Stalking the Trophy
of the Southeast
Last spring while fishing a picturesque river, I was the envy of my buddies when I landed a four-pound, hard-fighting native brown trout. I won the bet for the day’s biggest catch using nothing more than a common wooly bugger.
Where was I? If you guessed Montana’s Madison or Wyoming’s Green River, you’d be mistaken. Believe it or not, I was fishing Georgia’s upper Chattahoochee River.
Two Georgia fisherman show off one of their catches above right.*
It’s hard for the rest of the fishing world to believe the South has great native and stocked trout fishing. But we do, with nationally ranked streams, plenty of water and no more fishing pressure than many of Montana’s world-famous rivers.
The Chattahoochee is just one of many spots where I’ve hooked trophy wild trout. Check out the streams and rivers in Georgia, North Carolina and East Tennessee where you have a chance at a western-size fish on any of these waters.
Georgia on my Line
Peaches and peanuts, but where are the trout? You’ll find them in the northeast part of the state in the hills south of the Appalachian Trail. The most famous is the Atlanta’s area's Chattahoochee River.
The river sports active trout populations in the city and shines even more for anglers the further north you go.
Public access is limited, so check the regulations on the state’s web site -- www.georgiawildlife.dnr.ga.us.
Lake Lanier lies between the fisheries, so you’ll find rainbow and brooks trout above the lake and stocked brown and rainbows below the dam.
A good example of the stocked fish potential for anglers in Georgia is shown in the photo at right.*
One of my personal favorites for large trophy trout is Dukes Creek near Helen. Use dry flies on the lower portion, which holds wild browns and rainbows of more than 20 inches.
While you can fish here throughout the year, low water during a hot, dry summer can make it tough. Special fishing regulations apply so check with the state for the latest details.
Another sleeper is upper Moccasin Creek above Lake Burton.
The lower portion is highly restricted (check the state fishing regulations). But, a short drive up to the Hemlock Falls trailhead can put you into some seven- to 11-inch rainbows and a chance for a 20-inch brown.
There are no hatchery fish. In fact, I rarely see another angler.
In spring, I recommend bait of emerging flies or dries; in fall, opt for large, dark-pattern wet flies.
Want to catch a big one like the guy above?* Then get the latest Georgia fishing information at 770-918-6418 or visit www.georgiawildlife.dnr.state.ga.us.
Tar Heel Trophy Trout
I love the beautiful winding drive to Big Snowbird Creek near Robbinsville, NC. Here you’ll find native brookies and medium-sized wild rainbows and browns. Lower portions are where I find the big boys.
Browns in the 15- to 22-inch range are common. Use large patterns in the late afternoon during summer and fall.
Lost to most fishermen is the bounty of Lost Cove Creek in Avery County.
This is where I pursue pure fly fishing. This is single-hook, catch-and-release only water so check the fishing regulations carefully.
Follow the signs to the Hunt Fish Falls trailhead. And while you’re in the neighborhood, take my advice and check out the beautiful rainbows in Rockhouse Creek just to the east of Lost Cove Creek.
To enjoy the bounty of North Carolina fishing (as shown in the photo above*), call 919-707-0010 or visit www.ncwildlife.org.
T is for Tennessee—and Trout!
When Yankee anglers speculate that there’s nothing but small fish in our streams, it’s time to shut them up with a trip to Tennessee’s Little River.
Little in name only, I’ve landed rainbows from three to four pounds and browns up to six out of this stream.
It's located near Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (865-436-1220 or visit www.nps.gov).
At right, a map from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency shows the national park - labeled as GSMNP -- as well as other shaded areas that feature wild trout throughout a multi-county area.
For Tennessee fishing information, contact 615-781-6618 or visit www.state.tn.us/twra/fish/fishmain.html.
Before You Go
All three states have different regulations, seasons, times, right down to the flies or bait that can be used on what part of the water.
Always do your homework ahead of your fishing trip. Visit each states' fish and game web sites (mentioned above).
Also, be sure to check on federal regulations when fishing in national parks, forests and wilderness areas. Check the National Park Service site at www.nps.gov or contact the National Forest Service at 404-347-4082 or www.fs.fed.us.
Armed with the proper fishing regulations, gear and bait, you'll find that fishing in the southeastern U.S. offers great rewards -- an enjoyable outdoor experience, the thrill of hooking a big one, and a great meal of tasty fish.
Gregory D. McCluney is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, GA. Greg specializes in the world of food, wine, travel and the outdoors. He writes regularly for numerous publications and is a member of the International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association, Society of American Travel Writers and Society of Wine Educators.
*Photos used above are owned, copyrighted and used with permission of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and others featured in this story. All rights reserved. Please do not link to nor copy these photos. Thank you.