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FLY FISHING THE CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER IN GEORGIA

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The Chattahoochee tail water, or better known as the "HOOCH", is arguably the best trout water in the "Deep South". Both the Chestatee and Chattahoochee rivers originate in the vast Chattahoochee National Forest lands of the North Georgia Appalachian Mountains. Over 764,000 acres of watershed provide the source for Lake Sidney Lanier. Lake Lanier is the most heavily used US Army Corps of Engineers impoundment in the nation. With over 600 miles of shoreline and 38,000 surface acres, combined with its proximity to Atlanta, there is no wonder this lake is a recreational Mecca with 10 million visitors annually. The entire watershed north of Buford dam consists of 19,000 square miles of mostly rural landscape where rainfall in some areas in the mountains can be over 80 inches per year. Although the geology of this region is not rich in calcium, much of the water entering the lake is enriched by runoff from poultry and other forms of agriculture.

At the south end of the lake, Buford Dam is operated to control water levels on Lake Lanier and provide flood control. During wet years the water is purchased for hydropower to enable the South East Power Administration to meet peak energy demands throughout the southeastern power grid. Drinking water consumption and waste assimilation are the most crucial demands on the Chattahoochee because of Atlanta's burgeoning population. Fortunately, recreation is becoming recognized as a valuable asset to the area and maintaining all of these exploits will be a challenge in the future. The Buford Dam Project is a classic tail water situation carefully managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. At depths of 130 ft cool water is released through tail race gates of this structure. You need to pay attention. Scheduled low-flow releases--typically 700 cubic feet per second--can be waded safely with either a wading staff or float tube. Moderate and high flows of 5,000 to 10,000 cfs are best fished from water craft such as pontoon or drift boats.
Saltwater Photo

Buford Dam

The 48-mile stretch of river from Buford Dam to Standing Peachtree Creek is managed for year-reound trout fishing, with 5,000 trout per mile of which about 15% are stream-bred browns and rainbows. A 15 mile stretch north of the city of Atlanta from state route 20 to state route 141 (Peachtree Parkway) is restricted to artificial lures only. This water is praised by anglers who are willing to float the more remote stretches for trophy trout via float tubes or drift boats. The Hooch's average width is 50 yards with plenty of space for casting. Fly gear suited for big water conditions (rods of nine feet with a 4- to 6-weight lines) will suffice. Annual water temperatures average 54 degrees Fahrenheit making for sometimes frigid conditions even on hot southern days. Fleece undergarments are recommended. Wading staffs and personal flotation devices are always a good idea because water releases can change daily.

Late autumn and winter are a great time to hit the Hooch. River flows are more predictable. During this cool period there is less demand for hydropower and with the resevoir low from summer releases, the river flows are less vloitile. A much easier time to plan a trip.
Saltwater Photo

Southern Brown Trout

Mayfly hatches consist of mostly Baetis species or bluewinged olives from size 14-26. On overcast days when fish are on the surface, a parachute Adams is always a good bet.Plecoptera stonefly species are prolific on clear, crisp winter days in size 12-16. Various Stimulator patterns can be used during this time. If there is no surface action, bead-head Pheasant Tails and Hare's Ears nymphs will score. Midges hatch all winter. Try a Griffith's Gnat in a #16-26. The spawning season for brown trout lasts well into the mild winter months in the deep South. Hefty browns and the occasional shoal bass can be enticed with a well placed streamer pattern.

The flora and fauna are abundant along the banks of the "Hooch". Conspicuous prehistoric fish weirs (traps) that were originally constructed by Cherokee and Creek Indians out of cobble, and later maintained by white settlers, reveal this area's rich human and natural history. Even an angler doesn't need to catch fish to escape the daily grind of the modern world in this treasure we call the "Hooch".

Trout Unlimited members across the state of Georgia voted the Chattahoochee as their number one trout destination in the state. These voters also selected the tail water section as a feature river for Trout Unlimited TV which IRES on ESPN2. The fact that there is significant natural propagation (15%) among brown trout gives the river added credibility as an aesthetic and challenging fly fishing destination.