Autumn is without a doubt the best time of year to visit a North Georgia trout stream. The scenic backdrop of the Southern Appalachians, ablaze with their Fall colors are reason alone to hit the water and do some fly fishing. Fall, much like Spring, is a transitional time of year for the trout. Much like the beginning of Spring, trout will start the season on the lethargic side. As the season progresses their activity level will continuously increase. As intermittent rainfall raises the low water levels and warm temperatures, the trout activity will pick up as fish migrate to their spawning runs and feed up for winter. Many of the trout streams across the state will fish differently during the Fall months as stocking patterns are more variable than in the Spring, and trout behavior keeps anglers on their toes. The Georgia Tailwaters are the most notably different trout waters during this time of year and each fish very differently from one another.
Fly Fishing the Chattahoochee River Tailwater in the Fall
The fishing on the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is a bit disappointing during the Fall. The waters on Lake Lanier will begin turning over in late August and early July. This gives the water a dingy stain in late summer and transitions to downright dirty by mid to late September. While the river continues to be stocked and trout are still able to be caught. The fishing is sketchy as wading becomes problematic in the swift water when you are not able to see the large obstacles or drop-offs that are quite common throughout the river. Caution is highly recommended if you are looking at doing any wade fishing during these times. Nymphing with larger profile flies or swinging woolly buggers are the most productive methods during the fall. You will likely be sharing the water with few others, so pressure is rarely a problem at these times. The river clarity will begin to clean up sometime in December but can run in to early January some years.
Fly Fishing the Toccoa River Tailwater in the Fall
The Toccoa River Tailwater does not see the elongated turnover that the Chattahoochee sees. Low water levels are the only slight hinderance to the trout fishing, but other than the occasional finicky trout, there are plenty of fish to be caught. Smaller flies (size 16-20) will outproduce most others this time of year especially when fish are finicky. On both the Toccoa River Tailwater and the Upper Toccoa River above Lake Blue Ridge wild trout will begin their annual migration and movement upstream following the first rains in September. Most of these migratory trout will be brown trout, but some smaller rainbows will begin seeking the smaller headwater streams where they will spawn. This process doesn’t just occur overnight or immediately after the first heavy rains of the season. Trout will move up in stages, using different holding points on the rivers and creeks. Major movements do seem to correspond with the rains that allow the easy passage over obstacles and barriers on the streams. Once you catch a whiff of these patterns, you’ll find yourself running into quality sized trout that are rarely seen on public land during majority of the year.
Fly Fishing Stocked Trout Streams in the Fall
When stocking picks up in the fall the trout fishing follows. With more anglers inside watching football or outside in a deer stand, the amount of angling pressure on North Georgia’s trout streams declines. This means more trout lasting longer than a weekend and a bit more activity for visiting anglers. The larger streams like Rock Creek, Dicks Creek, Coopers Creek, Chattooga River, Upper Chattahoochee River, and Tallulah River will see the most trout stocking as usual, but the best days of the year can be had when stumbling across these trout in one of the smaller streams. These trout will catch on faster than normal as the low clear water is quick to expose any threats from above but provide a worthy challenge.
The Delayed Harvest Streams will be back up and fishing come November. This is the best and only reasonable opportunity to fish the Toccoa River Delayed Harvest Section as it will be wade friendly until water levels rise back to normal in late Winter/Spring. The Chattooga River, Amicalola Creek, and Smith Creek Delayed Harvests will all fish very well once stocked. The Chattahoochee Delayed Harvest will be in rougher shape until December when the water clarity improves.
Fly Fishing for Wild Trout in Fall
The wild trout of North Georgia are my personal favorite during the Fall months. Transitions similar to the seasonal movements described in the Upper Toccoa River and its tributaries described above occur in many of the major trout streams in North Georgia. These transitions and migrations occur on the Cartecay River, Etowah River, Chestatee River, Upper Chattahoochee River, Tallulah River, and Chattooga River. While every day might not be an all-out slugfest, the day or two when your timing is perfect can be unforgettable. Learning to probe for these transitioning trout is the first key to success. While most wild trout will be looking to the surface for food during the fall making dry flies a great option. Don’t overlook eye catching flies such as a girdle bug, mop jig, egg pattern, or small streamer that look like an easy, high calorie, meal for a migrating trout. Cover and undercut banks are prime cover for these trout on the move. Don’t overlook shallow water, so long as there is ample cover trout can find enough shelter to rest during the day before they continue their way upstream at night.
Hopefully these tips will keep you in front of the trout this Fall. To learn more, check out our articles on the best flies for North Georgia, Trout Stocked Streams in North Georgia, and How to find trout in North Georgia. For vacationers looking to visit from out of state, check out our article on the best cabins and lodging for trout fishing, along with our guides to fly fishing Blue Ridge, fly fishing Helen, fly fishing Ellijay, fly fishing Dahlonega, and fly fishing Blairsville. Best of luck this Fall!