(Photos courtesy of Noontootla Creek Farms)
Better known for hunting, the Chattahoochee National Forest of northern Georgia also offers sportsmen some of the best trout fishing in the South.
The forest spreads across 750,145 acres of northern Georgia and blankets most of Fannin County in the Blue Ridge Mountains about 75 miles north of Atlanta. Touching both Tennessee and North Carolina, Fannin County bills itself as the “Trout Capital of Georgia.”
In the Chattahoochee National Forest, anglers may fish more than 1,360 miles of trout streams. The Toccoa River flows 93 miles through the southern Appalachians and provides abundant fishing near the town of Blue Ridge, Ga. As the river flows into Tennessee, the name changes to Ocoee River. The river also flows through Lake Blue Ridge, a 3,300-acre reservoir full of largemouth bass, spotted bass and crappie, but most people visit the area to catch rainbow trout.
“The Toccoa River has a lot of trout,” remarked Bill Oyster, a master fly fisherman and custom rod maker (www.oysterbamboo.com) in the town of Blue Ridge. “The state shocked up a 15-pound trout in the river. Some people float the river, but it also has large stretches of public access where people can fish.”
At upper elevations in the mountains, anglers catch mostly brook trout, the only trout native to the eastern United States. Throughout the rest of the system, anglers mostly catch rainbows, but also some big browns. One of the best places to find trophy trout, Noontootla Creek begins high in the national forest near the 3,780-foot high Springer Mountain at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. The stream flows down the north slope of the southern Appalachians into the Toccoa River.
“The creek probably has about 80 percent rainbows, most of the rest browns and a few brook trout,” Oyster advised. “It’s a completely wild fishery that hasn’t been stocked since the 1940s. For decades, trout have been reproducing naturally. Noontootla Creek has some of the largest browns I’ve ever seen. I know about one that measured 34 inches. It was released and never officially weighed, but probably was in the 14- to 16-pound range. I’ve heard of some rainbows exceeding 30 inches.”
On Noontootla Creek, anglers can find both public and managed private waters. Anyone can fish about 10 miles of the creek where it wanders through the Chattahoochee National Forest. About 2.5 miles of it flows through Noontootla Creek Farms, one of the premier private trophy trout destinations in Georgia just outside the town of Blue Ridge. Downstream from the farm, the creek flows through a public stretch, but turns private again until it enters the Toccoa River.
On public waters on Noontootla Creek, anglers may only keep one trout at least 16 inches per day. On private waters running through the farm, anglers may only use fly tackle with barbless hooks and must release everything they catch. As a result, the stream produces some monster browns and rainbows.
“Noontootla Creek is one of the best trophy trout streams in the entire state of Georgia,” explained Rob Kaser, a Noontootla Creek Farms manager. “We regularly see 24-inch trout come out of the creek and even a few 30-inchers. When trout bite a fly in that swift water, people really have a challenge getting them into the net.”
Catching trophy trout in the exceptionally clear waters of Noontootla Creek often more resembles hunting than fishing. Anglers must stalk wily old trout, many of whom already tugged a line at least once. When stalking trout, stay out of the water as much as possible. Sneak along the bank to avoid creating any waves that fish can sense.
“Most of the time, we see fish before we even cast to them,” Oyster said. “Stealth is the number one concern when fishing for trophy trout. If trout know someone is there, they are difficult to catch. Most have been caught before. Watch where your shadow falls. In most holes, there is only one good way to approach it. Make the first cast count.”
Trout typically look upstream, watching for currents to bring them food. Approach from downstream so that any noise, silt or disturbed water flows away from the fish. Look for trout in deeper holes and make casts as long as possible, considering the narrowness of the stream and the trees overhanging the bank.
The fish usually stay in the deeper holes, but sometimes feed early in the morning or late in the evening in shallow riffles. When fishing deeper holes, some people dangle a tiny sinking fly, perhaps as small as a Size 22, from a strike indicator. Let the rig drift naturally downstream. If necessary, attach a small split shot to the tippet to get the enticement down to the fish in swift water.
“Once the sun hits the water, trout get down in the deeper, darker holes near cut banks,” Oyster explained. “Most often, trout will be holding near the bottom and may not come up for a dry fly. Let the fly drift along right above the bottom so it doesn’t snag. If the strike indicator or floating indicator fly stops moving or twitches, set the hook.”
While anglers typically catch the biggest fish near the bottom, sometimes a trout rises to take a dry fly, particularly in the spring. In the summer, surrounding fields produce huge quantities of grasshoppers. Many fall into the creek, so a grasshopper pattern works well during hotter months through early fall. Big trout might also grab a Woolly Bugger or streamer that looks like a baitfish, especially when browns turn more aggressive in the fall and respond to bigger temptations. Throw a variety to see what fish want that day.
Anglers could catch a trophy trout anytime on Noontootla Creek, but the best action for big fish usually occurs in the fall and spring. Anglers fishing the creek from November through March might also enjoy a cast-and-blast option, catching trophy trout and shooting bobwhite quail in the same day.
“The cast and blast option is a lot of fun, but after a day walking the fields and mountains for birds and wading the creek for trout, people sleep well that night,” Kaser quipped. “We’ve been very fortunate that the birds we get are very strong, good flyers.”
Sportsmen may choose either a guided or unguided hunt for quail or pheasant. Guided hunts usually consist of one guide with a dog and two shooters, but non-shooters can tag along. For unguided hunts, sportsmen can bring their own dogs and roam their designated section at their leisure. However, the farm does not provide kennels to board dogs.
Many farm visitors stay at the Farmstead Lodge, also called “Granddad’s House.” This 4-bedroom, 3-bath ranch house can comfortably sleep eight people in single beds. Another 2-bedroom cabin can sleep four people. Both structures come with all the comforts of home. A large back deck on the cabin overlooks the creek.
For more information on Noontootla Creek Farms, call 706-838-0585 or see http://ncfga.net. Blue Ridge Fly Fishing (706-258-4080, can arrange guides for public and private waters in the area including Noontootla Creek.
For area information, call Jode Mull of the Fannin County Chamber of Commerce and Welcome Center at 1-800-899-MTNS (6867) or see www.blueridgemountains.com.