by Chris Scalley of River Through Atlanta Guide Service
- Species: Rainbow and Brown Trout
- Angler Type: Boat or Wade
- Access Type: Public and Private
The Chattahoochee River below Buford Dam is a classic Southern tail-water. Water is released from the penstocks at depths down to 130ft below the surface of Lake Lanier where cold water is sourced year-round. Many people travel through Atlanta’s international airport never imagining there could be a world-class trout fishery just mile away! The 48 miles of designated trout water is surrounded by 10,000 acres of linear public parklands known as the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. Visitors will find excellent access points either canoe launches or boat ramps along with amenities like restrooms and endless hiking trails.
The Hooch is home to two of Georgia’s state record brown trout in recent years. In 2003 an 18 pounder was landed and then in 2013 a 22 pounder both were caught on artificial lures using conventional tackle. Many big Browns are caught and released every year on the fly rod using large streamers or nymphs.
The GA DNR quit stocking brown trout in 2006 as they discovered there is a self-sustaining population that spawns successfully every year. DNR also stocks approximately 150,000 rainbows from fingerlings to catchable size beginning in March through Labor Day. The possibility of catching both stream-bred and stocked trout makes for great catch rates and aesthetic value during your Chattahoochee River NRA experience.
A drift boat or some type of watercraft (belly boats/float tube, pontoons, kayaks) are best to access remote stretches of the river but if you are willing to hike off the beaten path there are plenty of shoals and gravel bars to wade. Please note the river is expansive with an average depth of 4.5ft so please wear a PFD and utilize a wading staff for safety. Reminder “check the flow before you go!” at 770-945-1466 also visit www.nps.gov/chat. Buford Dam operates strictly for flood control and power demand but is more predictable than other tail-waters in the South. Another luxury of the Buford Dam project is that the Army Corps of Engineers does its best to NOT release high flows on weekends making Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays fairly predicable for safe recreational flows.
Bug hatches on the river are prolific in the spring from March through May we experience good caddis hatches. Further downstream 36 miles below Buford Dam both caddis and a variety of mayflies can cause an eruption of rising fish in an 8 mile Delayed Harvest section. This section is closer to town and is stocked heavily from November through May-15th it is artificial ONLY barbless flies or lures, catch and release. Also two stonefly hatches to note are the little Winter Stoneflies from December through March and the large pteronarcys (salmon flies) in February through April. Use large black to brown Girdle or Yuk bug nymphs to target quality fish. Blue Winged Olive mayflies can hatch year-round and cool overcast days are the best time for them.
- Waders- because the water is cold
- Rubber with Studs or felt boots (No Studs in Boats)
- Wading Staff
- 9’ and 10’ 4 and 5 weight rods
- 3x-6x tippet. Fluor when nymphing Mono for dries
- Zebra Midges of all sorts, sizes, and colors
- Pheasant tail nymphs
- San Juan Worms
- CDC comparadun baetis and Sulphur
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Beetles and Flying Ants
- Wooly Buggers
- Tiny Parachute Adams
- Eggs Patterns
Tips and Safety
- Be very careful when wading. If the Corp begins to generate, get out of the water.
- Check the Generation at www.nps.gov/chat
- Check the Generation at 770-945-1466
Please be sure to check current regulations if you are unfamiliar, many of our tailwaters have unique regulations.