Copyright 2016 James Marsh
Fly Fishing On The Chattahoochee River
Georgia (Tailwater section)
The Chattahoochee River, or Hooch as the locals call it,
is the tailwater below Buford Dam north of Atlanta,
Georgia. It is sometimes called the lower Chattahoochee
River. The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers dam backs up
Lake Lanier. There are forty-eight miles of this river that
is managed as a year-round trout fishery. It runs directly
through the city of Atlanta. The entire forty-eight mile
stretch of the river from Buford Dam to the Peachtree
Creek is managed by the National Park Service.
The water temperature averages about 52 degrees near
the dam in the summertime. Over a million brown and
rainbow trout are stocked each year by the Georgia DRN.
The uppermost fifteen miles are restricted to artificial
lures and flies only. There is a very limited amount of
spawning of the brown trout in the river but it does have
some hold over trout. The rainbow trout probably
average from nine to fourteen inches. The brown trout
average about the same or from about ten to fourteen
inches. Large brown trout are rare but some do exist in
There is a Delayed Harvest section below Sope Creek on
the lower part of the river. It provides a fishery during the
winter in water that will not support trout in the hot
summer months. The Delayed Harvest season runs from
November 1 until May 15.
The Chattahoochee River Tailwater is the fastest way to
get through Atlanta traffic at times (just kidding). It is
rather weird to be fly fishing for trout in the middle of a
large city, especially a large city in the South but that is
exactly the setting for fly fishing the Chatahoochee River
Tailwater. The first and foremost important thing is to get
the discharge schedule of Buford Dam.
Fly Fishing Guide to the Chattahoochee River
The very first thing you should do prior to fishing this river
is to call and get the scheduled water releases. The first
section of water would be considered the dam
downstream to Abbots Bridge, a distance of about
thirteen miles. This section of the upper Chattahoochee
is sometimes difficult to fish because it is narrow and
relatively deep with strong current anytime water is being
release. It is thought that the strong current lowers the
available aquatic insect population in this area but it still
produces a good number of trout.
The section of the river extending from Hwy 20 to Abbott's
Bridge is for artificial bait only. This limits the bank bait
fisherman. This section can be fished from the bank by fly
anglers but it is far best fished from a boat. Wading can
be very dangerous in this area and you should check the
schedule for sure and keep a close look at the water
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Photo Courtesy Steven Lamb
Recommended Tackle & Gear
5 or 6 weight
Dry fly: 9 & 12 ft., 5 or 6X, Nymphing:
71/2 ft., 3 or 4X, Streamers 0-2X
Dry fly: 5 or 6X, Nymphing: 3 or 4X,
Best Fly Rod:
Perfect Fly Superb Five or Ultimate Six
For 5/6 fly line
Fly Floatants and Misc Items:
Loon Floatants, KISS Strike Indicators
Tools & Accessories:
Nippers, forceps, retractors, etc.
The river can be fished any day of the
year. It is possible to catch trout on the
Spring is a good time to fish the upper part
of the river.
Terrestrial fishing can be good throughout
The river changes a little and widens out
some from Abbots Bridge downstream for
about four miles to the Medlock Bridge. This
has the effect of reducing the amount of
current. There are more aquatic insects in this
section than there are upstream. Natural bait
is prohibited in this section also. From the
Medlock Bridge to Jones Bridge, a distance of
about three miles, natural bait is permitted
and competition from the corn anglers comes
into play again. The Chattahoochee River
shoals begin to show up in the river and when
the water is off, they are completely out of the
water. This provides good structure and
holding areas for trout but also good access
for bank anglers. The farther you go, the
more shoals you will find.
From Jones Bridge downstream to Azalea
Drive, a distance of about eleven miles,
you'll find an excellent section of the
Chattahoochee River tailwater.
Unfortunately, bait is also allowed in this
section. This stretch of water has plenty of
shoals and plenty of trout hold there.
There are some large, deep pools created
by the rock substrate. The aquatic insect
population seems to increase in this
Chattahoochee River Tailwater
Hatches and Trout Flies:
Our information on aquatic insects is based
on our stream samples of larvae and nymphs,
not guess work. We base fly suggestions on
imitating the most plentiful and most available
insects and other foods at the particular time
you are fishing. Unlike the generic fly shop
trout flies, we have specific imitations of all the
insects in the Cattahoochee River tailwater
and in all stages of life that are applicable to
fishing. If you want to fish better, more realistic
trout flies, have a much higher degree of
success, give us a call. We not only will help
you with selections, you will learn why, after
trying Perfect Flies, 92% of the thousands of
our customers will use nothing else.
The flies needed and the hatches that occur
when fly fishing the Hooch - the
Chattahoochee River tailwater, strictly
depends on the section of the river you are
fishing. As most of your know, cold tailwaters
are not only affected by the weather, they are
even more affected by the releases of cold
water. The water temperatures vary greatly
depending on the releases and even more
importantly, they vary depending on the
distance downstream of the dam you are
fishing. For example, on a ninety degree day
in Atlanta, the water temps below Buford Dam
may not reach 50 degrees, yet downstream in
the delayed harvest section, it may reach 70
degrees. So it varies depending on the
distance from the dam and the timing of the
releases. On the other hand, on a cold
December day, the water temperatures may
remain fairly constant throughout the length of
One insect you can count on being present is
the midge. They are very plentiful and hatch
somewhere on the river almost everyday of
the year. You cannot go wrong fishing an
imitation of a midge larva or pupa, any day of
the year. You must know how to fish them
though. Just tying one on isn't enough.
The next most plentiful insects are probably
the caddisflies. There are several different
species in the river. Most of them are
net-spinning caddis or various species of
Cinnamon Caddis and Spotted Sedges.
These caddisflies hatch from early March
through November depending on the section
of the river you are fishing. Green Sedges are
also present. These hatch from April through
July depending on the section of the river.
Scuds and sowbugs are both present and
represent a good part of the trout's diet.
Imitations of these will catch trout
year-round. Check out our Perfect Fly scud
and sowbug flies.
Black flies are another very common
insect. Perfect Fly makes the only
imitations of the black fly larva, pupa and
adults. We suggest you always have these
in all stage of life. Don't forget terrestrials -
grasshoppers, beetles and ants work great
during the summer months.
We have been told that there are hatches
of Light Cahills and Sulfurs but we have not
verified that and cannot provide
information on it. If anyone knows for
certain, and the places and times of the
hatch, we would welcome the information.
Probably the most important flies you can
have fishing the Hooch are streamers.
Sculpin are present throughout the river
and trout eat them every day of the year.
We have several excellent imitations of
scuds. We also have many other types of
streamer patterns. Don't forget the
possibility of a shad kill on the lake. When
this happens dead shad wash through the
turbines and white streamers will catch
some large browns and rainbows.
Our Perfect Flies are the most realistic and
effective trout flies you can purchase. If
you haven't tried them, we encourage you
to do that. You will not regret it.
The most common mayflies by far are the
Blue-winged Olives. These mayflies consist
of several different species and hatch just
about the entire year, heavy at times and
slack at times and at various sections of
the river. You should have a selection of
nymphs, emergers, duns and spinners in
hook size 20 and 18 with you anytime you
are fishing. These are very difficult to see
and you need to pay close attention to
even know they are hatching.
Little Black Winter Stoneflies are present in
most of the river. These hatch during the
Winter mostly but may extend on into the
Spring in the upper section of the tailwater.
Autumn is a very good time to fish BWO
and caddisfly hatches.
Winter is probably the best time to fish the
Hooch because of the water releases.
Photos Courtesy Steven Lamb
|Options For Selecting Flies:
1. Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with the dates you will be fishing this
stream and we will send you a list of our
fly suggestions. Please allow up to 24
hours for a response.
2. Call us 800-594-4726 and we will help
you decide which flies you need.
3. Email us (email@example.com)
with a budget for flies and we will select
them to match the budget and get them to
you in time for your fly fishing trip.
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|More Georgia Trout Streams:
Click the links for fly fishing information
including descriptions of the streams,
access, location, species of fish, a fly
fishing guide, a fly fishing report, hatches
and recommended trout flies, fly fishing
gear and equipment, USGS stream data,
local weather and much, much more
Headlines: There are a lot of
anglers fishing the delayed harvest
section of the river. We think the
other upstream sections are
providing better opportunity but
that depends on what you want to
catch. Everyone seems to be
catching trout. Conditions have
been good with wading
opportunities about everywhere
and anytime due to the low water
conditions. Check out the fishing
report (above link) to get the latest
10/16/15 Very good fall weather conditions exist on the Hooch. For a change, you should be
able to get some time wading in. The heavy rain is gone and the lake has been lowered to
winter levels. Keep a close check on the discharge schedule. It will determine if you can wade or
if you need a drift boat to fish it. When conditions are right for either method, you can expect to
catch good numbers and sizes of trout. It is mostly midge, scuds and streamer fishing, but
there's some other items to imitate.
10/23/15 The high discharges are gone much of the time, although they will release a lot of
water at times. Everything should have to do with these releases. They determine whether or
not you can wade or must fish from a boat. Few hatches other than small Blue-winged olives
are taking place. Midges and aquatic worms represent the majority of the available food for the
10/30/15 There were reports of a couple of big brown trout caught this past week. They are in
the pre-spawn stage and very territorial and aggressive. The Perfect Fly Brown Sculpin and
White Belly Sculpin will fool the pre-spawners. As usual, midges are about the only thing
hatching. Stream levels have been low enough to wade at times, but too high the majority of the
time this past week.
11/06/15 For the benefit of those new to fishing the river, there is rain forecast every day
through Monday. You can expect some heavy discharges and few wading opportunities. Thee
will be some though but you must get the schedule to know what you're doing. The weather is
remaining warm with little difference from night to day.
11/13/15 No reports from the past week but the discharges were high most of the time. The rain
has ended for a while bu there will be some more heavier discharges. It will get better later on.
Midges and midges are key right now. There are some tiny BWOs but that's it for hatches. The
Perfect Fly Brown Sculpin will catch some big post-spawn browns low or high water.
11/20/15 There has been a lot of rain recently as I'm sure everyone within a few hundred miles
of the river knows. That means some heavy discharges to get the water through the system and
the lakes down to winter levels. It shouldn't be too bad this coming week, but there will be more
for sure. The water temperature is staying up relatively high and as long as you can wade, or
use your drift boat, whichever the case, you should do good.
11/27/15 It is warming back up a little this coming week with little chance of rain until the first of
next week. The flows are high right now but should settle back down and offer some chances to
wade soon. Midges and little Blue-winged olives are the only insects that may hatch. We
recommend sticking with midges. Fish the larva and pupa in tandem, with the larva the bottom
12/04/15 There has been a lot of rain in the Cattahoochee watershed that has to get through
the system to lower the lake back to Winter level. They are running turbines now and will be off
and on. The only way to know the situation, as you probably already know, is to get the
discharge schedule. The weather is back nice and warm and the "catching" should be very
good provided the stream levels are decent.
12/11/15 The lake is getting lower and we think the power company will cease running a lot of
water in the near future. There was a day or two of good opportunity this past week. There's no
rain until the first of next week. You will get have to keep a check on the discharge schedule as
i'm sure 98% of you know. Notice, we added Winter stoneflies to the list. They will start hatching
in some sections of the river within the next month.
12/25/15 There's a flood watch for the Atlanta area today, Christmas Day. It has already rained
a lot and more will come during the next week. Look for continued high discharges from the dam
and possibly gates. Little opportunity will exist for fishing for the next few days but is it possible
there could be some. Keep a check on the release schedule. The weather is continuing to be
01/01/16 The discharges have been high for the past week but seem to be better. The lake is
still not down to winter storage level and I'm sure there will be more high discharges and stream
levels. You could fish it at times with a drif boat but so far, there has been no wading
opportunity since the big rains. The good news is there is no rain in the forecast this coming
01/08/16 The river is high and muddy at this time. Lake Lanier is still not down to its preferred
wither levels and there are two more days of rain yet to come. Streamers are about the only
option for flies at this time. The White Belly Sculpin streamer works good with the high water
levels. You will just have to keep checking the release schedule.
01/15/16 There is a little more rain coming today and tomorrow and then maybe, it will let up for
a few days. Meantime the power company is running turbines like a Nascar driver is in charge.
That will most likely continue. You should just keep getting updates on the power company
01/22/16 The river is probably going to have high discharges for the next few days. The upper
river headwaters have had a lot of rain and there's more to come through tomorrow. You will
just have to keep a check on the power company discharge schedule. You could catch trout as
long as you can fish from a drift boat or wade but this isn't likely for a while.
01/29/16 here is some great weather coming up through the weekend with rain at the first of
next week. All we need is a break in the discharges and you could have a great time catching
trout. Right now the levels are too high for safe wading. You will just have to keep a close check
on the Power Company discharge schedule. Midges, winter stoneflies and Sculpin streamers
are the flies you need.
02/05/16 The Power Company is still having to run a lot of water and the stream levels are very
high and fast. Your guess is as good as mine as to when they will cease running a lot of water
but the lake level is about where it should be for winter. Midges and Winter stoneflies are the
main aquatic insects you should be imitating when you can fish.
02/12/16 Black Flies and Midges are hatching. The stream levels are still high and have been
all week. There has been less rain and snow, so the level (releases) should start getting better.
The section nearest the dam has the warmest water but all sections would be good if the levels
02/18/16 The conditions are very good right now. The discharges are low and stream levels in
good shape to be waded in some sections and fished by boat. The water is clear and the
weather is good and water temperature on the rise. You could see hatches of small BWO and
for sure, midges. There is rain starting Sunday, so this weekend is a good time to fish the river.
02/26/16 The stream levels are back high again due to heavy discharges. There was a lot of
rainfall in the watershed the past few days and it may take some time to get the lake level back
to where it should be. The weather is turning nice and warm again. This can affect the water
temperature in the middle and lowest sections of the tailwater. Midges, little Blue-winged olives,
Winter stoneflies and Black flies are the insects you should imitate.
03/04/16 They are still running a lot of water and the heavy discharges are likely to continue a
little longer. Hopefully, the lake level will get back down and things settle down soon. There is
no rain or snow in the forecast for the next week. Midges, winter stoneflies, Black flies and little
Blue-winged olives will continue to be the insects to imitate.
03/11/18 Discharges have been mostly high this past week and may continue for the next few
days. There is a chance of more rain every day but hopefully showers, not down pours. We do
expect more heavy discharges to get the lake down to normal levels for this time of the year.
Midges, little Blue-winged olives and scuds continue to be the most important insects to imitate.
03/18/25 The release schedule means more than anything when you fish this tailwater. Don't
fail to get it from the power company. Believe it or not, some guys do fail to do that. If the stream
levels and discharges are fine for wading, you can catch a lot of trout right now. Midges, with
the larva and pupa fished in tandem, is still the fly setup that has been most successful.
03/25/16 Surprise, Surprise! You may be able to wade the river at times. The lake level is down
to near where it should be and discharges have actually been low enough for anglers to wade a
couple of times lately. There is rain today and again the first of next week forecast for the
headwaters, but hopefully, it won't be enough to drastically affect the discharges.
04/01/16 As most of you probably know, there is a flash flood warning for this morning. We
don't think the overall rain amounts will raise the lake enough to cause heavy discharges over
short periods of time. The lake is in good shape now. The water is getting warmer and there are
some nice BWO hatches but midges and scuds are still the best choice.
04/15/16 The discharges have been fine for wading much of the time for drift boats all of the
past week. Little Black Caddis are hatching in some sections of the middle and lower river. As
always at this time of the year, midges and Sculpin are too of the main foods to be imitating.
Fish it during low light conditions, early and late and when cloudy.
04/29/16 The river is in good shape for both the wading angler and drift boats but you have to
check the discharge schedule. They are running lots of water and then little off and on and the
times are important to know where and when to fish. I know most of you are well aware of that,
but we have new customers fishing it fairly often that don't.
05/06/16 The discharges and stream levels are a little high now but shouldn't remain high very
long. Of course, you have to check the schedule to know. The water temperature in the lower
section may come down a little due to the cooler weather but it won't affect the upper and
middle section very much, if any.
05/13/16 The discharges are currently high, too high to wade but okay for the larger drift boats.
This should change. There isn't any rain in the forecast this weekend. There are lots of caddis
hatching, including Green Sedges and Cinnamon Caddis. Our customers do great when they
levels are okay for wading but those fishing from drift boats have more opportunity.
05/20/16 As normal, the discharges are up and down and the levels fine for wading and/or too
high to safely wade. This is a never ending process. The regular anglers that fish the river know
that well but we get many that are just starting to fly fish, and/or out of town visitors that find that
a little complicated. It should be at good levels most of the time this coming week.
06/27/16 The tailwater has been running a little high most of the time this past week. We are
hoping the lake level is down enough that they will give the wading anglers a little more
opportunity this coming week. Of course, you will just have to watch the schedule. Drift boat
anglers have been catching a lot of trout. Caddisfly hatches have been good.
07/03/16 The discharges and levels have been high most of the time offering few opportunities
for the wading angler. There have been a few and likely will be only a few this coming week.
You have to change locations depending on the start and stop times of the discharges. Drift
boat anglers have done well and so have wading anglers when they could wade.
07/10/16 The discharges are down some and anglers getting a few opportunities for wading.
There is less rain in the forecast and the lake at a good level so we hope, other than for air
conditioning needs, the discharges and flow continue to be moderate. The drift boat anglers
have done very well lately, catching a lot of rainbows.
07/17/16 The river has provided anglers some good opportunities this past week. Both drift
boat guys and wading anglers have been able to catch plenty of trout. Yes, there have been
high water times but you must learn to time the water to the different sections of the tailwater.
Those that do that are making the most of the opportunities even though they have to move
back and forth to different sections.
07/24/16 There is no chance of rain for the coming week. You should get plenty of
opportunities for wading provided you check the schedule. Drift boats should be able to fish
anytime. There are Sulpurs, Cinnamon Caddis and Green Sedge caddisflies hatching. Our
customers caught plenty of trout this past week. The fishing is generally better near dark.
07/01/16 There have been some very good discharge schedules the past week. It has allowed
some good wading opportunities for anglers and kelp the boating anglers happy as well. There
is rain in the forecast starting tomorrow with chances every day for the next week. Lot of
recreational boaters are on the river.
07/08/16 There have been a few times anglers could wade this past week, but not very often.
That is usually the case during the summer. You have to get the discharge schedule and figure
out which section to fish based on the times they are running or not running much water. Drift
boats can fish most anytime.
07/15/16 There is a chance of rain in the forecast every day for the coming week. These are
mostly scattered thunderstorms and showers. The discharges have been averaging a little high
for this time of the year, but still offering some opportunity to wade at times. You have to time
where you fish with the release schedule. We recommend fishing early and late in the day.
07/22/16 Yes, it is going to be very hot but that is far more a factor with the anglers than the
trout. The uppermost section will see little to no change in water temperature. The middle and
lower section will come up a degree or two, but that is it. Caddisfly hatches and egg laying late
in the afternoons give you the best opportunity to catch trout.
07/29/16 The river is getting a little too warm in the lower middle and lower sections. Water
temperatures are reaching the low seventies. You are far better off fishing the upper sections
where the water is much cooler. There are a lot of caddisflies hatching. Fish early in the
morning with streamers and very late in the day with caddis adults to catch the egg layers.
08/05/16 Conditions are currently about the same as last week except, there has been recent
rain in the watershed and the discharges are likely to increase in the near future. That will be a
good thing as long as it isn't too heavy. There is a chance of rain everyday for the coming
week. Fish the upper section of the tailwater. There are a lot of caddisflies hatching.
08/12/16 The discharges and stream levels have been low the past few days. Anglers have had
some good wading opportunities. We received one good report from a customer fishing early
mornings. He is using the Matuka Olive and black Sculpin and catching some very nice size
browns. Make sue you fish the last two hours of daylight. There are a lot of egg laying caddis
on the water.
08/19/16 Early morning streamer fishing is working good. Customers are using the Olive and
Black matuka sculpin patterns. The next best time to fish is the last two or three hours of the
day. There are lots of egg laying caddis, Cinnamon, Green Sedges and Little Sisters. We are
expecting more higher discharges this coming week with some opportunities to wade but mostly
likely, few and far apart.
09/02/16 If you study the release schedule, you will find plenty of opportunities to wade. There
is little rain in the forecast for the next few days. Terrestrials such as ants and beetles are
working some but the best and most consistent way to catch trout is using the Cream midge
larva and pupa fished in tandem. There are still plenty of caddisflies hatching as well.
09/09/16 The discharges and stream levels have been about normal with some suitable for
wading anglers. The weather is hot again and water in the lower river is back a little warm. The
upper and middle sections are fine. Don't forget the mighty midge. Midges will work year round
when nothing else will produce. Right now there's lots of caddisflies hatching. Early morning
streamer fishing has been productive.
09/16/16 The discharges and stream levels have been low for the past week and they are likely
to continue this pattern. There is little rain in the forecast. There are lots of wading
opportunities and our customers have been taking advantage of it and catching some trout.
Caddisflies are still hatching good. We recommend fishing the upper part of the river with the
continued hot weather.
09/23/16 The weather is still hot even though it is now officially Fall. We still recommend fishing
the upper part of the river. The lower section is getting a little too warm during the afternoon.
The discharges and stream levels are generally remaining low and there are plenty of wading
opportunities. Midges always will work. There are still plenty of caddisflies and some are doing
okay with terrestrials.
10/01/16 The discharges and stream levels are running low and most likely will continue to be
low. There isn't any rain in the forecast for this coming week. Anglers can wade about anywhere
they want to with the low water levels. The weather is much cooler and that is helping the middle
and lower river sections big time. The water temperature is down and there are plenty of
10/14/16 Conditions remain very good for fly fishing the Chattahoochee. The discharges are
low and stream levels low such that you can wade safely most anywhere. The middle and lower
sections of the river are cool enough to come into play. Our customers are catching plenty of
trout and on mostly BWO nymphs, Sculpin and Midges. This should continue for the next week.
10/21/16 It has been great for the wading anglers for the past several days. Some complain
about the low clear water and that's the usual case when it is easy to wade. You have to learn
to make longer cast with lighter leaders and tippets and stay as low as you can. Better flies, like
our Perfect flies, also can make a big difference.
10/28/16 The stream levels are staying low, thanks to low discharges. There has been little rain
in the watershed the past two months. They run only what they have to and that gives wading
anglers a lot of opportunity to catch trout. Our customers are catching plenty of them. Longer,
lighter tippet and leaders will help you.
11/04/16 The river is in good shape. There isn't any rain in the forecast for the coming week
and the lake level is getting a little low from the drought. That means you can probably expect
low discharges and stream levels to continue. Wading anglers are getting lots of good
opportunities and catching good numbers of trout.
11/11/16 .The river is still running low most all the time. There is no rain in the forecast for the
coming week, so this isn't likely to change. They run some water for a short time but you can
wade about all day provided you change locations when they do run water. Blue-winged olives
are hatching along with Cream and Red, or blood midges.
11/18/1q6 The river is in good shape with low stream levels thanks to low discharges. The area
is in a drought. The low levels makes it easy for anglers to wade, yet still provides enough
current for those who want to use a drift boat. Midges and Blue-winged olives are hatching
good. The weather will be turning much cooler this coming week.
1125/16 The river is still low due to low discharges. As you probably know, the area is in a
drought and the lake level is low, so as little water is being run as possible. There is a good
chance of rain this coming week. Midges and Blue-winged olives are hatching. Anglers are
catching good numbers of trout. Wading is eaay about anywhere. The Brown sculpin streamer
continues to catch some of the larger trout.