Chattahoochee Tailwater Report by Chris Scalley of River Through Atlanta Guide Service
Ah yes the Winter season. First thing our cabin-bound anglers should understand is that Buford Dam water releases are drawn from the depths of lake Lanier. At these depths, the water temperature is quite warm at this time of year averaging between 50F and 65F. This warm thermal layer is the surface water left over from this past summer that is being pushed down or displaced by the cooler, more dense winter thermal layer forming on the lake surface as we progress into cooler weather. We have recorded water temps as warm as 63F at the base of Buford Dam at the end of November! Usually by mid- to late December these cooler surface thermal layers become large enough to cause the lake to “turn over” or rather “mix” and complete the stratification of the lake where water temps become uniform throughout the resevior. It is very bizarre to dip your hand in the river on a frosty morning and feel the warmth of the previous summer season. Water temperature is the very reason for the success of the ‘Hooch! By the end of December water temps at the base of Buford dam plummet to mid to low 40sF. This is why the Chattahoochee is so frigid in the summer months. Essentially we are fishing in “winter stored water” through the spring into early Fall.
What does all this mean to the winter trout enthusiasts? December, January and February fly fishermen can witness phenomenal blue-winged-olive mayflies and little winter stonefly hatches. The weather can be harsh and windy days can shut down the surface bite. Aquatic insects are small critters in sizes #14 down to a #32, so wind will sweep them off the surface very quickly depriving trout an easy meal.
Anglers should fish subsurface on windy days and be ready for great dry fly activity on calm days. As the lake cools down, many bait fish, such as blue back herring and threadfin shad, begin to die of exposure and will begin flushing from the dam. Usually by late January through March anglers can score with bait fish patterns to imitate this scenario usually on the “dead drift”. Brown trout finish their spawning season by the end of January and rainbows begin their spawn cycle in February so egg patterns are another good bet in late winter through early spring. Some of our best trophy trout are caught by our happy clients during this time of year so get your long johns on and get your line wet this winter! Please visit www.riverthroughatlanta.com (Orvis-endorsed guide service). For hatch charts and suggested fly patterns please visit www.chattahoochefoodwebs.org