Chattooga River Fly Fishing
Fly Fishing the Chattooga River
Well known for its scenic backdrop in the movie "Deliverance", the Chattooga River offers a few different choices for fly fisherman in three different states. The upper section of the river flows exclusively through North Carolina. Where the river meets the tri-state border of Georgia and South Carolina at Ellicott Rock, the river forms the state border for several miles until reaching Lake Tugaloo. Beginning on the lower section of the Chattooga River, the southernmost trout waters begin along Highway 28. This section of the Chattooga is managed by both Georgia and South Carolina as a Delayed Harvest Stream from October 1st through May 15th. This stretch extends upstream to the confluence of Reed Creek. Upstream from here normal trout fishing regulations apply all the way to the North Carolina border. North Carolina manages the river and its upper tributaries as a Wild Trout Stream. Here you can find all three species of Appalachian Wild Trout in the river and its tributaries. The slam is also possible with stocked trout further downstream in the border waters but don't present the same challenges as the wild trout.
Fly Fishing the Chattooga River Delayed Harvest Section
The Chattooga River Delayed Harvest has catch and release only regulations from October 1st through May 15th. After this period trout can be harvested. Most trout will find their way out of the river or upstream by early June. Early in the DH season stocked trout can be easy to fool. Junk flies catch the eye of hungry trout still adapting to their new environment. Once the fishing pressure forces the trout to become more selective about their new diets, smaller, more natural flies will produce more trout. A good hike will remove you from the majority of the fishing pressure on this section of the Chattooga River. Trails line both sides of the river and it is uncommon to see many if any anglers after a fifteen minute walk or so. Nymph set ups will fish better through most of the season. Surface action is uncommon on this section of the river. Later in the Summer this section gets too warm for trout. Chubs, shiners, and redeye bass will take over the river creating a different opportunity for anglers.
Fly Fishing Chattooga River Stocked Trout
From the Reed Creek confluence North to Ellicott Rock, the Chattooga River is stocked heavily by both Georgia and South Carolina. The majority of these trout are stocked around the Burrell's Ford Campground. Trails can be found on both sides of the river but tend to be patchier on the Georgia side. The Bartram and Chattooga Trail parallel the river along the South Carolina side providing the easiest access in and out to fly anglers. Though many stocked trout can be found in the pools and slower runs up and downstream of Burrells Ford. A hike further up or downstream will put you in front of more wild trout and holdover trout that provide a better challenge for experienced anglers. Rainbows and brown trout are most common in this section. Being versatile will help in these sections as different techniques will work best during certain times. Swinging streamers, dry flies, dry droppers, indicator nymphing and euronymphing can all produce trout on the Chattooga. Each of these tactics will fish better in different types of water. When trout are using a specific type of water such as tailouts or riffles, corresponding patterns and techniques such as a dry dropper will work best. If trout are holding in slow deep pools after a cold snap moves through or warmer water temperatures leave them sluggish, a streamer or indicator rig dragged along the bottom will be the ticket. Trophy size trout will patrol the river looking for unsuspecting stocked trout. Brown trout in the 20" plus size range are caught every once in a while. Targeting these trout can be difficult but not impossible. Browns will focus on bigger meals once they reach 16" so streamers will be your best bet on fooling these wary predators. Beware of slick rocks and sudden drop-offs from rock ledges on the Chattooga River. Dirty water is not friendly to anglers who aren't familiar with the bottom contour.
Fly Fishing the Upper Chattooga in North Carolina
The Upper Chattooga is best accessed from the Old Iron Bridge, just east of Highlands or Whiteside Cove Road south of Cashiers. This entire section of river is managed as a Wild Trout Streams. Fishing from the Old Iron Bridge northward, you can find mostly wild brown trout. These browns can be very selective but a worthy challenge for anglers. You will likely have the river entirely to yourself as it sees little traffic throughout the year due to its remoteness, limited access, and the physical investment of a modest or long hike in. Look for trout to hang around the many plunges and boulders scattered throughout the scenic river. Closer to the town of Cashiers, you will find more of a mix of trout species with brook trout becoming more common as you reach the headwater tributaries. Dry Flies shine in these smaller waters between late spring and early winter. On days when the fishing is slow, dry droppers will land more trout than other techniques.
Best Fly Fishing Access on the Chattooga River
The Highway 28 Bridge, Burrells Ford Campground, Old Iron Bridge, and Whiteside Cove road are the easiest access points that offer the best fly fishing opportunities on the Chattooga River.
Best Flies For the Chattooga River
1. Junk Flies (mop jigs, squirmy worms, and eggs)
2. Pheasant tail nymph sizes 12-16
3. Rainbow Warrior sizes 14-18
4. Pat's Rubber Legs/Girdle Bug
5. Adams Fly Variant sizes 18-22 for BWO hatches in cooler months
6. Elk hair caddis sizes 16-20
7. Stimulator sizes 12-14
8. Chubby Chernobyl
9. Helmet Head Sculpin/ muddler minnow
10. Woolly Bugger variations in various sizes
For more information about America's best trout streams and others in North Carolina and Georgia, our Fly Fishing Georgia, Fly Fishing North Carolina, Fly Fishing the Tuckasegee River, Fly Fishing the Nantahala River, and Fly Fishing the Davidson River articles will give you other ideas for places to visit in the area.