanier will hold good numbers of shoal bass. Access is easy to find around Mossy Creek State Park and Buck Shoals WMA. You will also find spotted bass and largemouth through this section. Walleye and white bass will show up in March and April followed by striper that move through in April and May with stragglers moving back down later in the year. The Chestatee has the same fish from Lanier up through Dahlonega and sees the same migrations. To the west white bas and striper make runs up the Coosawattee from Carters lake and Etowah from Lake Allatoona during heavier spring flows. Redeye bass can be found in the upper extremities of these watersheds as well. These runs are typically feast or famine so timing is crucial in having a productive day on the water.
Atlanta Fly Fishing
Hopefully these tips will help you find more fish while fly fishing Atlanta. To better understand how to bring these trout to the net, our articles on What Trout Eat and Best Flies for North Georgia will help you get more trout to the net. To learn more about fishing in Georgia, North Georgia Fly Fishing or some of North Georgia’s best fly fishing destinations, check out the Georgia Wild Trout website and make your next North Georgia Fly Fishing Trip a productive one.