Updated: Apr 21
As a fly fishing guide in North Georgia, the most common question I receive is where can I go fly fishing in North Georgia. This question has may answers as it all depends on what you are looking to accomplish. There is not one river or creek that has it all. Different streams offer different sizes, numbers, and species of trout. On top of this, they each fish quite differently and offer different challenges. This alone is enough to confuse any novice fly fisherman. In addition to this, weeding through outdated articles and misinformation in forums online can leave even the most experienced visiting angler scratching their head. Stocked fish and wild fish behave very differently and fly anglers will have to use very different methods to have success. While most stockers are on the dumb and lazy side, they will be considerably bigger than wild fish. Majority of wild trout in Georgia fall in the 4”-8” range while stockers are typically 10”-14”. The types of water I will classify these streams into are stocker streams, small stocker streams, wild streams, and trophy waters. Here are some tips that will help you decide what piece of water fits what you are looking for.
Stocked Stream Trout Fishing in North Georgia
The first thing to acknowledge, is that the state of Georgia manages a large percentage of its public trout streams as put-and-take fisheries. These streams are stocked regularly, either throughout the year or from October through May. These places receive a good majority of the pressure from all methods of trout fishing and always are the first to be recommended in any google search or forum commenter. Fly fishing in these streams can be a big gamble as locals will decimate any stockers very soon after they are stocked. By Sunday it may be fair to assume there won’t be many trout left, and the ones that do survive will be quite wary. The most visited creeks that fall into this category are: Wildcat creek, Rock Creek, Coopers Creek, Tallulah River, and the Toccoa River above Blue Ridge Lake. If you do get lucky and manage to come across some recently stocked trout, they should be quite willing to eat. Wild fish can be found in these sections but are more of a rarity. If you are hard set on visiting one of these streams, I would recommend doing a bit of hiking and put a good bit of distance between you and the roadside pull-offs.
The next pieces of water that tend to get mentioned heavily are the seasonal/delayed harvest sections. These streams are stocked heavily in November and remain catch and release fisheries until May when they are cleaned out. These include Amicalola Creek, Smith Creek, lower section of the upper Toccoa River, Lower section of the Chattooga River, and a small stretch of the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. Much like the other stocked creeks previously mentioned, these creeks are red hot earlier in the season after being stocked. You will also find big crowds of other fly anglers here at these times so if you are not looking to share water you might need to look for other locations. After 2-3 weeks the trout in these streams are well educated and the bite becomes quite difficult.
The trout in these streams are much harder to find than they are to catch. Stockers are usually quite gluttonous and willing to eat any junk fly (egg, mop jig, or squirmy worm) that may pass. Once they are caught a few times, smaller flies are usually the way to go. Don’t spend a lot of time on fish that are unwilling to eat either of those offerings, they have likely been pummeled with all types of lures/flies since their release.
Smaller Stocked Stream Fly Fishing For Trout in North Georgia
Many other streams are stocked throughout North Georgia, but with much smaller amounts of fish. These creeks can see much less pressure than the heavily stocked ones. Your odds of running into some untouched stockers are a bit higher here. Be prepared to skip around from creek to creek as some of them are in poor shape while others are quite productive. These productive creeks will not only have the stocked trout, but also wild trout mixed in. These are great places for beginner fly anglers to learn the craft. They are typically much smaller than the more heavily stocked streams so close quarters casting is a must. Because of the smaller stream size, these trout won’t clump together in the same holes as much as they do on larger streams, so keep moving and cover as much water as possible. The Georgia DNR lists all the creeks they stock and how frequently. You can use this site to find which ones will be closest to you, and how often they are stocked. Most of the creeks in this category are stocked weekly April through July.
Fishing in these smaller stocked streams is a bit different than the heavily stocked streams. The trout become acclimated much more quickly to their new environment. Smaller junk flies are still productive but don’t be afraid to throw more natural patterns (small dries, hare’s ear, or pheasant tail nymphs).
Wild Streams Fly Fishing in North Georgia
Wild trout streams throughout North Georgia are by far my favorite. These creeks are typically smaller and much faster flowing than the stocked streams, which makes them a bit more difficult to fish. With that said, the number of hungry wild fish makes up for the difficulty in presentation. Though more stealth and forethought are needed before presenting a fly, these trout rarely pass on a meal drifting downstream. Dry Flies can work nearly year-round. Mid to late winter (January-March) is the only time they seem a bit reluctant to rise. These streams are a bit easier to find. The U.S, Forestry Service has several very large swaths of land across North Georgia. In these areas, it is the headwaters of the major rivers where you can find these wild fish. Starting from the northwest corner of Georgia, the Cohutta Wilderness offers a vast area with dozens if not hundreds of miles of rarely touched creeks that are filled with wild trout. These are Tennessee/Toccoa River or Coosa River headwaters where you can find wild rainbow and brown trout. To the east is the majority of the Toccoa river drainages. These headwater creeks like Skeenah Creek, Little Rock Creek, Mauldin Creek, and the very popular Noontootla Creek, which has seen much higher traffic in recent years, have wild brook, rainbow, and brown trout. The rainbows dominate much of the creeks, but in the highest elevation waters you can find incredibly spooky and highly coveted native brook trout. The brown trout travel a tremendous amount throughout the Toccoa River drainage.
Late summer and early fall are the easiest time to find brown trout as they begin to move during their spawning migration. Further to the east towards Dahlonega you have the headwaters of the Etowah River, Chestatee River, and Nottely River.These headwaters have all three trout species as well. The different creeks in these headwaters can each have a particular species throughout their entire stretch. So even though all three species can be found here, you may have to hop around to find all three. Lastly, in the northeast corner of Georgia we have the Upper Chattahoochee River (above Helen), Hiwassee River, Tallulah River, and the Chattooga River watersheds. The Upper Chattahoochee River and Chattooga River watershed are a good bit higher in elevation than the other two tributaries and have all three species of trout. The others will have mostly rainbow trout with the occasional brown trout.
Trophy Waters Trout Fishing in North Georgia
Many fly angers, with good reason, want to go for the trophy trout. These trout can be elusive, but if you know when and where to find them, the task seems a bit more doable. Dukes Creek is renowned as the best public trophy water in Georgia. While big fish certainly live in this tributary of the Hooch, they aren’t as easy to get on the line as many would hope. After making your reservations and waiting for the one of the three days a week that the creek is open, you can have a shot at these spooky and highly educated giants. The fish here are used to seeing better than average anglers make good presentations throughout the fishing season (October to May). To have the best chance at these fish, start your day with the mind set that you only need one or two bites, and approach the water much slower and with more purpose. Stalk and watch your targeted trout to find the best means to catch your trophy.
Another option that comes up several months of the year is to fish for large trout making their way upstream or downstream of private waters. A quick google search should give you a nice list of where these private waters are. During the fall heavy rains trigger these big fish into making a spawning run upstream. Similar rains in the spring can displace these fish downstream as well as trigger another spawning run for rainbow trout. By searching the public waters adjacent to these private water fisheries you put yourself in a great chance to come across a big trout that is hungry from traveling up or down the river. Similar to Dukes Creek, make your casts count, as big fish can spook easily.
The last method to catch a trophy trout in Georgia is to fish the tailwater rivers. Both the lower Toccoa River and Chattahoochee River below Buford dam hold large rainbow and brown trout. Other than the occasional Toccoa pet rainbow trout, these fish tend to eat bigger meals so leave the small flies behind unless you’re feeling VERY lucky. Larger sculpin or other smaller fish imitations are your best bet for a trophy trout.
Hopefully you have a better idea on where to fish in North Georgia, and what to look for. If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to us. Also, check out our related articles on why our fly fishing guides will help you find more trout not just on a trip, but in your future fishing endeavors.