DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Conasauga River in Georgia

If you have been considering fly fishing, you’re on the path to a great new hobby. Don’t worry about getting started, either, because you’re not alone. Even if you’re new to the sport, you’ll find plenty of assistance to plan a great adventure. 

Our DIY guide to fly fishing the Conasauga River in Georgia has all the information that you need to know. We’ll tell you where to go, when to go, and why this river should be on your list, and more. With that insight, you’ll be on your way to the best fly fishing excursion you can imagine.

Fly fishing the Conasauga River via the Conasauga River Trail in the Cohutta Wilderness Area

For those who are looking for a good hike, the Conasauga River is a beautiful choice. This river is located in the Cohutta Wilderness Area, which is full of plenty of great trails and scenery. However, it’s also mountainous and can be a more challenging choice for the average angler. 

The Conasauga River flows down from the mountains in the wilderness area and runs for several miles with trail access at various points. The trails have varying degrees of difficulty and will all provide access to different parts of the river. This stream doesn’t see a lot of fishing, but there is a good population of wild rainbows and some brown trout as well. 

This river is like any of the mountain streams in the area. You’ll need to stay hidden and make sure that your drifts don’t drag so that you can sneak past the wild trout. On clear days with clear water, it can be a real challenge to fool the natives.

Conasauga River Map and Fishing Access Sites

fishing access points on the Conasauga River in north Georgia

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

The Conasauga River runs through Bettys Gap, crossing the road in several locations to offer fair access. There is also limited primitive camping available in the wilderness area for those who want to enjoy a true outdoor experience during their entire stay. Of course, this river is close enough to major towns and cities that it also makes a good weekend excursion. 

The regulations of the state game lands are limiting as to how the area can be accessed, and the shallow waters might be hard to fish on the warmer days. However, for those who want more of a challenge or just enjoy being out with nature, this river should be on the list. It does offer a lot of great aquatic hatches during the spring, which we’ll discuss more below, but that helps improve the fishing for sure.

Best Places to Fish the Conasauga River

In the wilderness area, the trails are limited to hiking with a few options for horses. Therefore, there aren’t even a lot of visitors to this river or the area where it lies, and those who come are usually backpackers and hikers, not fellow anglers. Therefore, you can assure that no matter where you hike in, you won’t be far from a good spot to cast. 

Forest Service Road 64 offers access to Betty’s Gap, which then will take you down to the river with about a three-mile hike. Here, you’ll have to traverse several miles of dirt roads and follow the Conasauga River Trail and the Hickory Trail to access the upper and lower portions of the river. 

You can also hike downstream once you get to the water, but it’ll be best to stick to the trail when moving locations so that you don’t spook the already timid trout in this river. The middle part of the river does offer some access. However, these trails are steep and often more interesting to hikers than anglers. 

There’s good fishing in other areas, too, so a lot of people forego the most difficult trails when they visit this river.

Best Time to Fish the Conasauga River

This river is shallower than many in the area, so even though it gets its start in the mountains, the water can warm up easily. You can fish during any time of year, but you’ll have better luck during the cooler months and on cooler days. 

You’ll also want to consider the time of day, or coming when there is good cloud cover. As mentioned, these trout are fickle and they’re not going to be easy to find if you are out in the open. You’ll want to stick to the head waters if you come during the summer months. 

The spring is the best time to come to the river, of course. The aquatic insect hatches are in full swing and the trout are alive and biting. You’ll also find some great angling during the fall spawning season, along with some beautiful fall foliage to provide a backdrop for your trip. 

Winter may see some decent fishing on warmer days. Remember, though, that the trails may become more difficult to traverse depending on weather conditions. Regulations allow year-round fishing but some times are better than others.

Fly Box - What You'll Need

The fish in this river, as mentioned, love their aquatic insects and hatches. There are plenty of stoneflies, caddisflies, and mayflies, of course. You’ll fare well with any of those imitations.

You will typically find success with a well presented dry fly but nymphs and streamers may come in handy outside of the spring hatch season.  Like most of the trout streams in the country, there are some tried-and-true options and some good backups to keep around out of habit. Nymphs and streamers are the latter, in this case.

Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Conasauga 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 Conasauga River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Conasauga River Fishing Report

There aren't any area fly shops, guides and websites that regularly provide a Conasauga 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 Chattahoochee National Forest runs across Highway 76 to 411, offering plenty of access for visitors even though the river itself is more remote. Travelers will find accommodations and dining along the major highways or nearby in Dalton and Calhoun, which both sit on I-75, about an hour from the Betty’s Gap access area. 

If you’re flying in, you will need a car to get to the river. You can fly into Atlanta, but there may be smaller airports closer, such as in Chattanooga, TN. Those in the Atlanta area can head north on I-575, which turns into Highway 76, for a weekend getaway.

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

Feature image  by Dianne Frost

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