The Etowah River in north Georgia is better known as a warm water fishery but does offer some decent trout fishing in the upper reaches for those willing to put in the work required to get there.
If you are ready to plan your own trek, check out our DIY guide to fly fishing the Etowah River. We’ll offer insight on why you should consider this destination, as well as where you’ll find the best fishing and when is best to visit so you can plan your perfect outing.
Fly fishing the upper Etowah River in north Georgia for wild trout?
The Etowah River is located near Dahlonega and is a small freestone stream that the state stocks with trout. Some wild rainbow and brown trout are also present in the stream, which starts in the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area. There is an eight-mile section below the wildlife area, but that is largely private and only accessible by boat at the bridges or the bank.
The Etowah River has a diverse fish population, including striped and spotted bass in the lower reaches in addition to the population of rainbows and browns higher up in the drainage. It offers year-round fishing access under wild trout regulations. There are also some small tributaries off of the river in the wildlife area that are worth a look if you want some nice fly fishing for wild trout.
Once the river flows past the head water tributaries, downstream is where you’ll find bass taking up residence. They typically are found in their upstream spawning runs coming from Lake Allatoona. There is also plenty of great bass fishing below the Lake Allatoona dam and in the tailwaters section, if you want to take a break from trout fishing.
Etowah River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Beware that some of the tributaries have delayed harvest and other regulations in place, so unless you are on the Etowah River specifically, you will want to check specific information regarding when and how you can fly fish. The river itself doesn’t have this, but if you want to explore elsewhere, it’s helpful to know.
Many of the tributary streams are responsible for keeping the waters of the river cool, so if the streams can’t maintain a cool temperature, the trout won’t be as easy to find. This is why it’s generally best to fish on cooler days when the water temperature hasn’t had time to climb.
This river is deep enough for boat access in some sections, so it’s got a lot more potential than some of the shallower trout streams.
Best Places to Fish the Etowah River
You will find some good fishing in the wildlife management area, and if you can find access to the eight-mile section below it, that’s some of the best fishing available. Just be careful that you’re not trespassing on private property in this section.
Another great area to wet a line is where the tributaries converge with the river around Forest Service Road 28. You’ll be hiking in here, but it’s worth the trip for those who want some great fishing and a beautiful view to go with it. While you’re in the area, feel free to check out the other streams, but don’t forget to check their regulations before you start fishing.
Downstream of Dawsonville, the river runs into Amicalola Creek. This used to be primarily a canoe and kayak creek, but also now has a delayed harvest trout fishing section to help populate the river. It’s a great area to fish, but make sure that you follow delayed harvest regulations.
Once you get further downstream, you’ll find more bass than trout, but it doesn’t hurt to check out the areas around the lake and tailwaters. The best trout fishing, however, is going to be found in the cooler waters upstream.
Best Time to Fish the Etowah River
The Etowah River is open for year-round fly fishing and follows wild trout regulations for the majority of its length. However, some times of year will have better odds than others. As with most streams in the area, spring offers a great opportunity.
This is because the aquatic insects are alive and well and the hatches are luring the trout out, making them less shy and skittish. Once it hits May and June, the water gets too warm for any good trout fishing, but it’ll pick back up by late September.
Fall is also a great time to fish the river because the water is cooler and the scenery is beautiful. Plus, the brown trout will be spawning and again, a lot less picky and timid. You’ll find some good fishing during the winter months, too.
The delayed harvest section on Amicalola Creek will see some of the best fishing during the winter months, in fact, so be sure to check it out if you come during this time. You’ll also want to consider fishing under cloud cover or during darker times of day to keep the fish from spooking.
Best Flies for Etowah River
The fish here are all about their local hatches-- mayflies, stoneflies, and midges are all popular. Caddisflies are also popular, so it’s best to just pack a variety of imitations. What’s around might change from day to day.
Dry flies will suffice when the bugs are actively hatching, but some streamers and nymphs could come in handy during slow times when you really have to get their attention.
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Etowah River:
- 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)
- 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)
- 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 Etowah River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Etowah River Fishing Report
There aren't any area fly shops, guides and websites that regularly publish an Etowah River fly fishing report and update on current conditions.
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
Dawsonville has some dining and lodging options for those coming to the area and is the nearest town. It’s also home to the Racing Hall of Fame, so stop in if you’re a racing fan and looking for something different. You’ll also find accommodations up and down Highway 19, which runs north from Atlanta.
Atlanta airport is the best choice for those flying in, but it’ll be necessary to get a rental car to get to the river. Locals can enjoy a weekend getaway or even a day trip, with about an hour’s drive from the city.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Georgia
Feature image by Stanislav Vitebskiy