The Chattahoochee River just north of Atlanta, Georgia is known for producing large brown trout, including one that holds the state record weighing more than 20 pounds.
Sound like a place you might want to check out?
Whether you’re new to fly fishing or you are just looking for a new adventure, planning your trip to the Hooch can be fun.
Plus, you can get all the info you need right here, including where to go, when to go, and what you should pack in the fly box. Let’s get started.
Fly fishing the Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam
The Chattahoochee River is notorious for several things-- the many songs paying homage to its wonder, its sheer name alone, and of course, fly fishing. The best fishing on “the Hooch” is the tailwater section that is located north of Atlanta just below the Buford Dam.
This river has 48 miles of water that is managed as a year-round trout fishery and is stocked with rainbow. It's the naturally reproducing brown trout, some of which grow very large, that the big draw for many fly anglers.
The river runs directly through Atlanta and it is managed by the National Park Service in the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area all the way to Peachtree Creek. This river is stocked with more than one million brown and rainbows each year, with restrictions on artificial flies in the uppermost section. The fish range in size from small to medium-sized, with the occasional large brown.
Chattahoochee River Map and Fishing Access Sites
This tailwater stream also has a delayed harvest section below Morgan Falls Dam that is catch-and-release from November 1 to May 15, and it’s a popular choice for those who want a unique experience. After all, have you even cast a line in the middle of a sprawling urban oasis? That’s exactly where some of the best spots are on this river, though.
It’s important to check the dam release schedules before you head out to fish. The discharge is not on a regular schedule and is subject to change. The upper tailwaters below both the Buford and Morgan Falls Dams are unfishable and can be dangerous during a release.
You can check on the release schedule for the Buford Dam by calling a hotline at 770-945-1466. Release schedules for the Morgan Falls Dam are available by calling 404-329-1455.
Wading is possible in some areas of the Hooch, but many stretches are best fished by boat because of the deep, stronger currents.
Best Places to Fish the Chattahoochee River
The upper tailwater that starts below Budford dam can be difficult to fish because the river bed is heavily scoured during releases and aquatic hatches are limited. This area is best fished with black fly midge larva and pupae imitation unless there happens to be an extended cold snap that results in baitfish kill in Lake Lanier above the dam.
During such an event, big browns are known to feast on dead blueback herring and threadfin shad that are flushed through the dam. This in when you want to break out your biggest white Woolly Bugger or bunny strip flies, dead-drift them on sink-tip line and hold on tight!
Aquatic insect populations improve as you move further downstream and arrive at the section that extends from Highway 20 to Abbott's Bridge, which is the artificial lures only section.
Fly fishing the Chattahoochee River near the Hwy 20 Bridge
This section is where you will find the majority of the aquatic insects and hatches. You’ll also have to stick to artificial bait here, so imitate the hatches for the best results.
Further downstream there’s a three-mile section where the corn anglers go at it from Medlock Bridge to Jones Bridge. Floating this section gives you an advantage over the shore bound corn chuckers.
Downstream from Jones Bridge, there’s a great section where you’re also allowed to use live bait. This can make the pressure higher, but there are also some great deep pools and a good population of insects to keep the fish happy.
The shoals are plentiful as you move down this river, offering great places for the trout to hide out and easier wading. You’ll find some good fishing in the sections upstream, but there’s a lot of real fun downstream if you are willing to take the ride.
Best Time to Fish the Chattahoochee River
Fishing the Chattahoochee River is ideally done in the winter, which is unusual for most trout streams. However, the water releases from the dam keep the trout active, which can help improve your odds. Spring is also great in the upper sections where the hatches are ripe because the fish will be out and hungry.
You can use ants, beetles, and other terrestrials to find good fishing throughout the summer months, but make sure that you stick to cooler areas of the river. Fall offers plenty of opportunities, as well, especially with the caddis and BWO hatches.
Floating the Chattahoochee River is a great way to explore the river
There is no right or wrong time to visit this river. What matters most is where you go and what you will use, based on when you come. As long as you pay attention to that, you’ll be on the right track no matter when you visit.
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Chattahoochee River. The USGS stream gauge near Norcross, GA provide a good indication of current conditions.
The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.
CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER NEAR NORCROSS, GA
- Temperature: 49.28 ° F
- Streamflow: 2740 ft³/s
- Gage height: 4.49 ft
Best Flies for Chattahoochee River
Trout here feast on a variety of aquatic insects and the plentiful population of sculpins and crayfish present in the river (streamers anyone?). This includes black flies, sowbugs, scuds, and mayflies, including the popular Blue-winged Olive.
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Chattahoochee River:
- Parachute Adams (#12 - 22)
- Elk Hair Caddis (#8 - 16)
- Yellows Stimulator (#8 - 14)
- Chernobyl Ant (#8 - 12)
- Griffith's Gnat (#16 - 24)
- Pheasant Tail (#12 - 20)
- BH Hare's Ear (#12 - 20)
- Rainbow Warrior (#14 - 22)
- Pat's Rubber Legs (#4 - 12)
- Brassie (#20 - 26)
- Zebra Midge (#16 - 22)
- WD40 (#16-20)
- Y2K Egg (#12 - 16)
- BH Wooly Bugger (#2 - 6)
- Sculpzilla (#4)
Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere. Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box.
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)
A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Chattahoochee River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Chattahoochee River Fishing Report
Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Chattahoochee River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:
The state of Georgia requires that all people who are 16 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.
You can purchase a Georgia state fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Trip Planning Tips
Since this is a major river that runs right through Atlanta, you will have no trouble finding accommodations, dining, and everything else that you need before you hit the water. You can find boat access locations all along the river, which will be well-signed since this is a major destination (see map above).
Flying into Atlanta can allow you to forego renting a car if you choose to access the river from town in some capacity. Beware of high pressure on the weekends from locals, especially during the spring and summer months. As much as this is a trout river, it’s also a party river and that can disrupt the fish.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Georgia
Feature image by niksnut