Updated: Apr 21
Fly Fishing North Georgia can be a daunting hobby for beginners just looking to get on the water. Especially, here in the North Georgia Mountains where the overhanging rhododendrons and mountain laurel line the creek and riverbanks. The upfront cost for the equipment needed may look intimidating at first, but maintaining simplicity is key for new fly anglers. If you’re just looking to get into fly fishing, time of year can be quite helpful. Late spring through early fall is the ideal time to give fly fishing a shot. Trout will be eating heavily and consistently during these months which should give you more positive feedback as an angler. Along with this, you can cut some of the overhead costs as waders won’t be needed in many of the North Georgia streams as water temperatures are a bit more suitable. A pair of old hiking boots, and either a swimsuit or quick dry pants will be perfectly adequate. For anglers eager to start fly fishing outside of those warmer months, a pair of waders will be necessary, and getting a guide will be even more helpful as trout can be tougher to find during these months and possibly even tougher to get to eat. The learning curve for fly fishing is a long J curve. A beginner must accept that they will stink for a decent while and instant gratification likely isn’t in the cards. A guide will certainly cut the length of this curve down but understanding the basic concepts is crucial to going out on your own. The most important lesson to learn for beginning fly fishers, especially those who regularly fish for other species with conventional tackle, is that stealth will yield you far more opportunities to catch trout than with any other fish species.
Stealth in fly fishing refers not to you voice, but your body movement and approach to a piece of water. Trout will be facing upstream 99.9% of the time. This means we should be approaching from downstream as trout in shallow water (less than 5ft) are quite wary of predators from above. Any movement seen by the trout will likely spook the fish into hiding or at minimum stop the fish from actively feeding. Next to an approach from downstream or below the trout’s line of site is the awareness of your shadow and the wake you leave while wading. Managing or being aware of your shadow falls in line with a downstream approach. If your shadow extends onto the water and reaches the trout’s line of sight, nearly all wild fish and majority of stocked fish will shut down or take to cover. Sometime managing your shadow can be nearly impossible while the sun is at a low angle but being aware of this factor my stack the cards in your favor. The number one reason I see new fly anglers spook fish before even making a cast is moving water. While wading, be aware of the pulse of water you are pushing into the pool or run upstream of you. Fish can feel the subtle push of water from downstream and know that something isn’t right. In calm or slower water, walk slowly while water to assure this doesn’t happen to you. In fast water you can often get away with heavier movement as the quick flow will mask your presence. Once we are in position, the next step is delivering the right cast.
In this article, we won’t be going over the individual cast beginners will make, but the process of setting yourself up for these casts. After you have waded and positioned yourself in the water adjacent to where you think trout may be lying, take note of any overhanging limbs or obstacles that may cause you trouble. Taking ten seconds to recognize these obstructions will save you money, time, and the headache of having to retie or untangle your rig. The next step is deciding how you need to set up your cast. If a waterhaul cast is what you need to make, then a quick cast downstream will allow you to adjust how much line you have out, and about how much you will need to make the perfect cast. If you are trying to cast across stream, a roll cast may be a better option and having line upstream of you may be the way to go. In the rare case you have an open stream bed, which you will occasionally come across while fly fishing in North Georgia, a conventional cast may be an option. In this scenario make extra sure to check for any obstructions within your back cast radius. Once we have our flies on the water, the drift is the next task to master.
The drift is the step it took me the longest to grasp as a beginning angler. Once you truly understand the concept on how to achieve a drag free drift, you will hit the curve on your productivity of your fly angling. To achieve the best drift with your flies, you must first understand current. A river or stream acts as a conveyor belt of food for trout. Trout rarely must move to find food. Instead, they position themselves in a favorable current where they expend as little energy as possible and food flows by as often as possible. Because these fish are not moving often they have a very good idea of how fast their food should be moving downstream. If they see 100 small insects flowing downstream at 5 mph every day, they certainly know something is wrong when your fly glides by at 7mph. The nuance seems negligible to us as new fly anglers but to the trout, it is incredible the slight changes they can see. It is also important to know current along the surface is faster than current along the bottom of the stream. Combatting this factor is relatively easy though. With trout sitting along the bottom, which is typical, we want the amount of line between or dry fly or indicator and our nymph (subsurface fly) to be 1.5X the stream depth in walking paced water. In faster water this length will be a bit longer, in slower, a bit shorter. A good angler will constantly adjust this until the trout give a positive response. The key to matching your flies to the speed of water is control of your slack line on the water. Varying surface currents will pull and drag on your fly line, causing the speed of your flies to accelerate. Minimizing the slack by manipulating the angle of your rod tip (moving tip downstream or lifting off of surface) and keeping line off the water is a good way to decrease additional drag. Mending your line as the flies float downstream will also reduce this drag. Once you have achieved the desired drift it won’t be long until we get bit.
Setting the hook on trout is very different from other forms of fishing. Speed is everything when fly fishing for trout. On a good day trout can just about set the hook on themselves, but on the average or typical day, they can eat and spit the fly before you can think about lifting your arm. Getting a good hookset starts before you ever receive a bite. Just like before casting, knowing where your surrounding obstacles are is important on where we set the hook. Keeping our slack line off the water means more tension in the line and a quicker hook set. Setting the hook down stream is optimal when the flies are upstream of you. As the trout will nearly always be facing upstream this will give you the best chance of securing the hook. If the flies are downstream of you, setting upstream is the quickest path to tension, the odds are a bit lower in this scenario as you could pull the flies out of the trout’s mouth. The set itself is just a fast sweep of the rod that stops when tension is secured. Pulling any softer will likely not secure the hook, pulling harder could break the line. Too hard of a hook set and big fish will take off very quickly and likely find a way off the hook or break line. Getting you set speed in that goldilocks range will make the rest of the fight much easier.
Once you have the fish on, the best thing to do first is to get an idea on the size of the fish. If its smaller, landing the trout shouldn’t be a problem. Larger fish are much more difficult. The video below will show a good example of how to land these trophy size trout.
By following these steps, Fly fishing in North Georgia and the rest of Southern Appalachia will be much less stressful and far more enjoyable. If you would like to cut that learning curve down, please reach out to us for a guided trip at any time. We love seeing our customers learn, grow, and succeed.