100 Best: Chattooga
Location: Northern Georgia/South Carolina Border
Type of stream: Freestone
Angling methods: Fly, Spin
Species: Rainbows, Browns
Supporting Services: Clayton, Ga.; Cashiers, N.C.
Short take: Wild wilderness water
Handicapped Access: None
Closest TU Chapters: Rabun, Mountain Bridge
Most top-tier trout rivers in the Southeast are tailwaters. Not so the Chattooga, unless you count the tiny lake in Cashiers which impedes its flow ever so minimally. Just south of Cashiers, the river enters North Carolina’s Nantahala Game Land through which it flows to the South Carolina line. Terrain is tight and arduous, and the stream is noted for little falls and plunge pools which harbor rainbows and browns of pretty good size.
The run of river defining the border between Georgia and South Carolina earns the river its reputation. It’s as wild and woolly a trout fishery as any found in the eastern US. No roads follow the river. the first bridge crosses at Burrells Ford, about five miles downstream from the North Carolina border. A trail follows the river and the further you walk, the wilder the river. Cataracts boil into deep pools which tailout into runs that slam hard against rocky cliffs. If you listen carefully, you can hear “Dueling Banjoes” from the movie Deliverance. Below Burrells Ford, the river tames a bit. Riffley flats and pools are longer and hatches more prolific in the nine miles or so down to the Route 28 bridge.
The revitalization of the Chattooga is the story of a great partnership spawned by the Georgia and South Carolina Councils of Trout Unlimited in 1986. Members of the Rabun chapter in Georgia and the Mountain Bridge chapter in South Carolina collaborate as members of the Chattooga Coalition. The coalition meets regularly to address issues including use by kayakers and canoeists, creel surveys, water quality monitoring, and stocking policy.