DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Chestatee River in Georgia

For those seeking a new hobby or just looking for a new way to enjoy an old one, planning a fly fishing trip could be a great choice. Instead of forking out a small fortune to hire a guide, you can do the work yourself and make it exactly what you want. Plus, it’ll cost a lot less. 

Fly fishing is a relaxing, enjoyable way to enjoy a lot of great scenery, and especially when you travel to the streams of the Southeastern U.S. The Chestatee River has some great fly fishing to offer. In this guide, we’ll help you learn where to go, when to go, and what you’ll need to take along.

Chestatee River Striped Bass Fishing

While we will be focusing on trout fishing in the upper Chestatee River, the lower river is also an excellent largemouth and striped bass fishery.  Stripers run up out of Lake Lanier and present a unique opportunity to catch some big fish in relatively small waters.  These fish are a blast to target on the fly rod too!

Fishing the lower Chestatee River for striped bass is a blast from a kayak or canoe!

The Chestatee River is a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, located in North Georgia. This freestone stream is small-to-medium in size and it offers plenty of fishing throughout when you want to catch rainbow and brown trout. This river is located outside of Morgantown and offers year-round fishing with fair access throughout. 

The Chestatee River has some privately owned sections, including one known as Frog Hollow. This is a trophy trout water section that has huge fish, but you’ll have to pay a fee to visit. The fee does get you a guide, however, so you’ll have a better chance of landing the big one. 

You can find a lot of free areas to fish that are open to the public, but there’s also private land throughout so be careful not to trespass. You don’t want to be a disrespectful angler, after all. There is a stocked area near the watershed and then the river leads into cascades and waterfalls before reaching a picnic area and campsite.

Chestatee River Map and Fishing Access Sites

map of fishing spots on the Chestatee River in north Georgia

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

There are several tributaries and small creeks that converge with this river and offer great fly fishing for those who are up for more of a challenge. There is also fishing in the Chestatee Wildlife Management Area.

This creek and its tributaries may have special rules, provisions, and fishing hours or days that will need to be considered. Make sure that if you’re in a restricted area, you know the rules and follow them to the letter so that you don’t get in trouble. 

Perhaps the most strict rules are on Waters Creek, a tributary of the river. Here, fishing is only allowed three days a week during specific hours, and artificial flies must be used with single hooks no larger than #6. You can’t even have flies and lures that don’t meet these criteria in your fly box when you’re in this area.

Best Places to Fish the Chestatee River

As mentioned, the upper section that is privately owned may be great for trophy fishing if you want to pay the fee and deal with the commercialized experience. However, if you just want to hit the water and cast a line, you’ve got plenty of options. The campsite and picnic area, for example, offer great access to the river. 

The headwaters are mostly private, so you can skip that whole area. Head toward the lower sections near the roads, where you’ll find most of the stocked trout that are easy to catch. You can also take a short hike to get into the area where you’ll find wild trout hiding among the forests. 

The Waters Creek area is also a good fishing spot, but that’s the one that has all the rules that you need to follow, so bear that in mind. Essentially, you can find some great fishing on this river, even if you don’t want to pay for it. Just remember to watch for private property. 

You won’t find much of the stocked trout in the upper sections, since the cascades and waterfalls keep them from moving too far. However, the wild trout tend to get much larger anyway.

Best Time to Fish the Chestatee River

Fishing is allowed during the entire year on this stream, but you may find better luck on certain days or during certain seasons. As with most trout streams, spring offers a great time to visit because of all of the hatches. Trout love their hatches, after all, and there are plenty of imitations that you can use. 

You will find some decent fishing in the upper sections of the river during the summer months, but the lower sections are shallower and may get too warm for trout. The winter has the inverse problem-- you’ll want to fish the lower sections on warmer days for best results because the upper section can get too cold. 

The fall also offers a great time to fish this river. Not only do you have the spawn of the brown trout, but you also have beautiful fall foliage surrounding you during your excursion. 

There’s no bad time to come check out this river since it offers so much opportunity.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Chestatee River. The USGS stream gauge at Dahlonega, 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.

CHESTATEE RIVER NEAR DAHLONEGA, GA

  • Flow: 212 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 1.35 ft
.
USGS

Fly Box - What You'll Need

The fish in this creek like their mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, and even midges. Since you can only use artificial lures in certain sections, make sure you have plenty of flies on hand. Dry flies will usually do the trick to but you'll want to have some nymphs and streamers in your fly box as well.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Chestatee River:

Dry Flies

  • Yellow Sally (#12 - 16)
  • Yellow Humpy (#10 - 18)
  • Parachute Sulphur (#14 - 18)
  • Parachute Adams (#12 - 22)
  • Light Cahill (#10 - 18)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#8 - 16)
  • Yellows Stimulator (#8 - 14)
  • Chernobyl Ant (#8 - 12)
  • Griffith's Gnat (#16 - 24)

Nymphs

  • Pheasant Tail (#12 - 20)
  • BH Hare's Ear (#12 - 20)
  • Rainbow Warrior (#14 - 22)
  • Pat's Rubber Legs (#4 - 12)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6 - 10)
  • Tellico Nymph (#12 - 18)
  • Zebra Midge (#16 - 22)
  • WD40 (#16-20)
  • Y2K Egg (#12 - 16)

Streamers

  • BH Wooly Bugger (#2 - 6)
  • Sculpzilla (#4)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the upper Chestatee River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Chestatee River Fishing Report

There aren't any area fly shops, guides and websites that regularly provide a Chestatee River fly fishing report and update on current conditions.

Fishing Regulations

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

The Chestatee river runs along and across Highway 19 on the edge of Dahlonega. This town is home to the University of North Georgia, so you’ll find plenty of dining, accommodations, and probably even some bait and sport shops that you can explore. If you’re flying in, Atlanta is a straight shot down Highway 19. 

You’ll need a car to get out to the river in this area, so be sure to get a rental if you do come from out of town. Also, because it’s directly north of the city, you might have to watch out for high pressure from locals taking weekend getaways.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Georgia

Feature image by Possum1500

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