Top 10 Trout flies for the Chattahoochee River

There are probably more flies that you could use on the Chattahoochee than there are ice cream flavors at Baskin-Robbins.

Different parts of the river have subtly different ecosystems and insect availability will vary over the year. That being said, a recent survey of the AFFC membership resulted in the following flies, presented in no particular order.

Pheasant tail - sizes 12-18
Another fly that imitates a wide variety of insects, the pheasant tail comes in a variety of styles. Tied with or without a bead head, it is a must-have for your fly box. It imitates mayflies and small stoneflies among others. Fished with a bead head and without, it is most often used close to the bottom.
Prince Nymph - sizes 10-18
A classic stonefly pattern. The ‘Hooch does have small black stoneflies and this is the #1 pattern to use. Fitted with a bead head, it is most often fished close to the bottom. A similar pattern is the fly called “Formerly Known as Prince” which has holographic wings.
Rainbow Warrior - sizes 16-20
A great fly for cold weather as well as year round., The flashy Rainbow Warrior is more of an attractor version of a mayfly nymph. Developed by Lance Egan a few years ago, its shiny head and rainbow pearl body can wake up the most sluggish of trout.
Soft Hackle Emergers - sizes 14-20
Soft Hackle Emergers have a wide variety of similar patterns. They imitate the emerging stage of an insect’s life rising in the water column from nymphal form to an adult. Both caddis and mayflies go through this emerging stage. The soft hackle collar of these flies imitate the wing formation prior to becoming adults. Often, emergers get stuck in the surface film where they are particularly vulnerable. Fished with or with a bead, Soft Hackle Emergers are typically fished with a nymph setup, drifted in the surface film, or swung by themselves.
Squirmy wormy sizes 12-16
A relative newcomer to the fly fishing world, it is an updated version of the famous San Juan worm. Fished with or without a bead, frequently used colors are pink, chartreuse, and brown.
Zebra Midge sizes 14-22
Zebra Midge sizes 14-22: One of the simplest flies to tie, the zebra midge is most often used in black. There are other color options as well. It imitates primarily midge pupa. A versatile fly, it can be used over a range of fishing situations year-round — particularly just below Buford Dam.
Wooly Bugger - sizes 6-12
This fly has been a standard for the Chattahoochee for years. It Imitates a variety of aquatic life, from crayfish and minnows to leeches and nymphs. Most common colors are brown, black and green. Can be fished with or without a bead head and in a variety of methods
Pat’s Rubber Legs - sizes 6-12
Pat’s Rubber Legs imitates a stonefly nymph. The rubber legs flutter in the water and is a great attractor. Tied using chenille primarily using black, brown, tan or variegated black and brown. Created by Pat Bennett
Elk Hair Caddis - sizes 14-22
The most popular dry fly by AFFC polling as well as one of the most popular worldwide. On the ‘Hooch there are very few Caddis so the fly is fished primarily as an attractor pattern. Imitating an adult caddis, it rides high on the surface. It can also be used to imitate smaller adult stoneflies.
Copper John - sizes 12-22
A flashy fly used to imitate mayflies and stoneflies created by John Barr in the mid 90s. It drops fast in the water column due to its slim design and copper wire wrapping. The Copper John imitates a mayfly nymph as well as other insects. You can use it to get a tandem nymph rig down to the bottom.
Y2K Egg - Bonus Fly
Bonus Fly - One of the most popular flies on the ‘Hooch during the Winter months is the venerable Y2K egg pattern. Y2K’s come in a variety of colors including peach and cream. Brown trout spawn in the late Fall on the ‘Hooch and it’s important to match the hatch by drifting Y2K’s along the river bottom either as singles or combined with a heavy top fly such as a Pat’s Rubber Legs. During the Summer months, don’t forget to use terrestrial dry fly patterns on the ‘Hooch such as ants and beetles fished under trees and in slower-moving pre-shoal areas. Watch for rising fish and match the hatch.

Thanks to Woodie Williams for authoring the survey, The Fish Hawk for providing flies for photography purposes and Ken Louko for editing. Photo Credit: Woodie Williams c2021.