Where is the best place to go fly fishing in Georgia? Short answer: The Chattahoochee River.
As a Fly Fishing Guide in North Georgia, there is no question I receive more than “Where should I go fly fishing in Georgia?" I have answered this question in many different ways, most of the answers likely have seemed vague, not in attempt to keep my favorite areas a secret, but because of the large number of factors that can change the answer. After several years of deliberation, I believe the best answer is the Chattahoochee River. Though many experienced anglers would argue this answer is vague as well. The Chattahoochee River is certainly the best piece of trout water for both beginning and experienced fly fishermen to improve their angling skills in Georgia. From the I-285 bridge to Helen, The Hooch offers something to every angler throughout each season. While different sections or tributaries may be better at certain times of year, the Chattahoochee offers anglers a shot at stocked trout, trophy trout, wild trout, and all three species of trout found in Georgia. For a deeper dive and to learn more check out our article about 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.
Why the Chattahoochee is the best place to go fly fishing in Georgia?
There is simply no other watershed in Georgia that offers the diversity of trout fishing as the Chattahoochee. From a 3’ wide, rhododendron lined, creek deep in the North Georgia Mountains above Helen, to a large hundred-yard wide tailwater running through one of the densest metropolitan areas in the United States, The Hooch offers something for every angler throughout the year. Typically, the lower end, or tailwater sections fish better during the colder months and the upper reaches are great to escape the heat in the summer months. However, trout can be caught anywhere on the river throughout the year so don’t let your inability to travel deter you from getting on the water.
Fly Fishing the Lower Chattahoochee River (The Tailwaters)
The lower section of the Chattahoochee tailwaters starts along 285, north or downtown. Seasonal stocking begins in November at the Delayed Harvest section of the Chattahoochee. Anglers throughout the metro area can fly fish in this catch and release only section of the river from November through May and see consistent results. Wading around the many shoals is easy and trout can group up consistently in holes and seams. Increased rains will cause the water to get quite stained or dirty making wading for beginners more difficult. I recommend using greater caution during these times or making the drive further upriver and seek out better water clarity and conditions.
The middle section of the tailwater, from Island Ford to the McGinnis Ferry bridge, sees these same stained water conditions throughout the year that can make wading difficult for all anglers. Island Ford and Jones Bridge have several shallow water shoals where wading and finding trout can be made easy when conditions allow. These areas are typically not as productive as the upper or lower sections of the tailwaters though.
The upper section of the Chattahoochee tailwater is productive year-round and likely the best trout fishing in Atlanta. From McGinnis Ferry to the Lake Lanier Dam there are several wadable stretches that offer productive fly fishing. Settles bridge, the Highway 20 access, and Bowman’s Island below Buford Dam offer easy wading and hungry trout. This is my favorite section of the Chattahoochee to fish in the winter months as the trout in the upper tributaries feed little in the winter. The fish below the dam seem to remain active at this time of year because water temps remain in the upper 40s or low 50s year-round. Along with the stable water temps, the brown trout will spawn at some point during late fall into mid-winter. The brown trout spawn will not only mean the brown trout will be eating heavily, but the rainbows will engage in all the excitement as well. Even without the spawn, midges are quite abundant on the river often creating decent hatches in the afternoons and throughout the day during overcast conditions. You can use many methods to catch these trout, with the only rule being that small flies (size 20 or smaller) will produce far more eats than larger patterns. Indicator rigs, drop shot rigs, and euronymphing are all effective tactics. The dry fly fishing on the Chattahoochee river can be an excellent challenge for fly anglers looking to target selective brown trout, especially in winter and spring. Anglers will need to know their flies well when targeting these selective brown trout. Selecting flies for a specific function can be crucial. Our article on choosing the best flies for selective Lake turnover from November into December makes the tailwaters nearly unfishable for several weeks as the water clarity will be extremely poor. You will have much more luck in the upper sections of river during this time as late fall stocking will be at its peak on the smaller tributaries. Fishing the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta isn't limited to trout. Other species such as bass, carp, and striper can be targeted effectively throughout the year.
Fly Fishing the Upper Chattahoochee River
Above Lake Lanier and a stretch of river predominately occupied by bass, trout water will begin again in both the Chestatee River near Dahlonega, and the main stem of the Chattahoochee and its tributaries near Helen. These middle stretches of the Chestatee, Hooch, and medium sized tributary creeks are heavily stocked in the shoulder months (spring and fall) and can offer good fly fishing opportunities.
Fly Fishing the Chestatee River Tributaries
The main stem of the Chestatee River has little public access, but if you do find the stretches of public water, you will certainly find some stocked rainbows and likely a few good holdover trout. The better fishing is found on the smaller tributaries of the Chestatee. Dicks Creek below Dicks Creek falls, and Boggs Creek are stocked heavily and are popular for all trout anglers. If you can find stretches of creek away from the crowds you will certainly be rewarded with hungry stocked trout. These medium sized creeks are a great place for beginners to learn how to dissect seams and achieve a good drift.
For wild trout Waters Creek, Upper Dicks Creek (above Dicks Creek Falls), Blood Mountain Creek, Frogtown Creek, and the Upper reaches of Boggs creek all hold modest populations of wild trout. While these trout won’t break any scales or fill a skillet anytime soon, the are a blast to fish for. Dry Flies will be on the menu 9 or 10 months out of the year. These are an excellent place to learn tight quarters casting and how to present a dry fly.
Back over to the mid-sized creeks and rivers along the main stem of the Chattahoochee are Dukes Creek and the Soquee River. These two tributaries are the areas where catching a trophy trout is possible. The Soquee is renowned for being Georgia’s prolific private water trout fishery. Though it gets its fair share of criticism for the management of trout, there is no doubt the biggest trout in the state roam the Soquee. There are a couple of public stretches along the river where anglers can try their hand at a trophy. The best times to look for these fish are after heavy rains cause the trout to shuffle around, or in late fall to early spring when trout make their push to spawn. Dukes Creek is open to the public from October through May on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays by appointment only. A limited number of slots are available on each of these days. But just because Dukes creek sees less anglers, don’t think that the fish aren’t equally as pressured. There are plenty of trophy sized fish throughout Dukes Creek but plenty of skill and a little bit of luck will be necessary to land one of these lunkers. A bit of rain and some rising or high water may improve your chances as the fish may be a bit less spooky.
Stocked Trout of the Upper Chattahoochee
The Hooch and several of its feeders around downtown Helen are stocked regularly throughout the year. These streams include the main stem of the Chattahoochee within the city of Helen and just above, Spoilcane Creek, Jasus Creek, and Smith Creek. The Delayed Harvest section of Smith Creek is stocked heavily from November through May. These smaller streams are popular with out of state tourists and local day/weekend visitors alike. Following the stockings, the streams will fish very well for a couple weeks and are a great place for beginners to learn. After about two weeks from the stocked dates the trout are either gone or in the case of the Smith Creek DH, incredibly smart/spooky. The stocked creeks will fish well throughout the spring, summer and into the fall months. The Smith Creek Delayed harvest will be better from late fall until spring with only a small lull during late January/early February when the trout are over pressured. A myriad of techniques can be used in the sections, but nymphing is usually the most productive.
Fly Fishing the Upper Chattahoochee for Wild Trout
The headwater creeks of the Chattahoochee offer a great opportunity for fly anglers from late spring through fall and son of the best fly fishing in the Georgia mountains. The beautiful scenery accompanied with the cool temperatures, even during the dog days of summer, make the fishing even more enjoyable. To make things even better, dry flies are all you’ll really need when fishing these stretches. Be prepared to do some walking/hiking in these areas. Unless you really enjoy wearing wader, wet wading will make it much easier to navigated up the creeks and through the sporadically dense understory. Along with the main stem, Andrews Creek, The upper Soquee, Upper Smith Creek/York Creek, McClure Creek, Andrews Creek, Low Gap Creek, Upper Jasus Creek, Wilks Creek, Turkey Branch Creek, Henson Creek, and Vandiver Creek all have populations of wild rainbow trout. Closer to the mainstem of the Hooch you will also be able to find some brown trout and in the upper reaches brook trout can be found in the smallest water. If searching for brookies, begin your search above natural barriers such as waterfalls. Also keep in mind that these wild fish may be willing to eat anything that passes but are incredibly spooky and in tune with their environment.
The Best Flies For the Chattahoochee River Tailwater
1. Zebra Midge sizes 20-24
2. Junk Flies (mop jigs, squirmy worms, and eggs)
3. Rainbow Warrior sizes 14-18
4. Pat's Rubber Legs/Girdle Bug
5. Adams Fly Variant sizes 20-26 for midge hatches
6. Elk hair caddis sizes 16-20
7. Stimulator sizes 12-14
8. Matt's Midge/ griffiths gnat sizes 20-24
9. Helmet Head Sculpin/ muddler minnow
10. Woolly Bugger variations in various sizes
The Best Flies For the Upper Chattahoochee River
1. Stimulator sizes 12-14
2. Junk Flies (mop jigs, squirmy worms, and eggs)
3. Rainbow Warrior sizes 14-18
4. Elk Hair Caddis 16-20
5. Adams Fly Variant sizes 20
Fly Fishing Georgia
These are all the reasons why the Chattahoochee is the best place to go Fly Fishing in Georgia. If you would like to learn more, check out our other articles where we go in depth on the best flies to use in North Georgia and when are the best times to go fly fishing in North Georgia. If your interested in getting out on the water soon, check out or fly fishing trips page and let us cut the learning curve down for you. And if you are looking for other trout fishing destinations in Georgia, check out our Blue Ridge Fly Fishing Guide, Blairsville Fly Fishing Guide, Ellijay Fly Fishing Guide, Helen Fly Fishing Guide, Clayton Fly fishing Guide, and Dahlonega Fly Fishing Guide to learn where you can find more trout this year.