Conserving, protecting and restoring cold-water watersheds of North Georgia.
Reported by Bob Borgwat/ReelAnglingAdventures.com
It's been way too long a dry run for the guided fishing services I provide as an outfitter and Reel Angling Adventures. But while COVID-19 has shuttered up the paying clients, I've made a few personal trout-fishing forays (not enough by a serious angler's count) onto the water, and I can report: THE FISHING IS GREAT!
The watershed of the upper Toccoa River is where I spend most of my personal time fishing. The river has been running from 650-900 on the Dial Gauge, producing perfect levels for drift-boat fishing. Like it or not, spinning tackle takes far more fishin on most days on the upper Toccoa than does fly tackle. My typical float goes from VanZandt Bridge through the DH section, and it hasn't let me down. Three floats have produced from 20-40 fish each -- rainbows, every one of them when you're counting trout. But our hookups also include smallmouth bass, and I'll take 'em all day long. Those we caught are generally small, but they pull harder than your average 12-inch trout does. Spoons are the ticket for both species. Top fly-fishing getters include large stonefly nymphs -- Rubberlegs and the sort -- fished with a lot of weight right along the bottom.
The tributaries to the Toccoa where I fish typically go unnamed. I only fish those that produce wild trout, and I especially like those that hold brown trout. That's not to say the so-called "brookie streams" aren't special places; indeed, any stream where I can catch wild trout is a special place, and there are many of them in the upper Toccoa watershed.
For me, fishing for wild trout in May and through June is all about dry flies. Pick your poison from among the popular patterns, but I'll argue there's no better all-around dry fly for the southern Appalachian trout streams that a size 12 yellow, rubber-legged stimulator. Carry plenty of 'em with you, because if you're like me, you'll lose 'em to trees, bushes, rhodos, logs, branches and everything else that pops in-stream and out of the stream during a Georgia spring/summer.
Whether seeking browns, 'bows or brookies, choose streams that don't get much pressure. Do the "blue line" thing and wear some leather out getting into the hard-to-reach places. Keep low. Toss your flies into any riffle more than a few inches deep. Hit the bottom and top ends of a lane below a shoal, or the bottom wash of a chute. Swing 'em and skate 'em downstream when you can't find the casting lane upstream. Don't overlook the undercut banks, side channels and ledges.
But don't get stuck on "the spot of a thousand casts." Damn, that dark chute looks good, doesn't it? When you're in the right spot, that little, stunning wild trout will eat what comes his way, and he'll do it in a hurry. Oops! See! You missed him, didn't you? And when you miss him -- oh, you will miss your share -- offer up your fly a couple more times. No more. If he wants it, he'll come again. If you stung him, he's going to stay in hiding ... and you're going to shuffle along to the next hide. If you're on the right stream, you'll have hundreds of yards of trout water ahead of you.
(Catch some of my recent pix on the Fishing Gallery page)
Not many want to talk about 'em. Can't blame them. Hope you don't blame me. The streams of Appalachia that hold the stunning, wild browns, rainbows and brook trout are special places for trout anglers. Try one. You'll understand.
These are the fish that survived the onslaught of timber cutting and road building in the early 1900s or replaced those fish that didn't survive. In either case, they're not as tough as they sound, but the spots where they live are among the toughest waters to fly-fish.
And that's the best way to enjoy them ... at the business end of a 6X tippet, worked from a 2- or 3-weight rod. Small fish demand small rods, and small rods preserve small fish. Give it a try ... and keep the site to yourself.
By Bob Borgwat/Reel Angling Adventures
It seems the rain started on New Year's Day and hasn't stopped! Actually, the rain started last November. I know ... my barn project, which is intended to house two fishing boats and an RV, has been on hold since cutting the building site several months ago. Rain has kept the site in a perpetual state of a muddy mess.
Rain also has most of the area streams high and muddy much of the time since the first of the year. If you've been on the water, count yourself lucky. I haven't seen a fishing client, nor have I stretched a line myself, since early December.
With that said, there's nothing left to say. Stay dry. Stay warm. Tie some flies. Read some Gierach. And make a plan for when the rain stops and the river and stream levels come down to fishable levels.
GO DEEP! GO SLOW!
You hardcore guys getting out there on the waters this winter probably already know this, but for those of us "sometimers" here's a tip -- one you can put to use next month when BRMTU heads off on it's next FISHING DAYZ outing on the delayed harvest stretch of the Nantahala River (NC).
A pheasant tail pattern armed with a small dropper, like a zebra midge, can be deadly this time of year. Run the rig deep, with the dropper tied onto the crook of the hook with 18-24 inches of tippet. The pheasant tail mimics many different types of bugs among a trout's favorites, and the midge is always present in wintertime.
Of course, "meat flies" like the peach-colored Y2K or a pink San Juan Worm seem to always produce with recent stockers. And it's really hard for wintertime trout to resist a "rubber leg" down on the bottom. Remember, get deep, go slow and look for days with sudden temperature rises of 10-20 degrees, reaching above 40.
By Bob Borgwat, ReelAnglingAdventures.com
I completely missed a long-text report on area fishing in December, so I'm moving on to January.
But don't miss the members' personal fishing reports posted at left. Send your report to me at email@example.com and I'll make sure your lies are posted with the rest!
Mel Richardson, 12-20-19
Not much to report on my DH fishing on 12/20/19. Water was slightly high. Could not find a fly that worked so switched to small spinner (black and silver). Caught 9 fish. This was one day after stocking so probably not as good now.
by Bob Borgwat/ReelAnglingAdventures.com
FALL CHILL DRIVES FISHING
ON LOCAL LAKES, STREAMS AND RIVERS
TOCCOA RIVER TAILWATER (BLUE RIDGE DAM): Water quality at the Blue Ridge Dam discharge was in pretty bad shape this month. Lake turnover was spilling stained, warm water, according to reports from BRMTU members who live on the riverway. Fishing was reported to be slow in water temps of about 70 degrees during non-generation periods. The best action was found in the area of Tammen Park following stockings of rainbow and brown trout. Stocking is not done on a regular basis in fall and winter, but anglers should expect dumping of trout ahead of the holidays, as the GDNR/USFWS respond to increased numbers of anglers at Thanksgiving and Christmastime.
Bait-fishing is best with prepared dough baits, such as Berkley Power Bait. Small spoons, spinners and jigs should turn some fish heads for spinning-tackle anglers. Top fly patterns include Wooly Buggers and Sculpins for stripping; Rubberlegs, Prince and Hare's Ear nymphs under the surface; and small Blue Winged Olives and midge patterns on the surface and in the film.
HEADWATERS: Across small local trout streams -- places like Coopers Creek, Noontootla Creek, Fightingtown Creek and their tributaries -- fly-fishing centers on terrestrial patterns until the leaves fall. Falling temperatures will kill off the remaining beetles, moths, bees and caterpillars. Many will fall into these streams and offer up a mouthful of tastiness for the rainbows, browns and brookies of these high-elevation waters.
Not likely to see many stocked fish this time of year, but unscheduled trout stockings can take place on Coopers Creek, Rock Creek and Big Creek, and stockings are often made just ahead of Thanksgiving in response to holiday anglers. Whether chasing the stocking truck or trekking along a wild-trout stream, fly-fishermen do well now with terrestrial patterns. Larger flies on larger waters; smaller flies on smaller waters. In either case, the flies represent a big bite for fish with appetites that are responding to falling water temperatures. Once the big bugs are gone, the trout in the small streams won't have much to eat beyond the various nymphs and pupae under the surface.
UPPER TOCCOA RIVER: Between rain events, the upper Toccoa will clear and fall, leading the way for wading and floating anglers to tap into the stocked rainbows that survived the high fishing pressure of spring and summer. Expect a bump in their numbers when stockings occur around Thanksgiving, but you can expect increased fishing pressure at the same time at the upper river's few public access sites.
A better approach is to float the river when and where you can. Respect private property and warning signs, and put safety first. Water flows will fluctuate greatly as rain comes and goes across the watershed. Wade thoughtfully and float-fish when water levels allow. Large terrestrials (dry flies), large nymphs and streamers fool the Toccoa's fall trout of all sizes. Small spoons and spinners in 1/8-ounce sizes can turn tricks for spin-fishermen, especially those in gold/yellow patterns. Present any of these along the riffles, ledges and runs where hungry fish are most likely to hold. Don't be surprised to come up with a smallmouth or two along the way.
TOCCOA RIVER DELAYED HARVEST (Sandy Bottom to near Shallowford Bridge):
The first of monthly stockings took place Nov. 1 in the "delayed harvest" section of the upper Toccoa River. Access is best along Old Dial Road in southeast Fannin County. Harmon Smith organized this month's Fishing Dayz outing on the Toccoa DH, where member Bub Murrah reported the fishing was good, with some nice fish among those taking small streamers. Fly-fishermen also do well with San Juan Worms, Y2Ks and other colorful patterns that often turn the trick on stocked trout. Lure fishing anywhere you find stocked trout is often best with flashy ,1/8-ounce Phoebe/Kastmaster spoons; white/black/yellow, 1/16-ounce Rooster Tail/Mepps/Panther Martin spinners; and pink/red//yellow/white Trout Magnet jigs.
The Toccoa DH typically fishes better as winter progresses. Watch the TVA's Dial gauge for the river's water level. Safe wading of the DH section begins at 300 cfs or less and is much better and safer when below 200 cfs. Otherwise, float tubes, kayaks and small, inflatable drift boats make for good access.
HIWASSEE RIVER (RELIANCE, TN): Trout stocking resumed in late October when water temperature of the tailwater below Apalachia Powerhouse fell below 68 degrees. Last week, water temp in the upper 4 miles of the tailwater ran at 64 degrees. Stockings take place at a few sites from the powerhouse boat ramp to Big Bend. As a result, fishing that stretch has been good, with the best action between the powerhouse ramp and Towee Creek. But high river flows have kept angler numbers low, with most action limited to those who float-fish. A spill of 1700 cfs over the dam has combined with one generator (1800 cfs) at the powerhouse to build water levels about 1000 cfs higher than the typical two-generator flow common this time of year.
A couple guided float trips by RAA during the week of Nov. 3 produced 10-15 fish each trip -- browns and rainbows -- through the upper 2 miles. Just a couple fish were caught downstream from Towee Creek, and no trout were caught downstream from the Stairsteps shoal. Olive/flash Wooly Buggers turned the trick with fly rods; Phoebe spoons and Joe's Flies ripped some lips for the spinning-tackle anglers.
BLUE RIDGE/NOTTELY LAKES -- No reports.
Reported by Bob Borgwat ... 10-05-19
Smallmouths right now! Low, clear and warm water across much of the area trout streams leaves few options for trout fishing. So, Sam Miller and Jeff Odom joined me for a late September float on the Hiwassee River (at Reliance, TN) for smallmouth bass. And the action was great! Under the hot summer sun, we three accounted for 13 smallmouths to 3 pounds. None were taken on fly tackle, but purists we're not! Working jerkbaits and crankbaits in rapid, stop-and-go retrieves, the bass kept the action going well whenever we floated and/or anchored in the shoal areas of the river. We floated from the boat ramp in Reliance to the Hwy 411 bridge just outside Benton. See more pix in the photo gallery!
SHARE YOUR SUCCESS AND SORROW ... We don't care if you catch 'em or not. We just want to know if you're wetting a line and where you're doing it at, whether you're ripping some lips or not! Send your latest fishing report and pix to BRMTU website flunky, Bob Borgwat at firstname.lastname@example.org, and he'll be sure to spread the truth ... stretched as it might be!
UPPER TOCCOA RIVER -- submitted by Bob Borgwat, 08-23-19
Little, if any, trout fishing is ongoing on the upper Toccoa River. Water temps are too high for trout to be active, and the regular hatchery stockings on the riverway were concluded shortly after July 4. Smallmouths, rock bass and redeye bass are the most likely catches until mid-October. Work small crankbaits, jigs and spoons with spinning tackle. Streamers can take fish for fly-fishermen. Work all the presentations in deep pockets and lanes around shoals.
COOPERS CREEK/ROCK CREEK -- submitted by Bob Borgwat, 08-23-19
Flows on Rock Creek are low and warm. I doubt any trout fishing is ongoing until water temperatures drop into the 60s. Even then, according to the hatchery personnel, the only stocking on the stream is likely only to take place just before Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Coopers Creek is pretty much past its turning point. The lower end of the stream along Coopers Creek Road and in the area of the NF campgrounds is too warm for much, if any, trout action. According to the hatchery personnel, the only stocking on the stream is likely only to take place just before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Depending on the localized water temperature, some holdout trout (and a few wilds, too) may still be active in the upper reaches of the creek between the upper bridge and Lake Winfield Scott. Stocking has been suspended at the bridge and the Shope Field CG, too. Look for the best action in the most remote places you can fish, including the several feeder streams that hold wild rainbows, browns and, in some streams, brookies.
NOONTOOTLA CREEK -- submitted by Bob Borgwat, 08-23-19
This gem that holds only wild 'bows and browns could still fish in the mornings under its low flows, but it's grown marginal, too, in water temps. Still, tossing Adams, Caddis and Coachman patterns in the plunges and the riffles could take some fish. Expect them to be small, despite the 16-inch minimum-length limit for possession of trout. Artificials only, single hooks.
LOCAL UPPER TRIBS -- submitted by Bob Borgwat, 08-23-19
Fish these tiny streams in "search mode" for wild browns, rainbows and brookies. Water flows are at the year's lowest, and temperatures could be a problem in all but the highest and most-covered streams. The best action is probably on the "brookie streams," which are usually the coldest this time of year, yet the hardest to access. I don't see any sense in throwing anything but flies on these jewels. Cover the mini holes, riffles and lanes with Caddis and Stimulator fly patterns.
HIWASSEE RIVER (at Reliance, TN) -- submitted by Bob Borgwat, 08-23-19
Trout fishing on this great riverway is all but over. The state stopped stocking in late July; however, rumor has it a stocking will take place at the upper boat ramp ahead of the Labor Day holiday weekend. If that entices you to head that way, beware of the great rubber/plastic hatch that signals the end of the recreational season on the 'Wass. Tubes, kayaks and rafts between the upper ramp and Reliance will number to near 1,000 per day on Saturday and Sunday. Believe me. It won't be pretty for fishing. If you fish, toss small spoons and spinners in deep water and the shoals in hopes of turning some reaction strikes based on the flash of the lures. Expect water flows in the range of 2,800 cfs. Stay safe. Next stocking date will be close to Nov. 1, when the river regs switch to "delayed harvest" -- catch and release, artificial lures/flies only -- through March 15, 2020.
On the other hand, summertime's high-water flow on the lower Hiwassee -- from Reliance to Hwy 411 -- can deliver smallmouth bass, maybe even stripers, for those who can float the river. On Aug. 20, I floated this stretch with Brad Wayne and Harmon Smith. We collected seven smallmouths, with the best at 3 1/2 pounds. All were caught on lures -- crankbaits and soft-plastics.
BLUE RIDGE/NOTTELY/CHATUGE -- submitted by Bob Borgwat, 08-23-19
No reports. It's the dog days of summer. Bass fishing on lakes Blue Ridge/Nottely/Chatuge is at its toughest of the year right now. Fly-rodders with some skill for fishing bugs deep might have fun with bluegills, redbreasts and small spotted bass.
Fisheries biologists tell us trout metabolism slows tremendously at temperatures over 68 degrees. Water warmer than 72 degrees is often lethal because it does not hold enough dissolved oxygen for trout to live. Many -- most? -- of the local trout streams are in this place now. The trout are lethargic and hiding anywhere they can sit out the high temps.
So, it's time to wait it out (except on the highest elevation streams).
Trout metabolism peaks when water temperatures range from 52 to 58 degrees. During those times of the year -- mid-spring and late fall -- trout feed heavily; thus, fishing is often best then, and especially so for fly-fishermen. Not only are the trout active, but many of the aquatic insects trout eat -- stoneflies, mayflies, caddisflies and midges -- hatch abundantly in spring. Some species -- caddisflies, blue-winged-olive mayflies and various midges -- can be seen year 'round, and the fall season often delivers dead or dying terrestrial insects to the trout feeding lanes on our rivers and streams.