Fly Fishing Georgia
This article was a collaboration with our partners at Georgia Wild Trout, that spent many days exploring everything from the popular stocked trout streams to the tiny blue lines high in the North Georgia Mountains. They are an excellent group of guides who love teaching new anglers how to fly fish. Be sure to reach out to them on your next visit to North Georgia as their expertise on fly fishing North Georgia is second to none. The link below will take you to their guided fly fishing trips.
Best Trout Fishing in Georgia
The trout streams of North Georgia offer several opportunities for anglers. Different streams offer a variety of sizes, numbers, and species of trout. On top of this, they each fish quite differently and offer various challenges as some contain only stocked trout, others only wild trout, and many offer both. This can be confusing to fly fisherman just starting out. The time spent weeding through outdated articles and misinformation online or old books can even leave the most experienced visiting angler scratching their head. Stocked trout and wild trout behave very differently and fly anglers will have to use very different methods to have success. Most stocked trout don’t acclimate quickly and tend to be lazy. However, they will be larger than wild trout. The majority of wild trout you will find in Georgia are in the 4”-8” range, while stocked fish fall in the 10 -14" range. Larger brood stock trout can also be found throughout the state at different times of the year. These streams can be classified into four categories which are stocked rivers, small stocked streams, wild streams, and trophy trout waters.
Fly Fishing Stocked Trout Streams in North Georgia
Georgia is known for managing a majority of its public trout streams as put-and-take fisheries. These streams are stocked with regularity, either throughout the year or during the cooler months (October through July). These places receive the majority of the fishing pressure from conventional and fly anglers and are the first to be recommended in any google search or forum commenter. Fly fishing in these streams can be a big gamble as locals clean out these streams shortly after they are stocked. By Sunday it may be fair to assume there aren’t many trout remaining, and the ones that do survive will be skittish. The most visited creeks that fall into this category are Wildcat creek, Rock Creek, Coopers Creek, Dicks Creek, Amicalola Creek, Warwoman Creek, Etowah River, and a section of the upper Chattahoochee River. If you do get lucky and manage to come across some recently stocked trout, they should be quite willing to eat. Wild fish can be found in these sections but can be less common in the heavily pressured sections. If you are visiting one of these streams, it’s recommend hiking away from the closest parking areas to put a good bit of distance between you and the roadside pull-offs.
Another group of streams that seem to get mentioned heavily are the Georgia Delayed Harvest Trout Streams. These creeks and rivers are stocked in November and are managed as catch and release trout fisheries until May when the trout are cleaned out. These streams include a section of Amicalola Creek, Smith Creek, lower section of the upper Toccoa River, Lower section of the Chattooga River, and a small stretch of the Chattahoochee River close to downtown Atlanta. Like the other stocked waters previously mentioned, these creeks fish very well early in the season after their original stocking.
Finding big crowds of other fly anglers here at these times is common so if you are not looking to share water you might want to try other options. After 2-3 weeks, these trout receive a healthy education, and the fishing can be difficult for anglers who don’t use finesse tactics effectively. The trout can be much more difficult to find than they are to catch. Stocked trout are usually gluttonous and willing to eat just about any junk fly (egg, mop jig, or squirmy worm) that drifts by. Once they have been caught a few times, smaller flies will be more productive.
Fly Fishing Small Stocked Streams in North Georgia
A larger number of streams are stocked throughout North Georgia during the periods of the year with cool weather, but with less trout. These creeks can see much less pressure than the heavily stocked ones. Your odds of running into some untouched stockers can be better here during the busy seasons. Jumping around from creek to creek can be helpful as some of them are in poor shape while others are quite productive. These productive creeks will not only have the stocked trout, but also have more wild trout mixed in. These streams are great for beginning fly anglers to learn the basics. They’re much smaller than the more heavily stocked streams so shorter casting and more stealth is needed.
Because of the smaller stream size, these trout won’t group together in small holes as much as they do on larger bodies of water, so keep moving and cover as much of the stream as you can. The Georgia DNR lists all the creeks they stock and how frequently. This Georgia Trout Stocking Schedule will give you an idea on where and when you can find fish. Most of the creeks in this category are stocked weekly April through July. Junk flies are still productive but natural fly patterns (small dry flies, hare’s ear nymphs, or pheasant tail nymphs) will also produce a mix of stocked and wild trout. The streams below fall into this category.
Boggs Creek Trout Fishing
Boggs Creek runs along Hwy 19 north of Dahlonega. Boggs Creek Campground offers easy access for visitors to the creek which is stocked considerably more than the neighboring streams, such as Frogtown Creek. Trout can be found in nearly every pool after being stocked. Slick rock outcroppings can be a danger on the creek. Making the hike upstream, you will see fewer anglers and diminishing stocked trout but many more wild rainbow trout in the thinning stream and its feeders. The rhododendron and laurel lined creek offers excellent cover for these trout so bow and arrow casts can be very useful.
Helton Creek Trout Fishing
Helton Creek runs west to east to north Dahlonega and Blood Mountain while feeding the upper Nottely River. Wild and stocked trout can be found in the creek above and below the gorgeous two-tiered Helton Creek Falls. While there is limited public access below the falls, there’s a bit of public access above the falls. The rhododendrons along the stream are quite heavy but offer a great opportunity to dial in on your tight quarters casting.
Turniptown Creek Trout Fishing
Turniptown Creek is a tributary of the Ellijay River just north of downtown Ellijay. Turniptown Creek is stocked throughout the spring and summer months by the DNR as well as the homeowners downstream. Though most of the creek lies on private waters, public access can be found on the upper section. Former president, Jimmy Carter’s mountain cabin is located on the this creek which always seems to possess a healthy population of trout. The public section in the headwaters maintains a fair amount of wild rainbow trout. During the transition months, don’t be surprised to see some larger trout show up on public lands following heavy rains.
Coopers Creek Trout Fishing
The Coopers Creek WMA lies between Blue Ridge, Dahlonega, and Blairsville close to the small town of Suches. Coopers Creek is one of, if not the most, visited places for trout fishing in North Georgia. This is due to the plethora of campgrounds and easy access via forest service road pull offs that line the main stretch of the creek. The stocking it receives throughout the year is quite heavy when compared to its size. Running into the trout can be a bit of a chore at times as the local fishermen keep a close eye out for the stock trucks. Consistent success can be had by covering water and looking for holes the lazier fisherman aren’t willing to go find.
Dicks Creek Trout Fishing
Dicks creek receives the most stocked fish out of all the tributary creeks to the Chestatee River. Because of this, it is the most popular trout fishery in the Dahlonega area. Dicks Creek is stocked just about year-round but sees a majority of its pressure between spring and summer. During Summer, the creek can be incredibly crowded with anglers and visitors trying to escape the heat in the deeper pools below the series of waterfalls. For anglers looking to escape these crowds, there are several wadable areas on public water stretches downstream and further into the national forest land where you may have the creek to yourself. Upstream of the falls you can find wild trout which won’t appease the needs of anglers looking for a cheap meal but can be very exciting to chase on the fly. The headwaters lead way to the top of Blood Mountain. Trout can be found in these tiny creeks and tributaries that begin around the Appalachian trail.
Rock Creek Trout Fishing
Rock Creek is similar to Coopers Creek and Dicks Creek. Rock Creek is a bit closer to Blue Ridge and has more ease of access therefore it also sees heavy amounts of traffic throughout the year. There are less camping opportunities around Rock Creek than can be found on the similar creeks, it still sees similar pressure to Coopers, and competition for spots can be tough. Stocked fish can be found from the confluence with the Toccoa River, all the way to Chattahoochee National Forest Trout Hatchery found on the upper end. The lake above the hatchery is stocked as well, during the colder months. The small creeks feeding the lake and have populations of small wild trout for those willing to do a bit of bushwhacking.
Low Gap and Jasus Creek Trout Fishing
Low Gap Creek is stocked regularly from the spring through summer and again in the fall. Campers will fish the creek out quickly because of the few options the trout have for cover in the small creek. Wandering away from the campgrounds will put you in front of trout looking for a quick meal. Less discussed are the wild trout above the campground that can be found if you have the patience to weed through the abundant creek chubs and shiners. Jasus Creek sets up similar Low Gap Creek. The two creeks are always stocked at the same time so if you see stocked trout in one, you can bet you’ll find them in the other as well. Jasus creek is marginally bigger and has a bit more cover than Low Gap making holdover trout more probable above and below the campgrounds.
Soapstone Creek Trout Fishing
Soapstone Creek can be found just below Brasstown Bald, which is the highest point in Georgia. Soapstone creek is not widely talked about but offers some of the best fly fishing in Helen. The creek runs adjacent to Hwy 180, above Helen. The lower section of Soapstone is stocked regularly. Despite its stocking schedule, Soapstone sees much less pressure than other stocked creeks in Georgia and as you would think, this makes the task of finding trout easier, and the trout fishing more consistent. The upper reaches of the creek do possess a population of wild trout that can be fooled on dry flies throughout the warmer months.
Amicalola Creek Trout Fishing
While Amicalola often rings a bell as a popular destination for tourists looking for an easily accessible waterfall, Amicalola creek is one of the most popular trout fisheries in the state. The creek is managed in three sections. The lower section is where you can find the Amicalola Delayed Harvest, the middle section is stocked from spring and into summer. In the upper tributary creeks, wild trout can be found in decent numbers. The middle section around the Wildcat Campground is stocked with trout. Straying away from the parking areas will lead to better results unless the creek has been stocked very recently.
Warwoman Creek Trout Fishing
Just east of Clayton, anglers can find Warwoman Creek, which is a tributary if the Chattooga River that offers a healthy mix of wild and stocked trout in its lower and upper reaches. The stocked sections are found in these lower stretches and receive more pressure than the small tributaries that lie above. Due to its proximity to the town of Clayton, the stocked waters don’t hold trout as long as many would like but conveniently the fishing pressure does not extend too far into the headwaters.
Fly Fishing Wild Trout Streams in North Georgia
Wild trout streams throughout North Georgia are scattered throughout Southern Appalachia. These freestone streams are smaller and much faster flowing than the stocked trout streams, which makes them a bit more difficult to find success as a beginner. The number of hungry wild fish makes up for the difficulty in presentation though. More stealth and forethought are needed before presenting your fly. These trout rarely pass on a meal drifting downstream between March and December. Dry flies can work nearly year-round and always during the aforementioned time period. Mid to late winter (January-March) is the only time they seem reluctant to look to the surface. A short-lived midge or Blue Wing Olive hatch may be the only exception. These streams are a bit easier to find as the U.S, Forestry Service has several tracts of land across North Georgia. Trout Routes also provides an excellent resource for individuals looking for these wild trout streams as well as their stocked counterparts. In these areas, it is the headwaters of the major rivers where you can find these wild fish. Starting from the northwest corner of Georgia, the Cohutta Wilderness offers a vast area with dozens if not hundreds of miles of rarely touched creeks that are filled with wild trout. You can find wild rainbow and brown trout in these remote streams of the Cohuttas. To the east are the majority of the Toccoa River drainages. These headwater creeks like Skeenah Creek, Stanley Creek, Little Rock Creek, Mauldin Creek, and Noontootla Creek, have wild brook, rainbow, and brown trout. The rainbow trout are the dominate species in most of these creeks, but in the highest elevation waters you can find incredibly spooky and popular native brook trout. Brown trout move a tremendous amount throughout the Toccoa River system. The late summer and early fall transition is the easiest time to find brown trout as they begin to move during their spawning migration. Further to the east, near the town of Dahlonega, you have the headwaters of the Etowah River, Chestatee River, and Nottely River. These headwater streams have all three trout species present as well. Different creeks in these drainages can each have a particular species throughout their entire stretch. Blue Lining can be a fun adventure here, as surprises seem to be around every corner. Finally, the northeast corner of Georgia is the home to the Upper Chattahoochee River (above Helen), Hiwassee River, Tallulah River, and the Chattooga River watersheds. All three species can be found in the Upper Chattahoochee River, Tallulah River, and Chattooga River headwaters. Others small streams and tributaries will have mostly rainbow trout with the occasional brown trout showing up. Below are a few of the notable wild trout streams to visit during your time in Georgia.
Noontootla Creek Trout Fishing
Noontootla Creek, also known as, “The Toot” is one of the most popular wild trout streams in the state. Alongside streams of the Cohutta Wilderness, and Upper Chattahoochee and Chattooga River watersheds, the Noontootla is also one of the most productive and scenic fishing destinations in the North Georgia. There are two sections of publicly accessible water on Noontootla Creek. The first being is a smaller piece of land closer to the confluence with the Toccoa River off Newport Road in the tiny town of Aska. This smaller section is stocked once a year but will see many migrating and transient trout move up and down the stream from the Toccoa River and the nearby private waters. While this section of the Noontootla is not known for numbers, some fair-sized trout can be caught in the short stretch. The upper section of public water lies on the headwaters of the Noontootla Creek Watershed. This tract of land lies completely on the Blue Ridge WMA within the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. There are dozens of miles of the Noontootla and its tributaries filled with wild trout. This section of of the creek is artificial lures only with a minimum keeping size of 17”. This makes the creek just about completely catch and release as there are few if any wild trout bigger than this. Fly Fisherman willing to go rock hopping and bushwhack some rhododendrons, can find a long stretches of water completely to themselves. The creek runs shallow throughout the WMA, so spin/gear fisherman have a much tougher time landing trout, while fly fisherman have a big advantage in the skinny water trout while fishing a dry fly. The river sees no stocking, so most of the trout run in the four to eight inch size range with the occasional trout breaking the twelve inch mark. Noontootla creek is the home of all three trout species found in Georgia with rainbow trout being the most prominent species. Brown trout are mostly found in the main stem and lower portions of the Toot until they make spawning runs into the smaller creeks during the fall. Brook trout are only found in the headwaters of the small tributary streams above the natural barriers. Finding these brookies takes dedication and some hiking. Stealth is critical as they may be the spookiest trout in North Georgia. These qualities make the brook trout a rewarding catch even if they rarely grow larger than six inches. The faster water seams and cross currents make the Noontootla an excellent setting to perfect and fine tune your drifts and presentations.
Jacks River Trout Fishing
The Jacks River offers one of the few true overnight hikes in fishing trips for Georgians. The Jacks River runs about twelve miles to its confluence with the Conasauga River at the Georgia-Tennessee border and sees very few anglers annually. The remoteness of the Jacks means every mile of this trout stream has plenty of hungry trout willing to eat a dry fly. Wild rainbows and browns are common and offer an excellent way to spend your weekend. Access to the river is found only on its upper tributaries and near the Conasauga River confluence.
Mountaintown Creek Trout Fishing
Public access to the west fork of Mountaintown Creek is available from Forest Service Road 64 in the Cohutta Wilderness. A two mile hike downhill along the Crenshaw Branch tributary will lead you to water that sees very few anglers. Endless waterfalls and cascades provide cover for the wild rainbows and occasional brown and stocked brook trout. The late spring and summer months will have trout ready to eat even poorly drifted dry fly patterns. Tight quarters on the creek requires stealth as the wild trout can be quite spooky.
Tallulah River Trout Fishing
The upper section of the Tallulah River provides fly fisherman an excellent opportunity to target all three species of wild trout in North Georgia. While the lower sections of the Tallulah are stocked, the upper section gives visitors a good chance to target the Appalachian Slam. Much like the other wild trout streams listed above, the upper Tallulah River will see excellent dry fly fishing through most of the year.
Fly Fishing Trophy Trout in North Georgia
Many fly angers dream of chasing trout of trophy size, but these trout can be elusive, and only available on public waters during small periods of the year. If you know when and where to find them, the task seems a bit more doable. Dukes Creek is well known to be the best and easiest access to public trophy trout water in Georgia. While big trout certainly live in this tributary of the Chattahoochee, they aren’t as easy to get on the line as many would like. After making your reservations and waiting for the Wednesday, Saturday, or Sunday that the creek is open, you can have a shot at these educated and quite skittish giants. The trout here are used to seeing experienced anglers make adequate presentations throughout the open season (October to May). Your best chance at a trophy, is to start your day with the mindset that you only need one or two bites as well as stalking the water much slower and with more finesse. Observe your targeted hole or trout to find the best means to approach, present to, and fight your trophy. Another opportunity that comes up for a few months each year is to fish for large trout migrating upstream or downstream from neighboring private waters. A quick google search should give you a good idea of where these private waters are located. During autumn, heavy rains trigger these hefty fish into making a spawn run upstream. Similar rains during spring can move these fish downstream as they look for better cover. By searching the public waters adjacent to these private water trout streams you give yourself in a great chance to come across a trophy trout that is hungry from traveling up or down the river. Just like the tactics used to fish Dukes Creek, make your casts count, as big fish will spook easily.
The last method to catch a trophy trout in Georgia is to fish the tailwater rivers. Both the lower Toccoa River and Chattahoochee River below Buford dam hold large rainbow and brown trout. Other than the occasional Toccoa pet rainbow trout, these fish tend to eat bigger meals so leave the small flies behind unless you’re feeling VERY lucky. Larger sculpin or other smaller fish imitations are your best bet for a trophy trout. Learn more in our articles on Fly Fishing the Chattahoochee River and Fly Fishing the Toccoa River.
Fly Fishing Georgia’s Private Water Trout Streams
Private water trout streams are the largest attractor of anglers to the state of Georgia. Massive trout certainly captivate many anglers and offer a memorable achievement for those looking for a new picture on the fireplace. These fisheries provide helpful lessons to their guests that they would have trouble finding anywhere outside of the western states. They’re also very consistent during periods when wild or publicly stocked streams are fishing slow. Public waters can certainly be more helpful to beginning anglers looking to understand trout throughout the year as new anglers can often receive more bites on a given day. Private waters offer consistency year-round, even when water temperatures dip and the natural food is scarce. Learning to fight trophy trout is also an important lesson, and one it’s likely best not to learn while fishing public streams as failure is likely and your chances at redemption are low. This experience does justify the additional cost of visiting private waters. Learning fundamentals on public water streams before taking the next step to targeting trophy trout is valuable, as it will improve your success once you visit the private streams. Trout behavior in private waters tend to be similar to the habits of stocked trout. Larger trout will have, of course, learned a thing or two during their time in these streams, but their feeding habits remain the same. These trout feed indiscriminately for majority of the time, but heavier pressure or tough conditions such as low clear water can leave only the smallest fly patterns on the menu.
Fly Selection is best kept simple for the North Georgia Mountains. For stocked trout, junk flies tend to draw the most eyes and eats. Mop flies, squirmy worms, and egg patterns will produce fish consistently. For wild fish eating subsurface or skittish stocked fish, the natural patterns such as a hares ear nymph, pheasant tail nymph, perdigon, or walt’s worms work great. Moving to the surface, Hoppers are excellent for suspension rigs and glutinous trout. A more natural imitation that they see more consistently would be stimulators, elk hair caddis, and parachute adams variations. These flies cover the full spectrum of bugs available on North Georgia’s smaller trout streams. Blanket hatches are practically non existent throughout North Georgia, but a myriad of bugs can be found on the water nine or ten months out of the year.
Moving to our tailwaters, you will begin seeing many more midges and smaller insects. Zebra midges, small adams flies, Griffiths gnats, and other tiny midge imitations in the size 20 or smaller range are critical for success. Summer hatches occur in the low light hours while hatches in the cooler month tend to happen throughout the day on the edges of dam generation.
Georgia Trout Fishing Rules and Regulations
Anglers over the age of 16 fishing on Georgia's designated trout streams are required to have a fishing license and trout stamp. Trout streams are open year round to the public but caution is suggested when fishing during the summer months as warm temperatures can leave the trout at risk. Moccasin creek is the only Georgia trout stream with an age limitation where anglers must be under the age of 12.
Artificial only Trout Waters
Sections of the Chattahoochee River, Stanley Creek, Coleman River, Conasauga River, Jones Creek, Mountaintown Creek, Noontootla Creek, Hoods Creek, and Walnut Creek are artificial lures only which includes all scented lures.
The limit for trout in Georgia is 8 per person with no size limit. However several streams are designated as catch and release only or have a larger size limit of sixteen inches. Be sure to check the Georgia DNR regulations page for more information before hitting the water.
For more information about America's best trout streams and others in the area, our Fly Fishing Tennessee, Fly Fishing North Carolina, Fly Fishing South Carolina, Fly Fishing the Chattahoochee River, Fly Fishing the Toccoa River, and Fly Fishing the Chattooga River articles will give you other ideas for places to visit in the area. Be sure to reach out to an experienced North Georgia Fly Fishing Guide for up to date information about the local trout streams.