Where To Go For Trophy Georgia Trout
Georgia waters offer top-class fly fishing for heavyweight trout.
You hear it over and over when talking to people who have fished some of the private-water trout streams in north Georgia: “It was better than the trout fishing on the Yellowstone or the Madison rivers in Montana.” If you are interested in the opportunity to catch outstanding trout, you can do it without leaving Georgia.
Beginning about 19 years ago with the success of Jimmy “Bear” Sutton’s Riverside Trophy Trout Stream on the Soque River, there has been a flush of private, trophy-trout businesses developed in the Georgia mountains.
Generally, these streams are stocked with large trout obtained from private hatcheries. Once in the stream, the fish are put on an all-you-can-eat diet of trout pellets. With supplemental feeding, stream populations can be kept high. Catch-and-release is the rule, and the fish have the opportunity to grow to eye-popping lengths and weights.
Without exception, the private waters listed below are catch-and-release only and nearly all are fly-fishing only. Most require that you have a guide fish with you, at least on the first visit.
Fishing with a guide isn’t a bad thing. The guides are generally gonzo trout fishermen who are very familiar with the stream you will be fishing. They want you to have a good experience — i.e. catch some big fish. They can help with your approach, fly selection, presentation and playing big trout. They will also ensure that the trout are handled carefully so that they return to the stream unharmed. Most guides can take a pretty good photograph, so bring a camera to record your catch.
The cost of a guided day on one of these private streams — usually in the neighborhood of $150 per day per angler — is reasonable compared to the cost of most guided fishing trips in Georgia, and for many fishermen, the result of a trip to a private stream is the trout of a lifetime.
Rates vary according to accommodations, so call for current fees.
A valid Georgia fishing license and trout stamp are required to fish on private waters. Most operations require that you bring your own gear, but inquire, because a few have gear to outfit you.
There are a few special regulations that apply to most of these streams. As if catching a trophy trout wasn’t challenge enough, most operations require barbless hooks and single-hook flies. You can pinch down the barb on your flies to meet this requirement.
“Catching the fish isn’t easy,” said trout fisherman Don Pfitzer of Lithonia, who once guided at Brigadoon. “Trout that big have seen a lot of flies, and it takes a lot of finesse to catch them on barbless hooks.”
To add to the excitement, some streams do not allow landing nets.
“Who has a net for a 12-lb. fish anyway,” says the website for BlackHawk Trophy Trout Stream.
Careful handling of the fish is stressed. Hemostats to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water is a recommended release technique.
Booking a trip on these streams works in two ways: you can call the business directly to set up a trip, or you can also contact one of the guide services, such as Unicoi Outfitters or Spring Creek Anglers. The outfitters have fishing arrangements in place with a number of private stream owners, and they can match up your skill, cash and aspirations with the fishing options available. When you book, generally, access to the stream is limited to your party.
Here’s a look at some of the trophy-trout streams available in north Georgia.
• River Through Atlanta Chattahoochee River Guide Service
Chris Scalley and his team of guides can lead anglers to Lanier dam tailrace section of the Chattahoochee River, where brown trout are naturally reproducing and some truly monster browns are regularly caught. The state-record brown trout, weighing 20-lbs., 14-ozs., was caught July 27, 2014 in this stretch of the Chattahoochee.
Chris has been guiding on the Chattahoochee since 1994, and he grew up in Roswell along the river.
• Brigadoon Lodge
Brigadoon is one of the oldest and best-known of Georgia’s trophy-trout businesses, and it has helped make the name Soque River synonymous with trophy-trout fishing.
“They are top-flight (at Brigadoon), no question about it,” said Don Pfitzer. “They do an excellent job of managing the trout population. I was able to fish some and caught a number of 6- and 7-lb. trout, and they were big, good-looking, healthy fish.”
Brigadoon, located on the Soque River, is owned and operated by Rebekah Stewart and has been in operation since 1995. Facilities include a lodge and cabins, a gourmet kitchen, and an on-site fly shop. Brigadoon offers fly-fishing lessons, and fishing equipment is available to rent. Anglers must book in pairs.
For fishing the Soque, Don recommends a Tellico nymph, a Royal Wulff or something like it, or a “Pfitzer Special,” a fly he ties that imitates a large carpenter ant.
The Brigadoon website also recommends elk hair caddis, parachute adams, small bead-head nymphs, and bright streamers as good flies for Soque trout.
And, as on most big-water trout streams, a wooly bugger is a good choice, too.
Phone: (706) 754-2229
• Blackhawk Trophy Trout Stream
Blackhawk, also located on the Soque off Hwy 197, touts your opportunity to catch trout in the 3- to 12-lb. range on its 1 1/2-miles of stream.
Phone: (706) 947-3474
• Cannon Falls Lodge
Cannon Falls Lodge is located about 20 miles north of Dalonega between Dalonega and Blairsville on the upper end of the Chestatee River. The trout-fishing operation opened in 2003 and features about a mile of fishing water.
This property features mid-sized trout rather than the upper-end sized fish.
“You have a realistic opportunity for a trout in the 15- to 18-inch range,” according to owner Dean Koester. The section of river holds browns, rainbows and brook trout. Fly rods and flies are available.
Phone: (706) 348-7919
• The Hiawassee River Trout Lodge
Fishing for trophy trout in the Hiawassee River revolves around a series of new cabins built near the river. Facilities include a meeting pavilion. Trophy-class trout are stocked regularly and are fed in the stream. The river features a number of deep pools and runs going through the cabins. The biggest trout caught from this section of the Hiawassee was a brown trout that reportedly weighed 18 pounds. Cabin rental gives you access to the river
Phone: (706) 896-7400
• Noontootla Creek Farms
Noontootla Creek Farms offers a combination of trophy-trout fishing and pen-raised quail hunting. The 1,500-acre property offers a meadow-stream fishing experience on Noontootla Creek, which is stocked with trophy trout.
During the quail-hunting season, which runs from January 1 through March 31, you can opt for a “Cast and Blast” package, which allows you to fish in the morning and hunt quail after lunch. Bring your own dog, or guided hunts are available. A four-bedroom farmhouse on the property is available for rental for overnight trips.
Phone: (706) 632-1880
• Unicoi Outfitters
This fly-fishing shop and outfitter is likely the best-known among north Georgia trout fishermen. Unicoi Outfitters has been in business for more than 10 years and currently operates fly-fishing shops in Helen and Blue Ridge.
If you walk out behind the store at the south end of Helen, you will be looking at Nacoochee Bend, a 1 1/2-mile private section of the Chattahoochee River. The photo on page 22 shows a 31-inch, 18 1/2-lb. rainbow caught from that section that would reportedly have been a new state record. The fish, however, was released.
Unicoi Outfitters offers guided trips on Nacoochee Bend. They also have access to several other properties, including Cannon Falls, Noontootla Creek, River North, Dyer’s Lake and Frog Hollow, a trophy trout section of the Chestatee River.
According to Charles Head, one of the Unicoi Outfitter guides, they also offer drift-boat float trips on the Toccoa, fly-fishing instruction, and guiding on public water. If you’d like the expert opinion on how to fish for trout at Coopers Creek, for instance, Unicoi Outfitters can set up a guided trip. The guides are permitted by the U.S. Forest Service.
“Your fishing experience on one of the trophy streams is likely to match your fishing ability,” said Charles.
“Guides are pretty consistent about putting clients on fish, but catching the fish is completely up to the angler,” said Charles. “I have had clients hook 35 fish and not land one,” he said. “Usually the hooked-to-landed ratio is about one out of three.”
Phone: (706) 878-3083
• Spring Creek Anglers
This is a trophy-trout guided fishing trip operation. Depending on your skill level or desired fishing experience, they can match you up with a north Georgia stream. They offer guided trips at Noontootla Creek Farms and on the Soque River. They can also accommodate float-fishing trips on the Toccoa or Chattahoochee rivers. In April and May, you can also book a trip wading the Chestatee for striped bass.
Phone: (404) 412-0250
• Riverside Trophy Trout Stream
Jimmy “Bear” Sutton’s operation on the Soque River near Batesville is likely the oldest of the trophy-trout streams, and began operation in 1986. This 1/2-mile section of the Soque is where the current state-record rainbow was caught last year. The fish was caught by Mike Cochran of Clarkesville on May 7. The fish measured 28 1/4 inches long and weighed 17-lbs., 8-ozs. Bigger fish have reportedly been caught and released. One difference here is that spin-fishing tackle can be used, although with single, barbless hooks.
Phone: (706) 947-3364
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