The Tallulah River is a great choice for your next fly fishing adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or you’re new to the sport, fly fishing offers a lot to enjoy. You can catch some great trout and see some beautiful landscapes along the way, and more.
Plus, you don’t have to spend a fortune paying a guide to show you the way. With a little homework and planning, you can create your dream DIY fly fishing trip, no matter what you have in mind. We’ll help you with this guide, which provides insight on things like when to visit, where to go, and what kind of bait to bring.
Fly fishing the Tallulah River in north Georgia
The Tallulah River is a medium-sized freestone stream located in northern Georgia. It runs into the state line with South Carolina at Lake Tugalo, where it meets up with other rivers, as well. The river used to flow a lot better, but Lake Burton was created to handle the overflow and that offset the speed.
However, there is plenty of good trout fishing to be found here, with browns, rainbows, and brook trout available. Year-round fishing is offered and access is fair in most areas. The brook trout are native to the river, while the browns and rainbows are a mix of wild and stocked.
The river starts in North Carolina, traveling through Georgia and four lakes before meeting the Chattooga River about 60 miles away at the South Carolina state line. There is about five miles of access that is open to the public above Lake Burton to the North Carolina state line. It’s about 20-30 feet wide here.
Tallulah River Map and Fishing Access Sites
Several tributaries feed this river, which passes through several wildlife management areas along with all the lakes and states that it crosses. Some of the best fishing areas will require a little more effort to reach, but they’re worth it.
One interesting feature of this river is that where it flows through Moccasin Creek State Park, anglers must be under 12 or over 65 years of age. Anyone between those ages, i.e. most anglers, will have to go outside of the parklands to do their fishing. This section does have a lot of larger trout for those who can fish it.
There is a gorge where the stream flows through a valley, and it offers great scenery. It does take a little work to get there, though. This river has a lot of different opportunities for fly fishing, but you have to pick and choose where to go, which is what we’ll cover next.
Best Places to Fish the Tallulah River
You can find the five miles of public access above Lake Burton, which we discussed above, where there are plenty of wild and stocked trout to be found. There are plenty of parking areas and ways to access the river, which offers both wade-in access and sections that may require a boat.
However, it’s less likely that boats are required now because the water is controlled by a series of dams and lakes. Some places may require shoreline fishing, but wading is getting more accessible in a lot of the best areas. Above the Coleman River Scenic Area, you’ll come across private property, so be careful when fishing around here.
Forest Service Road 70 will take you to the lower section of public waters before you get to Moccasin Creek. There is a fish hatchery right outside of the Lake Burton Wildlife Management Area, which is the area where it’s only designated fishing for certain ages with larger trout stocked.
The valley that we mentioned is also a good place to go if you are willing to make the hike. You can also find some good spots in the Tray Mountain Wilderness Area, which is accessible from Forest Service Road 26-1.
Best Time to Fish the Tallulah River
The hatches make spring the ideal time to fish the Tallulah River, as with most great trout streams. The weather is ideal and this freestone stream is going to keep better temperatures during the spring and fall months. Summer does okay on this stream since the water can stay cool.
When you come during the fall, you’ll find the brown trout spawning. This makes them plentiful and easier to catch. Plus, there is some beautiful scenery to see when you visit during this season.
You may find some good fishing here and there throughout the winter months, but the days will need to be warmer. Much like when it’s too warm, if it gets too cold, the trout won’t be out and about.
Consider fishing during dawn and dusk, or on days with cloud cover if you want to guarantee better chances by giving the fish less to be spooked by. Really, though, you can get a good catch just about any time of day so long as the conditions are right.
Stream Flow and Current Conditions
Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Tallulah River. The USGS stream gauge at Clayton, 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.
TALLULAH RIVER NEAR CLAYTON, GA
- Streamflow: 64.5 ft³/s
- Gage height: 1.94 ft
Best Flies for Tallulah River
The local hatches are what the trout love, so be sure to stock up on the imitations of things like mayflies, caddisflies, stoneflies, and even midges. As with any good trout stream, even when nothing else is around, you’ll always find midges.
Here is list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Tallulah 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 4-wt fly rod with floating line is perfect for fishing dry flies and small nymphs on the Tallulah River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.
Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.
Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.
High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.
Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet. 3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.
Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable. If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.
Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market. Excellent foot and ankle support. Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.
Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!
Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats. Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish. Simply the best nets on the market.
Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam. If you need more storage - you have too many flies!
Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.
Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.
The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes. Game changer.
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Tallulah River Fishing Report
There aren't any area fly shops, guides and websites that regularly provide a Tallulah 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
The Tallulah River converges with other rivers into Lake Tugalo on the Georgia/South Carolina Border. It’s kind of remote, but Highway 23 crosses Tallulah Falls, just a few miles from the state line. That’s where you can find accommodations, dining, and access to other major cities.
If you head west on 123, you’ll find yourself in Greenville, which offers shopping, dining, accommodations, and more. There’s even a small airport for those flying in. Asheville is another choice for flyers, as is Atlanta although it’s a bit further to drive. You will want a car to get out to the Tallulah River, no matter how you get here.
Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Georgia
Feature image by Thomson20192