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Chattahoochee Trout

by Skip Clement

Steve Hudson at Jimmy Harris’ Unicoi Outfitters in Helen, GA, demonstrating how to tie some of his unique patterns. You’ll find them all in his book, Chattahoochee Trout. Trent Sizemore image.

[dropcap]A[/dropcap] new book by award-winning author Steve Hudson takes a detailed look at one of the south’s all-time great trout fisheries – the many-faceted Chattahoochee River.

Every once in a while there comes a river which is such a fly fishing dream come true that it becomes a “destination.” For trout fishermen, one such river is Georgia’s Chattahoochee, a truly multi-faceted trout fishery that really is gaining a national reputation as a trout fishing destination.

Offering everything from small-stream headwaters fishing for tiny wild trout up in the mountain headwaters to a world-class tailwater fishery (and even wild trophy browns) just a stone’s throw from downtown Atlanta, “the Hooch” is a favorite of Georgia trout anglers and, increasingly, a destination stream for trout enthusiasts from all over the country.

Author Steve Hudson has been fishing for Chattahoochee trout for decades. He caught his very first trout on a small Chattahoochee tributary many years ago, and he’s been in love with the river ever since.

Now, in Chattahoochee Trout, he is helping others discover this great southern trout resource too.

“I’ve long wished for a comprehensive guide to the river and its trout,” Hudson says, “the kind of guidebook that would be invaluable to the beginning trout fisherman while also being of real value to more experienced Chattahoochee anglers too. So I decided to write one.”

The idea for the project developed about two years ago 

“I’m often asked to speak about trout fishing in the southeast,” he says, “and I always get questions about the Chattahoochee River. Some want to know about wild-trout fishing in the headwaters, while others are interested in the tailwater fishery closer to Atlanta. All want to learn more about the ‘how’ and ‘where’ and ‘when,’ and I wrote Chattahoochee Trout to give them the info they need.”

In its 328 pages, Chattahoochee Trout cover just about everything any angler needs to know to fish this river for trout. Hudson draws on his own experiences, as well as on the expertise other anglers and some of the river’s top guides, to paint a detailed and insightful portrait of the river and its trout. You’ll find plenty of info on tackle, flies, and tactics, plus great insights on river access (including almost 40 highly detailed original maps) and fishing strategies.

“I wanted to create a book that helps others enjoy this river as much as I have,” Hudson says 

Chattahoochee Trout is divided into five sections, starting with a general introduction to the river and its trout. It then turns to a section-by-section tour of the river and its trout fishing opportunities.

That tour begins on the uppermost headwaters, starting where the river emerges from the ground as a flowing spring not far from the Appalachian Trail. You’ll hike with the author as he makes the trek to see the source, and you’ll explore the headwaters with him as goes in search of the river’s very first trout. As you move downstream, you’ll also discover great wild and stocked trout fishing between the headwaters and the city limits of Helen, including some intriguing backcountry wild-trout fishing in what’s known simply as “the gorge.”

Next in the spotlight is what Hudson calls “the Helen stretch,” that section of river which flows through the tourist town of Helen. This Alpine-themed town is popular with tourists (and with tubers) and might seem an unlikely place for good trout fishing. But the fishing can be surprisingly good if you understand when and where to look. This section of the book also includes a look at the well-known Nacoochee Bend private trophy trout water, a stretch of river immediately downstream of Helen. It’s water that has introduced many an angler to the thrills of landing a truly huge trout.

The trout water temporarily ends below Helen as the river warms, but it comes back below Buford Dam. That dam, which forms Lake Lanier, marks the beginning of the famed Chattahoochee tailwater, which is the focus of the rest of this guide.

Hudson divides the tailwater into two sections. First up is a profile of the wade and float fishing opportunities on the “upper tailwater,” a 30-plus-mile stretch of river which extends from Buford Dam to Morgan Falls Dam. This includes the world-class wild brown trout fishery that has developed below Buford Dam over the last decade or so, and you’ll go along with the author as he floats and wades throughout this stretch in pursuit of the rainbows and browns that inhabit this section of the river. There is plenty of info on river access and much discussion of proven strategies and tactics, including insights on what it takes to go after the tailwater’s legendary trophy browns.

Next is an equally detailed look at the “lower tailwater,” which extends from the foot of Morgan Falls Dam down to the lower end of the trout water inside I-285 (Atlanta’s perimeter highway) near U.S. 41. The focus there is Delayed Harvest trout fishing during the cooler months of the year (between Nov. 1 and May 14), and you’ll find much info on some of the special considerations to keep in mind when fishing for Delayed Harvest trout.

While profiling the tailwater, Hudson pays particular attention to the matter of safety. Water releases from the two dams on the tailwater must be factored into any trip on this part of the Chattahoochee, and the author talks in detail about how to locate and interpret water release information.

Fly fishing on the river that runs through Atlanta, the Chattahoochee River. A great way to spend an afternoon out of the office (minutes away) or as a diversion from rush hour traffic. NPS/Tom Wilson – public domain image.

“Understanding releases and how they impact access and fishing is a key to success on this tailwater,” Hudson says 

The book concludes with two appendices. One looks at different floats and approximate float times on the tailwater; the second includes recipes for almost two dozen popular Chattahoochee flies.

The cover of Chattahoochee Trout describes this book as “the definitive guide to Chattahoochee trout fishing.” The author has hit the mark, and this is one book that belongs on the bookshelf of every southern trout angler.


CHATTAHOOCHEE TROUT is available from Amazon and from many fly shops. Signed copies are available direct from the author at


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