Georgia Fly Fishing: Where to Fish in Georgia
Most of you are aware Trident Fly Fishing is located in the fishing-crazed state of Maine. However, Trident's staff comprises anglers who bring a wealth of knowledge and fishing experience from other regions. We pride ourselves on having diverse fly fishing backgrounds, and we can point most customers in the right direction, regardless of where they are fishing.
Many associate Georgia with the Masters, World of Coke, peaches, college football, the Atlanta Metro Area's traffic, and the World's Busiest Airport. Some great fly fishing opportunities lie beneath the backdrop of skyscrapers, suburban sprawl, and industrial farming. Most of the fly fishing the Peach State offers is within a short striking distance of a major metro area with over six million people.
What makes Georgia such a unique state for fishing is the sheer diversity of opportunities that can break down into four distinct regions: The Piedmont, the Coastal Plain, the Atlanta Metro Area, and the Appalachian Mountains. We break down what each unique part has to offer the fly angler.
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The Atlanta Metro Area
When most people fly into the World's Busiest Airport, fly fishing is generally the furthest from their mind, especially for trout. After all, Georgia's humid and muggy climate doesn't seem conducive to supporting cold-water species. However, a year-round trout fishery is located mere minutes from where the Atlanta Braves play their home games.
Despite the inhospitable climate, The Atlanta Metro Area has a few things going its way. Unlike most southern cities built on a flood plain, Atlanta sits at 1000 feet, making it one of the highest elevated metropolitan areas in the country. The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam and Lake Sydney Lanier is a tailrace with water temperatures rarely reaching above the mid-50s. This has helped establish a thriving, naturally-reproducing brown trout population that millions have access to.
Freshwater stripers, carp, spotted bass, redeye bass, shoal bass, and other excellent fly rod targets live in the rivers, creeks, impoundments, and reservoirs in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
- The Chattahoochee River below Lake Lanier flows for 48 miles unimpeded until it enters West Point Lake. This is good for trout anglers since the river's first half contains wild brown trout and stocked rainbows. Most fish are on the smaller side, but there are some genuinely massive browns; the state record currently stands at 20 Lbs, 14 ounces!
- The Chattahoochee below Buford Dam is a year-round trout fishery! It doesn't matter if it's 35 degrees in January or 105 degrees in July; the Hooch fishes well thanks to water temps that consistently hover around the 50-degree mark.
- The 'Hooch directly below the dam is primarily a midge game. A box filled will Zebra Midges and Brassies in the 18-22 range will get the job done most days. Black and red seem to work the best. Your typical attractor junk like Mops and Squirmy Worms are always an option. I'd leave the dry fly box at home, but swinging black and olive buggers usually put fish in the net.
The Appalachian Mountains start in northern Georgia, a little over an hour north of Atlanta, and offer fly anglers a wealth of options. While the two states north of Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, receive the bulk of attention (and crowds), Georgia trout waters can be equally productive.
Despite its southern latitude, North Georgia is blessed with higher elevations. During the summer's brutal heat, anglers can take refuge in higher elevation creeks chocked full of rhododendron and filled with native brook trout.
Not interested in wild brookies? There's plenty of public water, with a good mix of wild and stocked fish. North Georgia is also noted for its pay-to-play fisheries with private mountain streams loaded with pellet-fed monster rainbows. It is an excellent way to get acclimated to fighting larger fish.
- The Noontootla is one of Georgia's premier wild trout fisheries and hasn't been stocked since the 70s. It's filled with naturally reproducing rainbow and brown trout, with brookies thrown into the mix in the headwaters. Most are on the smaller side, but rumors of trophy-sized fish persist.
- The Noontootla fishes best in the spring and fall. However, its higher elevation and dense canopy provide decent refuge for trout during July and August; bring a thermometer and be mindful of higher temperatures.
- These are wild, wary, and selective fish, so natural-looking flies tend to do the trick. That said, it's still an Appalachian freestone, not DePuy's Spring Creek. I prefer a simple Pheasant Tail or Guide's Choice Hare's Ear dropped off an attractor dry.
- The wild and scenic Chattooga River helps form the border between northeast Georgia and northwestern South Carolina and features both wild & stocked fish depending on the season and section. The upper portion is noted for producing big, wild browns, and the lower area has more stocked rainbow and brookies.
- The Chattooga is primarily a fall-spring fishery. Winter is a perfect time to take advantage of delayed harvest regulations: A collaboration effort between the state of Georgia and South Carolina stock sections of the river heavily, and catch & release/artificial lure regulations remain in place throughout the cooler months.
- For delayed harvest, any bright and flashy nymph pattern will do. During colder and cloudier days, black stonefly nymphs such as a Pat's Rubber Legs and a Rainbow Warrior tend to move larger browns.
- The Toccoa River near the town of Blue Ridge has both a tailwater and freestone section and features a mix of wild and stocked rainbows and browns. While the majority are on the smaller side, there are some genuinely massive trout.
- The tailwater section fishes year-round, but the hatches start picking up in late February and March. Like the Chattooga's delayed harvest, a stretch of the upper section is catch & release from November through May. It isn't all stockers here, though. Big lake-run rainbows make their way upriver from Lake Blue Ridge in the spring.
- The tailwater below Lake Blue Ridge is noted for its reliable midge hatch that brings trout to the surface. Anglers have the opportunity to catch fish on smaller dry flies like a Griffith's Gnat nearly all year long. A Black Elk Hair Caddis with smaller black nymphs trailed off the bend works well when caddis and black winter stones become prominent in late February.
- The upper-freestone section features large boulders and deeper riffs perfect for running Sculpin streamers through.
To the uninitiated, the piedmont might seem pretty dull. Straddled between the mountains and coastal plain, it seemingly doesn't offer the same allure for fly anglers and tourists alike. However, reach deeper below the surface film, and you will find a warm water paradise loaded with hard-fighting gamefish.
Georgia's Piedmont is one giant drainage with major river systems like the Chattahoochee, Savannah, and Oconee flowing through hill country toward the coast. The rivers are fast-flowing and can easily be mistaken for resembling a trout stream found in the mountains.
From a geological point of view, there aren't many areas like it. Where else will you find a landscape dotted with mountain laurel and Spanish moss? Another advantage is that most rivers are within easy reach of Atlanta and Georgia's other major cities.
- Thanks to its abundance of hard-fighting shoal bass, the Flint River is one of central Georgia's premier fly fishing destinations. Shoal bass are unique to the region and are completely wild in the Flint. These fish fight as hard as smallmouth but behave like trout, preferring to hang out in the Flint's fast shoals. Once one takes you for a ride in swift water, you'll kick yourself for not discovering the species sooner!
- You can catch shoal bass year-round, thanks to the region's milder climate! However, spring is the perfect time to throw topwater flies at these predators while they're holed up in shallow water.
- Shoalies love hellgramite, and patterns like the Wiggle Articulated Hellgramite can be absolutely deadly. The Stealth Bomber is a topwater foam pattern developed by local guide Kent Edwards specifically for the Flint. It works well with a Rubber-Legged Dragon nymph trailed off the bend. Streamer junkies will have a blast running their favorite patterns through deeper runs on sink tips.
Often overlooked by South Carolina and Florida to the south, Georgia's coastal region still offers the traveling fly angler many options. Tides in the Savannah area are HUGE, and come springtime, flood tides push feeding redfish into the region's expansive mudflats.
Another added attraction is unlike South Carolina, Georgia's barrier islands are largely protected and undeveloped. This equals more time exploring uncrowded waterways and less pressured fish for the visiting angler.
We can't mention the Georgia coast without bringing up food! Putting fishing aside, Savannah is a culinary destination worth the visit alone. When combined with fishing, historical sites, and gorgeous scenery, the Georgia coast makes an excellent option for a quick and easy vacation.
The Golden Isles
- The Golden Isles of Georgia are a group of islands off the coast of Georgia, including St. Simon's Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little Tybee Island, and Historic Brunswick. Redfish are the primary target, but anglers have opportunities for jacks, tripletail, flounder, speckled trout, sheepshead, and even giant tarpon!
- Flood tides usually begin in early May and last until November. This is the time most anglers book their trips, and it is not unusual for guides to be entirely booked on good tides in the prime months of May, June, September, and October. Lowtide fishing can be decent in Winter, but the weather can be highly dicey.
- Floodtide redfish are generally not picky but prefer black and purple patterns, probably due to Georgia's incredibly murky water. Redfish Crack, Swamp Donkeys, Texas Toads, and Kung Fu Crabs are all popular choices.