The Chattahoochee tail water, or better known as the ‘HOOCH, is arguably the best trout water in the “Deep South”. Both the Chestatee and Chattahoochee rivers originate in the vast Chattahoochee National Forest lands of the North Georgia Appalachian Mountains. Over 764,000 acres of watershed provide the source for Lake Sidney Lanier. Lake Lanier is the most heavily used US Army Corps of Engineers impoundment in the nation. With over 600 miles of shoreline and 38,000 surface acres, combined with its proximity to Atlanta, there is no wonder this lake is a recreational Mecca with 10 million visitors annually. The entire watershed north of Buford dam consists of 19,000 square miles of mostly rural landscape where rainfall in some areas in the mountains can be over 80 inches per year. Although the geology of this region is not rich in calcium, much of the water entering the lake is enriched by runoff from poultry and other forms of agriculture.
At the south end of the lake, Buford Dam is operated to control water levels on Lake Lanier and provide flood control. During wet years the water is purchased for hydropower to enable the South East Power Administration to meet peak energy demands throughout the southeastern power grid. Drinking water consumption and waste assimilation are the most crucial demands on the Chattahoochee because of Atlanta’s burgeoning population. Fortunately, recreation is becoming recognized as a valuable asset to the area and maintaining all of these exploits will be a challenge in the future. The Buford Dam Project is a classic tail water situation carefully managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. At depths of 130 ft cool water is released through tail race gates of this structure. One house unit at 750cfs and two big units at 5000cfs each. Release schedules are unpredictable and can fluctuate daily. These sporadic surges make for volatile river flows and varied water temperatures.
The 48-mile stretch of river from Buford Dam to Standing Peachtree Creek is managed by the National Park Service with 10,000 acres of parklands. The flora and fauna are abundant along the banks of the “Hooch”. One day we identified seven species of raptors (birds of prey). One client from New York; inspired by wild azalea blooms described the Chattahoochee as the “Central Park of Atlanta”. Conspicuous prehistoric fish weirs (traps) that were originally constructed by Cherokee and Creek Indians out of cobble, and later maintained by white settlers, reveal this area’s rich human and natural history. Even an angler doesn’t need to catch fish to escape the daily grind of the modern world in this treasure we call the “Hooch”.
Trout Unlimited members across the state of Georgia voted the Chattahoochee as their number one trout destination in the state. These voters also selected the tail water section as the feature river for Trout Unlimited TV which airs nationally on ESPN2. The fact that there is significant natural propagation (15%) among brown trout gives the river added credibility as an aesthetic and challenging fly fishing destination. Our impressive caddis fly hatches in the Spring bring the river alive with activity.