With large rivers becoming more and more popular, many people are turning to smaller creeks to get their fly fishing fix. Finding fishy streams in the Southeast is a true art form since most of our ecosystems are not conducive to trout populations.

Finding Your Stream

Ask any angler how they find small trout streams and you’ll get a hundred different responses. Blue lining, as it’s affectionately known in the fly fishing community, requires some know how and a good map. Start your journey at an elevation of 2,000 ft for rainbows or browns, and preferably 3,000ft for brookies. This route takes lots of time, gas, and driving yet it can be incredibly satisfying when you find a stunning, forgotten creek. Another option is to fish known holding areas for trout. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an area known for having hundreds of miles of clean, cold creeks full of trout. It will usually come down to deciding between day trips to popular water or an overnight camping trip for access to true remote streams that see little pressure.


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Short rods can be clutch when you’re trying to bow and arrow cast into a tight space.


Small streams take a different attitude as well as gear. Leave the 9ft 5wt and heavy pack with six fly boxes at home. An agile, nibble approach is more advantageous than being over prepared. This is the time to have a 6ft 3wt with a small box full of parachutes, elk hair caddis, and stimulators. Trout that live in off the beaten path streams rarely see visitors so they aren’t picky, just a bit spooky. High elevation streams in the Southeast are very clean so they can’t support a large macro-invertebrate (bugs) population so trout have learned to make moves when they see a food item.


atlanta fly shopThis kind of fishing is 90% hunting, 9% above average casting skills, and 1% fly selection.

    • Fly box ┬áthat can carry it all but you won’t feel like a sack of bricks after eight miles of hiking


    • Glass Rod to give you that buttery, soft dry fly flick in tight spots


    • Backpacks are a no brainer in this situation as you need room for fishing gear, snacks, and few liters of water (a 1.5L plastic nalgene is clutch!)



Holding Habits

Trout are trout…no matter what your buddies say. Just like your favorite run at Jones Bridge, small stream trout look for a current block that gives them peace of mind and a constant flow of food. Anything from pocket water behind boulders to undercut banks is fair game. During heavy winter rains don’t be scared to fish seams that run close the bank. The speed of water is significantly slower near the shore during high flows.

Atlanta Fly Fishing

Fishing pocket water is a physical way to fish but often overlooked as large pools are easier for anglers to fish.


Atlanta Fly Shop

Fishing in close quarters means lots of tree decorating. Don’t sweat getting hung up nine times before 10am. It’s part of the game!



atlanta fly fishing

Rainbows will make up the bulk of your catch with a few sneaky browns showing up in the mix. Brookies will be found high up after a significant barrier like a large waterfall.


As mentioned before this type of fishing is 90% hunting, 9% above average casting skills, and 1% fly selection. When you are walking and entering creeks try your best to stay low and not make a ton of noise. Noise waves travel very far and efficiently in water. Keep clothing and packs to Earth tones or drab colors.

atlanta fly fishing

Always approaching from behind yields the best results since fish are facing upstream.

We hope this helps you catch a few stunners in not so obvious spots this summer and early fall. As always, please contact us with any questions about gear, recommendations on water, and anything else we might be able to help with concerning your fly fishing adventures. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments below and happy fishing!