July Fly Fishing Report

by Henry Cowen

June proved to be a sensational month for topwater spotted bass and even some small stripers. Conditions were such that lakes all across Georgia were provided with sensational topwater action. Lanier in particular fished extremely well with spotted bass at or above the 4 pound mark caught daily on fly rod poppers or intermediate lines and small Game Changers, Wiggle Minnows and Clousers. July should continue to offer the same type of fishing with the only exception being that as the water temps creep up to 82+ degrees, the bigger spotted bass will certainly go deeper. If you want to get in on this action, the first half of the month will offer a better opportunity to get your last licks in on a magnum spot or striper on topwater. After that, the topwater action will certainly continue, but it will be with the smaller fish only.
July temperatures, while hot, can also make the fishing every bit as hot. While the thermometer will push 90 degrees each day, anglers need to dress accordingly and get ready for some great fly fishing opportunities around all our North Georgia lakes. Will Lake Allatoona have their recently departed topwater bite of hybrids going in full force sometime in July? It hasn’t happened over the past 2-3 years like it used to, but that doesn’t mean it won’t fire up again. This is some of the most productive and visual fishing of the year. The key is to get out at either first light or last light and just drive until you see schools of fish feeding on the surface. This can happen anywhere on the lake, but your best bet is to look between Kellogg Creek and the Bethany Bridge for most of the action.
Anglers should come equipped with a 6 or 7 weight rod. I prefer two rods in the boat: one with an intermediate slow sinking line and the other with a floating line. On the floater I would attach a Wiggle Minnow as my fly of choice. On the intermediate I would attach either an Albie Anchovy or some super small 2” long fly. Hybrids on Allatoona will average 2-5 pounds, and they fight pound for pound harder than any other game fish here in North Georgia.
        The hybrids will be feasting on very small young-of-the-year threadfin shad. These shad average 1-3” in length, but most of them will appear in the 1-1 ½” range. Anglers who do not fly fish can get the same flies and attach them behind either a popping cork or casting bubble for success. If you want to plan a trip for this topwater event, it is best to plan it around both the full and new moon period. The fish will always surface feed a little more aggressively around the moons.
If the hybrids do not show, you can always fly fish all the mountain lakes (Allatoona, Carters, Lanier or Hartwell) for topwater spotted bass. A 3-4 hour window after first light can have you fishing to and catching spotted bass on 6 weights on poppers. These fish are aggressive and love to do cartwheels for your entertainment. On light tackle fly rods it can be about as much fun as you can stand! Lake Lanier can be counted on to be especially good for this summer bite.

Another opportunity for folks wanting to stay cool during July is to fish on the river. Look no further than the Hooch for both striped bass and carp action. Stripers can be found from Morgan Falls Dam down through the Peachtree Creek section (below Paces Mill) and everywhere in between. Once again a slow sinking intermediate line will be your best bet to locate stripers moving up from West Point Lake and summering over in the city limits.
Anglers should fish both early and late day (low light) as your best options for river stripers. Fish in the 3-8 pound range are the norm for the river fishing, but do not be surprised if a fish in the teens or bigger hits your fly. Best flies are those that are weighted and in the 4”-6” length. Bright pink over white is a really good color for the river! Baitfish patterns, Coyotes, Clousers and Wiggle Minnows (on a faster sinking line in the deep holes) can be effective. An intermediate slow sinking line can also be effective for river stripers. I especially like an Umpqua Game Changer fly for fishing the banks. Try to hit the banks with your cast as stripers tend to hide in the structure along the banks or are down in the deeper holes of the river. Just keep in mind with the drought we have had the past year, water levels will probably still be way down thus making the river fishing that much tougher on anglers as the fish cannot get to their normal places. If you are running a jet boat, I again urge you to proceed with caution as many of our North Georgia rivers will be running on minimum flows unless we get bunches of rain.

For carp anglers, July is a wonderful month. The area around Bull Sluice is generally considered some of the better flats for fly rodders wanting to try their hand at sight fishing. A boat of some sort is required in order to paddle or pole the flats in search of common carp. Carp on the Hooch will average 10-12 pounds, and they are as weary as a permit! A perfect presentation in terms of the cast is required and a slow strip followed by a pause will have you anticipating a hook up. You must throw the fly almost on top of them if you want to get one to eat. Be prepared to throw to 20 fish before you get an eat! They are the hardest of all fish to fool in fresh water on a fly.
A 7 or 8 weight rod with a floating line and a long leader is required to hunt for carp. As for flies, anything dark and small should be good. Size 8-10 trout nymphs and crayfish patterns are the norm. Again, keep in mind that minimal river flows will surely effect whether the carp migrate up and onto the flats.
So there you have it….some hot summer fishing in the Deep South! Get your sunscreen, wear your long brimmed hat, stay hydrated and have at it. July in Hotlanta!  It’s a fishery that is truly hard to beat. See you on the pond or the river.