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
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.
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.
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.
Southern Brown Trout
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