The Fourth of July weekend was really hot, and days like the ones we’ve just had make the prospect of standing in a cold trout stream particularly appealing. Any trout stream will do. But some are more well known than others. One of the most popular is the stretch of the Chattahoochee River near Buford Dam.
Last time we started talking about fishing for trout below Buford Dam, we got sidetracked (well, not really – it was intentional) with a discourse on safety on that section of the river. The short version is that the river below Buford Dam can be dangerous because of water releases, but if you understand how to deal with ‘em then the experience becomes a lot safer and less worrisome.
Note the requirement to wear a life jacket, and understand the importance of understanding release schedules.
The section of river below Buford Dam is extremely popular with trout anglers, and it’s easy to see why.
For one thing, it’s readily accessible, especially via Lower Pool West recreation area on the river not far below the dam. The road which takes you there turns off Buford Dam Road just before the west end of the dam. Look for an electrical substation and, nearby, a large sign. Make the turn and follow the road past the parking fee kiosk (a small fee is charged to use the Lower Pool area) and then, eventually, to parking areas, picnic facilities and a boat ramp.
Many anglers like to start at the ramp, wading and fishing the nearby water. A pedestrian bridge a short distance upriver from the boat ramp carries you across to the east side, and you’ll find fishing access there too in the form of a wooden bridge. It’s a good spot if you want to stay dry.
What if you’d rather wade? The area in
front of the boat ramp is a popular wading area. Just remember that the water is cold. Almost every angler I’ve spoken with wears waders to combat the chill.
When wading near the dam, you’ll definitely want footwear designed to provide traction on really slick rocks. That means felt soles or wading studs. Experienced anglers here wade only on gravel. Some like to use float tubes in this area. A tube can help you get around in tricky areas if you know how to use it safely. Others use a wading staff. Some use both. All take their time, always with an eye on the water and with the release schedule in mind.
Of course everyone in the water wears the legally mandated PFD. It’s required by law, and it’s good sense too.
But do you have to get in the water to fish for trout here? Not at all. You’ll find plenty of spots where bank fishing is definitely do-able. In fact, depending on the crowd, you may be able to catch trout right off the boat ramp.
What might you catch near the dam? Your chances of tangling with a stocked rainbow can be pretty good. You’ll also have a shot at wild, streamborn brown trout.
What about gear? This is a great area for fly fishing as well as for spin fishing.
Flyfishers will be right at home with a 9-foot 5- or 6-weight rod equipped with a floating line. As for flies, you can do well year-round with small dry flies such as the Blue Winged Olive or Griffith’s Gnat in sizes 16, 18 or smaller. An Elk Hair Caddis or Adams can work, too, but keep it small. Alternately, especially during summer, try a big dry like a Chernobyl Ant or even a Foam Spider.
At the dam, that dry fly is often paired with equally small (or smaller) emergers fished as subsurface “droppers.” Good emerger patterns include the Blue Assassin, the Rainbow Warrior, and black or red Zebra Midges in size 18 or smaller.
Many fly fishers also enjoy fishing this area with minnow-like streamers. Good patterns are the Rolex, the Hudson Streamer, the Red-Nosed Yeti, and the Brown or Olive Leech. There will be days when what works best is something totally off-the-wall. I’ve actually had success catching trout at the dam with a small popping bug of the type designed for bream!
If you’re spin fishing, a light to medium-light rod with 4-lb line is popular. Lures of choice include Roostertails and Mepps spinners. Color schemes which are bright and flashy (silver, white) or which imitate baby brown trout (orange and brown) are particularly effective.
Whether flyfishing or spin fishing, be aware that the water near the dam is exceptionally clear most of the year. That calls for fine-diameter, low-visibility line.
So when the heat becomes overwhelming, break out the fishing gear and head for the dam. It’s a cool and refreshing way to beat summer heat – and maybe to tangle with a few trout along the way. Just don’t forget to wear that PFD!