In the gap where North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia converge, ice-cold water from high mountain springs usher the newborn Chattooga River along 150 miles of fast rapids and deep pools. One of the last remaining free-flowing rivers in the South, the Chattooga — the “star” of the movie “Deliverance” — boasts legendary wild brown, rainbow and brook trout fishing.
The first 10 miles of the Upper Chattooga is considered one of the top 100 trout streams in the United States by Trout Unlimited. Browns are the dominant species, except for an area from Burrell’s Ford downstream to the U.S. Forest Service campground, which is heavily stocked with rainbows and brook trout. Access to the river above Burrell’s Ford is by foot only but the hike, although lengthy, isn’t particularly difficult.
Downstream from the campground, lies the most rugged portion of the river. In this three-mile stretch, brown trout make up roughly two-thirds of the population. Delayed-harvest regulations are in effect from November through mid-May and anglers must observe catch-and-release fishing only. In mid-May, the section reverts to general regulations. This section is accessible only by foot from parking areas at the S.C. 28 Bridge and Big Bend Rd.
The best springtime dry fly choices include black and brown elk-hair caddis, deer hair caddis, blue-winged olive, blue quill and Adams parachute patterns in sizes 16-18. Nymph selection should include prince, hare’s ear and zugbug patterns in sizes 12-16 or size 12-14 pheasant tail patterns. Anglers hoping to hook a huge brown should fish a weighted Woolly Bugger or a big streamer slowly in deep water.
A 9-foot, 5-weight fly rod is tailor-made for fishing the Chattooga. You may hook a tree trout here and there, but the opportunity to make longer casts and have better line control easily atones for that. Try using a nine-foot 5X leader for starters, but bring extra tippet material in a variety of sizes to handle everything from midges to Muddlers.
To get there from Clayton, Ga.: From Hwy. 441 turn right (east) onto Warwoman Rd. Go approximately 15 miles to the intersection with Hwy. 28. Turn right (south) on Hwy. 28. Go 2-3 miles then turn left on Burrell's Ford Rd. Travel approximately 7 miles, cross the Chattooga River Bridge. The parking area is ½ mile past the bridge on the right.