Fall in the Southeast is a welcomed transition from the overwhelming heat and humidity of the summer months. With chilly mornings and pleasant afternoons, it’s a great time to recreate outdoors hiking, fishing or even rock climbing. At Alpharetta Outfitters, we prefer fly fishing. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has gifted us with a special program called Delayed Harvest (Many people simply call it DH season).In a nutshell, the DNR has selected special creeks and sections of rivers to stock high numbers of trout with special rules. The primary rules are all trout must be released immediately (so no catching your dinner during these dates) and only artificial lures with single hooks can be used. Georgia’s Delayed Harvest Season starts November 1st and ends May 14th. North Carolina also has a similar program but their season starts October 15th and ends June 1st. Remember a valid fishing license and trout stamp are still required no matter the fishing season.

North Carolina Fly Fishing

Don’t be surprised if you hook into a large fish. Georgia DNR stocks some of their breeder fish which typically run much larger than others.

Locations

The DNR has selected five locations for the Georgia’s delayed harvest. The locations are listed below with notes that we thought will help you out.

  • Amicalola Creek: Starts at Steele Bridge Road and goes downstream to GA Hwy 53 bridge. This stretch of water gets moderate fishing pressure. It’s not near a major city so going on the week days can be clutch. Wading is easy with the occasional slick slate rock. There is handicap access at the Hwy 53 bridge access point.
  • Chattahoochee River: Starts at Sope Creek  and runs to Hwy 41. This section of water gets heavy pressure being so close to Metro Atlanta. Wading can be tricky on the Chattahoochee so use caution if you aren’t familiar with this section. Large rocks cause deep pockets of water that can be easy to fall into.  In the past this section has had car break in issues so keep valuables out of view. Once water tempertures rise later in the season striped bass will run out of Westpoint Lake looking for cooler water. Striped bass are eating machines so they will eat a large portion of trout come May and June (You can turn the tables on the striped bass and bring an 8wt with a large streamer).
  • Chattooga River: Starts above the Hwy 28 bridge and goes to Reed creek. Of all Georgia’s Delayed Harvest streams, this one requires the most dedication since it’s on the border with South Carolina. Wading can be very difficult here due to the larger than average rock on the bottom. There are plenty of good wading spots but you have to be particular about where you walk. During the weekends there’s a surprising amount of anglers in the parking lot. Try to fish on the week days or during poor weather conditions. Don’t be afraid to walk far on this one. Fish will swim well past Reed Creek. There’s plenty of camping options around the river. Winter rains can rapidly raise the water level on the Chattooga making wading impossible. Since the river marks the border of Georgia and South Carolina both states recognize one and other’s license so you only need a Georgia or South Carolina fishing license/trout stamp.
  • Smith Creek: Starts below the Unicoi dam to the park boundary. Smith creek is a great place for new anglers to learn the ropes. However it does see a fair amount of angler pressure. With the creek being small and large angler presence trout get smart quick. Make sure you check into the Lodge and get your angler survey. Bring some cash for parking as well. Fishing this small creek has carry over into other Southern Appalachian streams since it will teach you good stalking habits and casting in tight spaces.
  • Toccoa River: Starts 0.4 miles above the Shallowford Bridge upstream to a point 450 feet upstream of the Sandy Bottom Canoe Access. Wading is moderate on the Toccoa with a few sharp drop offs. Being so close to Blue Ridge this section can get rowdy on the weekends. There are a lot of small holes that the average angler will pass over in favor of the more obvious holes. Using a small articulated streamer to cover water is a good idea since there’s plenty of water to keep an angler busy.
Georgia's Delayed Harvest

Sneaking away during the work week is a great way to have vast stretches of water to yourself.

Tactics

With high stocking rates, Georgia’s delayed harvest is a great time to introduce new anglers to fly fishing. We had our shop guys to come up with kits to suite all level of anglers.

Georgia Delayed Harvest

This is our recommendation for anglers wanting to taste the sport of fly fishing. This kit is is budget friendly while giving incredible value. The Orvis Clearwater rod is a guide favorite since it can take years of abuse but comes in under $200. Scientific Angler Trout line is a great all around line for indicator nymphing as well as a hopper dropper. Flurocarbon tippet is a little pricey but we firmly believe in fluorocarbon putting more fish in your net.

 

Georgia Delayed Harvest

We love to pair Ross reels and Scott rods together. They’re the ultimate in lightweight gear, yet they make casting effortless. The Ross Colorado is a reel packed with detail and value. There aren’t many reels sub $300 that come with this craftsmanship. The Scott Flex is also another sleeper rod that sits right below their flagship model but comes in a few hundred dollars cheaper. Scientific Angler is carrying on the tradition of GPX line in this year’s MPX line. It’s been updated with a slicker and more durable finish. It’s a great all around cold water line.

 

Georgia Delayed Harvest Fly fishing

After much squabbling the all around best kit came to the Scott Radian and Hatch 4 Plus reel. The Scott Radian has won more awards than George Clooney and Brad Pitt combined. It’s a rod that doesn’t make an angler choose between feel and power. There’s not much to say about Hatch reels as they don’t make a bad reel. Amplitude is Scientific Angler’s flag ship line with some of the highest durability currently on the market. It features the revolutionary AST Plus slickness additive for superior shooting ability and increased durability. It’s designed specifically for trout so you will be getting the best out of your time on the water.

 

Georgia Delayed Harvest Flies

Fly selection for Georgia’s delayed harvest has two very different phases. The first phase is when the fish are initially stocked. This is when fishing is more like catching because trout eat anything that drifts by. Brightly colored mop flies, eggs, and worms are a crowd favorite. Unfortunately this magical window usually ends about two weeks after the trout are stocked (by Thanksgiving at the latest). Fish switch over from their hatchery diet of pellets to more natural food sources. This second phase is when classic patterns such as pheasant tails or Pat’s rubber legs comes into play. We also recommend throwing in some soft hackle and hot spot nymphs. Once the fish have been caught a few times presentation becomes king. This could be anything from noticing a late day Blue Wing Olive Hatch to adding one more split shot to your indicator rig. Have a wide variety of nymphs, dries, and streamers in your box. It’s very common to find fish sipping on emergers or catch a 3lb broad stocker on a streamer.

 

Georgia Delayed Harvest Fly Fishing

As the season progresses start thinking more like a hunter than a fishermen. Fish that were once in the large holes will move around as angling pressure continues. Anglers need to think critically about presentation and not rely on what worked last trip. A hopper dropper is deadly when fish move into pocket water in the spring while Euro nymphiyng can target fish in the deep runs that a traditional indicator set up misses.

 

Georgia Delayed Harvest Fly Fishing

Bringing good company and food is always a recipe for fun on the water no matter how many fish you catch. Remember fishing should be relaxing and fun. We are all learning no matter how many years we’ve been on the water.

This is just a small snippet covering Georgia’s delayed harvest but we wanted to give y’all something to digest in one sitting. If you want to pick our brains further swing by the shop or give us a call. Another opportunity to learn more would be at our monthly Bugs and Suds event happening November 20th from 6pm to 9pm. Bring your vice and tying materials if you need some help on that technical streamer or just come to hang out with our fly fishing community. We want to meet anglers from all walks of life! More information about our upcoming events to help you become a better angler can be found here.

If you have further questions about regulations concerning Delayed Harvest, Georgia’s DNR website is packed with great information – GA DNR