Amazing Unknown Southeast US Fishing Spots: The Chattahoochee & The Tallapoosa

There are two very different but very productive fly fishing opportunities just 2 hours apart. One river is in an Alan Jackson song that sits in the middle of Atlanta, and the lesser known of the two is 45 minutes away from a popular SEC school where you can catch the prized redeye bass.

The Hooch

I grew up in Atlanta and before I picked up fishing, I never heard anything good about the Chattahoochee. It is considered by most as a “poop-brown river” that floods every now and again, and exists to collect a big-city’s sewage. However, once you realize there are numerous organizations and charities that work to keep the river a clean recreational resource for the public, you are able to experience what the “hooch” has to offer.

Still, before ever fishing the river, I could drive ten minutes from my house to go swim and play in the shoals. As a kid, and I imagine as a parent, the hooch is the perfect summer activity. The local neighborhood pools get too hot and overrun with people, and that is the perfect time to get your mom to drive you and your friends to swim at the river. Places like Island Ford offer hiking trails and rocks for parents to go watch their kids swim in the riffles and pools in the shoals (just be sure to check dam release schedules).

Chattahoochee Trout

The river stays real cold even during the hot summers in Georgia, but we never seemed to care. Eventually though, I grew out of swimming at the hooch and was reintroduced to the river in a new way in high school. When I picked up fly fishing, the only image in my head was of native trout in the mountains out west. I never realized I could catch the same fish just 15 minutes from my house. All it took was a friendly neighborhood friend to introduce me to Chattahoochee trout. It is stocked consistently with rainbow trout by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. But, the best part is not the numerous rainbows. The Chattahoochee also supports a native brown trout population. AND THEY ARE HUGE! I lost the biggest trout of my life on the river in April of 2018, and five years later it still haunts me.

 The Georgia state record for trout was caught out of the Chattahoochee. A giant 20 pound brown trout pulled out of a “trashy river.” The fish I lost was not that big, but I know for sure that the brown trout that snapped my tippet would not have fit in my net! I am super thankful that I have been able to have this resource at my disposal. Organizations like Chattahoochee RiverKeeper work to clean the river and its surroundings so that people like me can continue to use it.

Check The Dam Release Schedule

OK, I am done with the background personal stories of the hooch. Here is how you can catch a few fish in the city if you’re ever in Atlanta. First and foremost, always check the dam release schedule and water flow charts before you go out. The water levels can rise quickly, so be sure to check before you go!

I am going to skip over the best spots to fish on the river. The water levels vary a good bit throughout the year and depending on seasonal conditions, you can catch a fish pretty much anywhere on the river.

If you decide to fish the hooch; you should know that midges are always available to these trout. Throughout the year, a nymph rig with size 20 or smaller midge flies is a tried and true way to catch them. The native brown trout can be much more picky and spooky than the stocked rainbows. With this in mind, if you are fishing slow or shallow water, try a euro nymphing setup. Sometimes a strike indicator will spook the fish, and a euro nymphing rig will help you drift drag-free.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout are constantly stocked in the river, and they are much easier to catch typically. While they are smaller, they can be fun and you can catch numbers. Junk flies like eggs, worms, mop flies, etc. work well especially after a rain when the water is starting to clear up and the water levels are safe. Eventually though, the rainbows will catch on to the simple egg and worm patterns. This is when you can turn to the small midge patterns.

Streamer fishing can also be a productive way to cover water and target bigger fish. The trout are ambush predators so swinging and stripping streamers in and around cover is a great way to target the big fish. You will occasionally hook into an opportunistic rainbow on a big streamer as well!

The Tallapoosa River

The other truly unknown southeast fishery I want to introduce is the Tallapoosa River near Dadeville, AL. Since moving to Auburn, AL I have been mostly focused on college football, but I have been missing out on something special. Just 40 minutes from Auburn University Campus and 20 minutes from the popular Lake Martin, is the Tallapoosa River.

Unless you are a hardcore angler in the southeast, then this river has most likely flown under the radar. Most people in the area are completely unaware of the Tallapoosa river as a recreational resource in and of itself, let alone it surprisingly fishes very well. The handful of locals that enjoy the river to themselves is slowly going to change.

A new small business by the name of Float Alabama is doing their part to introduce everyone in the surrounding area to the joy of the river. By renting inflatable kayaks, fishing crafts, and rafts, I expect a lot more fishermen to use the Tallapoosa as a weekend fishing trip. Fly fisherman and spin fisherman have an amazing opportunity to catch a certain type of fish, not found in many other watersheds: The redeye bass.

That far south, trout cannot survive year round due to the water temperature. Instead, anglers can hook into a fish almost never referred to as the “Alabama brook trout” or, much more commonly, the redeye bass. Check out this great podcast done by Orvis and Tom Rosenbauer on the redeye bass from a great source named Matthew Lewis.

The redeye bass is a good enough reason to go fish the Tallapoosa all on its own. If you live in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, or anywhere close, a fishing trip to the Tallapoosa should be one to add to your list. They typically are smaller than smallmouth, but fight like heck and have a beautiful bluish hue.

You can also catch largemouth bass, and spotted bass. The bluegill fishing is very good also, and the slower water will hold some decent size catfish. A local fishing outfitter called East Alabama Fly Fishing is a good resource to contact if you want to take a trip with a guide to be sure you are really dialed into the fishing.

Since discovering the potential of the river I have made time to float and fish it a few times. It is summer now, so poppers and some streamers have been the best and most fun way to catch fish. However, this is not the only time of year where these fish eat topwater. About 6 months out of the year, you can regularly catch fish on topwater poppers. Fly fishing has been my method of choice, but spin fisherman and baitcasters would work just as well. For the bream and bass a 5 weight is all you need; if you like throwing bigger streamers a 6 or 7 weight will do the trick as well.

If you live in the south or ever decide to visit, do not overlook these two fisheries. There are many fish to be caught down in the southeast, and you can enjoy your fly fishing hobby without paying for a big trip out west!

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